Many of us start off the year with positive intentions and on the search for ways to introduce good habits into our lives. One simple way to do this, and show the environment some love, is to switch to refillable cleaning products.
After all, UK households use over 70 million cleaning sprays every year, which generates more than 140 million pieces of plastic. Not to mention the bleach bottles, toilet cleaners and other numerous plastic bottles cluttering cupboards up and down the country.
Switching to cleaning refills is not only great for reducing single-use plastic packaging, but it can also work out cheaper (depending on the brand and product) and be more aesthetically pleasing. Also, as well as reducing the amount of throwaway plastic packaging, many home cleaning brands that offer refills naturally have a focus on non-toxic and environmentally friendly ingredients.
From signing up to subscription-based models to taking empties down to a local refill station, there are a number of ways to switch to refills. As well as ready-to-use liquid options, some brands sell concentrated solutions, soluble sachets or pods that just need mixing with water, or even offer the product in the form of a dissolvable sheet or tablet.
We think it’s great that there are so many options available now, but it can get a bit confusing. So, with that in mind, and with Earth Day just around the corner on 22 April, we’ve refilled, squirted and scrubbed our way through a range of cleaning products designed to make your home shine, to see which deserve a spot in the cupboard under the sink.
How we tested
As well as looking for cleaning products that offer refill options, there were a number of other factors that we took into consideration: price, accessibility, ease of refilling, product range, the overall aesthetic of the containers and of course, whether the cleaning products actually worked. We spritzed windows, mirrors, bathtubs, kitchen counters, toilets and anything else that needed a clean, and tested the products out over a couple of months to get a real feel for how they performed.
The best refillable cleaning products for 2022 are:
- Best overall – Neat anti bac refill cleaning essentials starter pack bundle: £27, Neatclean.com
- Best gift for a new home – Bower Collective bower sparkling clean home bundle: £55.99, Bowercollective.com
- Best for bulk refills – Faith in Nature lemon washing up liquid, 5l: £25.99, Faithinnature.co.uk
- Best for stylish homes – Spruce starter kit duo: £19.99, Wearespruce.co
- Best stain removal – Fill destainer 500g glass jar: £8.17, Fillrefill.co
- Best botanical scent – Tincture starter set: £28, Tincturelondon.com
- Best probiotic refillable cleaning products – Nookary probiotic cleaning bundle, £30, Nookary.com
- Best for convenience –Smol plan surface sprays: £10, Smolproducts.com
- Best for a wide range of products – Clean Living the eco-friendly complete cleaning kit: £43.99, Cleanlivingint.com
- Best laundry liquid – Bio-D lavender non bio laundry liquid, 5l: £25.66, Biod.co.uk
- Best for ethos – Melior refill starter bundle: £26.50, Meliorlondon.uk
- Best zero-waste refills – OceanSaver everyday essentials refill collection, 5 pack: £7.50, Ocean-saver.com
- Best everyday cleaner – Mrs Meyer’s multi-surface concentrate: £6.74, Biggreensmile.com
- Best for availability – Ecover washing-up liquid lemon and aloe vera refill, 5l: £11.95, Ecoverdirect.com
Neat anti bac refill cleaning essentials starter pack bundle
Arriving smartly packaged in a box containing an aluminium bottle with a small glass container of cleaning solution tucked away just below the lid, this brand is neat by name and neat by nature. It means making the switch to refills is made super easy, plus no unnecessary water is shipped, as you add your own (Neat says that 90 per cent of most cleaning products is water). Simply add 470ml of tap water into the bottle, pour in the 30ml concentrated cleaning solution, give it a good shake and you’ve got 500ml of cleaning product. There’s also a foolproof step-by-step guide, illustrated with images on the side of the box. The cardboard packaging and plastic-free refill can be popped in the recycling too.
Simplicity and accessibility are key for the brand, which offers a compact range of products: an anti-bac bathroom cleaner, an anti-bac multi-surface cleaner and an anti-bac glass and mirror cleaner – all three come in the starter pack bundle. There are also three scents to choose from when it comes to the multi-surface cleaner, all of which are a welcome change from the strong chemical smells normally associated with cleaning products. Choose from the delightful sounding mango and fig, grapefruit and ylang ylang, and seagrass and lotus, while the fresh smelling sage and mint bathroom cleaner was our favourite.
