Bulk buying (or panic-buying) cleaning supplies became the norm at the start of the pandemic last year. In a survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Slickdeals examining pandemic shopping habits, cleaning supplies were among the items that people stocked up on the most. Of course, amid the shortage of disinfectants at the time, it made sense to want to get ahead and bulk-buy cleaning products. But does bulk-buying make sense now, simply because you're trying to save money (and trips to the store) by doubling up? It certainly can—but not all cleaning products are safe to buy in bulk.
In fact, not knowing the shelf life of cleaning products can lead to wasted product and money. "If you don't know where to start...buy your top cleaning items in bulk but in smallish quantities, like 32 ounces, for example," says Alex Varela, general manager of house cleaning service at Dallas Maids. "Take note of how much you use, and then adjust that quantity with time, so you'll make fewer trips to the store," adds Varela. He suggests visiting a janitorial supply store for high-quality cleaning supplies you can buy in bulk (for a lower price), or looking for stores that offer eco-friendly refills for cleaning products.
Here are the cleaning products that you can save money on by buying in bulk, and which ones are unsafe (and a waste of money) to stock up on.
Stock Up: Dish Soap and Dishwashing Pods
Dishwashing pods and dish soap have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months, so these are safe to stock up on, and can save you money. "Even if you don't have three meals in a day, dishwashing soap is still used more often than not. You're better off having a lot of these in stock," says Jack Miller, founder of home improvement blog How I Get Rid Of.
Stock Up: Hand Sanitizer and Hand Soap
Many of us have found ourselves sanitizing and washing our hands a lot more during the pandemic—so both are always good to have on hand, and can save you money if bought in bulk. A 50-ounce refill of liquid hand soap (like this refill by SoftSoap for $4.79) is a lot more sustainable, financially and environmentally, than constantly buying small, individual bottles. Both hand soap and hand sanitizer have a shelf life of about three years—but be sure to check the expiration date printed on the hand sanitizer bottle, as the alcohol evaporates and becomes less effective over time.
Stock Up: Multi-Surface Cleaner
Multi-surface cleaners have a shelf life of two years, so if you come across a sale on these, it's safe to stock up. "Multi-surface cleaners usually last two years unopened, which gives you plenty of time for using them," says Varela.
But make sure you check the labels for your cleaners. Cleaners with antibacterial properties only have a shelf life of one year, says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, owner of a cleaning company in Chicago. And if you like to make your own cleaner to disinfect the surfaces in your home, be aware that this kind will only last a few weeks.
"Recently, we're seeing a new type of cleaning solution that people can make at home using a kit that combines vinegar, water, and salt to make electrolyzed water. This makes for a great disinfectant, but only lasts two weeks," warns Rodriguez-Zaba. After that point, the solution will not disinfect as efficiently.
Don't Buy in Bulk: Bleach
Buying bleach or bleach-based cleaning products in bulk is not only a waste of money; it's also unsafe. "Many consumers tend to buy bleach-based cleaning products in bulk, as they assume that they can stash them and use them for years," says Kevin Geick, manager at deep cleaning company Bio Recovery. Bleach breaks down as time passes, especially if stored at an inconsistent temperature. "This leads to people believing that they are properly cleaning
something, when in reality they are utilizing a significantly less effective solution," says Geick.
Eco-friendly or green cleaners are safer to buy in bulk, says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of on-demand home painting company Improovy. But in addition to bleach, you should avoid bulk-buying ammonia and drain cleaners, since "they're also more corrosive, so storing them longer can lead to the chemicals eating through the container and causing spills," says Kazimierski.
Don't Buy in Bulk: Automatic Dishwashing Detergent
While dish pods and dish soap for hand-washing are safe to buy and store in bulk, automatic dishwashing detergent (the cleaner that goes into the dishwasher) does not last very long. "Automatic dishwashing detergent lasts only three months, so you should go easy on that," says Varela. If you prefer using dishwashing detergent over pods, avoid buying multiples so it doesn't go to waste.
Don't Buy in Bulk: Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide has many uses around the house, but it has a short shelf life. It only lasts two months after being opened, says Varela. However, it can last up to three years if it's unopened, so it can potentially be bought in bulk if you plan on storing it in a cool, dark place.