Three Generic Cleaners Same as Brand Names but Way Cheaper

Most people are well familiar with the term “generic” when it comes to medications, a term referring to any drug marketed under its chemical name without all the fancy packaging and advertising.

Today I want to offer you cheap generic alternatives for these three popular cleaning products—Bar Keepers Friend, Super Washing Soda, and OxiClean.


Cheaper then brand names

Bar Keepers Friend

It’s been years since I learned about oxalic acid. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Like something in the chemistry lab that could blow any second. Relax. It’s not what you might think. In fact, if you look on the back of a can of one of my favorite cleaners, Bar Keepers Friend, you’ll read: Contains oxalic acid.

That miraculous product, Bar Keepers Friend, a 12-ounce can is nothing more than generic oxalic acid. Are you familiar with Zud, another household and garage cleaner? It too contains oxalic acid.

The minute I learned this generic fact, I went online and ordered a 2-pound bag of oxalic acid (price varies) and marked Bar Keepers Friend off my shopping list forever. I keep my oxalic acid in a well-marked little bucket that has a tight-fitting lid. I use a standard pint-size mason jar with a shaker lid as a dispenser and use it most sparingly while wearing gloves, keeping in mind that it is highly concentrated—much more than Bar Keepers Friend or Zud.

Mixing oxalic acid for household use is simple and takes just a few moments to complete. The strength of the oxalic mixture depends on the cleaning and bleaching needs of the project.

Oxalic acid is often used to bleach stained wood. Here’s a quick tutorial from our friends at Hunker on how to do that.

Oxalic acid paste

Step 1. Mix three parts oxalic acid crystals with one part warm water to create an oxalic acid paste. The paste can be used on wood with dark stains created by watermarks. This paste can also be used as a spot treatment but should not be used to cover an entire surface. Work on a small area at a time.

Step 2. Apply the paste to the stained areas with a paintbrush and allow it to dry.

Step 3. Remove the oxalic acid paste with a wet sponge. Thoroughly clean or discard the sponge after removing the oxalic acid paste.

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Oxalic acid wash

Step 1. Create an oxalic acid wash to bleach larger sections of wood that do not require the deep bleaching the oxalic paste creates. For small areas mix 1 ounce of oxalic acid with one-cup warm water. For larger areas mix 8 ounces of oxalic acid crystals with one-quart warm water.

Step 2. Apply the wash to the wood surface using a sponge. The wash will bleach the surface of the wood evenly. It is important to cover all areas of the wood to achieve the desired result. Be certain to get the wash in trim pieces and into corner pieces.

Step 3. Remove oxalic acid wash with a clean sponge and clean water.


Oxalic acid and Stain

Safety Precautions

Keep in mind that a bag of oxalic acid is 99.6% oxalic acid, while Bar Keepers Friend contains oxalic acid (plus inert fillers). Oxalic acid in its pure form is very dangerous. It is toxic and corrosive and should be carefully handled. Read the label carefully and respond accordingly.

You can use much less oxalic acid to get a great response than the amount of BKF you might use to accomplish the same result. And please make sure you always wear gloves when using either BKF or oxalic acid! You should also use protective glasses and a dust mask to avoid eye irritation and to prevent the noxious fumes from getting into your lungs. Always mix oxalic acid in an area that is well-ventilated—preferably outdoors.


Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

One of the ingredients in our homemade detergent for both standard and HE washing machines, Super Washing Soda is not always easy to find. And when you can find it, it can be pricey. Super Washing Soda is a brand name for sodium carbonate (which is NOT edible and should NOT be confused with sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda).

But hang on, it gets even more confusing: Sodium carbonate goes by another name as well: soda ash. It’s annoying that it has two generic names until you discover when purchased as soda ash, it is much cheaper.


Carbonate and Sodium


Soda ash is used in swimming pools to keep the pH balance in check. It is also used in the textile industry to “fix” dyes. It comes in quantities from one to hundreds of pounds. It looks, smells and feels just like Super Washing Soda because (ready?) it’s the same thing!

Look for soda ash as you get ready to make our homemade laundry detergent, which is fabulous and costs only about a nickel per load when you make it yourself.


Made popular by its late-night infomercials, basic OxiClean is not a laundry detergent but rather a non-chlorine bleach. It releases oxygen to remove stains, which is evident by the bubbles it makes as the white powder hits the water. The active ingredient in OxiClean is a generic white powder substance called sodium percarbonate. Generic sodium percarbonate is not diluted, unlike OxiClean, which is only about half sodium percarbonate with the balance filled made up of soda ash (see above) and inert fillers.

Since sodium percarbonate is highly concentrated, where you would use 1/2 cup of OxiClean in your laundry, you would substitute with only 2 tablespoons of its generic, sodium percarbonate.


A close up of a bottle

Sodium percarbonate is really cool stuff. It is a highly concentrated powder that releases hydrogen peroxide. It is easy to use for cleaning, stain removal, and laundry. Mixing it with water activates it. Sodium percarbonate has a long shelf life as long as it remains dry.

Sodium percarbonate is best when used with HOT water—such as mixed into the cleaning solution in a carpet cleaning machine. It is great for cleaning and disinfecting things like the cat box, the birdbath, bedpans.

Mix sodium percarbonate in hot water, fill your (empty) cat box or birdbath or bedpan and give it time to soak. Just like hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate needs to have time to do its work. Two tablespoons are sufficient to clean a whole cat box (filled with water), or a whole birdbath (filled with water). Just make sure you use HOT water.

