Spending more time at home during the pandemic generally means more mess, which has many of us reaching for the cleaning gloves more often. A clean home can spark copious amounts of joy and relieve some of that extra stress, after all.
But before you add alllll the cleaning products to your shopping list, check out our list of the things you, and your cleaning routine, can really do without.
There's virtually no difference between multi-purpose 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? A kitchen cleaner for your laminate and a multi-surface spray for your dining room or office surfaces?
Our recent tests of a wide range of these sprays reveal that there's virtually no difference between multi-purpose cleaners and kitchen sprays, which means they're all going to do roughly the same job, no matter which room you're in.
So, our experts say, just save your dosh and ditch them!
"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 buy 57 different cleaning products – just use the same one for everything."
But make sure you choose the one cleaning product wisely, as we have found some multi-purpose cleaners that perform no better than water.
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, right? Not so, say our lab experts.
When they reviewed 15 popular brands of floor cleaners, they found that no floor cleaner was good enough to recommend. Some, in fact, performed even worse than 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. Commercial dishwasher cleaners
It may have been low on your spring cleaning to-do list, but it's very important to regularly clean your dishwasher (as well as other appliances, like your washing machine). It'll help keep your appliance in good working condition and could even lengthen its life.
There are several commercially available cleaning products that claim to clear out your dishwasher's internals and leave it as good as new. Running one of these through your dishwasher is a great way to flush away built-up grease and limescale, but unless you're dealing with a decade's worth of grime in one go, you may be better off with plain old white vinegar.
Regularly cleaning your appliance will help keep it in good working condition and could even lengthen its life
Ashley says: "Put vinegar in a bowl on the bottom rack so it isn't immediately drained away, and run a hot, empty cycle to leave your dishwasher sparkling."
But before you give it a go, check your machine manual.
"Some dishwasher manufacturers, such as Miele, advise against using vinegar in their appliances," says Ashley. "its acidity can potentially damage sensitive internals over time and recommend proprietary products designed for their machines instead. So check your manual first."
If you choose to use wipes, dispose of them in the bin, not the loo.
4. 'Flushable' wipes
Wet wipes are undoubtedly super handy for a wide range of cleaning jobs, from wiping up messes on the floor to cleaning the toilet to wiping, erm, yourself, but some of these products claim on their packaging that they're flushable, and that's a problem.
While you may think this means you can flush them down the toilet and they'll disintegrate like toilet paper, this mostly isn't the case.
In fact, these 'flushable' wipes wreak havoc on sewerage systems and increase the risk of pipe blockages and overflows to local creeks and rivers. Plus, some studies have found they contain microplastics which also then end up in our waterways.
'Flushable' wipes wreak havoc on sewerage systems and increase the risk of pipe blockages and overflows to local creeks and rivers
The situation is so dire that the ACCC took one of the manufacturers of flushable wipes, Kimberly-Clark, to Federal Court. Unfortunately the case was dismissed as it was impossible to prove that the blockages were caused by Kimberly-Clark products alone.
Nevertheless, water services providers (and many plumbers) advise against flushing these products down your loo. If you must use them, or other types of surface wipes or baby wipes, they need to go in the bin.
Better yet, skip them completely in favour of reusable cleaning wipes or cloths that are cheaper on a cost per use basis and better for the environment.
Robot vacs can't generate as much suction as normal vacs to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair.
5. Robot vacuum cleaners
We know there are plenty of robot vac fans out there but hear us out: don't spend your money on a robot vacuum if you think it's going to be the answer to all your cleaning dreams.
Yes, they'll do your dirty work (i.e. vacuuming) for you – no wonder they're all the rage! But, despite the fact that on average they cost more than barrel or stick vacuums, our extensive expert testing has found that they generally don't clean carpets as well.
Their smaller motors can't generate as much suction as normal vacs to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair.
Although they do OK on hard floors, some robot vacs in our tests scored less than 10% for carpet cleaning and barely picked up anything!
Many robot vacs are expensive and our tests show they still have a number of issues and limitationsKim Gilmour, CHOICE expert
Plus, they frequently can get stuck – under furniture, on door thresholds or thick rugs – or get snagged on things including stray clothes, phone chargers and toys, which means that before letting your bot loose, you'll effectively have to clear your floor first anyway (although, some owners admit that 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. Fabric softeners
Costing up to $9 a litre, fabric softeners are likely not the cheapest item on your grocery list. Why not pocket that money instead of spending it on a product our experts say you don't really need?
Not only are fabric softeners expensive and bad for the environment (due to the variety of silicones and petrochemical ingredients they release into our waterways) but they also leave your clothes dirtier than when they started due to coating them in chemicals that you're going to be wearing against your skin.
Fabric softeners reduce the water absorbency of fabric, which is really bad news for towels and cloth nappiesCHOCIE expert Ashley Iredale
"They also reduce the water absorbency of fabric, which is really bad news for towels and cloth nappies," says our laundry expert Ashley.
"Worse still, they reduce the effectiveness of fire retardancy on clothes, so even though they all have pictures of cute babies on the bottles, they're an absolute no-no for children's sleepwear.
"Fabric softeners also contribute to scrud build-up in your washing machine, potentially causing damage to it," he says.
Instead, try adding half a cup of vinegar to your fabric softener dispenser (check your washing machine manual before doing this just in case your manufacturer advises against it).