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Which eco-friendly household products actually work?

We'd all love to buy eco-friendly cleaners, but some work better than others. We reveal the ones you should and shouldn't buy.

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Last updated: 13 October 2021
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Need to know

  • Cleaning products that tout their eco credentials are becoming more readily available. We pick out the ones worth buying – and the ones to avoid.
  • We test a range of eco cleaners and detergents across the categories of kitchen cleaners, dishwashing liquids, laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.
  • CHOICE does not test the validity of a product’s environmental claims – only its cleaning effectiveness.

As we become more aware of how our choices as consumers affect the environment, many of us are reaching for cleaning products that tout their eco credentials. For the health of the planet, its marine life and our own families, the cost of not making a switch to more sustainable brands seems ultimately too steep to bear.

But while we're wringing our hands with eco anxiety, we're also tearing out our hair with underperforming products. Regrettably, many of the eco cleaners our CHOICE experts have tested are barely more effective than plain old water and a robust scrub.

Our power as consumers means we can send the message to companies that we will choose to buy ecologically sound products

Still, we're hopeful that some are getting better. For example, of all the dishwashing liquids we tested in 2018, seven performed worse than water. But in 2021, all did better than just water, including the eco cleaners. Surely that deserves a quiet 'hooray'?

Our power as consumers means we can send the message to companies that we will choose to buy ecologically sound products, should a good alternative exist. Hopefully, this will motivate them to create versions that are better for the planet and put the sparkle in our glassware at the same time.

If you'd like to stick with eco products as their effectiveness improves, here are some things to note about those that work and those that don't.

How much can you trust eco claims?

Here at CHOICE, we test a product's effectiveness in our labs, but not its eco claims. If the veracity of such claims is important to you when choosing a cleaning product, always look into the company's credentials and certifications. While we'd all like to trust sustainability promises, it's best to do research beyond what's presented to you on the front of a bottle.

Kitchen cleaners

In this category, we tested just one product that touted its eco credentials. And while the Ecostore Multi-purpose Kitchen Cleaner Orange & Thyme wasn't the worst performing product in our kitchen cleaners tests, with a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 42%, it was far from the best. 

It uses citric acid in place of benzalkonium chloride and is made from plant-based ingredients. But as our tests showed, the cleaning result may not be worth the money. You'll get a cheaper natural clean with a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, so save yourself the dollars.

Dishwashing liquids

Of the nine dishwashing liquids with eco claims that we tested, only one managed to achieve CHOICE Recommended status. That was the Simply Clean Australian Lemon Myrtle Dishwash Liquid with a score of 60%. That's not too bad for a product that also claims to have biodegradable packaging and be grey water and septic safe – so if these things are important to you, this is your go-to. 

However, at a cost of $1.40 per 100ml, it's considerably more expensive than the next highest scoring eco product, Earth Choice Ultra Concentrate Dishwashing Liquid Green Tea and Lime, which scored a passable 55% and has the added benefit of claiming to use plant-based ingredients. 

When considering the best eco buy in this category, it comes down to a trade-off between cost, performance, the eco claims and the ingredients

Next up is Ecostore Dish Liquid, which also scored 55% and is made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients. It performed slightly worse than the Simply Clean product, but it's cheaper at 86c per 100ml. So, when considering the best eco buy in this category, it comes down to a trade-off between cost, performance, the eco claims made by each brand and the ingredients used, based on what is most important to you.

Other products we tested in this category scored either 50% or below, so when you consider that we give plain water a score of 45% effectiveness when washing dishes, they're not really worth adding to your shopping basket.

Laundry detergent 

Let's start with the bad news. If you've been eager to try laundry strips that claim to be earth friendly, easy and effective, hold off for now. 

In our laundry detergent tests, Tru Earth Eco Strips scored just 53% for front loaders and 40% for top loaders. In fact, they were only two percent more effective than using just plain water in a top loader, and less effective than using plain water in a front loader, raising the question why you would use them at all.

Other companies do make laundry strips, which may perform better. But, in the case of this particular product, the poor results mean it's probably not a great investment for your laundry.

CHOICE laundry expert Ashley Iredale says: "You have to consider that this is a product we have shown is barely better than using just plain water, and there's still energy going into its manufacture, carbon miles and packaging. Is it really worth it?"

Powders and detergents do better

When it comes to powders and detergents, the news is a little rosier. 

Although none of the eco products we tested are CHOICE recommended, there were some much better performers. Eco detergents scored far better overall for front loaders than for top loaders – with the pick of the bunch being from sustainable cleaning brand Cove. 

Its Liquid Laundry Front Loader achieved a decent 68% result in our tests. With its reusable bottles and recyclable pouches, Cove appears to have good green credentials, including its use of plant-based ingredients made locally in Australia and a manufacturing site that uses renewable energy.

Eco detergents scored far better overall for front loaders than for top loaders

That said, its top loader equivalent scored far less impressively at just 45%. So if you have a front loader and care about using a greener product, opt for Cove or Dirt Eco Laundry Detergent Concentrate Liquid, which came a close second when tested in a front loader with a score of 67%.

For top loaders, the equal best eco performers were Bosistos Sensitive Laundry Powder and Dirt Eco Laundry Detergent. But at just five percent more effective than water, they're far from clean winners.

Before you settle on green-but-not-great, take a look at our full laundry detergent reviews.  

Dishwasher detergent

Finally, some truly encouraging results! We know that dishwashers are already better at conserving water than hand washing. Well, now you can feel even more comfortable leaving the dishes to a machine without worrying about nasties in the residue and post-wash water.

Even if the top score in our reviews didn't go to a green product – that accolade goes to Aldi Logix Platinum 18 in 1 Dishwashing Tablets with a score of 78% – there are some good-performing eco options when it comes to dishwashing detergent. 

Both Eco Store and Earth Choice tablets followed closely behind the top scorer and come recommended with scores of 73% and 72%, respectively. That means you can enjoy sparkling dishes and the satisfaction of being a little kinder to the planet for just a minor trade-off in results.

You can enjoy sparkling dishes and the satisfaction of being a little kinder to the planet for just a minor trade-off in results

Also with a CHOICE score of 73%, Finish Powerball 0% Tabs with their wrapper-free, biodegradable film are a solidly performing option with some positives for the environment. They're also claimed to be free from perfume and unnecessary additives.

But one to avoid is the Earth Choice Powder, which only managed a dismal 46%, so go for the brand's tablet version instead.

Six sparkling tips for eco-friendly cleaning

There's nothing like a really good clean. If the results of eco cleaning products are too lacklustre for you but you're still committed to making positive environmental changes, try these tips.

1. Wait until your washing machine and dishwasher are completely full before turning them on. This saves water and the amount of product used. Limiting the use of your dryer also reduces the amount of energy you get through.

2. Wipe down benches with a cloth and hot water, rather than a bench spray.

3. Try cleaning your bathroom, toilet and other grimy places with a mixture of bicarbonate soda and vinegar. Doing so will limit the use of chemicals and the plastic waste of buying multiple cleaning products.

4. Use less laundry detergent and stain remover by soaking soiled clothes in a little water before chucking them in the washing machine. And avoid fabric softeners – they're harmful to the environment, coat your laundry in chemicals and reduce the absorbency of your towels.

5. Avoid using unnecessary products, such as air fresheners and artificially scented candles. They often contain ingredients that reduce air quality. Just open a window instead.

6. Use your muscles! A bit of elbow grease can remove more dirt than cleaning products.

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