Cleaners: Store Bought vs Homemade

Store Bought vs Natural CleanersHomemade cleaners sound like such a good idea, right?  But do they work as well as the store bought stuff?  I decided to test some myself.

It's science if you write it down!

Glass Cleaner

vs. 1/8 c vinegar + 2.5 c water

Glass Cleaner

The first thing I noticed about the brand name is the smell of ammonia.  I really don’t like the smell; it’s so “chemically”.  But you know what?  Ammonia is a naturally occurring.  Know what else?   It’s an irritant.  Don’t breath it in, get it on your skin or in your eyes.  I cleaned a few mirrors and windows, and the results were virtually the same.  The homemade cleaner did leave a few streaks, but they evaporated away within seconds.  The brand name left no streaks and was easier to wipe.  Still, I’ll take evaporating streaks over stinky ammonia any day.

The brand name said it can clean stainless steel, so I tried both on my fridge.  Neither of them worked, I was left with lots of streaks.

Verdict:  Homemade Glass Cleaner.  It doesn’t stink and works great.

Bathroom Cleaner

vs. 2 tsp baking soda + 4 tsp vinegar + + tbsp ammonia + 2 c water

Ya, I know, I just said I don’t like the smell of ammonia and here I am with ammonia in my homemade cleaner.  The thing is, I made these cleaners a while ago and if I were to make it again, I’d find a recipe without ammonia.  I cleaned the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink, and both cleaners worked equally well.  Then I cleaned the pink slime (did you know that’s mold? It’s called Serratia marcescens) off the shower curtain.  The homemade cleaner was hard to scrub because it’s not very slippery and in the end didn’t work.  The store bought had nice foam and it’s viscous texture was easy to scrub, the pink stuff came right off.

PowerPro Naturals® Bathroom SprayThe brand name cleaner I happen to have is Vim Power Pro Naturals.  The active ingredients are sodium laureth sulfate (a detergent, surfacant (lowers surface tension of a liquid) and foaming agent) and citric acid (chelating agent, which means it binds to metals, which means it can remove lime scale and hard water stains).  Both ingredients are considered “good” to Paula Begoun, who rates chemicals in cosmetics for irritation.  She considers ammonia to be “bad”.

Verdict: Brand Name Bathroom Cleaner, specifically Vim Power Pro Naturals.  The homemade stuff just didn’t cut it, and the brand name ingredients are safe and non-irritating.

Dusting Spray

vs 2 tsp oil + 1/4 vinegar + 1 3/4 c water

This one is a no-brainer.  For dusting all you need is water to keep the dust from flying away, oil to add sheen, and vinegar’s acidic properties to dissolve minerals and is antibacterial.  No need for expensive cleaners for dusting.

Verdict: Homemade Dusting Spray.  Cheap and it works.

Wood Polish

vs 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar

Wood polish is supposed to clean and revitalize wood.  Use this when the wood is dried out and needs refreshing.  I already had great success with a homemade version and you can read all about it here.  But I never did a head-to-head test with the store bought version.

Well I had two different brands, Pledge Revitalizing Oil with natural orange oil and Orange Glo wood polish.  Both had a nice citrus smell, but I don’t really need my furniture to have fake orange smell.  The Orange Glo was definitely the worst.  It left an ugly dull film.  At first the Pledge and homemade looked equally good – the dried out spots were hydrated and the wood had a nice sheen.  But the next morning was a different story.  The homemade version looked nice but had absorbed all the oil.  The Pledge side was still really glossy, beautiful.

Pledge has the following ingredients:  White mineral oil (safe), diamethicone (non-biodegradable), d limonene (poor, skin irritant), polyglyceryl oleate (avoid contact with skin), fragrance, dye and bitrex.

Verdict: Toss Up.  Homemade is cheaper, safer, greener.  But for serious wood rejuvenation projects, I would opt for Pledge Revitalizing Oil.

Cleaning Powder

vs baking soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive.  Plus it’s in pancakes, so it’s got to be good, right?  The cleaning powder has a whole host of ingredients that are not good eating.  Both worked equally well on my kitchen sink.  I’ve cleaned my entire bathroom with baking soda and vinegar and have had no problems.

Verdict: Baking Soda cleaning powder

Stainless Steel Polish

vs a dab of oil and a soft clean cloth.

It seemed everything I tried left terrible streaks.  Then I realized that I didn’t want a cleaner, I wanted a polish.  Once the fridge is clean, a little polish is what makes it shine.  A dab of oil on a cloth worked just as well as the store bought stainless steel polish.  Save money, save space, save time – use homemade.

Verdict: Homemade Stainless Steel Polish.  Works just as well.

Drain Cleaner

Drains aren’t usually a problem until they’re a problem.  I usually start at the simplest remedy and work my way up to more serious solutions until one of them works.  Grossness Warning!  If it’s hair down the drain, the easiest way to clean it is manually with something to pull up the gunk.  Yuck!  But nothing works better or is greener than fishing it out with a coat hanger.  If it’s further down, try the following from weakest to strongest.

1. Boiling Water

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar

3. Drano – Uses lye to dissolve organic matter.  Lye is corrosive and can burn your skin.  Remember Fight Club?  So be careful.

4. One-Second Plumber – reacts with water and produces air to force out the blockage

5. Plumber

When we had just finished our kitchen reno, the kitchen sink started to drain really slow. I tried all of the solutions above and nothing worked until we finally got a plumber to come look at it.  It turns out that our tiler was pouring grout and sand down the drain .  Our pipes were full of bits of tile and grout.  Bleh.  Can I recommend a plumber? Yup.  Can I recommend a tiler? Sorry.

Verdict: Depends on severity


A note on vinegar – Vinegar’s acidic properties can dissolve mineral deposits from glass and stainless steel and can polish brass and bronze.  Plus it’s anti-bacterial.   5% vinegar is 90% effective against mold and 99.9% effective against bacteria.  So why wouldn’t you use it?

Conclusion – Start with Homemade, move to Store Bought if necessary

You can pretty much clean your entire house with some vinegar, oil, baking soda and a couple of spray bottles.

Glass Cleaner1/8 c vinegar2 ½ c water

Combine in a spray bottle.

Dusting Spray2 tsp oil¼ c vinegar

1 ¾ c water

Combine in a spray bottle.  Shake before use.

General Cleaning

Baking Powder


Use with a plastic scrubbie.

Wood Polish3 parts oil to1 part vinegar

Wipe onto surface.

Stainless Steel  Polish

Use a dab of oil on a clean cloth to polish stainless steel surfaces.

Dead Battery Storage

Dead Battery Storage – craftambitions.wordpress.

I know this sounds like a dull topic, but I’m really happy with this clever solution.

You and I both know how terrible it is to throw batteries in the garbage.  They have corrosive metals that are awful for the environment.  In my town they suggest you take them to the Eco-Centre.  But what to do with the batteries before you get to the recycling depot?

Just put them in your Dead Battery can.  I have to admit I borrowed this idea from something I saw on the Container Store website.  I just took a hot chocolate container (perfect size, and it has a red lid) and then I made a simple paper label.  The can holds quite a few batteries and you’ll never get the dead ones mixed up with the new ones!