Laundry Balls Au Naturel

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 werelaundry balls 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.

The Conclusion

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.

Water Damage and Appliances

 

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.

 

References:

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

Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 4

Link

Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 4

Washing Machine Gizmos & Gimmicks

They come in various shapes and sizes. Sometimes they look a bit like a mutant puppy toy, a grotesque baby rattle or some kind of alien chicken egg, but they are called laundry balls (washing balls or discs). They present themselves as the most economically viable and the greenest choice for your washing machine and the environment. But are they really?

How do Laundry Balls Work?

There are several types of laundry balls but two of the main features they have in Laundry Ballcommon are that they all claim be hypoallergenic as well as reusable (between 50 and 2000 loads). Depending on the style and type, there are several mechanisms by which laundry balls or discs purportedly achieve their claim to clean.

Magnets

There are reports by several manufacturers that their laundry balls “restructure” water. The laundry balls contain small magnets which are supposed to alter the size of water molecule groups/clusters which in turn allows better penetration by water into fabric fibres and consequently better elimination of dirt.

Ceramic Beads

Some laundry balls also employ the use of ceramic beads which are supposed to emit infrared rays (aka heat). These “rays” are supposedly absorbed by water molecules thereby raising the temperature of water and causing an increased rate of movement by water molecules, as well decreasing surface tension, which boosts the water’s ability to remove grime.

“Detergenterized” Pellets

Still others contain special pellets which consist of such compounds as:
♦ Sodium carbonate (aka, washing soda, used in many laundry detergents or sold separately as a laundry booster to remove oil and grease).
♦ Calcium carbonate (similar to baking soda, also used as a laundry booster and as a “green” cleaning option).
♦ Sodium metasilicate (used in laundry detergents as a bleaching agent and in industrial applications).
♦ Non-ionic surfactant (a surfactant reduces the surface tension of water allowing detergent to penetrate fabric fibres more effectively to remove soil).
♦ Higher alkyl sulfate (a product which acts as a surfactant and also functions as a as an agent used to help disperse active ingredients).

Hyper-agitation

Another classification of laundry ball depends on the mechanical action of your washing machine for its cleaning ability. This extra agitation produced by having a solid object in the washing machine sloshing around is supposed to allow for a significant reduction in laundry detergent or requires a small amount of specially designated detergent supplied exclusively by the manufacturer of the laundry ball.

Whatever your experience with laundry balls, positive, negative, or somewhere in between, we are interested in hearing from you.

Water Damage and Appliances

 

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.

References:

Smartklean http://www.smartkleancanada.com/

Applied Environmental Microbiology, Vol 68, January 2002 – “Novel Alkylsulfatases Required for Biodegradation of the Branched Primary Alkyl Sulfate Surfactant 2-Butyloctyl Sulfate

Tekno Scienze Publisher, Household & Personal Care Today, Vol 7(4) October/December 2013

Review of Toxicological Literature, 2002 – “Sodium Metasilicate, Anhydrous [6834-92-0], Sodium Metasilicate Pentahydrate [10213-79-3], and Sodium Metasilicate Nonahydrate [13517-24-3]

Smartklean

The Straight Dope, “Do Laundry Balls Really Work”, July 1995

Wikipedia, “Laundry Ball