4 Cleaning Products You Should Never Buy Generic


When you’re aiming to save money, buying generic or store brand products might seem like a smart move. But when it comes to certain cleaning supplies, spending more for brand-name goods makes sense.

Although consumers are increasingly buying store-brand products, according to a 2018 IRI report, some items just don’t measure up. That doesn’t mean you need to grab the priciest dish soap in the store, but in a few cases, well-known brands might save you money in the long run.

Here are four cleaning products experts say it’s better not to buy generic:

Paper towels

Consumer science expert Carolyn Forte, who has been testing products at the Good Housekeeping Institute for 38 years, says Bounty is a “top performer” when it comes to absorbency and strength. “We do a wet and dry strength test and see how quickly they absorb things and how they dry things,” she says. Weaker paper towels “fall apart once they get wet.”

One review by Clark.com found that, when wet, Bounty paper towels were stronger than both Kirkland and Walmart’s Great Value by significant margins. And CleanitSupply.com says Bounty’s tight, diamond-pattern stitching makes it more absorbent.

You might pay about $1.50 more per roll for the stronger brand, but Forte says this investment will pay off, since you’ll save money by using fewer sheets.

Stain remover

Cleaning influencer Melissa Maker suggests buying products tailored to clean a particular type of stain. For example, Walmart’s Great Value stain remover contains surfactants, which are great for emulsifying, or lifting, some stains. But if you’re faced with a blood or chocolate stain, you may want to try a product with enzymes like protease, which breaks apart chemical bonds in molecules.

Maker suggests Carbona’s Stain Devils. “You have nine different ones, and they handle the different stains you may have in your home,” she says. Carbona is significantly pricier, at about $2.50 per ounce, while Great Value is only around 7 cents per ounce, but it may save you from having to replace a chocolate-stained shirt.

Dish soap

Budget-friendly liquid dish soaps are often more diluted, experts say. A generic bottle could be half the price of a brand-name product, but you may have to use double the amount.

“We see right away that when you use a low-end dish soap it doesn't last a long time in terms of being able to clean and dissolve the soil on dishes,” Forte says.

A review on Stain Remover 101 describes Walmart’s Great Value Green Apple Scent dish soap (8 cents per ounce) as “thin, thin, thin,” meaning you may need to use way more to get dishes clean. Seventh Generation Free & Clear, which costs about 14 cents per ounce, removed grease most effectively, according to Epicurious.

Laundry detergent

Forte says laundry detergent is a chemically complex product: It needs to be easy on fabrics, wash clothes at various temperatures, and include a stain remover. It should also contain “anti-redeposition agents,” or additives that prevent soil from setting back into the fabric once it is removed in the washer.

Generic laundry detergent may also be too diluted, according to home decor site The Spruce. So which brands will get the job done? Persil ProClean (38 cents per load), removes stains most effectively, according to Reviewed. Tide (19 cents per load), came in second before Costco’s Kirkland detergent (11 cents per load). However, Kirkland removed 6% less stains than Persil and 4% less stains than Tide.

Over time, using Persil or Tide may save you from having to buy new clothes.

It’s up to you to find what works best for your home, Forte says: “It’s really a matter of trial and error for the consumer.” But in these cases, although brand-name cleaning supplies cost more, they may be worth the price.

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