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The eco-friendly household products that actually work – and the ones that don't

Our experts reveal which products are good for the planet, your wallet, and your home.

Last updated: 21 September 2023

When you're standing in the supermarket, there's usually a three-way tussle going on between your head, your heart and your wallet. You want products that work, are kind to the planet, but don't cost too much. It can be almost impossible to balance the three. 

And since we're all feeling the pinch at the checkout, it can be hard to justify paying extra for an environmentally-friendly product if you're not sure that it'll do the job. 

It can be hard to justify paying extra for an environmentally-friendly product if you're not sure that it'll do the job

So how can you make sure you're getting bang for your buck both financially and environmentally, without condemning yourself to extra scrubbing time to make up for lacklustre performance?

Our experts test hundreds of household cleaning products a year, pitting eco products against regular ones to see how well they stack up. Here are the ones that are good for your conscience, your budget and your cleaning regime – and the ones to avoid. 

How much can you trust eco claims?

It can be hard to separate the facts from the marketing fluff – and there's a lot of greenwashing out there. Some companies really talk up their products' enviro credentials, but if you dig a bit deeper you might find that there's not much to them. 

Unfortunately CHOICE can't test the enviro claims of every product that comes through our labs. They're difficult to substantiate, and the cost is prohibitive – spending all our money on chemical tests would mean we couldn't test other products for our members and other shoppers.

Always take eco claims with a grain of salt and be wary of greenwashing.

Surface cleaners

If you want to green up your cleaning routine, remember that less is more. Our tests show that multipurpose cleaners and kitchen sprays do pretty much the same thing, so just pick one and you'll be fine. 

You will need something specific for the bathroom to tackle soap scum as it's a tricky customer, so don't take that off your shopping list, but you can do away with kitchen cleaners and the like. We recommend buying a multi-purpose spray and a bathroom cleaner and that's all you should need for surface cleaning.

Multipurpose cleaners and kitchen sprays do pretty much the same thing

Trimming back your cleaning cupboard is good for the environment, too – the fewer cleaning products you're buying, the less plastic and carbon emissions from manufacturing and transport are created. If you're going to buy something, make its environmental impact count! 

Here are the eco-friendly multi-purpose and bathroom cleaners that our experts say deserve a spot on your shelf. 

bosistos multipurpose

Bosistos Multipurpose received (equal) top marks in our multi-purpose cleaners review.

Multi-purpose cleaners

Green products really shone in our multi-purpose cleaners test, with two of the three top scoring products being eco-friendly, and a number of others also holding their own against regular products. 

Here are the green cleaners our experts recommend, plus their CHOICE Expert Rating: 

  • Bosistos Multipurpose: – 95%
  • Citro Clean Super Concentrate Multi-Purpose Cleaner – 95%
  • Rhythm All Purpose Cleaner – 90%

Even the other top scoring mainstream product – Nifti All Purpose Cleaner – is jumping on the green bandwagon to some degree, now sporting a 100% recycled bottle.

Products to avoid

Unfortunately it isn't all good news. While some eco cleaning products sparkled, others were lacklustre to say the least. 

Two cleaners in particular just aren't worth your money – they scored the same as plain tap water. 

And to make matters worse, they're two of the more expensive multipurpose cleaners we tested. It makes sense that plain water wouldn't do much, but an $8.50 spray with a fancy label?

Here's how they compare on performance and price:

Plain water

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 25%
  • Price per 100mL: virtually nothing
rhythm cleaning vinegar kitchen surface spray

You're better off using plain water than Rhythm Cleaning Vinegar – it costs less and you'll get the same results anyway.