The refills also offer great value for money: 30ml costs £2.50 and can be used to make 500ml of cleaning solution. The refills, which are made from plant-based ingredients, are also free from dyes and colourings, parabens, phosphates, ammonia, chlorine bleach and sulphates.
When it came to using the products, they were as simple and effective as promised. The lightweight aluminium bottle, with a removable silicone base and trigger pump, is easy to use and store, while the cleaning solutions did the jobs they advertised: our bathroom was left clean and smelling fresh, mirrors were left shiny and streak free, and our kitchen surfaces were spotless after a wipe with the multi-surface cleaner. We’re also pleased to note that Neat’s cleaning products are vegan and not tested on animals.
Bower Collective bower sparkling clean home bundle
Best: Gift for a new home
A home-cleaning bundle might not seem like the most exciting new home gift, but hear us out. Sure, it’s no champagne and flowers, but if we were to receive the stylish Bower Collective batch, we’d be pretty pleased for a number of reasons. Firstly, the clear glass pump dispensers and trigger spray bottles with an accompanying white silicone sleeve give off a smart aesthetic that would fit in with most decors. Secondly, the products have the kind of luxurious scent that you’d want wafting through a new home, especially when visitors come calling, and finally: it sets you up nicely on a refill way of life. The cleaning solutions, which are made from 100 per cent naturally derived ingredients and fragranced with essential oils, don’t contain SLS or parabens and are vegan and cruelty-free.
The clean home bundle from the B-Corp brand covers a whole host of areas: there is a gorgeous-smelling lime and aloe vera handwash, a delightful grapefruit washing up liquid refill, a bathroom cleaner spray and even a toilet cleaner refill. At £55.99, it’s certainly not the cheapest option on this list, but the bundle, which includes five different product refills and five reusable containers, offers a saving of 15 per cent. Refills range in price from £2.99 for 500ml of rinse aid to £8.39 for its sanitising hand wash, although customers can save 10 per cent on bestsellers if they set up a refill subscription.
We found the refills very easy to decant, thanks to the fact that they come in a plastic pouch with a spout (a screw cap means you can also refill as much as you need before popping it away). It does mean though, that you are left with empty plastic pouches once you’ve used all the refills, which won’t appeal to some people, but Bower Collective do include a pre-paid envelope for customers to return these. It also says that it is currently working on packaging which will allow it to refill and reuse the pouches at scale.
Faith in Nature lemon washing up liquid, 5l
Best: For bulk refills
If you’re already familiar with a local refill station, then it’s extremely likely that you’ve come across Faith in Nature – a brand which has been around since 1974. We tried the 5l lemon washing up liquid, but there are also 20l options of select items, such as the aloe vera and rosemary laundry liquid (£80, Faithinnature.co.uk).
Faith in Nature says that its 5l lemon washing up liquid provides 350 washes, and although we can’t claim to have done that many rounds, the product does seem to last well. We liked that it produced a good lather and had a subtle lemony scent. It’s made with 100 per cent natural fragrance and essential oils, is free from parabens and sulphates, and is Vegan Society-approved and cruelty-free. For every order placed online, the brand also promises to plant a tree in partnership with TreeSisters.
Pouring from the heavy 5l bottle into a smaller washing up dispenser was a little tricky, but using a funnel would eliminate any spillages. There is also an option to buy a pump when purchasing the bulk refill bottle, which could be handy if you’re set on using this method again. Despite its larger size, we were pleased with how neatly we could stow it away in the cupboard under the kitchen sink, and think the larger refill sizes would make it particularly handy for families. As well as washing up liquid and laundry detergent, the brand covers bathroom refills such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand wash – we can highly recommend the beautifully scented wild rose hand wash (£55, Faithinnature.co.uk).
Spruce starter kit duo
Best: For stylish homes
The offering from this start up might be small, but it’s certainly mighty. With just two cleaning products currently to its name, Spruce is already an award-winning brand and has even been dubbed the “Jo Malone of cleaning products”.
Spruce’s starter kit duo is composed of a multi-purpose cleaning refill and bathroom cleaner refill, alongside two stylish “eternity” aluminium bottles with trigger sprays. We loved the modern pastel-coloured bottles which can be displayed in the bathroom or kitchen without being an eyesore. In fact, they’re expertly designed to fit in with the millennial aesthetic of muted colours, copper fixtures and plants trailing off bathroom shelves.
