Cleaning Products: Are you spending more than needed?

Many times when people talk about their grocery budgets in a way to see if they can save some money, I often hear them say:

“I spend $XXX on my family’s groceries each month, and that includes cleaning and paper products.”

I include cleaning and paper products in my grocery budget as well. It just makes sense, if I buy the laundry detergent at the grocery store, not to itemize the receipts for my budget when I get home.

I can’t help but wonder though, are people spending too much on cleaning products? Those are such a small part of my spending that I don’t even notice them. The cost is so negligible, I never think to mention it.

So just in case, let’s talk about cleaning products and see if we can find some ways to save you money.

Laundry detergent

Our detergent comes with a scoop, but the instructions say to only use half of a scoop. Read the instructions for your laundry detergent and check the recommended amount. (You might even want to use a little less than that.) 

I have a baby and with our family of four, I do a load of laundry almost every week day. In addition to that we also use cloth diapers, but washing those requires only a minimal amount of detergent. One box of laundry detergent can last six months.

Dishwasher detergent

Here too, check the instructions to make sure you’re not using more than you should. One time when my husband turned on the dishwasher, I noticed he poured enough of the powdered detergent to fill up both detergent cups on the dishwasher door. He didn’t know that particular brand only required one tablespoon.

Fabric softener

I’m probably in the minority here, but I haven’t used fabric softener in years. When my clothes are clean I want them to smell like nothing. (My favorite scent is unscented, so I don’t like the scent that comes with fabric softener.)

I always thought you had to use it or your clothes would have static cling. Cotton clothes don’t require fabric softener to stay soft and static-free. It’s the synthetic clothes that build up static, so if your clothes are mostly cotton, try a load without it. Towels work much better to absorb water when they aren’t coated by fabric softener.

Laundry Stain Remover

This hasn’t been a problem since we switched to cloth diapers, but when we used disposables, I went through a lot of Stain Stick stain remover trying to treat diaper leak stains on baby clothes. I didn’t know that if you dry the clothes (and cloth diapers) in the sun, sunlight makes baby poo stains disappear! It’s amazing.

For most potential stains I take special care to rinse them out when they happen. Then they don’t need any special treatment.

All-purpose cleaning sprays

In most cases, I try to clean with just water first, to see if that’s enough. Remember learning in high school that water is the universal solvent? Sometimes all it takes is a wipe with a damp rag. If that’s not enough, then I break out the cleaner. We’re using a concentrated bottle of Shaklee’s H2, and I think it’s going to be a couple of years before I need to buy more. (I also use it as a glass cleaner.)

Shower cleaner

Instead of using shower cleaning sprays, I bought a squeegee (like this one). Before we get out of the shower, we use the squeegee to wipe off the walls and the glass shower door. When the walls stay dry, you don’t get water spots, soap scum, or the chance for mold to grow. Our shower stays pretty nice all the time, and I only officially clean it once in a while.


Don’t use Pledge. It’s a product that coats your furniture instead of cleaning it. Find out how you can remove the Pledge residue from your furniture and go back to dusting with a damp cloth.

Air freshener

Open the window. We could all use more fresh air.

Carpet freshener

Sprinkle baking soda over the carpet, sweep it in with a broom, and let it remain overnight to absorb odors. Vacuum it up the next day. This technique removes odor instead of covering it up.

Toilet cleaner, counter cleaner, floor cleaner, tile cleaner…

These are marketing gimmicks. You don’t need to have separate cleaning products for every part of your house.

Paper Towels

Try using cleaning rags instead of paper towels, but I’m sure you’ve heard this before. I have a small towel bar in the laundry room that I use to hang up wet rags to dry, so they don’t get moldy before I can wash them.

How do you save money on cleaning products? I didn’t even mention coupons or natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. As always, I appreciate your tips! I’m tucking away the idea of sunning out poop stains. ;) We’re going to use cloth diapers with our first baby (coming in less than 4 weeks!) and I’ll be sure to set her clean diapers in the sun to keep them white and bright!

    Thanks for the link to your use of Shaklee products. We visited with some people who sell Shaklee products at our town’s spring Green Fair. I was very intrigued by the fact one bottle can last a LONG time and is much safer than other cleaning products on the market.

    Nicole´s last post…rolling back

    • I usually run the diapers through the wash process and then hang them to dry in the sun. That’s why you so often see pictures of diapers on clothes lines. It works!

      • Drying diapers in the sun really does work! I was amazed the first time I tried it. Today I’m going to give dingy kitchen linens some sun time.

        Holly´s last post…We made it!

      • shannon says:

        i’m confused.. how else would you dry them?
        I too use minimal detergent and find most stains and odors are released from fabrics with a little line time – inc absolutely filthy bibs and also not just our kids clothes!

        Ironing over a stain with a microfibe towel on a stain works the same as a steam mop.

        Dont fall for the ads where they tell you about every virus you could catch if you dont spray disinfectant eveywhere.

        I find the best was to scent your house is to bake something! better than air freshner!

        • regarding scenting your home: I LOVE my oil diffuser. It’s the kind with a small bowl held over a tea light. You put water and a few drops a of essential oil (from plants) in the bowl and light the tea light — lovely, non-toxic, therapeutic (depending on which oils you choose), home freshener.

          vegeater´s last post…Newsflash- Breastfeeding Saves Money

  2. Great post! I wash only in cold since my detergent does just fine with it. I also am trying to line dry our clothes as well. We are trying to wean ourselves off of fabric softener (I didn’t think about cotton not needing it in the first place).

