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Eco / Wash Balls?

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There are quite a few 'wash-ball' type products on the market thesedays, all of which go in with the wash:

* Magnetic wash-ball, German I think, I recently got one from Sainsburys (£3.99), supposed to reduce lime-scale build up and (I think) the amount of detergent you need to put in.

* Eco-balls, cost about £35 for three, supposed to eliminate need for detergents and conditioner for the main wash altogether (by introducing ionised oxygen into the wash to lift dirt). One set supposed to last 1000 washes, from what I've seen on the web some people seem to like them though one person said they had one break and the pellets clogged his m/c...

* Wash balls, seen them on a shopping channel, I think these are a set of heavy-ish ball that work by bashing the clothes in the machine to help out the wash (so you need less powder)

* Also lint-collection balls

If you have any helpful thoughts on these products please share, I'm all for reducing the amount of detergent and conditioner I need to use [though I don't have a Meile that will light up when there is too much powder]. I can see that they might work to some extent, but how good are they and are they worth the money, or will they just kill the washer before it's time?


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Good question Skeggy.

In these eco-obsessed days (and I use the phrase descriptively not disparagingly) there’s a real eagerness to use environmentally friendly washing machine detergents. Add to that the promised financial savings and you’ve got a winning product. I suspect the reason they haven’t taken off, and become extremely popular, is that most people have a healthy scepticism for the claims, which seem too good to be true. We all know the saying, “if it seems too good to be true – it probably is”.

My current opinion (shared by many other engineers I know) is that they are not a proven or logical replacement for proper washing machine detergent. They may under certain conditions appear to clean some laundry, but then so does bashing laundry against rocks in a running stream in the jungle. Constant use of them (in place of proper detergents) may cause a build up of grease and gunge inside the washing machine which can ultimately undo all the savings by shortening the life of the washing machine or causing extra repairs.

I have no direct evidence that these products don’t work, or conversely that they do. There seems to be a plethora of anecdotal evidence on both sides of the argument. I've seen quotes from people saying they do work, and as many or more saying they tried them and they don't work. You don't get such conflicting opinions from people about conventional washing machine detergents. You don't get some saying it cleans their clothes and lots of others saying it doesn't. One engineer I know visited a customer who had been using anti limescale balls in her washing machine for years. He said the heating element was so caked in limescale he could hardly get it out. However, this is again, is just anecdotal evidence.

Removing dirt, grease and stains from laundry (inside a washing machine) requires agitation and heat combined with a detergent and water. Washing machine detergent is far more complex and technically developed than most people realise. It needs to not only remove all stains, grease and dirt, but to soften the water and protect the washing machine inside. During the wash, dirt and stains are lifted out of the laundry, the detergent needs to hold this dirt in the water and not allow it to redeposit on the laundry. Eco balls may be able to cause some dirt to be removed, aided by the heated water and physical rubbing, but can it hold this dirt in the water and not redeposit any back on the laundry? The dirt and grease also needs to be kept from depositing inside the tub and inside the hoses of the washing machine. If not, laundry can appear to be acceptably cleaned, but over the years, a destructive build up of slime and gunge can seriously affect a washing machine inside. Then finally, bacteria needs to be killed and prevented from multiplying, this is achieved by bleaches in detergent. Black mold and its spores can otherwise colonise a washing machine.

As always, I try to retain an open mind. I'll be researching this, and washing machine detergents in great detail shortly.

( Related: See an example of slime and gunge inside a washing machine and black mould prevention tips )

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Thanks for your thoughts. On the web, reports on the Eco-Balls indeed seem mixed, making it difficult to comitt to the £35. My best guess is that they might be OK some of the time, for less 'dirty'washes. If so an option might be to use these 'most' of the time, but wash with detergent 'some' of the time, which might also help prevent the washer gunging up? (I hope I've used the correct technical term!).

I hope we have better luck with the magnetic ball! - only time will tell. I've donated this to relatives who have just bought a brand new m/c (indesit W143 I think) so if they remember to use it regularly this will eventually be a good test as their water is hard. Failing that there are always additives like Borax.

The 'wash balls' set (were on QVC about £20?) sound like they might help the wash by bashing it, so at least reduce on detergent, so long as they're not so heavy as to bash the m/c!. I can't help wonder what these sound like in the wash?.

Look forward to the results of your research in due course... if I find anything else out will add to this topic.


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BTW I just looked and I couldn't see the wash-ball set that bashes washing clean, if there are still available I don't know where. As an experiment I might try throwing some golf balls or something into my next wash. The Eco balls and magnetic balls are still around though.


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ok my personal take on wash balls. I have tried two varieties. first the one which is available from qvc and lakeland for average wash fine until you have very small children who have accidents.then it just doesn't cut it . Same again with the wash balls that cost 30 to40 pounds, that last a 1000 washes based on half an hour wash cycle which they don't tell you on the website. Also afriend of mine gave me clothes for my daughter to wear she is a smoker it took two cycles and an allday drying outside to rid the smell and sometimes a shirt that been seated on to the max needs a little help too.So the moral of the story if you are a smoker sweat and have continent children or parents wash balls are probably not the best choice if you neither then yes go for it save on water and electricityetc. i have heard you can add borax but only seem to see on associated website.to answer the problem of possibly blocking your machine with grime I highly recommend white vinegar the sort you find for 65 pence 500ml once a month not only you cutting through grease you get rid of limescale at the same time also useful in dishwashers too

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  • 2 weeks later...

Seen that Lakeland sell 'Dolly Balls' for <£14, you still add detergent but you're supposed to get away with using less ('up to 75% less') to get same result. These are quite different from the 'Eco Balls'...

The Eco-Balls people also suggest adding bleach when washing whites, and maybe a fragrance to the wash. I might still be tempted to get some on the premise they might (hopefully!) be OK for some of the washing though perhaps not all cases. And I'll get some white vinegar too.


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