We found the refills super easy to use: just empty the refill granules from the plastic-free sachet into the bottle, then slowly top up with water (to avoid excess foaming) and you have 500ml of cleaning solution. We tried the multi-purpose on a variety of surfaces, including wood, countertops, tiles and ceramic, and found it did the job nicely. The bathroom cleaner was also effective in removing soap scum and limescale from around the sink and the bathtub. It’s also suitable for use on tiles, stainless steel and porcelain surfaces. Refill sachets can be purchased as a set of three, either as a one-off for £9.99 or via a subscription for £8.50 every two months. Handily, you can select how frequently you want your refills posted, and due to their small size, they can be easily put through the letterbox. A pending B-Corp, Spruce’s products are vegan, cruelty-free and also free from fragrances, harsh chemicals, palm oil and petroleum.
Fill destainer 500g glass jar
Best: Stain removal
If there’s a home cleaning product refill that you need, chances are that Fill will have something to suit your needs. The brand’s wide variety of products is a joy to behold: from 5kg bags of dishwasher powder to 10l boxes of floor cleaner, Fill’s got it all. So, we were very happy to find that the brand also stocks a stain remover that can rival Vanish’s. Fill’s de-stainer is a low-temperature oxygen stain removal powder, which can be used for laundry and home stain removal.
The brand states that the best temperature for the destainer to work its magic is at 40 degrees, but if you do want to wash at a lower temperature, then it’s recommended to soak the items with it prior to washing. We love the fact that the product is available in both 500g glass jars and in 5kg bulk paper bags. It’s also 100 per cent biodegradable, free of dyes and vegan certified.
As well as laundry, we were able to use the destainer on stained mugs and bottles, as well as on surfaces and sinks by making up a paste and leaving it to soak for 15 minutes before rinsing. It’s also suitable for use on mould and mildew. It was tough to pick a favourite from Fill’s line-up, and we’d also highly recommend checking out their scrub powder (£7.20, Fillrefill.co), which works like a conventional cream cleaner but is produced using 40 per cent waste powder from the marble-cutting industry, plus the brand’s newly launched concentrated all-purpose cleaner, aptly named “everything clean” (£7.20, Fillrefill.co).
Tincture starter set
Best: Botanical scent
Upon opening the cardboard box in which these stylish bottles arrived, our first impression was of a premium product that wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end spa. A whiff of the botanical scents and we were almost transported there. To say that these cleaning products made household chores more pleasant is no understatement. Not only do the cleaning solutions smell delightful, but the products work incredibly well. Although we found the unusual shape of the trigger spray a little confusing at first, once we’d figured it out, we found the bottles easy to use, with a good amount of the product being released with each squirt.
Founded by a mother of four, who was looking for non-toxic home cleaning products that wouldn’t exacerbate her children’s asthma and eczema, Tincture offers an array of refill products, all formulated to maintain indoor air quality. They’re also safe for use around babies, children and pets.
The starter set, priced at just over £30, seems like good value for money given its sophisticated aesthetic and scents. For that price, you get 475ml versions of six tinctures: all-purpose, washing up, bathroom, daily floor, furniture and a glass, mirror and steel version. Refills, which come in a brown glass bottle, start at £4.99 for an all-purpose or washing up liquid option, and there is also a refill subscription box, which includes six different tinctures (£24.97, Tincturelondon.co). All the products are vegan, cruelty-free and are also free from toxic chemicals, phosphates, SLS, parabens, artificial preservatives, synthetic fragrances and dyes.
Nookary probiotic cleaning bundle
Best: Probiotic refillable cleaning products
The definition of Nookary is: a curated collection of household items that give a sense of pride and comfort. It goes without saying then, that a brand named Nookary is passionate about creating products that are aesthetically pleasing, undisputedly practical and with strong sustainable credentials. As Nookary puts it, the brand’s aim is to produce “essentials, but better”.
In look, they have the vibe of premium brand Aesop, and they also have a rich, sophisticated fragrance too. As well as unscented versions of their home cleaning products, Nookary offer three nature-inspired scents across their cleaning concentrates: Sicilian lemon, English garden and a peppermint and eucalyptus blend named “tranquil moments”.
