I’ve been slacking on my, “Save $50,000 in five years” series. It’s a lot of work (all those calculations!) However, it’s time we got back to it, so without further ado… Let’s look at cleaning products.
Why use green cleaning products?
In this post I’ll be comparing the costs green cleaning products only – both store bought and homemade. What I won’t be doing is comparing savings on making homemade cleaners over conventional cleaners, because you shouldn’t be using conventional cleaners at all. That’s a much longer story though and an issue that goes beyond budget.
If you’re interested, read Ten Problems and Hazards of Conventional Cleaning Products.
How I’m getting these calculations:
Green cleaning supply costs can really depend on your family, how much you clean and many other variables. We’re a family of five, and we clean fairly regularly, so I’m just going to use us as an example. When it was just my son and me, we almost always only used homemade cleaners. Now that we live with another family, who can’t seem to figure out homemade cleaners (longer story for another time) it’s sometimes easier to buy green cleaners at the store. I’ve also had to test out store bought green cleaners for reviews.
That said, I have a decent amount of experience with both types of cleaning supplies. However, I’m kind of a Grinch about buying anything, so I also looked at some market research to see how much people are spending on green cleaners.
Cleaning my family regularly does annually & supplies needed:
We do daily chores, such as wiping down the kitchen and dining room table surfaces about 2-3 times per day, most days of the year. On a weekly basis, we have two bathrooms to clean, scrubbing out the kitchen sink, recycle bin and garbage can, along with mopping floors and dusting surface.
On a twice monthly or monthly basis we clean windows (glass and frames), wipe down the fridge, wipe down walls (Oregon mold prevention), spot clean couches and floors if needed and clean the oven.
For the chores above we need all-purpose surface cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner, tub cleaner and organic liquid soap.
*I’m not including vacuuming carpets (vacuum cleaner) or other tools such as scrubbing brushes or cloths or paper towels – just cleaners. I didn’t include laundry or dishes, because low impact laundry and dish washing savings are their own posts.
How much do FRUGAL basic store bought green cleaning supplies cost over five years?
These are the store-bought cleaners we buy, when we buy them. These in total are few, and not very typical to what I see among most families, so we’re going to figure two scenarios.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner – $3.49 per bottle – lasts about three months. Need 4 bottles = $13.96 (per year)
Glass & Surface Cleaner – $4.99 per bottle – we use a concentrated, mix your own cleaner that lasts us about 3 months – but we use it for lots of stuff; glass, the fridge, all surfaces, etc. Need 4 bottles = $19.96 (per year)
Castile Liquid Soap Organic $14.99 per bottle – we use this for a ton of stuff, from scrubbing out recycling bins to cleaning sinks and more. We tend to get the 32 oz size which lasts and last because a tiny bit goes a long way. Need 2 bottles = $29.98 (per year).
Fabric Stain and Odor Remover $5.05 per bottle – due to the kids, we go through more of this than other stuff, about a bottle every two months. Need 6 bottles = $30.30 (per year).
I never buy a scrubby type cleaner. If I want to clean the sinks or tub with something other than homemade stuff, I’ll squirt a bit of castile soap or surface cleaner into the sink or tub, sprinkle a bit of eco-laundry powder or eco-dishwasher powder into the area and scrub with a brush.
As for floors, we use our Shark 2-in-1 Vac-then-Steam, which we didn’t pay for, but costs $149.00. I suggest using this, as you don’t need any cleaners for it, and it’ll last the whole five years I’m guessing. Plus sweeping and mopping sucks. You do need to buy a steam mop pads, maybe once per year, for $6.75. Total costs for five years = $182.75. Still, had we not gotten the steam mop for free, then we’d simply use some of the castile soap or surface cleaners + a basic cheap mop, so our costs on floors would be negligible.
Total frugal green cleaning store-bought supplies = $94.20 per year or $471.00 over five years or $653.75 with the steam mop.
How much do TYPICAL basic store bought green cleaning supplies cost over five years?
We buy very few store-bought cleaners, even when we’re using them regularly, because we mix it up with homemade and use them sparingly. However, we’re not very typical.
When I visit other people’s homes, I often see a much larger amount of cleaning products – both if they’re buying green or not. People seem highly attracted to single use products – i.e. they need a kitchen vs. bathroom cleaner. Typically I see the following stuff in typical homes… Oh, and I’m going to guess, based on my experience how fast the average family of four would use these up and I’ll choose the most popular green cleaners at Amazon – since it’s hard to tell what typical people buy.
- Furniture polish $8.67 per bottle – I’m guessing a bottle of this would last a year (?) = $8.67 (per year)
- All purpose cleaner $8.80 per bottle. Need two bottles a year, since you’ve got all these other cleaners too = $17.60 (per year).
- Kitchen cleaner – surface spray $3.98 per bottle – maybe 12 bottles a year, people use a lot of kitchen cleaning spray. If I mix my own from eco-concentrate, I still mix up about 1.5 bottles per month = $47.76 (per year).
