Cleaning products aren't exactly the most exciting thing to spend your hard-earned cash on, and with the cost of living climbing steadily higher, you may be looking for ways to cut back on your cleaning spend.
Or perhaps you've got funds set aside to invest in a shiny new stick or robot vac in order to make those dreary cleaning jobs easier, and you're considering which model to buy, or whether those purchases are really worth the cash.
CHOICE experts have reviewed a range of popular cleaning products and appliances in our labs so we can give you the low-down on the cleaning products that deserve to be knocked off your shopping list.
There's virtually no difference between multipurpose cleaners and kitchen sprays.
1. A different cleaning spray for each room
Do you have a cupboard bursting with different sprays for different surfaces or rooms of the house?
We test a wide range of these sprays, and our results show virtually no difference between multipurpose cleaners and kitchen sprays, which means they're both going to do roughly the same job, no matter which room you're in.
So, our experts say, you can save your dosh and stick with just one product (you might even be able to save more by buying it in bulk).
You don't need to spend money on a specific spray for the kitchen, and another for other surfaces
"Scores from our reviews of these products are comparable across kitchen and multipurpose cleaners, so our takeaway is that they're all essentially the same thing," says CHOICE cleaning product expert Ashley Iredale.
"You don't need to spend money on a specific spray for the kitchen, and another for other surfaces throughout your home – one good multipurpose spray will do the job."
There is one room you will need a dedicated spray for though.
"You'll get better results from a dedicated bathroom cleaner, which is specially formulated to tackle soap scum - a challenging soil type for regular multi-purpose cleaners," says Ashley.
2. Floor cleaners
Grubby floors getting you down? Surely one of those brightly coloured floor cleaners with images of sparkling tiles on them are the answer? Not so, say our lab experts.
When they reviewed 15 popular brands of floor cleaner, they found that no floor cleaner was good enough to recommend. In fact, some performed no better than plain water.
So grab a mop and bucket, and put in some elbow grease with water instead. It's chemical-free and will cost you less, too.
"If you want your floors clean, save your money and just use a plain old bucket of hot water," says Ashley.
3. Poor-performing (and pricey) cleaning products
We've tested hundreds of cleaning products in our labs here at CHOICE and found plenty of cheaper products that rival or outperform significantly more expensive cleaning products. Which means you can ditch those pricey duds for cleaners that actually work, and reduce your shopping bills at the same time.
We've also found that some are just a plain old waste of money, with some even performing no better than plain water.
The following products received the same CHOICE Expert Rating as plain water (25%):
- Saba Organics Surface Sanitiser ($1.70 per 100mL)
- Rhythm Cleaning Vinegar Kitchen Surface Spray ($1.20 per 100mL)
- Morning Fresh Surface Disinfectant (80c per 100mL)
- Diggers Multi-Purpose Surface Cleaner (96c per 100mL)
We've tested hundreds of cleaning products in our labs here at CHOICE and found that some are just a plain old waste of money
And in our recent carpet stain remover review, the exxy Bissell Heavy Traffic Carpet and Rug Cleaner ($2.08 per 100mL) bombed out with a score of just 42%, performing only marginally better than our low-cost homemade stain remover (a mixture of dishwashing liquid, white vinegar, warm water and baking soda).
It was even slightly more expensive than our top performer, the Peerless Jal Carpet Spotter and Deodoriser, which rated 76% and costs $2 per 100mL, which shows that price certainly doesn't equal performance when it comes to cleaning products!
So, don't throw money down the drain on products that are going to give you disappointing results – check CHOICE cleaning product reviews before you buy.
We regularly test a range of stick vacuums for all budgets in the CHOICE labs.
4. Very cheap stick vacuums
CHOICE experts have tested a lot of stick vacuums in their time. While we often find that price is not an indicator of performance, when it comes to stick vacuums, it's a fairly sure thing that a very cheap product is not going to give you a great result.
The average price of the stick vacuums we recommend in the latest CHOICE stick vacuum review is around $1300, and the cheapest stick vacuum we recommend costs $511.
We do see that cheaper stick vacuums tend to be far less powerful and are usually made of cheaper components
"We often find that stick vacuums that cost around $150 or less do not perform well in our testing," says CHOICE small appliance expert Kim Gilmour.
"That's not to say that expensive stick vacuums are always better, but we do see that cheaper stick vacuums tend to be far less powerful and are usually made of cheaper components that mean they're not likely to do a great job.
"Buying a cheaper stick vacuum will also likely mean that you can't easily replace batteries or other parts when they deteriorate or fail, which means your appliance may have a shorter life and end up in landfill more quickly."
Robot vacs can't generate enough suction to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair.
5. Robot vacuum cleaners
We know there are plenty of robo vac fans out there, but hear us out. Our experts say you shouldn't spend your money on a robot vac if you think it's going to fulfil all your cleaning dreams.
Yes, they'll do your dirty work for you, which is an undeniable benefit. But, despite the fact that on average they cost more than barrel or stick vacuums, our extensive expert testing has found they generally don't clean carpets as well.
Their smaller motors can't generate as much suction as normal vacs, so they struggle to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair.
Although some do perform very well on hard floors, many robot vacs in our tests performed very poorly for carpet cleaning.
Many robot vacs are expensive and our tests show they still have a number of issues and limitationsKim Gilmour, CHOICE home appliances expert
Plus, they can frequently get stuck under furniture, on door thresholds or thick rugs, or get snagged on things including stray clothes, phone chargers and toys. This means that before letting your bot loose, you'll effectively have to clear your floor first anyway (although some owners do admit it's a real incentive to put their life debris away).
"CHOICE has been testing robot vacs for years and their overall cleaning performance has definitely improved a lot," says CHOICE expert Kim Gilmour.
"At the same time, many are expensive and our tests show they still have a number of issues and limitations. So it's vital to do your research to see if they'll suit your household and cleaning needs."
6. Top loader washing machines
They may be generally cheaper to buy than front loaders, weigh less and wash faster, but top-loader washers tend to use a lot more water, are harsher on your clothes, and as a rule don't wash nearly as well.
In fact, in our recent CHOICE testing to find the best washing machines, we were unable to recommend any top loaders at all.
Plus, they use more washing detergent and cost more to run, so in the long term, a top loader isn't likely to give you the best bang for your buck.
Some people may have the perception that you can fit more clothes in a top loader than a front loader, but this isn't the case
And while some people may have the perception that you can fit more clothes in a top loader than a front loader, this isn't the case, mostly due to the 'agitator' that sits in the middle of most top loader drums taking up space.
On average, we find that front loaders have a slightly larger capacity, meaning you can fit more washing into each load, saving you time and money.
CHOICE head of reviews and testing Matthew Steen says: "While everyone's requirements are different and there may be genuine reasons why a top loader is better for you, on the whole we've found front loaders perform better, are gentler on clothes, take up less space and are more energy- and water-efficient."
We've found front loaders perform better, are gentler on clothes, take up less space and are more energy- and water-efficientCHOICE expert Matthew Steen
"Yes, they cost a little more to buy and take longer to complete a cycle, but the trade-off is cleaner clothes, and cheaper running costs for the life of the machine, which helps to offset the purchase price," says Matthew.
"So if you want better washing, then your future is likely to be front loading."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.