Sales of eco-friendly household products are plummeting as cash-strapped shoppers look to cut bills, TNS figures have revealed.

Volumes of recycled toilet roll slumped 18.2% in the 52 weeks to 6 September compared with last year, while environmentally friendly machine and handwash detergents were down 10% and eco-friendly cleaners, including aerosols, sprays, trigger bottles, creams, limescale removers and scouring powders, fell 11.3%.

Tellingly, volumes of recycled kitchen towels, which tend to be cheaper than standard kitchen towels, were up 22.9%.

"It is pretty clear that, in hard times, consumers are unwilling to pay a premium price for what they may perceive as products with less efficacy," said a TNS spokeswoman. "The exception is kitchen towels, because they are generally cheaper than non-recycled."

The data covers brands and own-label products that are specifically labelled as being eco-friendly, but excludes brands such as Ariel Excel gel, which is marketed as energy-saving rather than green.

The findings were not surprising, said Alec Thomas, operations director of Simply, a budget eco-friendly cleaning brand. "My gut feeling is that people would like to be greener, but an element of cynicism has crept in. They feel the products are sacrificing performance and charging a premium."

Asda confirmed it had noticed the trend. "Sales of branded eco products have seen a decrease year-on-year as customers look for value in their weekly shop," said a spokeswoman.

Jonathan Gabay of said the recession had made consumers question the value of green brands. "There is more cynicism around brands at the moment. The consumer may think 'I've heard through the grapevine there is no difference between the brand and the cheapest product'. That is a very serious problem."