Networx

Posted by Caryn Colgan | Sep 01, 2009

Laundry Balls

Are they eco-friendly, cheap alternatives to detergents?

Sincere consumers looking for environmentally friendly cleanings solutions may be tempted by the hype around products called laundry balls, wash balls, or laundry disks. The long list of benefits is tempting and includes:

•  Biodegradable, eco-friendly

•  Won't damage your clothes

•  Hypoallergenic

•  Antibacterial

•  Leaves clothes smelling fresh

•  Softens your fabric without harmful chemicals

•  Saves hundreds of dollars in detergent costs

   every year

                                                                                                •  Removes dirt and stains without detergents

These products retail from $15.93 at ecowasherballs.com (including shipping), to more than $50 at lifenatural.com . Those that offer an explanation for how they work tout mineral oxides, ceramics, or magnetic properties that ionize the water or possess other almost magical cleaning abilities. The trouble is that none of the manufacturer's materials provide any hard scientific evidence of their product's effectiveness. These products may be a case of "if it sounds too good to be true it is."

Although testimonials pepper the Internet, it is difficult to tell if they are based on real results or hype generated by multilevel marketing (MLM) distributors trying to sell products.

The exception to this appears to be Ecoballs™ . With a long list of glowing testimonials, the only complaints appear to be occasional breakage of the dispenser and cumbersome replacement of the pellets. They are not sold through an MLM and therefore, the reviewers would seem to have little motivation to falsely plug the product.

How do they work? They purportedly increase the degree of alkalinity in the water "which kills bacteria. Inside each Ecoball™ are mineral oxides that release positive ions and oxygen that attack dirt and stains on contact."

Effective Laundry Detergent Solutions

According to Consumer Reports , the laundry balls they tested cleaned no better than water. The most efficient laundry detergents are Seventh Generation and Costco's Kirkland Signature . Not only is it efficient, Seventh Generation laundry detergent is non-toxic, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, free of phosphates and optical brighteners, safe for septic & grey water systems and it has not been tested on animals and is Kosher-certified. A 50 ounce container costs around $12. Unlike Seventh Generation, the Kirkland product does not make any "green" claims. A 28 pound tub costs around $16 for a Costco member.

Homemade Soap

EcoFriendlyDaily.com published a recipe from the Green Knitter for environmentally conscious consumers to make their own "green" soap.

Ingredients:

1 bar of soap (cruelty-free, all natural, not antibacterial)

1/2 cup of borax

1/2 cup of baking soda

Tools:

Grater

Re-sealable container

Directions:

1. Grate bar of soap into container.

2. Pour in borax and baking soda.

3. Mix well.

Use 1 tbsp. for small or lightly soiled loads and 2 tbsp. for large or heavily soiled loads.

Regardless of which option you choose, there are still ways to be eco-friendly while doing the wash. Do fewer loads, hang the laundry on a clothesline to dry, and if you use detergent, use only a small amount. For the small investment, the Eco-balls may be worth a try; especially if they really are biodegradable, hypoallergenic, and residue free.

Photo credit: Eco Balls

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