8 Ways to Save on Household Cleaning

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We can't make house cleaning less of a chore, but we can make it cheaper. Here's how to clean up while cleaning up.

In 2011, the website Statistic Brain compiled census data and found that the average American spent $42 on cleaning supplies every month. That’s $504 a year – which means in 10 years you will have spent $5,040. That’s enough to buy a used car.

Cut your costs by 25 percent, and you could save $126 a year. It isn’t hard to do. Any one of the eight ways below will help you save…

1. Buy generic

Household cleaners came in at No. 6 in our story, 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic. In that story, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson compared the cost of a name-brand household cleaner and a store-brand one. Here are the results:

  • Name-brand cleaner with bleach: $3.29
  • Store-brand cleaner with bleach: $2.39
  • Difference: 90 cents (38 percent)

In my personal experience, generic household cleaners work just as well as the name brands. The only difference I’ve noticed is the smell. A few generic cleaners I’ve bought don’t smell as good as the name brands – but smells dissipate quickly. A 38 percent savings quickly accumulates.

2. Skip the specialty cleaners

I recently stopped by Walmart to pick up some dishwashing liquid – which wasn’t that easy to find, since they have three aisles of cleaning products to choose from. I saw three different kinds of tile cleaners, seven different floor cleaners, eight carpet stain removers, and an entire aisle of bathroom cleaners.

I’m clearly not their ideal consumer, because the cabinet under my sink only has three bottles: dishwashing liquid, an all-purpose cleaner, and a bottle of white vinegar. Those three clean everything in my house just fine. Bottom line: Skip the expensive specialty cleaners in favor of a cheap, generic-brand all-purpose cleaner.

3. Switch to reusable

If you’d opened my supply closet a few years ago, you might have mistaken me for a Swiffer employee. I had the duster, the extender duster, the dry mop, and the wet mop. And I won’t lie – those disposable products cut down on cleaning time. But they also cut down on my disposable income. For example, here’s the cost comparison of a 10-count Swiffer duster refill pack…

  • CVS – $9.49
  • Walmart – $7.97
  • Alice.com – $7.84

At one refill a week, you’d buy about six boxes a year – and spend up to $57. Now that I know better, I make my own reusable dusters out of old clothes and towels. For example, old socks/ I also cut up old towels and use them in place of the cleaning pads on my Swiffer mop. I don’t buy the expensive disposables anymore, and I get a second use out of old stuff.

4. Stack coupons with sales

There are dozens of coupons available in the Sunday newspaper ads and on online coupon sites like these: Coupons.comCouponMom.com, and SmartSource.com.

Using coupons alone will save you money, but you’ll save the most by using coupons on sale cleaners. For example, last week I stopped by Walgreens because they had Scotch Brite Heavy Duty sponges buy-one-get-one-free. I also had a 35-cent-off coupon and a 10-percent-off-your-entire-purchase coupon.  I was able to stack all three deals. The savings broke down like this:

  • Full price for two packs – $8.58
  • Buy one, get one free – $4.29
  • 35 cents off – $3.94
  • 10 percent off entire purchase – $3.55
  • Total discount – $5.03

5. Read reviews before you buy something new

Remember the ShamWow craze? I actually got one for Christmas and could never get it to work like it did on the infomercial. (Surprise, right?) The latest and greatest cleaners and tools (both the infomercial and the store kind) don’t always work like they’re supposed to. Before you waste money on a product you might hate, check out a few Amazon reviews or a user review site like Epinions.

6. Buy green online

The few household cleaners I buy are natural ones, but few stores in my area stock a good selection of green cleaners – and the stores that do charge a fortune. For example, my local grocery store charges $5.49 per bottle for Method’s all-purpose cleaner. But once I found it on Amazon for $3.99, I started buying most of my cleaning products on Amazon, Drugstore.com, and Alice.

7. Replace cleaners with household products

You can replace most (if not all) of your cleaning products with other household products for a fraction of the cost. Here are a few products that work as cleaners…

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • White vinegar
  • Borax
  • Salt
  • Beer

In 19 Uses for Baking Soda, Dryer Sheets, and Beer, we list a whole bunch of ways you can clean with household products. Here are my three favorites:

  • Clean glass: Mix a quarter-cup of white vinegar and 3 cups of water in a spray bottle, and you have a better glass cleaner than any commercial product you could buy. Just spray it on, wipe it down with a piece of newspaper, and you’re done!
  • Scrub stuck-on food and stains: Baking soda works as an alternative to abrasive cleaners like Comet. You can sprinkle dry baking soda on stuck-on food, or combine the baking soda with a little water to make a softer scrub for bathtubs and shower tiles.
  • Polish metal: The acidity of beer actually polishes metal. Rubbing copper-bottom or aluminum pans down with some flat beer removes tarnish and restores shine. Beer also works on baking sheets and cupcake tins. Add a little to your mouth and you’ll have an even better cleaning experience!

8. Make your own

You can also make your own cleaning products for much less. In Make Your Own Laundry Detergent and 20 Other Tips to Save on Laundry, we give you this recipe for homemade detergent:


  • 1 bar of soap
  • 3 gallons plus 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup borax
  • ½ cup washing soda


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater. Drop the pieces into the boiling water and cook until the soap dissolves. Pour 3 gallons of water into a large bucket. Add in the soap and water mixture. Add in 1 cup of borax and half a cup of washing soda. Stir until the ingredients thicken. Use about ¼ cup (the size of a normal laundry detergent cap) per wash cycle.

And we’ve got more recipes for homemade cleaners in How to Make Dishwasher Detergent (And More). Like this one for dishwashing liquid:

  • 1 cup of borax
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of table salt
  • 2 packets (half an ounce) of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid

For more ideas, check out 6 Alternatives to Expensive Cleaners. You’ll get a few more recipes and more common items you can use as cleaners around the house.

Stacy Johnson

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