Lately, many of us have become used to spending a bit more time at home, and we're probably more conscious than ever of lurking germs that make us reach 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 all the cleaning products to your shopping list, check out our list of the things you, and your cleaning routine, can really do without.
One's enough: 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? 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 multipurpose 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 multipurpose 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? 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. 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 be low on your cleaning to-do list, but it's very important to clean your dishwasher regularly (as well as other appliances, including your washing machine and dryer). 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.
Unless you're dealing with a decade's worth of grime in one go, you may be better off with plain old white vinegar
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.
You may think this means you can flush them down the toilet and they'll disintegrate like toilet paper, but this mostly isn't true.
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 that 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-vacuum fans out there, but hear us out: don'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 (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 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 some do perform very well on hard floors, some 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, which 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. Fabric softeners
Costing up to $9 a litre, fabric softeners are probably 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 nappiesCHOICE expert Ashley Iredale
"They also reduce the water absorbency of fabric, which is really bad news for towels and cloth nappies," says Ashley Iredale.
"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 – but check your washing machine manual first, just in case your manufacturer advises against it.