    Towels definitely absorb more without it.

    I remember my mom cutting up my dad’s old white undershirts for rags. They were awesome and left very little lint on anything.


    Laura @ PARING DOWN´s last post…Aqua and Turquoise Love

  3. I also quit buying paper towels a couple of years ago. I figure it’s saved me several hundred dollars for sure. I’m doing laundry anyway so it’s no big deal to throw more dishrags or towels in with my existing loads.

    I have found that the best way to clean windows, mirrors and my shower door is to use dishwashing liquid (again that I have anyway), a rag, and a squeegee.

    The only problem I still have is that I can’t get my grout really white without using bleach. Our shower stays pretty clean all the time, but the grout still gets dingy. Peroxide and vinegar have not worked for me.

    I use water & white vinegar with a few drops of essential oil for scent to mop my floors. I also just use a damp cloth to dust my furniture.

    I really only buy dishwashing liquid and detergent, laundry detergent, and bleach for the most part. It’s certainly cheaper!

    • I used a bleach pen on some old grout and it worked really, really well. It’s still bleach, but it’s in a gel form so it won’t drip. You can use it where you need it instead of spraying a wider area and breathing it in.

    • Kristine says:

      After using a squegee in the shower, we quickly wipe the walls with an old burp cloth. It’s so absorbent and dries very well, keeping the grout white without extra action or remedies.

    • I haven’t used it in the bathroom, because we have darker grout in there, but I use a water & baking soda paste to keep my white kitchen grout clean.

      Jessica´s last post…Weekend Roundup

    • also, you may need to re-seal your grout at some point. when the seal wears away (over time and from frequent cleaning unfortunately), it can let stains in.

  4. Very good tips. Another good tip is to carefully use a white towel and and iron to get out red stains or wax on carpet. You can just get the towel wet and run the iron over it and flip it over and rinse regularly, it can take some time but the stains will usually come out. Use caution not to burn yourself or the carpet. Make sure the towel is white so color don’t bleed from the towel onto the carpet.

  5. As we tighten our budget even more (chasing the debt-free dream) I’m definitely looking at cleaning products and paper products with a more – are they “wants” or “needs” or just things I think I “have” to purchase because, well, that is what I’ve always done. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Great list!

    Kara´s last post…Make Your Own Backyard Obstacle Course

  6. Dryer balls. You can either get the plastic nubbly kind, or go organic with the wool ones (try Etsy or a cloth diaper store). We don’t use any dryer sheets at all!

    And yay for cloth diapering- we just switched and haven’t bought disposables in a while!

    Evenshine´s last post…Twenty-seven months

  7. I typically would prefer to use regular cloth I can throw in the dishwasher than papertowels. In fact, I have an empty paper towel holder in my kitchen I should take down.

    I am slowly getting rid of all household cleaners and trying to use vinegar in place of it. So much more econimcal and greener. In fact, I just found out vinegar will kill weeds!

    Thanks for the post!

    • Don’t take down that paper towel holder. I bought 10 white microfiber towles at the dollar store and wrapped them one after another on an old paper towel roll. The microfiber towels clint to each other and grasp the roller too. Now I just pull one off when I need it and throw it in the laundry when it is dirty. I am down to buying about 1 roll of paper towels a month (hubby just can’t kick the habit entirely – lol)

    • shannon says:

      Vinegar kills Weeds!!
      this is great news!
      But is it safe for the grass?

      • catastrophegirl says:

        no, i’ve been using vinegar to kill my lawn intentionally. but if you apply it just to the roots of the weeds with a sprayer it won’t affect most of the surrounding grass. i use that method on the areas where i want to keep the lawn intact

    • Melissa says:

      Plain old tennis balls! Not the cheap kind or the ones they make for pets, just a good ole’ tennis ball. These work better than any of the ones they sell for dryers. I used to help out an 83 year old woman who swore by them!

  8. Great post! I too, have heard people comment on their grocery and cleaning supplies budget.

    I make most of my cleaning supplies from baking soda, vinegar, essential oils and a few other products. When I mix them up, I make them in large quantities and store them in old gallon size milk jugs or gallon size vinegar containers. I label the containers so I know the ingredients I used.

    Making cleaning supplies is super cost effective and by making larger quantities, it means I don’t have to mix them up too often. I have a large supply and can easily refill smaller spray bottles when they run out. The other benefit to making cleaning supplies is that we have a very small amount of toxic cleaners around. Non-toxic cleaners means the kids can help clean, even at very young ages.

    I have a couple of books that have recipes for cleaning supplies, but many recipes can be found for free on-line. In fact, it can be helpful to print off the cleaning recipes you like and put them in a binder. This way you create your own cleaning recipe book full of recipes that is customized to your needs and the cost is super minimal.

    heather´s last post…Camp Stools

  9. I use vinegar & water for my shower door, mirrors, windows, toilets, and taps. I use Comet on my sinks and tub right now, but when I run out I’m switching to baking soda. I use coarse salt and lemons to deodorize my wood cutting board. I use baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water to clean my drains. The only other thing I use is Clorox wipes on the toilets, cause I’m a little paranoid about that.