- Bathroom cleaner $3.86 per bottle – as with kitchen cleaners, if I mix bottles myself, I use about 6 or 7 per year on the bathrooms alone. Especially because the kids totally over-spray = $27.02 (per year).
- Toilet Bowl Cleaner – $3.49 per bottle – lasts about three months. Need 4 bottles = $13.96 (per year).
- Some sort of disinfecting multi-surface wipes $4.97 per container – I’ve seen people go through 2 or 3 of these per month, but that’s just nuts. I know a more frugal cleaner who uses 1 container per month, so I’m going with that = $59.64 (per year).
- Window and glass cleaner $9.70 per bottle – 4 bottles = $38.80 (per year)
- Fabric Stain and Odor Remover $5.05 per bottle – 6 bottles = $30.30 (per year).
- Floor Cleaner $4.85 per bottle for mopping and such – I have no idea how long this might last, but floors are big, so I’ll estimate at least three bottles a year = $14.55 (per year)
- Oven cleaner – I’ve actually never seen a readily available eco-oven cleaner. BUT you don’t want to go the conventional route. Oven cleaners are the worst of the worst cleaners. I do know of one oven cleaner that’s supposedly safe, but I haven’t used it. It’s affordable at just $7.69, I guess it would last the whole year = $7.69 (per year).
- Tub and tile cleaner $3.74 per bottle – hopefully you’d use less of this, especially if you’re buying other cleaners. Once, Seventh Generation sent me a bottle of tub cleaner spray to test, and it lasted me about 3 months, assuming I cleaned the tub entirely with it = $11.22 (per year).
Total typical green cleaning store-bought supplies =$300.56 per year or $1,502.80 every five years.
How much do people REALLY spend on green cleaners?
My figures were $545.95 for frugal green cleaners and $1,502.80 for typical green cleaners over five years. However, to be clear, my best estimates about typical cleaning product purchases don’t match what other market research says.
David Bach, author of Go Green, Live Rich estimates that the average American family spends about $600 per year on home cleaners. Packaged Facts estimates that the U.S. market for household cleaning products through 2012 will reach $8.1 billion. People seem to buy an outrageous amount of cleaning products. Currently green cleaners only make up 3% of the home cleaning market, but they cost more, so if you buy a full range, you’d be spending a bundle.
For example, in 2009, $339 million was spent by a very small percentage of people on green household cleaning products. Packaged Facts estimates that green home cleaner sales should reach $2 billion in sales by 2014 while the global market for household green cleaning products forecast is US$9.32 billion by the year 2017. About 1/3 of green cleaners sold are laundry products, but even so, that leaves a hefty amount of other green cleaners being sold.
According to market research, my best guess figures were extremely low. The cleaning market is a rich market. It’s very likely that people spend much more on cleaning products than I figured, more in the range of $500-$600 per year. Or $2,500-3,000 every five years. If you split the average of $2,500 and $1,502, you’re looking at $2,001 every five years.
How much do basic homemade green cleaning supplies cost over five years?
Okay, these figures are easier, since for years, homemade green cleaners were all I used, so I have a much better basis for comparison.
Here’s a list of my basic supplies for a year’s worth of cleaning naturally.
- Prevention + arm power – both free – if you clean often, you avoid big messes that can’t be cleaned and you’d be surprised what a basic good scrub with a brush will get rid of.
- $3.00 (2 containers) salt – usually store brand or bulk.
- $6.00 (3 massive boxes) baking soda – usually store brand or bulk.
- $9.60 1 lemon per month (I refuse to pay more than 80 cents for a cleaning lemon, if it’s more I go without for cleaning.
- $9.02 1 bottle of Organic Tea Tree Oil.
- $29.98 (3 bottles) Castile Liquid Soap Organic
- $1.80 a small containers of vinegar – I HATE vinegar and use it ultra sparingly, actually forgetting to use it, so it costs me almost nothing.
Total costs of natural cleaners $59.40 for a year or $297.00 over five years. If you buy the steam mop ($182.75) I suggested up above, you’d spend $479.75 over five years.
Savings with natural homemade green cleaners over store bought green cleaners:
- $297.00 – $479.75 spent on homemade cleaners (highest estimate).
- $2,001 spent on store bought green cleaners (conservative estimate).
- You’d save $1,521 to $1,704 every five years if you went with homemade green cleaners (average of $1,612.00).
We’re trying to save $50,000 and so far we’ve saved the following…
- $1,612 by making homemade green cleaners
- $6,180 by using reusable water bottles vs. buying bottled water
- $1,000 by using cloth instead of paper towels
- $1,354 if you use cloth napkins instead of paper
- $835 by switching to reusable baby wipes
That’s a grand total of $10,981.00. That leaves $39,019.00 left to save. That seems like a lot. Whew, by the way, next time I’m doing something easy – these calculations were a nightmare. For now, if you want to start making your own green cleaners, check out the following: