Frugal house cleaning

By glblguy

This article is part of an ongoing series called Money Saving Monday. Each Monday, I share tips and techniques you can use to start saving money.

I’ll confess, I don’t do much of the cleaning around the house, at least not on the inside. My wife and kids take care of that. I do most of the cleaning on the outside though along with keeping our cars clean. I know a number of personal finance bloggers have had some success with frugal house cleaning products, so I thought I would share some collective wisdom I’ve gleaned from them. If you are interested in some frugal car cleaning products, I did write an article about those as well.

Frugal House Cleaning

Baking Soda and Vinegar seem to be the staple base products for most frugal house cleaning applications, but there are other products as well.

Ammonia – Excellent base product for windows, sinks, walls and tile. Ammonia is a very cheap but strong product for cleaning. Never mix it with bleach though as it makes a deadly chlorine gas.

Vinegar – One of the base products for many different homemade cleaning products. Vinegar can be used to remove mold, grease, and mildew. Due to it’s high acid content, Vinegar also kills bacteria and germs. Here’s a ton of uses for vinegar for making cleaning products.

Baking Soda – The main base for many homemade cleaning products. Baking soda can be used as a scouring agent and deodorizer. You can even brush your teeth with it. Lynnae has a bunch of different uses for it in her frugal tips series. I’ve even read you can use to clean gold.

Bleach – Use bleach to whiten and sterilize. My wife is a huge fan of bleach and uses it to clean counter tops, tubs and sinks, and mixes it in a spray bottle to sterilize. Be careful though, it will whiten any fabric including carpet. I personally hate the smell of it, but my wife loves it. If you don’t like bleach, Borax is a good alternative.

Ketchup – Cleans copper? I personally haven’t tried this, but read about it a number of credible sites, so it must work.

Salt – Gentle but abrasive scouring powder.

Basic Soap and Water

While the above items aren’t very expensive, most items don’t require so strong products and will clean up with just a simple mix of soap and water. So be smart, and only use the above when soap and water won’t work.

We learned this lesson the hard way recently. We purchased a solid Oak dining table a few years back and have been using 409 to clean it. The 409 ate right through the finish. My Dad recently refinished it for us and we’ll be using water and maybe a little bit of soap only going forward. I had no idea 409 was strong enough to eat through a table’s finish!

Homemade Frugal Cleaning Recipes

Here are just a few of the many recipes for homemade frugal cleaning recipes:

Carpet Cleaners:

  • For deodorizing: sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on carpet, using about 1 cup per medium sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
  • For deodorizing: mix two parts cornmeal with one part borax; sprinkle liberally, leave for one hour, then vacuum.
  • To soak up big spills: dump cornmeal on the spill; after 5-15 minutes, sweep into a dustpan, then vacuum.
  • Cleaning: Mix 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in the blender with 1/3 cup water. Blend until foamy. Use this to clean spots on the carpet, then rinse with vinegar.


Combine 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons liquid soap, 20-30 drops Tea Tree Oil; Mix well and spray (using a spray bottle) on everything.

Drain Cleaner/Opener

  • Prevention: Pour 1/2 cup washing soda into drain followed by 2 cups boiling water.
  • Clogging: Pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain. Follow with 1/2 cup vinegar and cover drain tightly until finished fizzing. Flush with one gallon boiling water.

Furniture Polish

  • Mix 3 parts olive oil with 1 part vinegar. Use a soft cloth.
  • Mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice. Use a soft cloth.

Multipurpose Cleaner

1/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water; Mix ingredients and store in air-tight container.

Window Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar to one gallon warm water. Just mix and scrub.
  • Use straight lemon juice, dry with soft cloth.

How about you? Have any tips or recipes for homemade cleaning products? Any of the above work or not work for you? Add a comment!

Photo by: erikogan

8 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Frugal house cleaning”

  1. Ryan McLean Says:

    Soon I am about to move out of home and these house cleaning tips could become very useful for me (or my future wife). So thanks for the tip. Looking forward to some more money saving mondays

  2. plonkee Says:

    I’ve finally worked out why you had all those kids – you’ll never have to do housework again ;) .

    Otherwise, very handy list, cheers.

  3. Mydailydollars Says:

    Thanks for putting this together! I’ve eliminated expensive cleaning products from our kitchen and bath routines, but was wondering how to replace the furniture polish. Now, I’ll try out the olive oil and lemon. Great!

  4. Frugal Vet Tech Says:

    I always forget the furniture polish one when I’m cleaning. Thanks for the reminder!

    I love using baking soda and vinegar in my drains (part of the reason being that it fizzes!). You can also use borax or washing soda for cleaning. Just take a bit, sprinkle it on whatever you’re cleaning (there are probably some surfaces it shouldn’t be used on) and scrub with a sponge or rag.

    If you take equal parts borax, washing soda (not baking soda), and soap flakes (just grate a bar of soap) you can use it to wash laundry. Add a spoonful or two and you’re good to go. Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener. Add 1/2 cup or so to the rinse cycle. Your clothes shouldn’t smell like vinegar when they’re done.

  5. Bottle Opener Says:

    Toothpaste can be used to clean gold and silver, I have read on many sites it can also help fix cd’s and dvd’s that have a scratch I actually tired this once and at first it wouldn’t read the disk but after recleaning off the toothpaste it did work for me. Since toothpaste cleans gold and silver I am sure it could clean brass as well

    I am talking about pure white toothpaste no gel of course

  6. Evan Courville Says:

    There is obviously so much more to know about this. I think you made some decisive points in Features also. Keep working, good writeup! los angeles carpet cleaning

  7. Neil Says:

    Good tips!

    Pickling vinegar or coke is good to clean toilets too.

    For good carpet cleaning on the other hand you need more than tips, visit my website!
    carpet cleaning exeter

  8. Troy Mii Says:

    Excellent advice! Vinegar and baking soda are also eco friendly. I like to use Murphy’s Oil Soap also. Keep up the good work..