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Cleaning products that are worse than water

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

cleaning products lined up on a wooden background
Last updated: 24 February 2022

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.

Floor cleaners

coles ultra floor cleaner sweet orchard

Coles' Ultra Floor Cleaner Sweet Orchard scored less than water.

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 commercial floor cleaner. 

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

When we tested 14 popular brands of floor cleaners in our labs, only three outperformed plain water. Water scored 41%; the three 'top' performers scored between 44% and 49% – what we consider 'poor' or 'borderline' at best. 

But the worst of this decidedly average bunch was Coles' Ultra Floor Cleaner Sweet Orchard, scoring a lowly 40%. Why would you put something in your mop bucket that's going to make the water even less effective for cleaning?

The remaining 10 cleaners in the test scored the same as plain water, which isn't great but is marginally better than the Coles product that couldn't even manage that. 

"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."

Multipurpose cleaners

strike multi purpose cleaner antibacterial pomegranate vanilla

Strike's Multi Purpose Cleaner failed to outperform plain water.

When we tested plain water against multipurpose cleaners in our labs, it scored just 41%. Considering it's more-or-less free, that's not a bad result. 

But when you're paying for a cleaning product, you'd assume it'd do a better job than tap water. Unfortunately that wasn't the case for Strike's Multi Purpose Cleaner, which failed to outperform plain water with a matching 41% score. 

It may only cost $2 a bottle, but that's about $2 more than you'd pay to use water from the tap. 

While a number of multipurpose cleaners we tested performed well, the Strike product was not alone at the bottom of the ladder: 13 other multipurpose cleaners scored less than 50% in our tests. That's 13 out of 26 products, including tap water. 

Glass and window cleaners

ajax spray n wipe glass glass

You're better off using water than Ajax Spray n' Wipe Glass to clean your windows – and water is no great shakes either.

Cleaning windows does require a certain amount of elbow grease, but using a glass cleaning product shouldn't actively make things harder! 

But we found you'd be better off just using plain water to clean your glass than Ajax Spray n' Wipe Glass.

Water actually isn't all that great at cleaning windows: our expert testers rated it just 37% overall. Here at CHOICE we categorise that as 'poor'. But even water's poor glass-cleaning capabilities outshone Ajax's terrible results. It scored just 34%, and we found that water was better at leaving a streak-free finish than the Ajax product. 

A special mention should go to Earth Choice Window & Glass Crystal Clean, which received the same score as plain water. This poor-performing product was outscored by tap water on removing dirt from glass. Another one to avoid. 

If you're after the cleanest windows possible, take a look at our glass and window cleaners review

Laundry detergents

tru earth eco strips laundry detergent fresh linen top loader

Tru Earth's Eco-Strips are expensive, and worse than washing with water alone in a top loader.

A laundry detergent that's actually worse than water – pretty bad, right? Well, it gets worse: you have to pay $20 for it. 

If you're not keen on flushing your money down the drain, then make sure you avoid Tru Earth's Eco-Strips. It performed worse than water on almost every single test we ran in a top-loading washing machine. In a front loader it was still terrible, but managed to (just) do better than water. 

It was beaten for the bottom spot (but only just!) by Coles' Lemon Fresh Laundry Liquid, which itself came in at only one percentage point higher than plain water. 

But at least with the Coles product you're only throwing away $1.50, and it's made in Australia. Buy the Canadian-made TruEarth's Eco Strips and you're buying into a bigger carbon footprint. 

If you're looking for an affordable laundry detergent that'll actually clean your clothes, check out our laundry detergent reviews.

Laundry balls

miracle II laundry ball

Our experts say don't waste your money on laundry balls.

Promoted as a more eco-friendly 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.

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.