    Jessica´s last post…Weekend Roundup

    • I feel the same way about toilets, but instead of buying the clorox wipes, I keep a can of store brand lysol and store brand baby wipes next to my toilet. I spray it on, leave it for 15 min and then wipe clean. I also make my own laundry soap and use mostly vinegar/water mix, rubbing alcohol/water mix and peroxide to clean.
      Elizabeth´s last post…Stewing on some things

  10. What great tips! Thanks for sharing! I had no idea that baby poo stains go away in the sun!!

    Jessica´s last post…A Day in the Life of a 10-month-old

  11. I love microfiber cloths – a damp one with do just as good a job cleaning almost anything as a bottles of specialty cleaner and a paper towel will. I still use paper towels a lot, but often it’s the same one over and over and I’ll just hang it over the faucet to dry.

    Lisa´s last post…Conor Month by Month

  12. great tips! an appliance repairman told me that all the detergent you need for a load of laundry is 2 tablespoons. the rest is just excess that stays in your washing machine (and it your clothes). so i started using just 2 Tbl of detergent! i didn’t notice a difference in our clothes, they seemed just as clean as before, and i’m still on the same detergent that i bought almost two years ago! i also started putting white vinegar in during my rinse cycle to help rinse the clothes better and as a fabric softener.

    i also water down most of my cleaning supplies such as lysol, etc. they are far more concentrated than they need to be for average cleaning tasks (although they want you to think differently so you’ll buy more!). that alone helped me shave a lot off my grocery budget.

    i’m going to start making my own cleaning products soon, once i use up what i already have. i’m excited for that!! :)

  13. I highly recommend Shaklee’s Basic H2. It is so concentrated that you use just a few drops ~ lasts forever! You receive 3 plastic spray bottles and directions to mix the concentrate for general cleaning, mirrors & windows and 1 for greasy areas. No chemicals and literally no expense for a year or more.

    Try it!

    Pat´s last post… Question

  14. Great tips. I will try a couple of them. Until then, if someone like me is stuck on using fabric softenere ( I like the smell) my tip to save money on it would be:

    1) use half a sheet, not a whole one OR
    2) dilute the liquid softener by pouring 1/3 of it into a bottle that has 2/3 water. In other words, a little goes a long way to de-static (?) synthetics and to give that scent I love. (If I can’t smell a scent, I assume it’s dirty. Isn’t that funny how we get picky about what “clean” means to us???)

    Zoanna´s last post…A Simple Womans Daybook 72010

  15. I hav ea box of various cleaning products under my sink that I haven’t touched in years…I use a vinegar/water mix for almost everything I clean these days.

    I do have a Clorox product that I use for bathrooms and disinfecting kitchen counters…I’ve wondered about the effectiveness of “green” products on the scariest of germs.

    Lindsey´s last post…Back in the Olden Days- like 1988

    • I saw an episode of Dr. Oz where they talked about household germs and he said you can kill e. coli and clean your sink, cutting boards, and counters using a solution of 1 jigger of bleach in a quart of water or a 50/50 solution of vinegar.

  16. Great tips!! I dislike marketing techniques that make you believe that if you buy x, y or z that your life will be complete. So, I mop my floor with a vinegar, ammonia, water and baby shampoo mixture. My floors are shiny and the materials are pennies! Also, I sometimes get these gifts that have bubble bath in them. At 5’9″, I’m too tall for my tiny tub.. so I use the bubble bath to clean those icky things like the bottom of the kitchen or bathroom trash can. I also use it to train my kids to clean the toilet or tub without exposing them to incredibly harsh chemicals!

  17. Kathryn Fenner says:

    I use paper towels when I microwave bacon. That’s it.

    A crumpled up ball of aluminum foil in the dryer eliminates static and leaves not greasy residue.

    I use a very large “professional” squeegee in my shower–covers a lot more space per swipe, since it’s at least twice as wide as the cute little shower-sized ones. I hang it on the hooks on the bottom of my shower caddy.

    Use a smaller scoop in the box of detergent to make sure you’re not using too much–or others who do laundry aren’t. One of the frugal blogs (Get Rich Slowly? Simple Dollar) has a recipe for home-made detergent that is extremely cheap per use. I have a HE machine, and don’t do that much laundry anyway, so I’m sticking with carefully measured commercial liquids.

    Peroxide is an excellent stain remover, and I just saved a vintage garment by dabbing some on what looked like a coffee stain–it didn’t disappear right away, so I put it in a sunny window and poof!

    • Kathryn –
      I found a better way to cook bacon. It really doesn’t take much longer than microwaving. If you get a cooling rack that fits into a half sheet pan (see below), you can cook bacon in 10-15 minutes at 400 degress (depending on your oven and the type of bacon). This means that all the fat runs off the bacon into the bottom of the pan either for disposal or, in my case, for collection for use in cooking.

      I find that it’s easier because:
      1. I don’t have to clean the inside of the microwave
      2. I don’t have to use paper towels
      3. I can save the grease

      Hope that’s helpful!

  18. Great Post! And fabulous tips ladies! I’m so glad to see so many of you using limited chemicals in your households! I too, use vinegar and baking soda to clean along with the best micro-fiber towel in the market! Norwex ( is an amazing company completely dedicated to “Improving Quality Of Life”. I saw one demonstration a year ago and was sold. Specially designed micro-fiber and water have been keeping my house squeaky clean for over a year! :) I signed up as a representative immediately. For more information, check out my blog for more great information!

    Shawna Pesina´s last post…Couponing- Too Much Trouble

  19. Great post! I’d forgotten about the aluminum-foil-ball-in-the-dryer trick. Humidity is taking care of any static problems around me right now, but fall and dry air will be here before we know it.

