How to Save Money Using Homemade Cleaners

by Guest

This is a guest post from Edward Antrobus. Edward has spent most of this decade as a house-husband which has provided him with a unique view on personal finance and domestic life. He writes at

The time for spring cleaning is upon us. It is time to clear away the debris and cobwebs (figurative, hopefully) of the past year and prepare the way for warmer, sunnier days ahead.

Spring clean

Stocking up on cleaning supplies can easily wind up cleaning out your wallet, however. Window cleaner, oven cleaner, toilet cleaner, grout cleaner… you will feel like you were taken to the cleaners!

Fortunately, they are pretty much completely unnecessary. Forget about the entire isle of the supermarket with the household cleaners. All you need is bleach from the laundry isle and baking soda and vinegar from the baking isle. Then grab that toothbrush you have been meaning to replace, and some paper towels and you are ready to get started!

Frugal Tip: Go to the paint isle of your home improvement store and buy a bag of cotton rags. Use these instead of paper towels and toss them in the wash when you are done to use again for the next time you clean.


Do you know what is in the bottles of All-Purpose cleaner? Watered down bleach, plus possibly some dyes and fragrances. Sodium Hypochlorite is the active ingredient in bleach; it is, essentially, what bleach is. A gallon bottle of laundry bleach is 15% Sodium Hypochlorite and costs $6. A quart of all purpose cleaner is 2% Sodium Hypochlorite and costs $3.

Mixing one part laundry bleach to seven parts water will provide the same cleaning power for less than a tenth of the price.


Vinegar is one of the greatest cleaning substances known to man. It’s great on windows. It has antiseptic properties. It’s a mild acid that will eat at food residues. You can 50% more for vinegar-based cleaners (yeah, I’m calling you out, Windex). Or you can buy the gallon bottle of store brand white vinegar for the same price and get several times the cleaning power.

Mix one part vinegar to three parts water and use it to wipe down counters or clean windows, mirrors, computer/tv screens, and any other glass surfaces. You can use it on wood, too, but I would cut it in half again with water first.

Baking Soda

Baking soda isn’t just for baking cookies. Remember making volcanoes in elementary school? That was just vinegar and baking soda. (and red dye… whoever heard of white lava?) The vigorous chemical reaction made my mixing the two together does a great job of removing stuck-on food particles on cookware or in the oven.

Mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda to form a paste. Apply the paste to the surface you want to clean and let sit for an hour or more. Then put in some elbow grease to scrub. Then just rinse away with water. For cleaning grout, an old toothbrush works great to get in between the tiles.

Editor’s Note: Do you use non-commercial cleaners and why?

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Alysa April 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

Hi Edward! Great tips! I love me my vinegar and bleach! Although I try to use vinegar more because bleach seems a bit scary, you know with the way it always burns my nose-hairs! I recently moved into a new apartment and was tempted to spend $30.00 in cleaning supplies because I have a soft spot for Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Cleaning Supplies (especially the lavender scent). BUT, I resisted grabbed the handsoap so at least I could smell good and went back to my old standard: vinegar costing me a total of $3.79 to deep clean the whole place!

GrannyL April 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

I use vinegar to wash my clothes and as a fabric softner. If the clothes are really dirty, I add some soda. I add it to the water to scrub my tile floors. I add a little Murpy’s Oil soap to the water to clean my laminate floor. It also can be used on the tile floor to give it a little shine.

Edward Antrobus April 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Alysa, I know what you mean about bleach. Ever since I nearly passed out from it working at a convience store, I’ve been a lot more careful about the amount of bleach I’m using and ventilation.

Granny, Thanks about the tip about clothes washing. I never thought to try vinegar there. As a construction worker, my clothes get really dirty, so this would really help.

Charlotte@EverythingFinance April 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Great post! Any idea what you can use to hide the smell of the bleach and vinegar?

Barclay Domett April 14, 2012 at 2:51 am

I started using vinegar and water with a couple of drops of dawn in my swiffer wet jet. I poked a hole in the part of the container that would be towards the top when inserted into the mop. It’s a hole smaller than around my pinkie and I pour carefully. Then I put a bandaid over the top to avoid splashing if I drop the handle or it tips over when not in use, though its probably not necessary. The vinegar scent is strong at first, but it disappears as it dries. CVS also sells store brand pads for the bottom of the wetjet for a much better price.

Jai Catalano April 14, 2012 at 4:08 am

we use baking soda and vinegar all the time and my place is always dirty. It’s the damn kids.

Edward Antrobus April 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Charlotte, I’m not a big fan of perfumes in general, and especially not for bleach. The strong reaction to the smell is your body telling you that you are using too much for the airspace. Best bet is really to just clean with the windows open for ventilation.
Barclay, That’s a good idea. I’m using an ordinary mop right now, but if I ever break down and get a Swiffer, I’ll give that a try.
Jai, Haha. Nothing will get a house dirty faster than living in it!

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