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The worst products we've tested lately

These are some of the poorest performing products our CHOICE experts have flagged over the past year. 

Last updated: 14 March 2024

Need to know

  • CHOICE lab experts review thousands of products and services to find the best and worst performers to help Australians make better choices. 
  • An expensive fridge that runs hot and cold, cleaning products so bad you might as well just use water, extremely expensive health insurance and unsafe appliances are just some of the duds we have uncovered. 
  • CHOICE members can access our full results and reviews to compare options that will ensure you're getting the best value for your money. 

Every year, our experts assess and review thousands of products from hundreds of brands to help you buy better.

Whether it's kitchen or laundry appliances, groceries, tech products, health insurance or home insurance, CHOICE experts are constantly reviewing and testing the items that Australian households are spending money on to sort out the duds from the things that offer great value. 

Sometimes they find excellent performers (including some surprising budget buys), but they also regularly uncover serious shockers they wouldn't spend their own cash on, and you shouldn't either. 

Here are some of the latest underwhelming products and services they've found: 

smeg blue

This Smeg fridge may look cool, but it's not always cold.

The $4000 designer fridge that won't keep your food cold

It may be beautiful, but the Smeg FAB32RPB5AU will leave you – but not necessarily your food – cold.

Its CHOICE Expert Rating of 43% is poor, but its temperature stability score is its worst attribute: our experts gave it a zero in this test, which measures how much the temperature fluctuates. 

So not only might you end up with limp lettuce and melted ice cream, you could also be left with leftovers that aren't safe to eat because the fridge can't maintain the right temperature.

This exxy fridge comes from the same manufacturer that produced the worst fridge our experts have ever seen, and while this one hasn't knocked it off its pedestal, it's not far behind. 

The cleaning products that make housework harder

Cleaning isn't the most fun way to spend your time, so anything that stretches out this dreary chore is best avoided.

These products performed so poorly that you'll have to use your own elbow grease to actually get things clean.

lucent globe ultra concentrated dishwashing detergents sheets

No better than plain water: Globe Lucent dishwasher detergent sheets.

Dishwashing detergent

On the face of it, dishwasher sheets sound like a brilliant invention: biodegradable, plastic-free, low-allergenic and less packaging than traditional dishwasher detergents.

But while they tick the boxes for enviro-friendliness, they're not quite there in terms of performance. 

In our testing, Lucent Globe Ultra Concentrated Dishwashing Detergent Sheets scored exactly the same as plain water – just 12%. It was the lowest scoring detergent by quite a margin, with the next-lowest scorer coming in at 45%. 

For a dishwasher detergent that actually works, go for Aldi's Logix Platinum 18 in 1 Dishwashing Tablets, which topped our test with a score of 79%. If you're looking for a greener option, try Earth Choice Dish Tablets, which scored 75% and are also recommended by our experts. 

morning fresh ultimate power clean spray citrus fresh

Using plain water is cheaper and just as effective as this dishwashing spray.

Dishwashing spray

The difference between Morning Fresh Ultimate Power Clean Spray and plain water from the tap? $11 and the time and energy you'll waste buying it in the supermarket. 

The Morning Fresh spray cleaned just as well as plain water in our dishwashing liquid test – which is to say, not very well. They both scored 45% overall, which is rated as "poor" by our experts. 

It's the second-most expensive detergent we tested and also the worst performing, which just goes to show that money can't buy cleanliness. 

surf tropical 30 capules 390g top loader

These laundry capsules left laundry no cleaner than just using water.

Laundry pods

Sure, they're convenient, but some laundry pods will make more work for you because they won't actually clean your clothes. 

In our tests, there's often a product or two that perform worse than water, but we don't usually see as many as four at once. 

These laundry capsules were ranked exactly the same as plain water by our laundry experts – in other words, you're better off not using these at all. They're cheaper per wash than many other capsules on the market, but there's a good reason why: they don't really work. 

vanish napisan oxi action gold multi power liquid laundry booster

Your cash, but not your stains, will Vanish with this product.

Stain removers

Some products are worth every cent you pay for them, but some products are the complete opposite. And it turns out money can't buy you laundry love: the lowest-scoring powder in our stain remover tests was one of the most expensive: Vanish NapiSan Oxi Action Gold Multi Power Liquid Laundry Booster. It's $1.60 per 100mL, but the 2L bottle will cost you $32 at the checkout. Ouch!

And other than Aldi, unfortunately buying other supermarket powders won't do much for stains: products from IGA, Coles and Woolworths were among the lowest-scoring products. 

These are the ones to cross off your shopping list.

