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Cleaning products that are worse than water or DIY alternatives

Scrub up on the cleaning products you shouldn't waste your money on.

cleaning products lined up on a wooden background
Last updated: 10 November 2020
Fact-checked

Fact-checked

Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

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 then there's the entire product category that's so bad we gave it a Shonky award.

We reveal the cleaning culprits you're better off swapping for plain water or homemade alternatives.

swap ajax floor cleaner with baking soda for water

Floor cleaners

What if we told you there's one product you can take off your shopping list forever? Our testing has shown that if you want your floor clean, you'll do just as good a job with plain water as you will with a commercially-available floor cleaner. 

In 2020, we awarded the entire product category of floor cleaners a Shonky award for being "flawed cleaners". 

When we tested 15 popular brands of floor cleaners, only two outperformed plain water.

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE home cleaning expert

When we tested 15 popular brands of floor cleaners in our labs, only two outperformed plain water – and only by 1 percentage point. Water scored 40%; the two 'top' performers scored 41%. The other cleaners in the test either scored the same as plain water or slightly less, meaning they were outperformed by good old-fashioned tap water!

"If you want your floors clean, just use a plain old bucket of hot water," says Ashley Iredale, CHOICE home cleaning expert. "Save your money."

swap thirty seconds multi surface cleaner for water

Multipurpose cleaners

When we tested plain water against multipurpose cleaners in our labs, it scored just 40%. Considering how much you pay for it, that's not a bad result. 

But when you actually are paying for a cleaning product, you'd assume it'd do a better job than tap water. Unfortunately that wasn't the case for six of the 27 products we tested: five of them scored the same as plain water, and one scored even worse!

These multipurpose cleaners failed to outperform plain water in our test:

  • 30 Seconds Multi Surface Cleaner (CHOICE Expert Rating: 39%)
  • Strike Multi Purpose Cleaner Pomegranate & Vanilla (40%)
  • Pledge Multisurface Cleaner Rainshower (40%)
  • Pine O Cleen Multi Purpose Cleaner Pine with Vinegar (40%)
  • Pine O Cleen Multi Purpose Cleaner Lemon Lime Burst (40%)
  • Orange Power Multi-Purpose Cleaner (40%)
pledge multisurface cleaner rainshower

Dishonourable mention

Scoring just 40% in our lab tests – the same as plain tap water – the Pledge Multisurface Cleaner Rainshower costs a whopping $2.19 per 100mL. That's nearly 2.5 times more per 100mL than the top performing multipurpose cleaner in our tests. 

To find out the top performers, check our multipurpose cleaner review

Cleaner swaps carpet stain remover

Carpet stain removers

If you've just spilt a glass of red on your pristine white rug and you have no carpet stain remover on hand, we have good news: every single commercial product we tested in our carpet stain remover reviews was less effective than a homemade mixture of dishwashing liquid, white vinegar and water.

Even better, the homemade alternative costs just 42c/100mL – a fraction of the cost of commercial products (which cost up to 12 times as much)!

vanish preen powerpowder

Dishonourable mention

Coming in less effective than plain old water (which already has a pretty terrible test score of 26%) is Vanish Preen Powerpowder carpet cleaner, which scored just 25% and costs $2.88/100mL.

Here's how we test carpet stain removers.

swap coles lemon fresh hot and cold wash laundry liquid for water

Laundry detergents

A dishonourable mention has to go to three supermarket own-brand products: Coles' Lemon Fresh Hot and Cold Wash, and Woolworths' Essentials Laundry Powder and Essentials Laundry Liquid Clean Wash Apple Fragrance. 

They got CHOICE Expert Ratings of just 54 and 55% in our front loader test – the same result as washing with plain water!

Check out our laundry detergent reviews to see all the detergents we've tested. 

Cleaner swaps laundry balls

Laundry balls

Promoted as an alternative to laundry detergent, laundry balls are another item we can add to the 'don't need' list.

While their marketing claims make them seem desirable, the bottom line is they don't work.

When we tested and reviewed laundry balls, we found that not one single product performed better than plain water. So do yourself a favour and give these a miss.

miracle II laundry ball

Dishonourable mentions

Miracle II laundry ball: for costing $150 but performing worse than plain water in a front loader.

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