Monday, January 08, 2007

Washing balls

This month Bean-sprouts is challenging you to be green and clean by using an environmentally friendly cleaning product, or making your own. One green cleaning product I've been using for over a year now is Wash-It Balls, which I bought from Lakeland. Here's a bit of the blurb from the Lakeland site:

Scientifically formulated pellets inside the Wash-It Ball 'activate' water molecules producing electrolytic oxygen and hydrogen ions, which unleash their natural power to lift dirt from clothing fibres.

My mum first put me on to them. She used them in my parents' holiday home in Ireland because it has a soakaway, so she couldn't use her usual detergent. In my experience they do a good job of cleaning most clothes at 40degrees or less. They don't quite stand up to tough dirt (such as baby clothes with lots of food stains, or children's clothes with mud and grass stains) as well as the super-dooper powders with enzymes and what have you. So I tend to keep some stain zapping products around for those cases.

I like the fact that they leave your clothes smelling just clean, rather than full of perfume. But the best thing about them is that they're good for about 100 washes so at £7.99 each they work out very much cheaper than Persil, as well as being better for the environment (well, I'm not so sure about the plastic ball). And that leaves us with more money to pay off our mortgage and one day buy some land.


Elfie said...

Have you tried washing the clothes in just water and comparing with the performance of the balls?

Sorry, but the "scientifically-activated water" blurb bit sets off my bogon detectors. Perhaps they should have a more detailed explanation of what they actually do as well as the marketing-speak junk science explanation.

Melanie Rimmer said...

That's a good point, I'll have to try that.

I've done a little bit of googling around and the issue is complicated by the fact that there are a lot of similar sounding products around. There's one type which StraightDope definitely thinks is a scam (although they found it worked slightly better than plain water which they put down to chance, but they also performed as well as detergent which led them to think maybe you shouldn't use detergent either, just water only) but that's a sealed ball full of dyed water. I'd certainly be suspicious of that one. These contain little pellets in a grid-type ball, and the pellets gradually become smaller with many uses suggesting that something is passing into my laundry.

I will continue to look into it, including trying a few washes with just plain water for comparison.

Chief of Research McBurro said...

Hi Mel,

I've been using those balls for about a year now and love them. They really seem to work (except, as you say, on mucky stuff) but the mistress of the lab doesn't think they do a good job on the comfort front.

To combat this, I'm thinking of buying the dryer balls (currently advertised by that Lakeland-style company JML) to help persude the good lady that using either wash-balls or Ecover washing tablets with Tesco's Finest Lavender Comfort is not in the spirit of things.

Melanie Rimmer said...

You've pre-empted me, Burro, I was planning to blog about them soon. Now the dryer balls *definitely* work, they make the clothes much softer than using nothing at all, and I'm told they cut drying times but again I haven't verified this.

What they don't do is pong. If it is the pong Mrs Burro likes she may be disappointed, but personally I hate perfumey pongs unless I have personally chosen and applied them so the dryer balls are fine by me.

Mel's Dad said...

I've been using both products, in washer and drier, for two years now. With little sense of smell, I have to rely on friends and acquaintances. These balls, complete with my own spring, make me, I feel, pretty 'green'. If anyone complains about use of the dryer, they should try living on the side of a valley running east/west in Co. Limerick. We don't have seasons here, just weather.

Head Burro said...

Mel & Mel's Dad - thanks! I'll be picking some up tomorrow from Wilkinson's in town on your recommendation. If the mistress wants a pong, I was thinking of the paper sheets you put in the dryer as they can be composted or recycled afterwards :)

Mel's sister Steph said...

Head Burro, I have a suggestion. Why don't you give your wife some lovely organic essential oils as a gift, and ask her if, in exchange, she'll skip perfuming the clothes for a fortnight.
Myself, I've been rubbing olive oil onto my sore irritated legs (don't ask) instead of something from over the counter. I love olive oil. When I attended a Baby Massage class the lady let us feel olive oil, and then some 'baby oil' and the latter felt horribly gritty and awful, and 'unreal' in comparision. I've loved olive oil ever since. Shame about the airmiles though.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Hey dad, with all your weather half way up the valley you must be in a great site for a turbine! Then you don't need to feel bad about using your dryer, you can run it off your own home-generated electricity. You could be totally off-grid. I know you're not connected to mains water, sewage or gas.

elfie said...

For a full comparison, you should also try a wash using some form of "home-made" wash balls - i.e about the same size and weight - in case any difference is simply due to the action of having the balls thrown against the clothes as they go round in the machine.

Stonehead said...

I've used squash balls in the past to good effect (with no detergent), but newer balls leave black marks.

We currently use eco-balls (similar to the ones you use but looking like old-fashioned flying saucers) and they're reasonably effective - with or without the pellets!

However, we have found that some man-made fabrics start to pong after a while. Natural fibres are all fine. I say that because I have an old T-shirt and a couple of shirts that need to be washed in detergent about once every three months as they start to smell very nasty (not BO, but really gross).

Unfortunately, the labels have worn out so I don't know what the shirts are made from - but it must have been something cheap as they were corporate giveaways!

Also, whites do tend to yellow over time unless you have the opportunity to hang them in the sun for lengthy spells. Not really possible in Aberdeenshire.

We've also tried soap nuts but, while they are as effective as the eco balls, I have doubts about the merits of importing regular supplies from Asia.

I'm also looking at growing soapwort, to see how effective it is - both on its own and in conjunction with the eco-balls.

As for dryer balls, I don't and won't use them as I'm not a fan of the tumble dryer. And yes, I do know about drying washing in a cold, damp climate! We have an assortment of clothes airers and laundry maids (which hang from the ceiling), and I'm currently making another laundry maid from a Land Rover roof rack.

Hedgewizard said...

All right, all right, I'll give them a try. Mel, feel smug now. Likewise I'm not a fan of tumble driers, so a couple of years ago we invested in a pull-out line that goes the length of our Big Table Room, and haven't looked back since. We do have a drier, but it only gets used in winter to give the towels two minutes with a damp facecloth after they're dried, to soften them a bit.

Stonehead said...

I forgot to add that we use washing soda for whites and really grotty clothes. We don't use bleaches at all as we have a septic tank.

jimzjazz said...

Prior to buying wash balls (Various types) from Kleeneze (same make but cheaper than Lakeland)I checked them out on the and was concerned to read about the serious damage done to washing machines when the plastic dome split. Does anyone know about this problem?
Maybe it could be overcome by placing them in a small wash bag? so that if the do split the would be contained in the bag

jimzjazz said...

I should have pointed out that it is the ceramic crystals that seemingly do the damage by getting into the innards of the machine

jimzjazz said...

RE: 'Wash balls
Check out Kleeneze's Summer catalogue prices; £5 for one or 'buy two get three. sure beats Lakeland prices

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