Our bottles of all-purpose cleaner and carpet and upholstery cleaner both arrived in brown glass bottles with trigger sprays, alongside a 500ml ready-to-use probiotic air freshener. Both of the cleaning products came with 50ml of concentrate, which we had to give a little shake and dilute with 450ml of water. We noticed that a little goes a long way with the products that we tested and were pleased with our clean and shiny surfaces following a spritz of the probiotic all-purpose cleaner. If you’re not familiar with probiotic cleaners, the premise is this: naturally occurring safe microbes (good bacteria) are used in a high concentration to outcompete the harmful bacteria. The good bacteria are also effective at tackling grime, grease and dirt. Nookary uses the Bacillus strain, which the brand says has had the highest number of scientific studies done on it.
The refill pouches seem quite pricey at first glance – £15 a pop (or £13.50 if you subscribe) – but 500ml of the probiotic all-purpose cleaner will create 10 refills. Like the Bower Collective, Nookary’s refills come in a plastic pouch with a nozzle, while they also provide a pre-paid envelope so customers can post them back.
Smol plan surface sprays
Best: For convenience
One of the best-known refillable cleaning product subscription services on the market, Smol has certainly figured out how to make the switch to refillables convenient for customers. At £10 for a pack of three surface sprays: multi-purpose, bathroom and glass, it’s one of the cheaper options on our list. A box of six refill tablets, which are sent via post, will set you back £6. It’s also possible to bring refill orders forward, pause them or cancel.
Our Smol plan surface spray bottles arrived neatly laid out in a cardboard box. The plastic spray bottles, made using post-consumer recycled plastic, each has a silicon grip which is colour coded for easy identification: orange for all-purpose, aqua for bathroom and purple for glass.
When it comes to getting started, Smol has again made it fool-proof. Although we found the process straightforward, we did find that the tablets didn’t dissolve as easily as we’d hoped. But once they had, we were pleased with how the surface spray cleaned and left things shiny.
The scent of the product was not our favourite, but given that the three bottles and tablets come in at £10, it’s a good budget-friendly option that makes embracing refills more accessible.
Clean Living the eco-friendly complete cleaning kit
Best: For a wide range of products
It would possibly be quicker to list the products this kit by Clean Living doesn’t contain, given it’s so comprehensive. There are a whopping eight different types of cleaning products, three microfibre cloths, a brush and a caddy to hold it all. As well as classics such as multi-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner, the kit also contains less commonly seen refill items such as biological bin odour eliminator, drain maintainer and dry carpet cleaner.
The kit comes with six 300ml reusable aluminium bottles that come already labelled. Simply snip open the corresponding sachet, pour into the bottle and top up with water. We found using the kit straightforward and were big fans of the wide variety of products. The bin odour eliminator and drain maintainer came in particularly handy, while the kitchen cleaner and degreaser were also much used.
The award-winning brand has a wide range of biological cleaning products that are free from harmful toxins. As well as the variety of cleaning products available in the kit, there are a whole host of options to choose from in their online shop. For example, their biological sports equipment cleaner starter pack is a clever idea, given so many of us are working out at home (£8.99, Cleanlivingint.com) and that gym equipment benefits from a quick refresh.
Refills come in plastic sachets, which can be grouped together and then posted back to Clean Living. At £5.97 for a pack of three refills, we think it’s a reasonably priced option.
Bio-D lavender non bio laundry liquid, 5l
Best: Laundry liquid
Another brand that is often found in local refill stations is Bio-D. Founded in 1989 by Michael Barwell, who was looking for cleaning products that would clean safely and effectively without harming people and the environment, the brand has grown quite a catalogue of products. Among their most popular are the lavender laundry liquid and fabric conditioner.
Available in a 1l bottle too, we went for the 5l refill option. Bio-D says that each litre of its concentrated laundry liquid can do 25 washes, so the bulk refill is a great choice to reduce the amount of plastic used, and is a savvy option in terms of price. At £25.66 for around 125 washes, it seems like a pretty good deal.
We were impressed with the performance of the laundry liquid and liked the lavender essential oil fragrance. As well as all of Bio-D’s products being vegan and cruelty-free, they also contain naturally derived and plant-based ingredients. The brand has a large range of unscented home cleaning products too, which are worth checking out, especially if you or a family member suffer from allergies (Bio-D is accredited by Allergy UK for its allergy friendly products).
Melior refill starter bundle
Best: For ethos
Launched during the Covid-19 pandemic, Hackney-based social enterprise Melior, was created to produce products that are kind to the environment and to bring opportunities to unemployed people who are visually impaired or have disabilities. Founded by Diane Cheung, Melior (which means “better” in Latin) is a closed-loop small business with a strong focus on zero waste and tackling injustices against people with disabilities.
There are three core full-size products on offer: an all-purpose cleaner, a bathroom cleaner and a stain remover hero. Upon opening the cardboard box which our products were posted over in, we were surprised to find that instead of packing peanuts, the glass bottles were protected by popcorn. Yes, actual popcorn. It’s yet another sign of how Melior do things in their own way, and we’re big fans.
Getting started is simple: just pour one of the 25ml refills into a glass bottle and top up with 425ml of water. We were impressed by the effectiveness of the products and especially liked the stain remover hero. In fact, we’re not the only ones: Melior’s enzyme formulations are used in the Houses of Parliament, Hotel de Paris, Monaco and in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
OceanSaver everyday essentials refill collection, 5 pack
Best: For zero-waste refills
Hoping to make a dent on the more than 29 billion plastic containers generated by home care each year, OceanSaver has created these zero-waste refills. Coming packaged in a recyclable cardboard box, the soluble pods that hold their cleaning concentrates disappear when added to water. We were happy with how easy to use these were and the speed with which they dissolved. The pods are very good value too, with a 10ml refill costing £1.50 and generating 750ml of cleaning solution when mixed with water. There are also subscription packs that offer savings as well as a convenient drop of the pods through the letterbox.
A pack of their everyday essentials include refills for the anti-bacterial cleaner, kitchen degreaser, bathroom cleaner, multipurpose cleaner and all-purpose floor cleaner. For a cost of £7.50, they leave you sorted on home cleaning products for a good while. We were most impressed with the all-purpose floor cleaner and liked the range of scents available, none of which were overpowering. Made with plant-based and non-toxic ingredients, OceanSaver products are also not tested on animals.
Mrs Meyer’s multi-surface concentrate
Best: Everyday cleaner
A household favourite in the US, the quaint sounding Mrs Meyer’s is now available in the UK too. There’s quite a range of products from this brand and a few refill options, such as hand soap and multi-surface concentrate. Made from plant-derived ingredients and essential oils, the hard-working multi-surface concentrate is available in a variety of scents: basil, lavender, lemon verbena and peony.
We went for the lemon verbena scent, which had a pleasant aroma, and found the product performed well across a variety of uses, including cleaning cupboards, worktops and floors. We also like the fact that the formula could be easily diluted, or used neat on tough stains. One 946ml bottle of the concentrate, priced at £8.99, can also be mixed with water to refill a 473ml spray bottle (£3.99, Biggreensmile.com) up to 10 times.
The plastic bottles that Mrs Meyer’s across their product range are made from HDPE plastic, making them widely recyclable, and also contain up to 70 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic. Formulas are also free of phthalates, chlorine, glycol solvents, artificial colours and animal-derived ingredients, as well as being cruelty-free.
Ecover washing-up liquid lemon and aloe vera refill, 5l
Best: For availability
Widely available in supermarkets and refill stations up and down the country, Ecover is a very well-known name in the eco-friendly cleaning product market. Launched in 1979, the brand now has a presence at more than 600 refill stations throughout the UK. Simply pop your address into their refill station locator and take your empties down to the nearest one for a top up. As well as trying out the 5l washing-up liquid refill for this piece, we’ve previously topped up empty containers with Ecover products and found the process to be simple and fuss-free. We’ve also tried a variety of the brand’s products and have been pleased with the results and subtle scents.
Along with the brand’s bio laundry, their washing up liquid is one of their most popular products. Made from plant-based and biodegradable ingredients, the formula has also been accredited by the Good Housekeeping Institute. We enjoyed the lemon and aloe vera scent, and found that it created a nice amount of bubbles and left our dishes sparklingly clean. At £11.95 for 5l of product, it’s also a budget-friendly buy.
The verdict: Refillable cleaning products
There are more and more choices now when it comes to refillable cleaning products, which is very exciting. For ease of use, performance, aesthetic and value, we really rated Neat’s range of refillable cleaners. If you’re after something a bit more premium, and love to have a spa-like scent in your home, we’d recommend Tincture’s offering. We’re also big fans of Clean Living’s extensive cleaning kit and its breadth of products to tackle all manner of home chores.
For discounts on reusables and sustainable household products, try the links below:
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