Saba Organics Surface Sanitiser

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 25%
  • Price per 100mL: $1.70

Rhythm Cleaning Vinegar Kitchen Surface Spray

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 25%
  • Price per 100mL: $1.20

These products received disappointing low CHOICE Expert Ratings too: 

  • Woolworths Macro Multipurpose Cleaner – 30%
  • Saba Organics Multi-Purpose Cleaner - Antibacterial – 30%
  • Simply Clean Australian Lime Spray & Wipe – 35%
  • Orange Power Multi-Purpose Cleaner - Antibacterial – 35%
  • Method Anti-bac anti-bacterial multi-purpose cleaner – 35%
  • Aktivo All Purpose Cleaner – 35%
  • Ajax Eco Multipurpose Cleaner – 35%

Bathroom cleaners

Green is a colour you definitely don't want to see in your bathroom, but there are plenty of green cleaning products that'll keep your bathroom sparkling white. Nearly half of the bathroom cleaners our experts recommend are eco products – and once again, two of the top three products overall are eco-friendly. Here are our top eco picks, plus their CHOICE Expert Rating.

  • Ecostore Antibacterial Bathroom & Shower Cleaner – 90%
  • Rhythm Tile & Grout Cleaner – 90%
  • Simply Clean Healthy Clean Bathroom – 89%
  • Method Anti-Bac Anti-bacterial Bathroom Cleaner – 88%
  • Earth Choice Bath & Shower Rapid Clean – 86%
  • Method Foaming Tub & Tile Cleaner – 85%
cove bathroom

Cove bathroom: All style, no substance – and with a big price tag.

Products to avoid

  • Orange Power Shower, Bath & Tile Cleaner – 44%
  • Method Shower – 46%
  • Organic Choice Shower, Bath & Tile – 47%
  • Cove Bathroom – 47%

The Cove product in particular is one to avoid. At $2.11 per 100mL, it's the most expensive bathroom cleaner we tested while also being one of the worst performing. Don't be sucked in by its pretty label – it's a waste of your time and your money. 

ecostore antibacterial bathroom shower cleaner

Ecostore's Streak Free glass cleaner is streak free by name, but not by nature.

Glass and window cleaners

If you're looking for a planet-friendly window cleaner, you might be better off sticking with old-fashioned vinegar and newspaper. None of the eco glass cleaners we tested impressed, and one of them was worse than plain water. 

Ecostore's Streak Free Glass Cleaner didn't live up to its name, scoring just 25% on our streak test. The results are transparent: don't buy it. 

Floor cleaners

The most effective floor cleaner you can use is nothing. Yep, nada. Just plain water. Coincidentally, plain water is also the most eco-friendly option out there.

Our experts have tested plenty of floor cleaners and couldn't find a single one that was good enough to recommend – eco or not. 

Fed up with how poorly floor cleaners clean (or rather, don't), we awarded the entire product category of floor cleaners a CHOICE Shonky award in 2020

Seriously, just grab a bucket of hot water and get mopping. It's better for the environment and your bank balance. Plus it's basically a free workout!

Dishwashing products

The water in your kitchen sink or dishwasher inevitably goes down the drain, so it makes sense to choose dishwashing products that will have the least impact on our waterways. 

But you don't have to give up on clean dishes to keep the planet clean, whether you're washing by hand or having a machine do it for you.

aldi green action plant based formula green tea and lime fragrance

Cheap and clean: Aldi's Green Action dishwashing liquid.

Dishwashing liquids

A good dishwashing liquid will make short work of greasy pots and pans, but a bad one will see you stuck at the kitchen sink for longer. 

These eco dishwashing liquids all cleaned up in our tests, performing as well as (and often better than) regular products. And they're affordable, too. The Aldi and Earth Choice Undo This Mess products both cost around 50 cents per 100mL – significantly cheaper than some of the other top scorers. 

They're all recommended by our experts – here's how they score:

  • Aldi Green Action Plant Based Formula Green Tea and Lime Fragrance –70% 
  • Earth Choice Green Tea and Lime – 70%
  • Earth Choice Undo this Mess Mint and Lime –70%

Products to avoid

These products aren't terrible, but they're also not great – and definitely not worth the extra money (we're looking at you, Koala Eco, with your huge price tag):

  • Koala Eco Natural Dish Soap Lemon Myrtle and Mandarin – 60%; $2.70/100mL
  • Ecostore Ultrasensitive – 60%; $0.90/100mL
  • Ecostore Lemon – 60%; $0.90/100mL

Dishwasher detergents

Cheaping out on dishwasher detergents is a false economy. If your detergents do a bad job, you'll have to wash the dishes twice, which is a waste of time, money, water and electricity – not good for the environment or your patience. 

