Easy recipes beat big-name cleaners

Homemade glass cleaner beats branded products.

16feb window cleaners news piece for breeze hero default

There's the potential to save money next time you're in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket. Two of our tests have found using a simple home-made cleaner can get better results than products from some of the big names in cleaning.

We used a mix of vinegar and baking soda as a comparison when we did our multi-purpose cleaners towards the end of last year. It came in at third place out of 14 products. The home-made concoction beat products you'd recognise from the supermarket shelves.

Now our home-made window cleaner of equal parts vinegar and water has scored 64 percent in our window cleaners test. We applied a greasy, dirty mix of peanut oil, kaolin clay and black carbon to a window. The lab testers then used a mechanical arm with a damp sponge to wipe the window 10 times. The effectiveness of each window cleaner was assessed using a spectrophotometer, which measures how much light was reflected.

The vinegar and water mix was only beaten by three other products and beat four products.

Our head of testing Paul Smith said the results showed buying a well-known brand didn't guarantee the best result.

"I think it will come as a big surprise to those who spend a lot of money on window cleaners and multi-purpose cleaners in their grocery shop. Especially when a bottle of vinegar only costs about $3," Paul said.

You can let us know what homemade cleaners work for you by visiting our Facebook page.

Here's what others are saying:

"I used white vinegar, baking soda & dishwash liquid on our kitchen ceiling. It worked just as good as sugar soap, except the kitchen smelt like salt & vinegar chippies."

"Grew up with a mother that made most of her cleaning products. Have her hand written recipe book with all sorts of recipes - even how to make an ant killer. My mother's generation had to be resourceful as no commercial products were available."

"I clean my motorcycle helmet's visor with a 50/50 mix of isopropyl alchohol & water - seems to work as well as more expensive glass/plastic cleaners."

See the full test results

Making your own multi-purpose cleaner

Pour some vinegar into a spray bottle. They’re available from supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres, or you can re-use a clean bottle. Make sure to clearly mark it as vinegar or cleaner and keep it out of reach of children. We recommend storing the baking soda in an air-tight container, like a spice shaker. This makes it easier to apply and being air-tight means the baking soda won’t absorb moisture from the air. We also suggest having a second spray bottle of water, for rinsing off after cleaning.

For horizontal surfaces:

  1. For each tile, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda (about ¼ of a teaspoon) on the area to be cleaned.
  2. Spray a few sprays of vinegar (about 3 teaspoons worth).
  3. Once the baking soda starts foaming, scrub the surface.
  4. Rinse with water and wipe with a clean cloth.

For vertical surfaces:

  1. For each tile, sprinkle the baking soda on a cloth.
  2. Spray a few sprays of vinegar onto the cloth and immediately start cleaning the tile.
  3. Rinse with water and wipe with a clean cloth.


  • Don’t use malt or red wine vinegar. White wine vinegar won’t stain any surfaces, but other vinegars might.
  • Don’t pre-mix the ingredients. The baking soda will dilute in the vinegar mixture, its effervescence will be lost and you’ll probably recreate that school science experiment of making a volcano.

The chemistry

There are a few theories about why baking soda and vinegar works as a cleaning agent. When they are combined, the resulting chemical reaction produces water, carbon dioxide and sodium acetate. Its cleaning ability may be due to bubbling from carbon dioxide being released, the extra water being produced, the abrasive nature of the mixture, or a combination of all 3. But, however it works, it does.


Most cleaners are designed to leave a pleasant smell. Our home-made cleaner had an obvious vinegar fragrance, but you can mask it by adding ingredients such as citrus juice, vanilla or an essential oil. We tried all of these and found adding citrus juice worked the best (we used lemon). However, adding anything to the mixture affects how well it cleans, so try a test batch first.

A soda by any other name

Baking soda is known by many names, but it’s all the same product:

  • Bicarbonate soda
  • Bi-carbonate soda
  • Bi-carb
  • Bread soda
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Sodium hydrogen carbonate

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