Simple home made cleaning products versus commercial prices

skypathwayApril 5, 2006

I mostly use water, vinegar, baking soda and bleach along with those wonderful microfiber clothes to clean in my home. I rarely use commercial products because I can't stand the smell and I'm concerned about the environment.

I'm curious to know if anyone has looked at the potential savings using these kinds of products versus commercial products? I assume I'm saving money, but maybe I'm not. Anyone here thought about this and spent the time to actually look at the costs? I'd appreciate to read what others thought about this.

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I'm sure you can figure out the costs. Measure how much vinegar, baking soda, and bleach you use to clean, add in the cost of the cloths, and compare to buying a jug of Kleenitol and some paper towels at the local store. You should be miles ahead with the generic less-toxic ingredients.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 8:21AM
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steve o - thanks for the response. I'm very lazy and I was hoping that someone here had already compared their simple cleaning materials costs with commercial products - or else knew of a website. But you are correct, I must be saving quite a bit.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 12:04PM
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I've never done precise calculations on how much per use for basic cleaning solutions, but I know it's easy to get a giant jug of bleach, ammonia or vinegar, or a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, for $1 each. Supermarket cleaners seem to run about $3 to $8 for one quarter to one third the amount of bleach/vinegar/ammonia. Baking soda I find is not inexpensive, and it can be easy to waste because it comes out of the package in clumps. Microfiber cloths do vary enormously in price and quality, so you would have to factor in their initial cost and number of uses (including the detergent/energy needed to clean them). These are approximate Canadian prices, by the way.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 9:08PM
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Krustytopp, thanks for your response. You know I just realized part of why I asked this question is that I had no idea what commercial cleaning products cost since I haven't bought any in years - and lucky me, DH does the grocery shopping and I didn't want to bother him to ask. I didn't realize that they cost that much 3-8$ yikes, that can add up. thanks again.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 4:54PM
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Skypathway, your question was quite reasonable especially considering that many people buy their cleaning products at the grocery store and might not separate their "food" and "non-food" budgets.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 9:31PM
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I use commercial products for most things and believe, at least with local pricing it's the cheapest way for me and has some advantages.

I think the biggest problem is that people use more than they really need. I use really cheap dish washing liquid (£0.13 per litre) but I only need about 1-2 teaspoons in a sink full of water, and I only wash up when there is a reasonable pile of plates. The bottle lasts me for weeks and weeks. I don't follow the washing powder guidelines either. It depends a lot on how dirty your clothes are and the type of machine you have, but generally the guidelines on the packet are excessive, I use about 1 table spoon per wash from a packet that costs £0.50 per Kg, again I only wash full loads and the packet lasts ages. When I clean the toilet I pour a bit of cheap £0.28 per 750ml cleaner on the side of the pan and spread it about with the brush. You don't need a thick layer of the stuff, the only part that does the cleaning is that which is in direct contact with the pan. Leaving products in contact with the dirt for longer seems to do more good that using gallons of it anyway.

I do find that used sensibly, the well priced commercial products are the best value for money. I use cheaper store brand products for most things as I find minimal difference. The majority of my cleaning is done with dish washing liquid as it's a very affordable multi-purpose cleaner. A small quantity on a plastic pad and a little water makes a thick foam that leaves most hard surfaces (bath, shower, sink, paintwork, etc) perfectly clean and sparkling as good as any expensive product I've used. A teaspoon of this stuff will clean the tub perfectly.

I don't believe that making my own products would save me money, many of their ingredients cost more for less quantity and require that you also use more for results, but I am basing that on local prices and it may be different for you. However, for the cost of a small packet of baking soda I can buy 3 or 4 large bottles of cream cleaner. The cheapest vinegar comes in 300ml bottles for several pence more than a whole litre of dish washing liquid that will clean windows just as well with only a few drops in water.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 3:44PM
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Bry84, I agree with you that using less product than the package recommends still gives acceptable results. I am amazed, though, that "the cheapest vinegar comes in 300 ml bottles for several pence more than a whole litre of dish washing liquid." Don't people in England do pickling anymore :)?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 6:41PM
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Bry84 - yes, I forgot to include that I use liquid dish detergent too and find it very effective. I also find I only need to use less than a quarter of what the manufacturer's suggest for washing clothes. I do find though, that I just use water with a microfiber cloth to wipe most areas including windows and mirrors.

Krustytopp - I guess it's just like with the shampoo post - most commercial products encourage you to overuse and waste instead of just using the small amount that you actually need to accomplish the task. Good for business, bad for frugal people and usually the environment.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2006 at 9:38PM
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Hello everyone
I'm new to this site..but the best way and the cheapest way to clean windows are to take an old cotton kitchen towel (make sure its old so you don't get the fuzzys) and dip it in the hottest water your can stand. Wring out towel and clean the window then take paper towels and dry. You have to dry the window really well. You will be surprised at how good your window will look, and best of all its free. Everyone who has tried it has never bought window cleaner again!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2006 at 12:49PM
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new here also and i agree with the glass method I worked with 1,ooo,s of windshields for a lot of yrs and we actually used this method at one time.
I would like to add here that I keep a basic bottle of spray cleaner that gets used a lot with rags and have used about everything you can buy in it. I like orange cleaner myself and love pine smell, and actually like ammonia smell(lemon) but my big money saver is a 1 dollar gal of windshield washer fluid and a lot of times I will add a 3 for a dollar bottle of isopropyl to it for glass etc...
I cleaned glass for yrs with basic washer fluid wich is just soapy water and with 2 rags it can,yt be beat .
I have seen that concentrate orange cleaner sell for 2$ a gal at big lots that is a lot of cleaner for 2$
oops another one vinegar can be harmful to paint etc... and I use it for weed killer . happy scrubbing Rick

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 4:44PM
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wichitarick - I never thought about vinegar being harmful to paint - but you're probably right. I use it on sinks and countertops.

I like the idea of just plain hot water - I can't stand the smell of most commercial chemical products.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2006 at 3:01PM
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Not to hijack but can someone recommend good microfiber rags and tell me how to keep them hygenically sound? I've been using a restaurant supply company purchase of a stack of white bar towels for cleaning, very plain and absorbant. I bleach them with hot water to sanitize, then rerun a clear cycle.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2006 at 7:52PM
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Jasileet, I found good quality microfibre clothes at Target. I wash mine in the washing machine with hot water and then into the dryer. I don't know how long they would last with regular bleach - probably as long as towels do?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 7:58PM
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My mother taught me to buy Windex once, then use it up and save the spray bottle. Add one-part clear ammonia and two parts water. This spray works better than anything. But you need to but Windex to get the bottle.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2006 at 6:52PM
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You can get really good spray bottles in auto supply stores and in garden centres. Then you can spend your money on a quality bottle, not on the windex.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 7:48AM
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ive made homemade laundry soap works good then my mom took it and had me make her more and her friend too
very cheep and works good but i like my tide the best

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 10:00PM
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I agree about baking soda being pretty expensive - I use Bon Ami cleanser and it is actually cheaper, and I use it for the stove, bathrub, sinks, etc. Other than Bon Ami, I mostly use hot water, miracle clothes, and elbow grease. I only found out about the microfiber cloths recently - they really are a miracle!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2006 at 3:48PM
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I have a good understanding of chemistry, and synethetic molecules are a popular case study as they represent many important features of molecules in a controlled simplified environment. Anyway, I've discovered a lot of things about cleaning products through this, and one is that expensive brands are often very much the same as cheap ones. The vast range of products are composed of a fairly small number of chemicals and they mostly come from the same large producers.

The disinfectant substance in a large number of products will have come from the same factory, as will the colour, detergent and other ingredients. The greatest difference between products is concentration, colourant and scent - the last two of which have very little to do with how well it cleans. I've also found that more expensive products have a larger number of ingredients, but they're not often useful. Thickeners convince people they're getting a stronger product, which is an illusion, just as optical brighteners (small reflecive particles) make things look whiter than they are, and greater quantities of foaming agent make lots of bubbles that look great in the bucket and don't actually do anything else.

I am increasingly convinced that buying expensive products is often pointless. Much of what you pay goes in to expensive packing, advertising and ingredients that give the impression they're working better. The basic ingredients that do the real cleaning are actually of minimal value and are much the same whatever product you're using.

Also, as a customer in my own house without any scientific tests I have found some very cheap products work better than brand names. The problem is that they don't know the specific dirt you're going to be cleaning with them, they can only guess and include the ingredients they presume will work well. In some cases an expensive brand with many ingredients will not work as well as a cheap product with few ingredients that just happens to include one which suits your dirt better.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 12:42PM
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Okay, this may be weird to some but it works for me. Cost and time effective.

I use baking soda in my bath water - along with a mild dish washing detergent (lots of bubbles!). The bath water is so soft and it does not dry out my skin and it is very relaxing. Better than expensive and messy bath salts. I like sunlight grapefruit detergent it smells nice and the lemon is also very nice.

Bathing in baking soda/dish washing detergent also cleans the bathtub, no grimy soap scum, just rinse! And it shines like new.

THEN - before I empty the bathtub I scoop up some of the bath water and dump it in the toilet, then use the toilet brush. The john sparkles.

There you go, 3 uses for baking soda all at once! I go in for a bath and the bathroom gets cleaned a the same time.

If you've read the wash,repeat,rinse thread you'll see that I have a thing for Sunlight detergent! LOL

The cheap and lazy BJ - who likes a clean bathroom

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 12:00PM
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As far as less expensive products being as good as expensive: I find this true quite often.

Home-made cleaners as good as purchased at the store? No way.

After months of trying to clean the bathroom with ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, etc., the soap scum is still there, but likely won't be after the foaming bath cleaner is applied to it this evening.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 5:31PM
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Hmm. I get my tub shiny clean with Bon Ami and a scrubby sponge. Probably takes longer than using foaming bath cleaner, but I know I'm not footing the bill for some company's huge advertising budget and I'm not sending poisons down the drain. But that's just me.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 10:34AM
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Bon Ami and a scrubby sponge?? You'll be shopping for a new tub soon.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 8:15PM
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If I'm wearing out a porcelain-enamel tub by cleaning it with Bon Ami and a light-duty scrubby sponge (not the green harder-than-diamonds-removes-every-layer kind), then I need to buy a new tub. Porcelain enamel should be up to the challenge.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 10:22AM
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Oh. I understand now. I thought you meant those greenie ones. Those scrubbies scratch metal and glass!

I also was thinking those new 'plastic tubs' and Bon Ami will take the shine right off of those making them hold onto stain and scum, creating an accelerating vicious cycle.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 6:47AM
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Several years ago, I made the mistake of using the green scrubbies to clean some spilled concrete from a French door. Needless to say, that door went through life with scratches from the scrubbie, and I walked away with a newfound appreciation for how hard you can make plastic! I agree that acrylic tub + green scrubbie = problem!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2006 at 11:31AM
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I've been making my own hosuehold cleaners for several years now using liquid soap, vinegar, borax, soda cystals and baking soda. They work brilliantly, don't fill the house/me with nasty chemicals and definitely save lots of money. Here in England the best place for white vinegar and baking soda is Chinese grocery stores where I've picked up 5 litres of white vinegar and 5 kilos of baking soda for about £2.50 each. I reckon my annual bill for cleaning supplies is £10 maximum.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 5:51PM
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Since my kitchen renovation, I no longer purchase: Green Scrubbies, Comet, Ajax, or steel wool pads. These things will scratch anything they touch, and, as Bud stated, create an evil cycle of scrubbing. Once you etch the surface, dirt will always adhere to it. I have all new stainless cookware and use only bonAmi and dish soap to wash them and because they've never been etched, nothing sticks to them and they look and wash up like new. No metal cooking utensils either, all high heat silicone spatulas and spoons. Once you scrub, you scrub FOREVER!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 10:28PM
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