  • Vanish NapiSan Oxi Action Gold Multi Power Liquid Laundry Booster (CHOICE Expert Rating: 64%)
  • Community Co Loads Cleaner Oxy Action Multi-Action In-Wash Booster & Soaker (64%)
  • Woolworths Clean Boost In-Wash Booster, Soaker & Stain Remover (66%)
  • Woolworths Clean Laundry Soaker and In-Wash Booster (67%)
  • Coles Laundry Soaker and In-Wash Booster (67%)

Find out more about the best and worst stain removers.

stokke sleepi mini v3 and mattress

Even a $1249 price tag doesn't mean a product is safe.

The unsafe bassinets and portable cots

Sweet dreams definitely aren't made of the portable cots and bassinets that failed key safety requirements set by either Australian standards or our experts. CHOICE testing uncovered that four bassinets posed suffocation risks because of a lack of breathable zones or mattresses that don't fit properly or are too soft.

One of them is a fancy designer bassinet that retails for more than $1200 – if the safety issues don't keep you awake at night, the cost will!

These are the bassinets we tested this year that have serious safety issues. See the full reviews and risks.

Two-thirds of portacots tested by CHOICE fail safety standards

A portable cot (also known as a travel cot or portacot) is a handy item to have in the first few years of your child's life. It's great for holidays and sleepovers, and a convenient option if you want a second, collapsible cot at the grandparents' or another carer's house. But CHOICE experts recommend taking great caution when you're buying this product, as many popular brands pose serious safety risks to babies. 

CHOICE experts recommend taking great caution when you're buying this product, as many popular brands pose serious safety risks to babies

"In our expert labs, we regularly test a selection of portable cots currently available on the Australian market," says CHOICE testing expert Kim Gilmour

"In our lab tests, two-thirds of these products failed key safety requirements, which is a really disappointing result. Unfortunately, this is something we are used to seeing with this particular baby product

"We assess all models in our labs against the most current Australian safety standard for portable cots. But there are still many models failing to even meet the minimum mandatory requirements, such as mattress firmness," says Kim.

Find out the portable cots to avoid buying.

The kitchen craze that kind of sucks

Vacuum sealers are all the rage at the moment, with vacuum-sealing enthusiasts raving about how great they are for portioning bulk purchases, marinating food and extending the life of meat. 

Sounds great – except that they don't really work all that well. 

You're actually better off using an elastic band around your open pack of Cheezels to keep them fresh.

Plus, using a ziplock bag and a bowl of water actually does the same job as a vacuum sealer, which makes you wonder why anyone would buy one. 

They also tend to be short-lived, with the seals and heating strips usually failing quickly so you can't use them. 

Our experts were so unimpressed with the 10 sealers they tested that they didn't recommend a single one. 

The health insurance policies soaring in price

The Australian government recently announced an increase to health insurance premiums, which means we will soon be paying more each month for the same cover. Many Australians, particularly those who need top-level Gold hospital insurance, are already facing sky-high premiums – at a time when many are already struggling with the cost of living. 

And now CHOICE analysis of three years of hospital insurance pricing data shows that health insurers – including the five biggest health funds – are jacking up the price of premium cover at a much higher rate than the advertised averages. 

CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird says, "Average health insurance premiums across all levels of cover went up by 8.6% over the past three years, according to the Department of Health and Aged Care. 

We found the price of top-level Gold hospital policies has increased by over 30% on average

CHOICE health insurance expert Jodi Bird

"But when we looked at the prices actually available to an average customer shopping for insurance, we found that the price of top-level Gold hospital policies has increased by over 30% on average. 

Looking at policies in NSW with a $750 excess, Medibank's 2024 Gold hospital policy cost 43% more than the policy they offered in 2021. NIB's Qantas Gold policy is 36% more expensive, and Bupa and HCF's offerings are about 35% higher than those available in 2021.

In WA, HBF's current Gold policy is 47% more expensive than the Gold policy it was selling three years ago.CHOICE experts encourage you to scrutinise the offer you're getting from your current insurer. These exorbitant price increases for top cover mean that it's more important than ever to ensure you have the right cover for your needs and that you're getting the best deal possible. 

To help you make sense of your options, our health insurance comparison tool helps you compare policies from over 40 insurers. We're a nonprofit organisation and we don't take any commissions, so you can be sure we'll help you find the best policy for you (not what's best for the insurer).

The shonkiest of them all

Every year, we call out the dodgiest products on the market with our Shonky Awards so consumers know what not to buy.

Here are the products and companies that took out the awards no-one wants to win:

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.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.