9 Essential Frugal Cleaning Supplies and Ingredients

People often wonder what is in my cleaning cabinet. With the plethora of cleaning products available, it’s sometimes hard to know what a frugal person needs. Or rather doesn’t need. My cleaning cabinet is very basic. I’ve found that with a few basic items, I can clean almost anything.

Essential Frugal Cleaning Supplies

  1. Vinegar. I’ve written before about all the things I love to do with vinegar. From fabric softener to disinfectant, vinegar on it’s own can clean a lot of things. It’s even more powerful when combined with other things.
  2. Baking Soda. Baking soda makes a great scouring powder. It also deodorizes carpets, refrigerators, and cat litter boxes. And when combined with vinegar, it can unclog drains. I also use it in my homemade laundry detergent.
  3. Dawn Dishwashing Detergent. Dawn is great for breaking down grease. I like to use it in combination with vinegar to clean my bathrooms.
  4. Rubbing Alcohol. This is great for cleaning computer and television screens. You can also use rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and water to make a glass cleaner. Just use a cup of rubbing alcohol, a cup of water, and a tablespoon of vinegar.
  5. Olive Oil. Mix three parts olive oil with one part vinegar to make a great furniture polish. I confess I hardly use furniture polish, though. I just dust with a slightly damp rag.
  6. Borax. Borax is a great laundry detergent booster, and I use it in my homemade laundry detergent recipe. It also works to get rid of ants.
  7. Washing Soda. Another laundry detergent essential.
  8. Fels Naptha Soap. My favorite soap for making homemade laundry detergent. On it’s own, it’s also a great spot remover.
  9. Commercial Dishwasher Detergent. So far I haven’t found anything to replace dishwasher detergent, so this is the only commercial cleaning product I use.

That’s it. With these 9 ingredients, I clean my entire house and do the laundry. All of these ingredients combined cost less than $25. That’s a lot better than an overstuffed cabinet full of $100 worth of cleaning products, each used for a single purpose. I prefer to keep things simple…and cheap.


By , on Sep 29, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Greg:

    What great timing. Every month my wife and I focus on something new to eliminate, reduce or improve in our lives. We were just talking about this very concept the other day. I can’t wait to share it with her…

    btw… As a woodworker, pure tung oil is great for real wood furniture.

  2. Katelyn Jackson:

    This is somewhat on topic so I decided to share anyway. Vinegar or a vinegar/baking soda paste is wonderful for cutting the skunk smell when you or a pet gets sprayed. The whole story is too long to tell here, but after one thorough vinegar/baking soda bath I practically had to stick my nose in my dog’s fur to tell she’d been sprayed whereas before the bath she just had to get within 10 feet of me. It’s wonderful stuff! Vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washing machine also helps cut the smell from clothing or towels used to clean the “stinker” up.

  3. I use Lysol cleaners when my grocery store runs a 1/2-off sale and I have coupons which double, comes out free or nearly free. Otherwise, the cheap generic version of Comet makes a good bathroom/kitchen cleaner.

  4. I use most of the same cleaning products. Recently, I started using Borax, Baking Soda, and Vinegar in the dishwasher and it works great!

    I love your frugal ideas. We would love it if you would link your money saving ideas to Thrifty Thursday!

  5. Thanks for posting this, Lynnae. I’ve made my own dishwasher powder with salt, baking soda and borax. That worked ok. I still prefer to find the tablets on sale though. But, I know it will do in a pinch.
    Love the shower cleaner recipe.

  6. This is a brilliant post. There are few things more pointless than overpaying for branded cleaning products when a simple, generic product will serve just as well. Thank you for sharing!

  7. I concur with your thoughts! I love having basic, all-purpose cleaners on hand too. Another advantage to safer cleaners is that I can do some bathroom cleaning while my kids are in the bathtub. No need to worry about fumes!

  8. Marj M.:

    No olive oil in my cleaning supplies, just a wet rag like you use. I do have and use everything else though. It has been so cost effective since making the laundry detergent I can’t believe I didn’t find it sooner. I enjoy being as eco as possible……….or is that cheap??? lolol

  9. AngelSong:

    If you use borax to kill ants, be sure to put it where pets do not have access to it.

  10. Hel:

    Rubbing alcohol is NOT NOT NOT advised for use cleaning modern computer and tv screens. It will over time dissolve the coating on any non-glass screen (lcds, plasma, etc), and the warranty on your item will almost certainly not cover this damage. Even on glass screens (which old crt type monitors and tvs tend to have) if the item is higher end and has a anti-glare or other type of coating, the alcohol can damage this coating. Same goes for windex, and similar products. In the interest of saving money in the short term, you will end up costing yourself money in the long term when you have to replace the damaged screen!