    I also wanted to share my enthusiasm for a new laundry detergent that I’ve been using for a couple of weeks. It’s from a copmay called Charlie’s Soap. Only a tablespoon per load and out comes laundry that is clean and soft and bright. I bought it after seeing a post on another blog about it and I was intrigued by its promise to remove regular detergent residues from clothes and bedding, as I am trying to reduce my chemical load as a way to help deal with an autoimmune condition.

    I’ve really been impressed by how much whiter and brighter my clothes are (and more than a little disgusted by the thought of how much detergent residue I was exposing my skin to before I switched).

    If folks are interested in checking it out, here’s the URL: I’m really not an employee or anything, just a really happy customer!

  20. Good post. I gobble up any ideas I can find. I just went out with a spray bottle this morning to attack the weeks in the sidewalk cracks. I keep a little bottle under the sink and use it regularly to get rid of soap scum around the faucet, etc. I use baking soda to scrub the sink with and anything else. I use white vinegar in as a water softener. I keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar (quite diluted as hubby doesn’t like that smell) for the bath/shower. We’ve started wiping down the shower walls with a towel. I cut detergent way down. But I still have a few things that need work on…. paper towels, oops. It’s more a mental thing and I can get over it.

  21. Rachel P. says:

    My mother has a different cleaner for every surface in her bathrooms and kitchen. When she saw my “cleaners” she nearly had a conniption fit. I have one all-purpose cleaner for all my surfaces and use baking soda kept in a jar with holes I punched in the lid as a shaker for an abrasive when needed and vinegar solution in a spray bottle for glass and sanitizing. She marvels at how I keep my house clean. It takes me half an hour to clean a bathroom. It takes her two hours. I have to shake my head in wonderment each time I see her pull out a different bottle for a cleaning job.

  22. Margo, Vinegar is your best friend for water spots! You all may have a few glass pieces that look a little “foggy”, vinegar will make them crystal clear! I run my diswasher with vinegar to get rid of water spots too!

    Shawna Pesina´s last post…Couponing- Too Much Trouble

  23. ok, I forgot to say the spray bottle was filled with vinegar! :)

  24. Nice tips, its always good to rethink how much of something you use. I found I was filling up the cup of laundry detergent when I really could use much less.

    And I completely agree about water cleaning. I keep one “wiping” towel hanging in the bathroom to get the spatters on the mirror, faucet, counter, etc. and thought it might not smell like Clorox it looks nice without having to whip out the cleaner!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Pumpkin-Applesauce-Flax Bread

  25. I have a tip that I just learned about: Chamois cloths to soak up spills on carpet. I tried one when I spilled a V-8 tomato juice on my beige carpet in my tv room right in the middle of the room. I just mopped up the excess liquid as well as I could and soaked the chamois, gently squeezed it out while leaving it dripping. I put the folded wet chamois on the stain, covered it with plastic, stacked some heavy books on it and left it on for several hours. When I took the chamois off. I could not even see where I had spilled the tomato juice.

    I also use a chamois on dried carpet stains. I just dampen the spot with Resolve or Spot Shot Carpet Cleaner. Soak the chamois, put it over the stain and weight it down with something heavy. Wait a couple of hours and spots are gone. When you take the chamois off, the carpet is dry. The chamois soaks up all the liquid.

  26. One thing I have trouble getting clean enough to please me are all our faucets. I learned this trick years ago, and it is pretty nifty. Rather than buying expensive cleaners, I invest in a tube of toothpaste at the dollar store and it shines all the faucets up quite well!

  27. Is that your box of Country Save?! I LOVE Country Save! It is my all-time favorite earth-friendly detergent. I used it when the girls were in diapers and needed super clean clothes and cloth diapers.

    You know I kicked the paper towel habit years ago. There’s a way to save on toilet paper, too, but that’s another post for another day. ;) It really is eye-opening to see how much you can clean with a damp microfiber cloth.

    OH! And yes – we have been a no-clothes-softener family since we started cloth diapering in 2005. I cannot stand the smell of it now. It makes me feel nauseated. Isn’t that weird? It’s a good habit to kick.

    Great info, Rachel!

    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s last post…Links for 2010-07-20 delicious

    • Oh yes, I like it so much. It doesn’t have the fragrances, brighteners, whiteners, and whatever else the regular detergents have. And it also doesn’t have any citrus soaps like some of the natural detergents have, which works great for us since Tom has a citrus allergy.

      The other day Lane was telling her baby sitter when to use toilet paper and when to use cloth wipes. It was funny! I think we’ve cut our toilet paper use in half by using cloth wipes and washing them with the cloth diapers.

      I can’t even walk down the cleaning aisle at Wal-Mart without feeling sick from all the scents of the products. They used to not bother me when I used them at home on a regular basis, but now I am not as used to them. (But you know my super power is super-smell.)

  28. I used to think I needed a different cleaning product for everything, since that is how I grew up with my mother cleaning the house. However, in the past year I’ve drastically simplified my cleaning method (and saved countless dollars in the process).

    I have one spray bottle of straight white vinegar (the kind you’d cook with), one spray bottle of water and vinegar 50/50, and one spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide. I use these three spray bottles for just about every job in the house. The undiluted vinegar is good for degreasing and sanitizing. The 50/50 is good for counters, mirrors, as a conditioner replacement etc.. I use the hydrogen peroxide along with the straight vinegar for sanitizing counters after cutting up raw meat and cleaning the toilet. If some one is sick I’ll spray the door handles with hydrogen peroxide.

    I also use baking soda for the shower, sinks, exceptionally greasy surfaces, shampoo replacement, face scrub, deodorizer, deodorant, litter box freshener and much more.

