Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

Should I buy generic window cleaner or splurge on that bottle of Windex? Clorox or store brand bleach? Generic or brand name is a decision we often have to make when standing in front of the cleaning products shelf at the store. We researched the topic for various cleaning tasks and here are the answers:

Related: Which Cell Phone Carrier Has the Lowest Extra Fees?

Cleaning Task: Windows

  • Experts say generic window cleaner may leave streaks or residue. In a comparison between Windex and a cheap multi-purpose cleaner that's also recommended for windows and glass, Windex gave the best polish and left no residue. For windows, Windex is best.
  • Tip: A frugal expert recommended using windshield cleaner instead of Windex -- you'll get the same results for less than $2 per gallon.

Cleaning Task: Laundry

  • Experts say the best laundry detergent is Tide. Generic laundry detergents don't clean clothes as well, and powder formulas often don't fully dissolve, leaving clumps on clothes. Professional tests found that Tide 2x Ultra costs $0.23 per load but beat out Gain Original Fresh HE at $0.15 per load in terms of performance. For light loads, many consumers reported that Costco's Kirkland laundry detergent does the job at $0.14 per wash.

Related: Live Off the Dollar Store for a Week on a $50 Budget

Cleaning Task: Dusting

  • Consumers and experts say generic dusting spray works just as well, if not better than, Pledge, the leading dusting spray. Save money and buy generic or Kleen Guard Fresh Lemon Furniture Polish, which costs $0.18 per ounce compared with $0.53 per ounce of Pledge.
  • Tip: Save money on dust cloths by recycling dryer sheets. We also like the idea of repurposing old athletic socks as dust rags or mitts.

Cleaning Task: Floor Cleaner

  • Cleaning floors requires mopping solution and a good mop. Swiffer sells mop and broom starter kits for about $8.99, but you'll need to buy refill pads. Cleaning experts say that generic floor cleaner works just as well as brand names. So, if you already have a Swiffer type mop, look for generic refills which can cost up to 60% less. Frugal users also recommend flipping the mop sheets, thus saving 50% by using both sides but some say it only works if you wet the sheet a little bit when you flip it. Extreme savers place the used sheets in mesh laundry bags and wash them to be used again.
  • If you don't want to buy the kit, a string mop or sponge mop will work on almost any type of floor. A simple string mop costs about $10 and you can pair it with cheap floor cleaning solution.
  • Tip: 1/4 cup vinegar mixed into a quart of warm water works just as well as floor cleaner, as do a few drops of dish soap diluted in a quart of warm water.

Related: Best cheap hotel chain recommendations

Cleaning Task: Tile and Grout Cleaning in Bathroom and Kitchens

  • Generic or homemade tile and grout cleaners work just as well as name brand options. The only difference is you may need to let the generic or homemade cleaner set on the tile and affected areas for a few minutes before scrubbing off.
  • Tip: A spray bottle filled with half vinegar and half water is a good mild cleaner and disinfectant for bathroom and kitchen tiles; the solution also works on counters. For grout that's full of grime and mold, a baking soda paste is best. Wet baking soda with just enough vinegar to make a paste; add in salt for those hard-to-reach spots. Use lemon juice for discolored tile. Let baking soda paste and lemon juice sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing off.
  • Bleach is the most common disinfectant. Store shelves are lined with bleach, bleach disinfectant wipes, disinfectant spray, etc. Clorox is the most popular brand, but Clorox bleach is no better than generic brands -- it just costs more. Generic cleaners, such as sanitizing wipes, work as well as the name brands. A name-brand cleaner with bleach costs about $0.14 an ounce compared to $0.08 an ounce for a generic brand found at the dollar store. Good & Clean disinfecting/sanitizing wipes cost $0.05 per wipe on Amazon compared to $0.16 for each Clorox wipe.

Related: Which Airline Charges the lowest baggage fees?

Additional Tips

  • White vinegar is a multi-purpose cleaner. One of our favorite vinegar tips is for mini blinds: Put on cheap white gloves and dip the fingers into equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Rub both sides of blinds with gloves.
  • If towels smell of mildew, vinegar can help. Put the towels in the washing machine with two cups white vinegar and fill with the hottest water possible. Run them through the cycle and then again with laundry detergent. Dry the towels completely in the dryer.
  • Baking soda can be used to freshen carpets. Sprinkle on, let sit for 15 to 25 minutes, and vacuum up.
  • Do you like foaming hand soap but find it too costly? Buy one bottle and when it runs out, fill with one tablespoon of liquid hand soap, dish soap, or body wash and warm water. Gently mix or swirl together (be careful not to make suds). Replace the pump lid and pump a few times to get it going.

Related: 18 Easy Ways to Create a Healthier Home

Cheapism in the News