Even if keeping your house cleaner isn’t one of your resolutions for 2014, it’s still good to know which cleaning products are worth the expense and which are like throwing money down the drain. Of the laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, dishwasher detergents and other cleaning products Consumer Reports put to the test this year, some made chores a cinch while others were a waste of elbow grease. Here’s what we liked and what we didn’t.
iTouchless hands-free soap dispenser, $45. In our tests of three automatic soap dispensers, we used all the models near a sink. The iTouchless worked okay, but the stainless-steel sleeve of the sample we tested grew rust-spots over the six months of sink-side use. The hands-free Simplehuman Sensor Pump, $45, worked just as well—and didn’t rust.
Stream Clean, $10 plus shipping. “Just stream it on and the stain is gone!” claims this carpet cleaner’s infomercial. But don’t believe it. In our tests, the color of the stain vanished, but Stream Clean left a visible residue that we couldn’t remove. And the bonus mini black light shown in the ad was useless at finding urine stains. To tackle carpet stains, try Bissell OxyPro carpet spot and stain remover, $4.85, instead.
BabyGanics Dish Dazzler, 27 cents per load. This green dishwasher detergent promises “squeaky clean sippy cups and bottles,” but it didn’t clean our dirty dishes and was one of the worst detergents in our tests. It left a white haze buildup on our clear dishware after only 20 wash cycles. If you want a green dish cleaner, try Seventh Generation Powder, which left no filmy buildup.
Purex Plus Oxi laundry detergent, 21 cents per load. The markings inside laundry detergent caps are supposed to help you find the right amount of soap—and avoid overdosing, which can leave detergent residue behind. But the cap on Purex Plus Oxi can cost you: Our testers found it almost impossible to see the measuring lines—even with a flashlight. To avoid dosing errors, try a pre-measured detergent pod such as the top-rated Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs (Costco). If you prefer powder, Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean (Costco) is a CR Best Buy at 9 cents per load.
Tide Ultra plus Bleach Vivid White + Bright HE, 23 cents per load. In our tough laundry detergent tests, this Tide powder had superb cleaning performance in both warm and cool water, even surpassing the cleaning performance of its less-expensive brandmate, Tide Ultra HE powder (18 cents per load), among other detergents intended for front-loading or high-efficiency top-loading washing machines. At only 14 cents per load, second-place Wisk Deep Clean was the top liquid and third place Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs (Costco) was the top laundry pod/pack. They both offered very good cleanability in both warm and cold water—and like the top pick Tide, had very good performance at removing grass, blood, and “ring-around-the-collar” stains. For standard top-loaders, top pick Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Vivid White + Bright was very good at cleaning in warm water and removing grass and ring-around-the-collar stains.
Pine-Sol Original all-purpose cleaner, $2.48 per bottle. Pine-Sol, the only brand recommended by Consumer Reports in our most recent tests of all-purpose cleaners, beat out two other liquids and 16 sprays, including some green products. At only nine cents per ounce, it was one of the least expensive cleaners in our tests, earning CR Best Buy status. In our lab-tests, it was very good at removing grease, grape juice, ketchup and mustard stains from glass, ceramic and metal tiles. It also did a very good job at removing soap scum and was the only cleaner in the batch that didn't leave streaks behind on a mirrored surface.
Lemi Shine Original, $3.66. In our tests of dishwasher detergent additives, Lemi Shine Original worked splendidly at removing the worst filmy white coating that often builds up on glassware due to hard water. And it beat out the other dishwasher detergent additives we put to the test on price. To help resist white film buildup in the first place, pick a top dishwasher detergent.
Cascade Complete ActionPacs, 29 cents per load. These dishwasher detergent action pacs were excellent at resisting mineral buildup and water spots while getting pots clean. It also did a very good job at getting dishes clean and resisting food deposits. Too pricey? At 18 cents per load, Finish Powerball Tabs were a CR Best Buy and did a superb job cleaning dishes and resisting water spots and mineral buildup, and a very good job of resisting food deposits.
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