    About half a year ago I purchased a 2lb bag of soap nuts which are amazing; and if my calculations are correct I’ll need a new bag in another 2 1/2 years (a cost of about $10 a year for laundry detergent). I don’t use fabric softener since you don’t need it when using soap nuts.

    The only other cleaners we buy are dish washer detergent (phosphate free) and Pine Sol. However, after we use up our last bottle of pine sol I’ll just use straight white vinegar to clean the toilet bowl. It’s amazing how much money we save and how much simpler cleaning has become. It’s also nice not to have a headache and sore throat the rest of the day from the fumes.

    Jen C.´s last post…Book 4

  29. Of course the Basic H2 is my biggest money-saver (thanks for the shout out) and not using paper towels or paper napkins has been a huge money saver for us. Sometimes it’s the things that I’ve relied on because that’s “just what you use” that are my biggest money pits. Thanks for the great post to re-think those things!

  30. We completely miss the detergent aisle when shopping… My husband loves new packaging and trying new products but we have a deal since he doesn’t actually clean he needn’t go down that aisle. I buy everything in bulk and then I reckon the manufacturers are covering themselves and half the recommended amount is probably more than enough!!! So washing powder, dishwashing powder I use at the most half the recommended amount and they last for months. I have one all purpose cleaner that gets diluted down. Otherwise we never by paper wipes – I can’t stand the thought of buying something just to throw it out. I use old cloth diapers chopped into smaller squares – they are soft and absorbent and stain free from sun drying, not to mention we have tons of them!!!

    se7en´s last post…This Week 19 July at Se7en…

    • Oh now that I have slept on this post… I need to add that keeping our machines that work for us clean really means you need to use less cleaning products… cleaning out the dishwasher filter and the washing machine filter makes a big difference to having our washes coming out clean… I am convinced if we are “kind” to our machines they will last longer and do the job better.

      se7en´s last post…This Week 19 July at Se7en…

  31. After using the sun-for-poop-stained-diapers trick, I decided to try it on some of my daughter’s ridiculously dirty clothes (eating seems to a be a full contact sport around here)…from my experimenting thus far, it seems that sun gets out just about any NATURAL stain I’ve tried it on (ie. watermelon juice, tomato/chili stains, berries, etc). Some take a few treatments, and sometimes there is the faintest stain still visible, but the sun has hands-down beaten the store-bought stain removers I’ve tried!

    I’ve done BS and vinegar for all my cleaning for ages…but just recently bought some Bon Ami for the bathtub and sink, and I’ll admit, they get cleaned more frequently! I just got tired of how hard I had to scrub with the Baking Soda…I know, I’m lazy. :)

    It is so nice to not have to keep up with a million different cleaners just to get the house looking nice. And it’s nice to not worry about little people opening the cabinet under the sink…

  32. I was excited to see the box of Country Save at the top of you post. I love love love CS and use it for everything including our diapers. It also happens to be the lest expensive stuff I have found.
    The stain remover I love is BioKleen Bac out spray. A little pricy, but it lasts forever.
    For cleaning, when hot water and a rag is not enough, I find a sprinkle of baking soda and the same rag work wonders. I cleaned a filthy oven 8 months pregnant that way with out it being unpleasant.

  33. My home is pretty much a Shaklee home – I love Shaklee’s Basic H! I’m pregnant with our fourth and I use it for everything! Seriously, from laundry stains and everyday cleaning to ant repellent! Its so safe to have around the kids and pets! My most dreaded cleaning job was the bathroom and I always use to end up coughing after spraying all the chemical laden cleaners and have to leave the room just to catch my breath! Now I just use the Basic H on everything and stains in my shower which bleach could never get out are gone! Plus my three year old can be in the room “helping”! I also use The Basic H and Shaklee’s Nature’s Bright as my toilet bowl cleaner. For germs I use a vinegar spray which is sufficient.
    I also use microfibre cloths for dusting and I have a roll of paper towels stashed away for fish fry’s because my husband likes to have them otherwise I use flour sack towels for general messes.
    My husband is an Appliance Service Technician and recommends not using dryer sheets – they coat the sensors inside your dryer I also use wool dryer balls instead they were super easy to make or you can find them on etsy. He also recommends not going by your soap manufacturer’s guidelines on the package – they are in the business to sell more soap after all, and if you have a water softener you need even less soap. So get rid of those measuring devices your detergent came with! Instead, I have a measuring spoon for both my washer and my dishwasher detergents. I use a tablespoon of powdered detergent or a half tablespoon of liquid detergent for my HE front-loader regardless of load size. If I’m adding Nature’s Bright I usually only use half a tablespoon. For my dishwasher I use 1 teaspoon and I divide it between the prewash and wash cups and I dialed down my rinse-aid dispenser to a 2 you don’t need much of that either. A really easy way to tell if you are using too much soap is to run either your washer or dishwasher empty and then check it in mid wash – if there are suds you are probably using too much soap. I’d also stay away from those convenience dishwasher soap packs in the plastic because the plastic ends up in your dishwasher pump and that can be an expensive repair.

  34. calliope says:

    great post! and comments!
    I use water/vinegar/baking soda/olive oil soap/microfiber cloths for everything in the house.
    For laundry also use soap nuts. I alternate those with the olive oil soap.
    The best water softener out there is white vinegar. My towels are awesome!
    For the fausets or any such surfaces just rub with a dry microfiber cloth and some vinegar (optional). No detergents needed
    I just love it that my cleansers are all made of harmless products!

