Generic vs. Name-Brand Household Cleaners

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found the average American family spends on average over $600 a year on housekeeping supplies, or approximately $50 per month. Most of us gravitate toward the name-brand goods, but these products do more than clean our homes — they’re cleaning out our wallets, too!

Consumers often associate cheaper prices with inferior quality. So, when it comes to keeping a kitchen and bathroom clean and germ-free, shoppers reach for the expensive name brands that they perceive as better quality and more effective. However, these name-brands spend a lot of money on advertising, packaging and store shelf location, which often translates to a bigger price tag and not necessarily superior quality.

In truth, the majority of cleaning products (regardless of brand) are very similar, so unless you really like the way something smells or you find a particular product makes your life easier, you’re better off going generic. Doing so will save you anywhere from 30 to 60 percent off name-brand solutions!

I recommend buying, or at least trying, the following common cleaners as generic or store brands.

BLEACH: The active ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite. This is a basic chemical compound that can’t be made incorrectly or less effective because of who manufactures it. Generic bleach has the same disinfectant and cleaning power as name brand bleach and saves an average of $1 a bottle.

Bleach does have a shelf life of approximately six months, so don’t stock up on bulk containers unless you know you’ll use it all within that timeframe.

MULTI-PURPOSE CLEANER: If you have a favorite name-brand cleaner, look for similar ingredients in the generic version to get similar results. Many experts find that the generic and store-brand products work just as effectively, and sometimes even better, than name-brand cleaners while saving you anywhere from 30 to 60 percent.

TILE & GROUT CLEANER: Generic or homemade tile and grout cleaners work just as well as name-brand options. You may need to let the generic or homemade cleaner set on the tile and affected areas for a few minutes before scrubbing off. Ultimately, do your own home test comparing the dollar store brand with a big box store’s brand to see which you prefer.

DIY CLEANERS: You may be able to clean your home with items you already own. Look in your home for staples such as vinegar, baking soda, fresh lemons and rubbing alcohol which can be used to make effective and non-abrasive cleaners for a much lower cost.

For guidance on effective DIY cleaners, consider these solutions from Good Housekeeping:


  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and you have a glass cleaner that will leave your windows and glass surfaces crystal clear for less than 50 cents! This represents over $2 in savings compared to the average name-brand glass cleaners, which run at $2.50 to $3 per bottle.


  • 4 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 quart warm water

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and use on appliances, kitchen counters and inside your refrigerator to clean and deodorize commonly soiled surfaces!


Sometimes the generic versions just don’t cut it. Here are my recommendations for name-brand household supplies that are worth the extra cost, plus ways to save on your favorite brands.

TRASH BAGS: Don’t skimp on garbage bags — generic garbage bags are thinner and don’t hold as much trash as the name-brand alternatives, putting you in a potentially messy situation! Look for stretchable bags made with patented materials as well as industrial-strength bags instead of ones made just for the home. Insider tip: solid black bags are usually stronger than white ones.

Savings Tip: To save on name-brand trash bags, buy in bulk from warehouse clubs like Costco or Sam’s Club. Typically, the per-unit cost is cheaper. For example, a 120-count box of Glad ForceFlex with OdorShield 13-gallon trash bags at Sam’s Club is priced at $16.78. Amazon sells the same box for $27.28, nearly 40-percent more (not including shipping, since it doesn’t qualify at less than $35!). Target sells a 90-count box for the online sale price of $13.79 (originally $15.99), which is one penny higher per-unit than the regular price at Sam’s Club.

CLEANING PADS: Generally, the generic versions of cleaning pads rip easily and you tend to go through more as as result. The name-brand versions like S.O.S., Brillo and Mr. Clean offer stronger products that clean more surfaces with just one pad.

Savings Tip: You often don’t need an entire cleaning pad to tackle everyday cleaning tasks. When you buy a new box, cut each pad in half and store them in a coffee can. You get double the use out of a package without sacrificing cleanliness!

TOILET PAPER & PAPER TOWELS: Generic brands usually have fewer fibers, which means less absorbency. They’ll cost less than brand names, but you’ll end up using more of the cheaper towels or toilet paper. If you need three times as many paper towels to do the job, then the generic version isn’t saving you any money!

Savings Tip: Learn the sale cycles at your grocery store as they tend to run sales on name-brand paper goods during the first and third week of the month. You can stack manufacturer coupons from brands like Brawny or Bounce with such sales to keep your costs even lower. Deal sites like have printable coupons for these brands, like this $1 off coupon for Brawny paper towels.

Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who regularly contributes to leading national and regional news stories. She has appeared on NBC's Today Show, Dr. OZ, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, MSNBC, CNN, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, and been quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many others. Andrea also enjoys writing articles for various personal finance and lifestyle websites and blogs. Andrea is passionate about sharing ideas and tips to help you live on less without having to sacrifice. She says making a few small tweaks to daily and monthly spending is all you need to do to achieve your dreams within your means. Follow Andrea on Facebook and Twitter for daily savings tips and check back for new videos, magazine stories and blog posts all about saving money!

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