plastic balls for washing machine, gray background

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 common 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.


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).


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.

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