  35. Great post as always! So over papertowels, swiffers, and other disposable wipes! I’m even gearing up to try my hand at homemade cleaning products~ By the way do you have a blog button? I’d love to grab one for my blog roll.

    Michelle´s last post…Wanted to share

    • Thanks Michelle! I actually don’t have one still. I keep meaning to, and it’s on the list, but you know how it goes.

  36. I just don’t clean very often. Saves a lot of $$.

    (Just kidding. :) You provided great tips! )

    Kelli´s last post…Positively Positive!

    • When I was looking at how much cleaner I still have left in the bottle, it made me wonder if I should clean more often!

  37. Great suggestions! Every time I decree that we’ve used our last paper towel, my husband buys another roll. It’s so frustrating when your partner isn’t on board!

    Tara @ Feels Like Home´s last post…Apparently- I’ve Broken my RSS Feed

  38. I loved all of your ideas!! I also have a prob with paper towels, it feels bad to dry my hands with them! I live in AZ where we have hard water and its hard to see the soap lather in the washing machine. I think, hmm no bubbles…dingy looking water, yuck=dirty clothes. So I hunted and found that Borax helps you use less detergent in hard water places. I don’t know if I noticed any difference, but the one place borax did work is on a hard core stain. One day, my three year old spilled a glass of red juice, (thanks for bringing that over grandma), and in this rental apt we had beige carpeting. I blotted it with one my rags…until it was really dry, then i sprinkled the borax over the stain and I let it sit. I vacuumed it up, it turned pink from what it soaked up and then i went over it with a little dish soap. and it was GONE! That box lasted me like 6 mts!

    I love your blog! thanks for the tips!

  39. Stephanie says:

    Awesome post! I make my own cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. I also use 2 tablespoons of detergent per load. I use the dryer balls. The best book ever to me is Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. Check it out! I had to purchase this book after borrowing it from the library. There are so many useful homemade receipes for cleaners in this book! The on receipe I really enjoy is club soda which is used for glass and mirror cleaning. My 7 year old loves to clean the bathroom mirrors and storm door glass.

  40. I do most of what you mentioned, and more. I don’t buy an all-purpose cleaner; I make my own. It’s VERY easy and cheap, and the only thing I had to buy that I didn’t already own was Borax. I’ve now had the same box of Borax for years, and each bottle of cleaner costs pennies to make.

    I am lucky in that we have a co-op geared specifically towards green cleaning, so I save money by buying ALL of my cleaning supplies in bulk. I just take the same bottle I’ve been using for dish soap for a couple of years and fill it at the co-op.

    Instead of buying scouring pads, I use the metal lid from a frozen juice container to scrape food from my pots. It works so well–you’d be amazed. Since I only buy frozen organic orange juice (fresh is too pricey), I always have new ones.

    I’m sure there are more things I’m not thinking of right now. This is a favorite topic for me!

    Jaimie´s last post…The Clothing Swap- an Eco-Friendly Way to Fill Your Familys Closets for Free

  41. Nice post! I do use very little soap for laundry and use a cup of vinegar as cloth softener (kiddo and me being soap sensitive). Yes, completely agree with using microfiber clothes. I use paper towels for icky messes only. Its been a very long time since I bought any cleaning solution. I can clean anything with baking soda and vinegar, but does anyone have a cleaning solution to clean granite countertops? I cannot use vinegar on mine.. and thats bothering me!

    • I wipe my granite counters with soapy water on a rag after I wash the dishes each night.

      • Thank you for you reply. Yes, I do the same too. Wipe the counters with wet microfiber cloth, but was wondering if there is anything else I can use to disinfect the countertops.

        • Good question Rashmi! Norwex Anti-Bac Micro-Fiber has silver filament woven into each cloth, a natural antibacterial agent. As your cloths dry, the silver kills all bacteria!

          Shawna Pesina´s last post…Couponing- Too Much Trouble

          • You really don’t need anything other than a warm, soapy dishrag and a little elbow grease. Just make sure to use a clean rag, so you don’t spread contaminants from washing dirty dishes to the counter. Remember that your hands are constantly in contact with germs throughout the day, but simply washing them with soap keeps you from getting sick. There’s no need for harsh cleaners on your hands…or your counters.

            That said, if you use a large cutting board for your food prep, you’ll have very little to clean off the counters. I have a board that’s large enough to cover one half of my kitchen sink. When I’m done with meal prep, I sweep my scraps into a bowl for the compost pile, and then I wash the board with soapy water and let it dry. If I’m concerned about residual germs (like from preparing chicken), I spray the board with vinegar after a vigorous scrub with dish soap and let it air dry. Of course, to be safe it’s always best to use a separate board for meat prep.*

            * I use one board. I’ve labeled one side for veggies/fruit and the other for meat. It works for me!

        • Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant. You use several drops of it in a spray bottle with water. I’m sure there is a more exact recipe online, or maybe someone has one to share.

  42. I’m a baking soda, vinegar & borax homemaker myself. I also buy Dr. Bronners Castille for liquid soap needs. Other than that I make all my own soaps, including laundry. But these supplies still cost me money, not as much as conventional mind you, so I lump them in when comparing grocery costs. Also, my grocery budget includes toilet paper. The one paper product I haven’t been go green on except using 100% recycled. I’m not ready, maybe I’ll never be, to go with cloth wipes.

  43. Great tips! I’ve been wondering what people use to clean besides the stuff you buy at the store. Can’t wait to try some of these. I also just spent 15 minutes “cleaning” my email inbox. Clicking unsubscribe so many times was tedious but it will save from future time suck.

