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How we test surface cleaners

Here's how we get the results that help you choose the best multipurpose cleaner.

person using multi purpose cleaners lead

Whether you're doing a full spring clean or a quick whip around to spot-clean some daily messes, the job is made much easier with an effective surface cleaner. Here's how our experts determine the best multipurpose cleaners on the market, including floor cleaners, bathroom cleaners and toilet cleaners.

Our expert testers

Although we have our own NATA-accredited laboratories at CHOICE, when it comes to surface cleaners we send a range of products available from major supermarkets to an external laboratory for testing. We also work out the value for money of each product by calculating the cost per 100mL or measuring how much detergent comes out with each pump of the trigger.

How we choose which products we test

With a range of surface cleaners on the market, what makes us choose one to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most brands on the market and what you're most likely to see in stores.

We check stores to see what's available across the range of products, and from this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a regular consumer would. We do this so we can be sure what we buy is the same as any consumer would find it and not 'tweaked' in any way for better performance.

How we test multipurpose cleaners

Lab experts put each cleaner to the test using pre-soiled melamine tiles. Using a scrubbing apparatus with a sponge attached, the sheet is then scrubbed 40 times. The reflectance readings are taken before and after cleaning to determine how much dirt the cleaners remove.


For surface cleaners, dirt removal accounts for 100% of the CHOICE Expert Rating, our overall score that determines which products we recommend.

For glass cleaners, the CHOICE Expert Rating is made up of dirt removal (50%) and a streak test (50%). The streak test is a visual assessment whereby each product is rated based on how many streaks and/or drops are left behind. The test is carried out three times and the results are averaged. 

How we test bathroom cleaners

To determine which bathroom cleaners are best, the testing lab measures soap scum removal and follows the manufacturer's instructions for application times.

Soft soap scum is a combination of a variety of hard soaps, synthetic sebum (bodily oils) and carbon black (which provides the dark colour so soil removal can be measured). This is to simulate the effect of hard soaps combining with body oils to form sticky deposits (important in soft water areas and bathtubs). 

The synthesised soft soap scum is applied to tiles and baked on at 80°C for one hour. It is then scrubbed with 10 strokes of the scrub tester before soil removal is measured.

In the past we also tested bathroom cleaners against hard soap scum. However, the majority of the population lives in soft water areas, making soft soap scum the more common type we'd need to tackle. Previously, our CHOICE Expert Rating was also weighted more heavily towards soft soap scum so we made the decision to only test against soft soap scum.


Soft soap scum removal accounts for 100% of the CHOICE Expert Rating for bathroom cleaners.

How we test toilet cleaners

Lab experts put each toilet cleaner to the test by soiling white ceramic tiles with a NASA specification faecal test soil. 

The tiles are allowed to dry, squirted with a measured dose of toilet cleaner, and then scrubbed using a sponge mounted to a mechanical scrubbing apparatus. 

We ensure each tile receives exactly the same number of scrubs at the same speed and pressure. 

The reflectance of the tiles is measured before and after cleaning using a sensitive photospectrometer to determine how much soil is removed, and then this data is converted to a score to get the CHOICE Expert Rating.


Soil removal accounts for 100% of the CHOICE Expert Rating for toilet cleaners.

How we test floor cleaners

Our floor cleaners test covers general floor cleaning/disinfecting products, not carpet cleaners or products specified for wooden floors. Lab experts put each floor cleaner to the test by soiling white ceramic tiles with oily grime. Using a scrubbing apparatus with a damp cloth (or wipe) attached, the tiles are then scrubbed 20 times. 

The reflectance readings are measured before and after cleaning to determine how well each product removes dirt, so you can find out which ones will do the best job on your floors at home.


Dirt removal accounts for 100% of the CHOICE Expert Rating for floor cleaners.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.