And as much as powder dishwasher detergents seem like a good option if you're on a budget, we suggest you don't bother: they perform poorly compared to dishwasher tablets, eco-friendly or not.

These are the eco dishwasher tablets with the best CHOICE Expert Rating:

  • Earth Choice Dish Tablets Lemon – 72%
  • Ecostore Dishwasher Tablets – 69%

Products to avoid

The eco dishwasher detergents with the lowest scores:

  • Ecostore Dishwasher Powder Lemon: CHOICE Expert Rating – 44%
  • Earth Choice Lemon Fresh Dishwasher Powder – 48%
  • Woolworths Macro Whole Living Dishwasher Tablets Fragrance Free – 50%
  • Koh Dishwashing Tablets – 51%

Laundry detergent

Buying an eco-friendly laundry detergent is important, but it's not the only piece of the puzzle – what you do with your laundry has more of an impact than what you use. 

So before you even look at changing your laundry products, look at your laundry routine to see where you can save water, power, and consumables to reduce your environmental footprint. You'll also save money while you're at it – that's a win-win for you and the planet.

Here are our tips for giving your laundry routine an eco-friendly makeover

CHOICE tip: What you don't use can be just as important as what you do use. Consider dropping fabric softeners, laundry beads and dryer balls, and only use your dryer if you absolutely have to. Also ask yourself if something really needs washing or could be spot cleaned instead.

earth choice undo this mess with stain blaster laundry liquid front loader

Earth Choice's Undo This Mess laundry detergent was the highest scoring eco product for front loaders with just 69%.

For front loaders

None of the eco-friendly laundry detergents performed especially well in our testing, but these were the ones that received the highest CHOICE Expert Rating:

  • Earth Choice Undo This Mess with Stain Blaster Laundry Liquid Front Loader – 69%
  • Ecostore Laundry Liquid Eucalyptus Front Loader – 68%
  • Ecostore Laundry Powder Lemon Front Loader – 66%
  • Earth Choice 6in1 Multi-Action Stain Removal Laundry Liquid Tasmanian Lavender & Boronia Front Loader – 65%

Products to avoid

If you see these front-loader products on the shelf, leave them there.

  • Bosisto's Laundry Liquid Sensitive Front Loader – 54%
  • Earth Choice Laundry Liquid Pure Clean Front Loader – 57%
  • Aldi Green Action Laundry Liquid Front Loader – 58%

For top loaders

It's a bit hard to say that there are any 'best' products here – even the highest-scoring detergent didn't perform particularly well. This is because top loaders don't perform as well as front loaders in general, so the detergents don't perform well in top loaders. 

Ecostore Laundry Powder Lemon Top Loader received the highest CHOICE Expert Rating at a decidedly average 55%, so it's an okay option if you have your heart set on an eco detergent for your top loader.

Products to avoid

  • Aldi Green Action Laundry Liquid Top Loader – 46%
  • Ecostore 3x Concentrate Laundry Liquid Top Loader – 47%
  • Ecostore Laundry Liquid Eucalyptus Top Loader – 48%
  • Earth Choice 6in1 Multi-Action Stain Removal Laundry Liquid Tasmanian Lavender & Boronia Top Loader – 48%

Things to consider when buying eco-friendly products

If you're buying products based on their enviro footprint, it's not just what's inside the bottle that matters: even products with more eco-friendly ingredients will still have an environmental impact from packaging, production, transport, etc. 

It's worth considering refillable products, concentrated products, using less of the product, or making your own. Sometimes even just hot water and some elbow grease will do the job.

We report each product's Shop Ethical rating, where available. This rates how different companies perform in terms of environmental, social, animal-welfare and business ethics. (The rating is for the company, not the product itself.) 

Shop Ethical ratings don't affect a product's score, but we include them so consumers have as much information as possible to help them to decide which products to buy.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.