  44. I don’t think leaders are that expensive, i think people just over use them terribly. You only need a small small amount, nardly any

    Benjamin Bankruptcy´s last post…Budget Evaluation

  45. Shannie B says:

    We have cut out commercial cleaners completely by switching to vinegar and water. It sanitizes and dissipates any smells in the room that may be lingering.

  46. I definitely used to spend way too much on this stuff! I figured, if they made a different product for each thing in our house, I must need it! So a spray for this, a scrub for that until you have a whole cabinet full.

    Then I made a switch to “green” cleaners and spent even more on those, with the justification that it was an investment in my family’s health.

    Now I spend very little by using microfiber cloths, baking soda, vinegar, olive oil and lemon for just about everything. Making household cleaners yourself saves money, and is healthier for both you and the environment!

    Sofia’s Ideas´s last post…Response cached until Thu 22 @ 13:50 GMT (Refreshes in 56 Minutes)

  47. Denise C. says:

    I love vinegar for almost all cleaning. I even use it in the laundry! I stopped using fabric softener years ago, at $7 a bottle (and I’ll admit, I always bought 2) i found it was making our clothes feel like they had a “film” on them.

    We too open the windows for some fresh air, it is free & much better than any over powering scented, over priced store air fresheners. I do use a Lysol bleach cleaner for our bathrooms. I love the idea of using a bleach pen on grout!

    My husband still likes to use paper towels for certain things, so I buy one roll, where the sheets are divided by 3. One roll will last about 6 months.

    One more thing, I found by putting a small “tupperware” ( the cheap one) filled with baking soda at the bottom of our kitchen trash can, it absorbs odors really well.

  48. Question–if you are making your own cleaners with vinegar, can you mix them up ahead of time? I have some weird idea in my head that if I pre-mix, the vinegar would lose its potency. Which, I know, is dumb, especially as vinegar is used for FOOD PRESERVATION!

    I end up pouring vinegar onto a wet rag and using that, which I’m sure is too much vinegar–which is wasteful and could be damaging to whatever it is that I’m cleaning.

    Thanks in advance!

    Rabbit´s last post…A-C Update

    • Yes, vinegar will keep and you can mix up your cleaning solution ahead of time.

    • That is true of bleach solutions. The bleach degrades quickly, which makes me wonder if people are just wasting their money on that Clorox Anywhere nonsense, since it’s just a bleach solution.

  49. I have one word: microfibre! I love these cloths because they clean without cleaners – I keep one in the bathroom and the kitchen and wipe when I can. It works on any surface.
    I discovered your blog thanks to se7en, and I am loving it – thanks!!!

  50. Thanks for this post – you’ve inspired me.

    I must confess – the cleaning products aisle is my favourite and my husband says I’m a marketer’s dream :) but I recently started using a solution of water and vinegar to clean the babies’ high chairs as they chew on the plastic :) and now I’m learning I can use that solution for more.

    Hmmm – I will have to use up my current stuff and then try going green!

  51. Great post. Have to admit I’m guilty of the multiple cleaners offenses and this post has me thinking about doing better. As a result of the post, I actually looked at the directions on my laundry detergent ( usually just dump in what looks right) and hold and below, I’ve been using DOUBLE the manufacturer’s recommendations ( and they want to sell you more, so clearly I’ve been over-doing it!).

    I do use cloth napkins, but paper towels are just so easy! I’m going to look into the microfiber cloths – I have one for dusitng but never considered it for general cleaning.

    Keep up the good work – we need to be nudged to do better!

    deb mattin´s last post…Silver Lining

  52. Rachel,

    Wow, so many people have something to say about cleaning supply. I think I used to spend lot of money on it, now I do many simple cleaning from vinegar and occasional store bought cleaners. This was a first detailed article I have seen on cleaning supply. Thank you for it.

  53. Love your post.. Here are some of the things I do, One, I use less laundry detergent and clothes wash just as well. Two, I don’t use fabric softener. Three, I make my own all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant using vinegar, water and some baking soda. Costs way less than commercial cleaners and cleans beautifully. Also, I use cloth rags – for the counters, to wipe dishes, to clean baby messes and for regular dusting.

    Prerna´s last post…How to Eat Healthy and Save Money with Yogurt Making at Home

  54. Great post…I found myself nodding in agreement…I do so many of the same things it made me smile.

    For those that want a “fabric softener” white vinegar is a great substitute. I don’t use it all the time, but it is nice on towels as it neutralizes the soap and helps get rid of the suds….and for those worried they will smell like the won’ smell left behind.

  55. pentamom says:

    There’s one thing I use fabric softener for, and I use the cheapest stuff I can find.

    Put just a couple of tablespoons in the bottom of a spray bottle, fill with water and shake. Instant wrinkle-releaser — which is about $4 a bottle at the store, about $.04 made this way. Some may say, “who needs wrinkle releaser?” But with a family of seven, I just can’t keep up with the whole “remove from the dryer promptly” thing (and I don’t have a place for a laundry line) so for casual clothes, it’s handy to have around.

  56. I basically use one all purpose cleaner to clean everywhere in my house – kitchen counters/sink, bathroom counters/sinks, the showers, even the toilet bowl. I just spray the cleaner in the toilet and use the toilet brush and it gets clean just fine. I have never quite understood why people think they need separate kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. I find that a microfiber cleaning cloth cleans mirrors great without any cleaning product even being necessary. Works great for dusting too. I do keep a bottle of bleach that I have diluted (90% water/10% bleach)for dealing with occasional mold in the shower. I use a squeegee in the shower as well which keeps scum from building up to begin with…

    I have not bought paper towels in years. I cut up old t-shirts into pieces and they make great rags. Plus microfiber cleaning cloths which can be washed and used over and over again.

