Cost comparison: homemade cleaning supplies vs. storebought

Last month I had an phone interview with a reporter from a national news organization. He wanted to know how staying at home saves me money.

I appreciated the chance to think about not only the ways I save money by staying at home, but also the reasons I stay at home. I will write more about that in the next few weeks, but first, let's talk about making our own cleaning supplies.

The reporter wanted to know how much I save per year by making some of my own cleaning supplies. It was fun to figure out approximately how much money I'm saving. Here is what I concluded—and these are all estimates, of course.

The short answer is that I save about $210/year or $17/month by making my own cleaning supplies. See below for more details.


Making my own laundry soap (recipes here and here) costs about 2¢/load. Name-brand detergent costs about 12¢/load. So let's estimate that store-brand detergent might cost as little as 6¢/load, but I'm just guessing on that one. If I do 7 loads of laundry per week (which is about average for me), I will spend about 14¢ on homemade detergent, vs. 84¢ name brand or 42¢ store brand. Over a year I will spend about $7.28 on laundry detergent, vs. $43.68 on name-brand (or possibly half that if you buy store brand).

I use vinegar for fabric softener. That runs about 5¢/load, so about $18.20/year. Commercial fabric softener is around 7¢/load, so that's about $25.48/year.

I can make a bottle of glass cleaner for about 25¢. If you buy a bottle of glass cleaner for $2 (just guessing here), and you use one bottle per month, you'd spend about $3/year making homemade vs. $24/year buying.

I can make a bottle of bath/shower cleaner for about $1.25. A can of Scrubbing Bubbles costs about $5. At one bottle per month, that's $15/year vs. $60/year.

I use bleach for toilet bowl cleaner. That costs about 50¢/month, vs. perhaps $2/month for toilet bowl cleaner. That would be $6/year vs. $24/year.

I use re-usable rags cut from our old clothes for cleaning, so that saves perhaps $52/year if you go through a sponge a week at a dollar each, and perhaps a pack of cleaning wipes per month at $3 each, so $36/year. Let's estimate that I spend about $5/year on dish cloths for the kitchen.

I also use a commercial disinfectant, but I will leave out the costs of that as I assume I spend about what others do.

So, doing the math, I would be spending approximately $54.48/year on my homemade cleaning supplies, vs. my estimate of $265.16 on commercial supplies, for a savings of $210.68/year. That's $4.54/month vs. $22.10/month, for a savings of $17.56/month. I would estimate that I probably spend a maximum of 2 hours per year putting together my homemade cleaning supplies.


  1. I have really wondered about some homemade things people make and if you really save anything. I love that you did this post and figured out the math! Sometimes people make homemade just to say they did, without doing the math to see if they are saving. I've seen some pretty complicated dishwasher detergent recipes that I wondered about.

    Love this! Dishwasher detergent is what I need to try making. I finally figured out a good homemade laundry detergent- basically the same as yours. I just discovered your post on laundry detergent and enjoyed that too. Very thorough.

    1. I'm not sure if dishwasher soap would be cost effective. Citric acid is expensive! I have to admit, though, that I don't love my dishwasher soap recipe enough to use it regularly. It works for a few times, then I start getting a film on the dishes. I know it works for other people though! There are a couple more recipes I want to try some time.

      Another thing I thought about as I wrote this post is that if you're making your own supplies to be "green," you'd be saving lots more money compared to "green" products on the market, which are super expensive!

  2. What a great post.Thank you for sharing the recipes..
    I don't make cleaning products...but might start. Do
    you find that the ones you make, work as well as store bought
    or maybe better?
    I have always been tempting to make my own..just never did. I am a coupon person, and I also comp ad at Wal Mart.. so I never pay full price for cleaning supplies.
    I am really anxious to look at all the recipes and save them. thank you so much.

    1. All the cleaners I have mentioned in this post work just as well for me as storebought supplies do. I enjoy mixing them up, so it works for me.

      I have tried a few things that have worked for others, but not for me. I love being able to read about others' experiences on blogs before I try something myself.

  3. Anyone can do those things, however I've noticed since leaving my job at Christmas time that you don't just save money, but have the time on your hands to think of ways to make money as well. You've read on my blog some of my business endeavors. If I master them, they don't have to stop once I graduate on August and get "a real job". These are the things I've wanted to do for some 10-15 years but working always held me back. Being at home, Annalise and I don't really go anywhere. Before, we were always "going" everywhere. We have too much fun at home and this must save a ton of money.

  4. How awesome that you were interviewed! I was recently wondering how our costs have changed since changing our buying habits. Thank you for the analysis!