  11. marci:

    Carpet cleaner – club soda fizzed up or shaving cream will get spots out of carpets :)

  12. p.p.s. I do not have a dishwasher, so I do not need anything for that

  13. I only use:
    -vinegar for pretty much everything (especially glass and windows.)
    -baking soda
    -felps naptha soap, washing soda, & borax (to make laundry soap)
    -dish soap (I buy sevength generation, but am experimenting with making from colgate bar soap to save money)
    -bar keepers friend (it is a scouring powder) I had a bottle from previous tennant it works great on my stove top
    -Sevength Generation Carpet cleaner on my cream carpet (Although with my boys I have pretty much given up on trying to keep carpet clean.)

    p.s. the homemade laundry detergent is safe for HE washers

  14. I so agree. I not only enjoy the thriftiness of this but, I just feel so much better about using more natural cleaners around my toddler!

  15. Lynnae,

    I have been going through testing DW detergents for the past 6 months! If you have soft water, you might be in luck… See my latest results here with links to my other disasters:
    I also clean with frugal cleaners, just three of them for my whole kitchen. I use hydrogen peroxide 50/50 with water as a disinfectant along with the vinegar. My FAVorite cleaning item is microfiber cloths, though. They make many cleaning products totally unnecessary (like furniture and glass polish).
    To the commenter above: ammonia is pretty hazardous! Try a vinegar and water mix for glass (1/4 cup vinegar to a gallon of water works great), and a microfiber cloth is even better: http://www.kitchenstewardship......een-today/

    I also just discovered the greatest laundry detergent – not homemade, but almost as frugal with zero work, and totally natural for the environment. I’m hosting a giveaway starting Thursday for the product! (Free is the best deal of all, right?) ;)

    Sorry to write so much! I am a little passionate about cleaners being frugal AND non-toxic. Thanks!!

  16. Great Tips- Almost makes me want to get off the computer and clean…Almost!!

  17. marci:

    This post is marked “Keeper” in my permanent file!

    Add some ammonia…. stinks – but I use it for the windows :)

  18. Craig:

    Never thought of olive oil as polish but good tip. I go through expensive cleaning supplies and want to cut down.

  19. AngelSong:

    I have not bought commercial cleaners for a long time. I use a variant of your bathroom cleaner for almost every cleaning job in our home. It even removes stains from carpet safely.

    I have seen recipes online for making dishwasher detergent, but I have not tried them yet (although I do intend to do so).

    Discovering that I could make my own laundry detergent was important because it made me aware of many more things I could make or do on my own to save money.

  20. AngelSong:

    I don’t buy commercial cleaners at all any more. I make my own cleaner using a variant of your bathroom cleaner, and it works on just about anything I need it for. It even removes stains from carpet.

    I just did a search for “make your own dishwasher detergent” and found:


    (note: I have not tried these yet, so I don’t know how well they work.)

    Finding out I could make my own laundry detergent was a huge discovery for me, because it made me aware of so many other things I could make (or do) myself.

  21. Can you make your own laundry detergent for the HE washers? We have a front-loading, low-water washing machine and use the highly concentrated All Free, and then we only put a little bit in the machine, even of that stuff.

    That and dishwashing detergent, I would love to not have to buy dish detergent anymore.

    Other than that, all I use is vinegar and baking soda for most my cleaning. I use straight white vinegar in a spray bottle for windows and glass.

    I do have a bottle of Liquid Gold furniture polish for my coffee table – I’m the third generation to have it and that’s what’s always been used on it, so I’m both afraid to change, and nostalgic about it at the same time.

    • Lynnae:

      I don’t know about the HE washers, as I don’t have one, so I haven’t tried. The laundry soap I make doesn’t suds at all, if that makes a difference.

      And I probably wouldn’t change furniture polish, if I had a coffee table that had been passed down, too. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay more for a cleaner, and it sounds like this is one of those times.

      And it just occurred to me that I didn’t link to my laundry detergent recipe in my article. I’ll edit that.

  22. I like Dawn for cleaning windows. I fill a spray bottle with water and put just a few drops of Dawn in the bottle and shake. It cleans windows wonderfully. You don’t want to put too much Dawn in the bottle though, just a couple of drops. There is so little dawn in the bottle that I let my daughter, who likes to help, clean some of our windows.

  23. These are sure wonderful tips that saves money and being green at the same time. I also use vinegar in my laundry load with my infant’s clothes too.

  24. Lisa:

    Try this home made dishwasher detergent:

    It looks like it’s getting good reviews!

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