That Windex Costs HOW Much?

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Do you really need that shiny blue bottle of sweet-smelling Windex to get your windows clean, or will a homemade recipe get the job done just as well?

One of the areas that often taxes a household budget quite a bit is that of cleaning supplies. In our house, we choose to go as “clean” as possible on cleaning supplies, meaning we buy all of the scent-free, chemical free stuff we can get our hands on (meaning no Windex for us!).

But the costs of those “special” cleaning supplies (like Windex or other name brand cleaning supplies) is often even higher than the price of the regular stuff.  So how’s a person to manage and minimize all of these costs, especially if you’re on a strict budget?

Progress, Our Friend and Our Foe


Most of the cleaning products that line our shelves today weren’t around 100 years ago. When you had to clean your windows, you didn’t reach for a bottle of Windex. You grabbed something natural, like linseed oil. Many Depression-Era families used kerosene (yes, kerosene!) to clean their (cold, of course) stoves and vinegar to scrub things down.

Somewhere along the way, though, society decided that things had to smell better and look more appealing.  Enter, the modern day cleaners. Scientists and marketing execs worked together to create household cleaners that contained the appropriate blend of chemicals to make things clean, along with a pretty enough color and a sweet enough scent to make the products attractive to consumers, both inside and outside of the package.

Hence, Windex, Pledge and Swiffer were born. However, along with these sparkly new cleaning products came, in my humble opinion, outrageously high prices.

The particular detergent we use, Arm & Hammer Ultra Free Detergent, is great. No dyes or perfumes, and it cleans well. However, it costs us about $6 a month to clean clothes for our family of six, and we even use less detergent than the recommended amount.

Our dishwashing detergent is another example. We use the Melaleuca brand, which we get from a friend.  I love the stuff! No bleach, no phosphates, yet it cleans like a champ. That’s another $6 a month.

Add in the toilet cleaner, the window cleaner, the surface cleaners, the gentle cleaners for kid-friendly surfaces and the You-Have-to-Wear-Full-HAZMAT-Gear-With-This-Stuff cleaners, for the really tough jobs, and you’re talking a serious dent in your bank account. Not to mention the ill effects many of these products have on our environment and our health.

Necessity, the Mother of Invention


One of the reasons I’m really grateful for the struggle with debt we’re going through right now is that it forces us to find untraditional ways to live. We are often forced to find a different route, because spending the money on the “normal” product or service is simply not an option.

Cleaning supplies is an area we work hard to do this in because it’s not a necessity the way food is. I’ve read about many penny-pinchers in the PF blogging world who simply wash their clothes without detergent or their dishes with hot water and no soap (which is how many commercial restaurants wash, I might add), in order to save a few bucks.

If they can go soap free for their clothes and Windex-free for their windows I figured, we can certainly find a way to cut our costs.

We got the perfect chance to exercise those creative juices last week. We hosted a family reunion here last weekend, and my wonderful mother-in-law came up to help us spiff up the farm. I’d asked her to clean some windows, but we were out of the traditional window cleaner, and I wasn’t driving 15 miles each way to pick up a bottle of Windex for five bucks.

So I hopped on to the trusty Internet. After searching for about 15 minutes and reading several reviews, here’s the recipe we decided on:

3 cups water

3 cups rubbing alcohol

1 T. Vinegar

My Mother-in-law grabbed a squeegee and the spray bottle with our new concoction and voila! Sparkly, shiny, streak-less windows that looked fantastic, and all of that for about 50 cents! Quite a bit less than we would have paid for a bottle of Windex.

When we were out of dishwashing detergent for a spell, we substituted vinegar and a few drops of bleach, and it worked out almost as well as our commercial dishwasher stuff, again, at a fraction of the price.


Homemade detergent is another great example. You can make a homemade laundry detergent for less than $5 that will make enough to fill up a 5-gallon bucket and last you for several months.

We’ve not made that switch yet, simply because I haven’t wanted to take the time, but the $6 or so that’s leaving our bank account each month is really starting the hurt my psyche, so I suspect we’ll be making the switch by fall.

There truly is a lot of money to be saved by bucking traditional store-bought cleaning products and leaving the Windex (and other brand name cleansers on the shelf) in favor of homemade substitutes.

What are your favorite “out of the norm” cleaning concoctions?



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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.