    The ONLY product I use for my laundry is detergent. Yes, that is it. I have never used stain remover products. My household does not have a big stain issue (I realize some households do though!), but usually just scrubbing a stain with regular detergent and soaking it works fine for our occasional stains. I have NEVER used fabric softener nor dryer sheets. I have also never used detergent “booster” or other such extra products. I guess it is all in what you are used to…but I think our clothes are clean and smell fine with only using detergent.

    I am an extreme minimalist I guess! Although I am only 39 yrs old, my parents had me late in life and they are Depression Era.
    So I think making do without was ingrained in me from childhood.

  57. Homemade washing machine detergent with vinegar in the softener dispenser. Peroxide when I need it in the whites. My clothes are just as clean and just have a clean smell. Vinegar, baking soda, Medina Orange Oil for cleaning everything else around the house. Also, salt is great for scrubbing. I haven’t needed or used anything else in many months. I made a bunch of cloth napkins and use old towels and rags for cleaning. I mop with a microfiber cloth on a dustmop and just spray the vinegar orange oil water mix on the tile floors. I’m not a ‘tree hugging greenie’ but I feel much better about not wasting what we have and polluting the water even more with cleaners, filling the dumps with paper and plastic bags, etc.

    I enjoy your posts.

  58. Stephanie P says:

    Thanks for this post! I’ve also cut back a lot in the cleaning department.

    1. Use vinegar in the downy ball for fabric softener. It cuts any remaining grease or detergent residue to make clothes extra soft.
    2. I moved my dishwasher detergent to a different tub and put my own measuring scoop in there to make sure we weren’t using too much.
    3. I’ve made the switch (or am in the middle of transitioning) to just about everything cloth: “paper” towels, napkins, toilet “paper,” and cloth pads. The one remaining area seems to be from tissues to hankies…

    I wish I lived in a place where I could line dry outside. The DH and I live in a rented condo and the HOA has rules about that sort of thing :-( I do have a small rack inside, though.

  59. The towel rack in the laundry room for rags is brilliant! Thank you!

  60. loved reading all these hints! must try some of them.
    at the moment:

    laundry = little bit of detergent

    kitchen = my favorite dish detergent (original scent Dawn)

    floors = dish detergent (a few drops in some hot water)

    bathroom = according to “soap is soap” so I use any old shampoo that I was going to toss anyway and clean the toilet with it and a toilet brush. a bit of TP and some windex gets the toilet surfaces clean. a cloth and a bit of windex gets the spots out of the mirror and I also wipe down the sink and faucets with it too.

  61. This spring I found websites that listed “How to make your own” recipes for everything from laundry soap to dishwasher detergent.

    Making our own laundry soap was EASY, and extremely frugal-the liquid version cost .0114 cents per load. Fels Naptha, Borax, Super Washing Soda and water, that’s it. Besides be frugal, my husband and I have found that most of our skin allergies are gone! And, our clothes are spotless.

    The recipe for all-purpose cleaner (castile soap, borax, super washing soda, vinegar and water) cleans everthing including our ceramic stove top beautifully. If I calculated the cost correctly, a bottle of this cost about 12 cents-try finding a 12 cent bottle on the grocery shelf.

    My friends who thought I was crazy when I started this have all converted and love it.

    I sew, so using paper napkins was abandoned at our house. I just wish we would have researched all this sooner.

  62. And borax! I use it as toilet bowl cleaner, laundry booster (I use only a Tbsp of detergent), general cleaner. Cheap and effective.

  63. I make my own laundry detergent and it’s so cheap and easy. Use Baking soda, vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s and tea tree oil for everything else. I have recipes on my site. I don’t think I spend but maybe $10 a year on that stuff. Maybe a bleach pen once a year for grout fixes.
    Shell´s last post…Writers Workshop- Winter Roads

  64. Good info. I use a bit of vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine to cut the soap and it leaves no smell.

  65. i use SHAKLEE products – they are highly concentrated (as well as eco-friendly & smells deliciously light)

  66. I’ve found that a little dishwashing liquid and sea salt (I can buy it cheap at the Asian grocery store) with a damp rag is the absolute best way to clean my tub – it’s easy, gets rid of scum and makes it completely white. (and no cleaning product-migraine) For my grout, a stiff bristle brush and water work fine, but if it’s really bad, that may not do the trick. Baking soda paste (baking soda + water) kicks any mildew that starts up. Actually, I use baking soda for everything from de-stinking trashbags to deoderant to cleaning my sink to shining my silver. And vinagre does the rest. A little white vinagre and water makes a great glass cleaner or hard-wood floor cleaner. Also, pine sol and air fresheners as well as many other cleaning products have been linked to organ damage and cancer. So my motto is stick to the old-fashioned stuff – if you don’t live in a hospital or test lab, your house doesn’t need to be sterilized. I get a lot of inspiration (and several of the ideas above) from the blog “Down to Earth” on simple, cheap cleaning, btw.

  67. Hi! I love reading your posts :) For cleaning windows and mirrors, I use a little dishwashing soap and a splash of vinegar in water. It works like a charm, and if you’re using a biodegradable soap, you’re being eco-friendly too. All best, Helen