Do ionic washing balls work?

If someone told you there was an affordable, reusable product that could reduce energy and water consumption, and work as an eco-friendly alternative to washing detergent, you’d probably think it’s too good to be true. And according to studies by CHOICE, you might just be right.

Laundry washing balls range from around $8 to $150, and there are extravagant claims about their cleaning power, financial and environmental benefits. There are pseudoscience claims, unsupported by research, while others exaggerate benefits. However, manufacturers rarely agree on how these washing balls work.

Some of these supposed benefits may be explained by the mechanical movement of the ball itself, helping to remove some types of stains. The instructions on washing ball packets often call for hot water, which contradicts other claims that these balls will reduce energy usage.

Washing balls supposedly contain products such as ‘activated water’, bamboo charcoal nanoparticles, ceramic pieces or magnetic materials that claim to help with washing and stain removal. Washing balls also claim to “separate clothing and reduce clothing entanglement”.

One Australian company claims that the small ceramic stones that fill their Eco Wash – Laundry Wash Ball contain around 80 natural minerals. These minerals supposedly “soften the water” and “open the fabrics weave” to allow water to naturally wash clothing without the use of chemicals or detergents. This product also claims to remove chlorine and bacteria from the water.

CHOICE reviewed a number of washing balls, comparing cost per wash, general detergency and their effectiveness at washing a number of different products out of clothing. These washing balls range from $30 to $150 dollars. The overall highest rating was a $40 dollar ecozone product that scored 46 per cent overall.  However, tap water used in a top loader was rated at 47 per cent, bringing into question the comparative effectiveness of washing balls.

In fact, Nanosmart Laundry Balls won CHOICE’s 2015 Shonky award. According to the tests, Nanosmart washing balls did absolutely nothing. CHOICE stated, “We put them up against plain old water in a test to remove a variety of stains in our washing machine lab, and Nanosmart lost! That’s right, using nothing is better than using Nanosmart laundry balls, and last time we checked ‘nothing’ was free – unlike laundry balls, which cost about $50 a pop.”

Do you own a washing ball? Would you consider using one?

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Written by Liv Gardiner


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