Mix sodium percarbonate into a thick paste to use on light-colored tile grout. Let it sit and it will bleach out any stains.

If you think of sodium percarbonate as an alternative form of hydrogen peroxide, that pretty much covers it. You can safely use it for most of what hydrogen peroxide is used for, bearing in mind it is a very concentrated powder.

You may be tempted to use too much sodium percarbonate! It’s easy to sprinkle some on a stain and scrub it in when a much less concentrated form would likely do the trick. Go easy and you’ll be happy with the results.


Sodium percarbonate is the product you want handy if you need to remove the orange mystery stains left by avobenzone, which is the active ingredient in nearly every sunscreen product. Just make sure you treat that stain before it goes into the clothes dryer, which will set it for all eternity.

All three generics—oxalic acid, soda ash, and sodium percarbonate—are available to the public for purchase. Click on the linked words to order them online. Or, check your local pool supply and janitorial supply stores.

CAUTION: Always test something new in an inconspicuous place first. Always. And read and heed the caution messages on any product before proceeding. Always wear protective gloves and eyewear when using cleaning chemicals.

WARNING:  We have not tested every formulation that we list. This list is strictly for informational purposes and a guideline to various detergent, cosmetic and coating formulations. This information is provided without warranty of any kind or fitness for a particular use or purpose. You are encouraged to conduct your own tests. Read all labels and MSDS Sheets.

First published: 12-16-15; Republished: 4-15-19; Modified 9-14-19


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  1. Patricia Goff says:

    I love bartenders friend. I usually always buy name brand as it is cheaper than store brand when you match a coupon with a sale. I love getting things for a dollar or less after a sale plus coupon. I stock up til the next sale. Love it. I also share my stockpile with family and friends and have made donations after tornados and floods in my area. I get some items on amazon for free after I use my amazon points from doing surveys. I also buy gift cards with my points. I replaced a wall of my shop with a Lowes and Home Depot gift cards I got from doing surveys. Saving money is so much fun.

  2. nivchek says:

    Another way to get cheap washing soda is to simply bake some baking soda until it turns crumbly. Now it is washing soda!

  3. monoreviews says:

    If we buy pure oxalic acid (99 percent?) how are we supposed to use it on rust stains caused by avobenzone (sunscreen / sunblock)? In pure powder form it is too strong and dangerous.

  4. Michael Weaser says:

    If you don’t know for the inert fillers in oxiclean the only thing it is sodium carbonate , they add extra of that in it, because when sodium percarbonate is dissolved it turns into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate. I have no idea why they add extra sodium carbonate into the powder, probably because it helps it clean better. Also If you see blue crystals in oxi-clean it’s just dye.

  5. Stefan Ravalli says:

    You realize that 100% oxalic acid is extremely dangerous to use. Do you plan to recommend a safe way to use that “alternative” such that there are not burns and respiratory damage?

  6. TekWiz says:

    I was looking for Zud (great at removing rust!) at Acme (which replaced PathMark recently) but instead I found Bar Keeper’s Friend, I saw it contains Oxalic Acid and remembered Zud listed this same chemical on the label. However it was cheaper than Zud. I think Zud cost around $4 or $5 but this was just $2.49 for 12 oz. I haven’t tried it yet. If you do the math, it is pretty much the same as $15 for 5 lb (80 oz) But who knows how much of it is inert fillers…

  7. Bobbi says:

    Does anyone know of a product that will rid a house of skunk odofr? My downstairs neighbors dog was sprayed last week & though he has scrubbed his carpet, etc. the smell is still wafting upstairsinto my home. I have used vinegar in bowls with some improvement but the smell is in clothes & furniture even though I’ve washed all the clothes. HELP!!

    • John White says:

      I know – the question is a year old but. What you need to do is find somebody with a ozone machine. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer, is dangerous (you must leave the area being ozoned) but it REALLY gets rid of offensive odors, like skunks (most animal smells), rot, smoke, etc.

      • Jason says:

        Ozone was just what I was going to say. If I have a car that has bad cigarette odor inside, I put the car on a battery charger, put a small ozone generator inside, and run the heater fan on low and on recirculate overnight. Running the fan circulates the air through the heater ducts, which will hold a lot of the odor. In the morning, odor will be completely gone.

    • Nicole says:

      I worked at an animal hospital while I was in college, and we used (get ready) douches to wash the dogs or cats that got skunked, and it worked tremendously well at eliminating the odor. The Summer’s Eve Baby Powder is a good one, any of the scented varieties, the store brands work too. If the dog would need to be washed (plus it’s super gentle on their skin) it would work, or you could use it on any carpeting, blankets or upholstery safely. If your pet has a tendency to get really stinky or find foul treasures, thus dragging their lingering odors home, douche works great at eliminating the odor. Just be prepared for some sidelong glances from the cashiers when you go through the checkout with 20 boxes of Massengill or Summer’s Eve

  8. elad69 says:

    I have tried commercial and generic products and services to clean grout tiles in my kitchen to no avail. Any suggestions?

    • Jodi Jacobs says:

      I put oxalic acid in a squirt bottle with the tip cut down (to make the hole bigger) then dispense it on my porch brick grout that has that green moldy stuff on it. Then spray it lightly with water & leave it a while. Your kitchen tile is doubtfully that yucky but being inside I have no idea about air quality or safety.

  9. Mark Hom says:

    Since two of these items go into the homemade laundry detergent (Oxiclean and Super Washing Soda), can you come up with a recipe for the detergent using these generic ingredients?

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