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Can refillable products save you money?

We compare refillable products at Aldi, Coles and Woolworths to see what your options are and how much you can save.

spray bottle surrounded by leaves
Last updated: 06 March 2024


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

Australians use an average of 147kg of plastic per person each year, according to WWF Australia. 

If you're looking for ways to cut down on the amount of plastic you use, one of the simplest things you can do is switch to using refillable products. And not only is it better for the planet, it will likely save you money too.

The concept is simple: buy the original bottle once, keep it, and once empty top it up using a second, more eco-friendly container (or refillable station, although not everyone will have access to one).

A growing market

Not every product on your shopping list will have a refillable option, but it's a market that's growing in popularity – search online and you'll find lots of independent retailers offering various refillable products or subscriptions. In 2021 we found 71 refillable products available at major supermarkets and this year we identified more than 83 refillable options across a range of categories.  

But aside from being environmentally friendly, can they save you money? To find out, we look at some of the most widely available refillable cleaning and personal-care products and their original counterparts from Aldi, Coles and Woolworths.

How much can you save using refillable items?

We assessed 83 refillable products including hand wash, shampoo and conditioner, and various cleaning supplies. Nearly all of them were cheaper per 100mL or 100g than their original counterparts, with an average saving of 38%, up from 32% in 2021.

Some of the savings were even more impressive – the Damprid Moisture Absorber refill, for instance, was 68% cheaper per 100mL than its original, just as it was in 2021. The 700mL refill of Natural State Handwash will save you 70% on the standard 350mL pump pack.  

All but one of the 83 of the refillable products we looked at were cheaper per 100mL or 100g than their original counterparts, with an average saving of 38%

Conversely, 15 items had savings of less than 20% – so not a huge amount, but over time it will certainly add up. One product – Cheer Tasty Cheese slices – cost more per 100g for the refill than the original: $7.30 for a 250g refill packet vs $14 for the 750g tub.

While a small discount may just be the icing on the cake for choosing to cut down on the amount of plastic being used, it's hard to imagine there'd be many people willing to pay more.

But if you're simply after the cheapest product on offer (refillable or not), make sure you compare the unit price – see our tips for shopping by unit price.

Refillable products with the biggest savings 

Savings of 50% or more:

  • Airwick Pure Freshmatic (various scents) refill – save 50%
  • Koi Foaming Handwash Blood Orange Tablets refill – save 50%
  • Palmolive Foaming Handwash 1L refill – save 56%
  • Fluffy Concentrate Fabric Softener refill – save 57%
  • Tricare Foaming Handwash (various scents) – save 58%
  • Cleanery Blood Orange and Mint Handwash refill – save 58%
  • Cleanery Lemon Lime Kitchen Cleaner refill – save 58%
  • Cleanery Kanuka Mint Bathroom Cleaner refill – save 58%
  • Palmolive Liquid Handwash 1L refill – save up to 58%* 
  • Saxa Black Peppercorn refill – save 59%
  • The Balnea Body Company Hand Wash refill (various scents) – save 60%
  • Tricare Handwash (various scents) – save 60%
  • Coles Antibacterial Handwash (various scents) – save 64%
  • Schwarzkopf Sustainable Shampoo refill – save 64%
  • Schwarzkopf Sustainable Conditioner refill – save 64%
  • Cove Surface All-Purpose refill – save 65%
  • Cove Bathroom & Shower refill – save 65%
  • Damprid Moisture Absorber refill – save 68%.
  • Natural State Handwash (various scents) – save 70%
  • Natural State Bodywash (various scents) – save 70%
  • Saxa Pink Himalayan Salt refill – save 76%
* When purchased at Aldi. The savings on this item were smaller at other supermarkets.

The cost of concentrates

Undiluted concentrates are a great refillable option because they're lighter and use less packaging. You simply add the refill to the original bottle and top it up with water. 

But our research found it's much harder to compare unit prices of concentrates when you're in the supermarket.

It's much harder to compare unit prices of concentrates when you're in the supermarket

Of the 12 refillable products we looked at that were concentrates, all listed the unit price of the concentrated liquid. 

But that made each refillable item more expensive by unit price than the original product (and its competitors), which contains the pre-mixed concentrate plus water. 

3000% more for a concentrate?

For example, according to the supermarket unit prices, the concentrated Strike Multipurpose Cleaner refill (bathroom and kitchen products) costs a whopping 3000% more per 100mL than the original.

But actually, when we adjusted for the dilution of the concentrate, it's 30% cheaper for 700ml of the final solution compared with 700ml of the original.

Likewise, Cove's concentrated Glass and Window Cleaner, Surface All-Purpose and Bathroom and Shower refills costs 33% more per 100ml than the original. But when we calculated the unit price with the final volume of the concentrate (after adding water) it comes in at 65% cheaper than the original.

What products are available as refillables? 

Our impression is that the market for refillable products is growing. Hand wash seems to take up the most space on shelves, but the largest growth since 2021 appears to be in the personal care category with a notable increase in the availability of shampoo and conditioner refills.

We also saw refills for cleaning products (including bathroom, kitchen and all-purpose surface sprays, laundry detergent, toilet cleaner and more), and some food items (honey, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and barbecue sauce).

two children washing hands at home

We found a large number of refillable hand wash products in supermarkets.

What happened to refill stations in supermarkets?

When we first looked at refillable products in 2021, both Coles and Woolworths were trialling in-store refillable stations at various locations in Sydney and Melbourne. Since that time, both have removed the stations and discontinued those trials. 

A Coles spokesperson told us that the decision was taken as a result of declining customer use, but stressed that the company continued to "look for new and innovative ways to help our customers recycle and reduce their household waste." 

Woolworths did not provide comment.

Very few supermarkets offer plastic-free refill options for cleaning and personal care products

In late 2023 the Australian Marine Conservation Society and Boomerang Alliance released the results of an audit into Australian supermarket plastics. 

They noted that every kilogram of packaging that can be returned to the store for refilling has the potential to reduce single-use packaging by an average of 16kg. 

Unfortunately, their report found that very few supermarkets offer plastic-free refill options for cleaning and personal-care products.  

The four supermarket chains assessed in the audit (Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash) scored poorly for the reuse component. Criteria included showing evidence of currently available reuse and refill options instore, and evidence of policies to increase items sold through reuse/refill systems. Aldi, Metcash and Woolworths scored just one point out of a possible 16, while Coles earned three points . 

The report concluded that instore reuse and refill systems need to be scaled urgently.

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.