Doing Laundry Au Naturel – part 5
Laundry Balls – Are You Being Taken to the Cleaners?
Part 4 of this series “Doing Laundry Au Naturel” focused on several types of laundry balls on the market and how they are supposed to work. And indeed they do work – “kinda”, “sorta” by virtue of the fact that laundry balls are used in conjunction with water – and water in and of itself cleans clothes. However, it would appear that the scientific claims made by manufacturers of laundry balls as to why their product works may be pseudoscientific at best. The most interesting study I came across came out of the National Institute for Consumer Research in Oslo, Norway. The study, as reported by Kirsili Laitala, compared the efficacy of laundry balls, magnetic laundry “thingies”, “soap nuts”, washing pellets, standard detergent and plain water. Cotton test strips were stained with blood, cocoa, red wine, carbon/black mineral oil and something called artificial soil. The test strips were washed with domestic washing machines under laboratory conditions and the cleaning effect was measured using a spectrophotometer – specialized equipment to evaluate light reflectance. The study concluded that all of the laundry gizmos performed about the same as water alone, but the sample washed with detergent showed a marked improvement in cleanliness.
Empirical evidence aside, some consumers swear by their laundry balls. There are some theories as to why this may be. Many laundry ball manufacturers suggest the use of a stain remover; this would greatly enhance the laundering process – laundry ball or not. Clothing often contains residual detergent which would continue to be released for several washings thereby aiding in cleaning. The mechanical action alone of laundry balls in a washing machine increases the ability of water to remove soil from garments. And let’s not discount pride and the placebo effect. If one has spent 50 to 200 dollars on a laundry gizmo, there is a compelling desire to see said gizmo work.
If you want to make an environmentally, as well as economically responsible decision when it comes to doing laundry, I think your money is better spent on a good quality laundry detergent. (As I mentioned in Part 3 of “Doing Laundry Au Naturel”, my choice would be a laundry detergent such as Persil, a high quality German detergent that has been used in Europe for years. Available in both liquid and powder, Persil is an excellent choice for high efficiency top loaders and front loaders as well. You can call our parts line at 1-800-941-4755 as Gord’s Appliance does carry the product or you can search Mr. Google for suppliers in your area).
If you want to get the best of both worlds, along with using a high quality laundry detergent, maybe you could save some money and try buying a couple of puppy toys at the dollar store and tossing those into your washing machine for good measure.
Whatever your experience with laundry balls, positive, negative, or somewhere in between, we are interested in hearing from you.
Gord Haines is a journeyman appliance technician with over 25 years of experience. Contact Gord’s Appliance for repair and servicing of all your residential appliances.
The Straight Dope, “Do Laundry Balls Really Work”, July 1995
Tekno Scienze Publisher, Household & Personal Care Today, Vol 7(4) October/December 2013 “Cleaning Effect of Alternative Laundry Products: A Comparison of Soap Nuts, Laundry Balls, Washing Pellets, Laundry Magnets, Water and Regular Detergent”
Wikipedia, “Laundry Ball”