Review: Eco-washball



Eco-washball reviews 

We hand-picked  four grubby GIYers from the washing basket to review to eco-washball (RRP $37.95) a round plastic laundry-ball filled with 3 types of ceramic pellets. You throw it into the washing machine along with your clothes and ½ the detergent you’d normally use (or no detergent at all). I’d send you onto a link but the eco-washball site is currently down. As to the science in it, and what those little ceramic pellets might be doing, I’ve got a chemist onto it and the results will be posted here soon.
Our reviewers ran it through it’s paces and here’s what they thought.
Reviewer 1: Matt (city bloke, share-house)
The Eco-washball – looks and sounds like a kids toy, but cleans your clothes!
I’d heard about this funny detergent-less washing ball thing some time ago and couldn’t quite get my head around it. Now I’ve been using it for a few months and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty good.
The thing that most appealed to me about the eco-washball was the environmentally friendly aspect of not using chemicals. Of course the first question I had though was “does it actually clean your stuff?” Fortunately, the answer is “yes” it does.
How does it work?
Technically, I have no idea how this thing works, but luckily, all you need to do to make it work is put it in with your wash. I live with three other adults and we’ve all been using it slightly differently, and it has been working consistently for all of us.
How well does it work?
Like the TV ad for Vanish says, there’s nothing more annoying than pulling your dry clothes in off the line only to discover there’s a stain on the front of your otherwise clean shirt… I wish I could say that the eco-ball removes these stains in the regular wash, but it doesn’t. You’ll still have to use pre-wash stain remover or whatever you use to get rid of those pesky stains. Having said that, for a regular wash, the ball cleans the full load just fine without having to use any detergent.
We’ve tried washing with:
  • -       just the ball
  • -       the ball plus a little detergent
  • -       the ball plus full detergent, and
  • -       the ball plus pre-wash stain remover.
Each time the laundry comes out pretty much the same - clean.
The washball hasn’t changed our lives, but I think the point is that it has reduced our impact on the environment without us having to make a big change. And we haven’t had to buy laundry detergent since we started using the washball six months ago! I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to be a bit greener.
Reviewer 2 : Alice( two girls under three so their washing machine gets a fair workout.)
I have been using the Eco Wash Ball for about six weeks.
Each week I wash towels, sheets, permanent press loads (sheets and shirts), and regular clothing loads.  I see many and varied stains, mostly the result of inaccurate spoon feeding and a rather random colouring-in technique with crayons and textas.  I consider myself to be reasonably eco-conscious.  We recycle, have a worm farm, limit our heating and electricity consumption, and use the tumble drier only when we desperately need “Bunny” dry for our daughter’s next sleep time.
About six or seven months ago, I hit on making our own washing detergent for our top-loader and have been using this ever since.  The results have been pleasing.  We now only use a small fraction of the detergent we used to tip in the machine (about two teaspoons for a full load) and the clothes come out clean and fresh without any chemically enhanced floral smell or powdery residue.  It is also much cheaper, although grating the cakes of soap does involve an evening watching TV while soap flakes build up around me like snow and my knuckles get ever smaller.
Let’s face it, apart from the stains that we see when we put the clothes into the machine, our washing is not really that dirty.  Some water, homemade detergent and the agitation of the washing machine does the job.
I have also been using vinegar in the rinse water for a few years.  I tried it out after getting tired of buying expensive fabric softener and not being able to use the grey water on the garden.  I’m not sure that the vinegar rinse water should go on the garden, but I did notice a huge impact on our budget as well as an improvement on the softness of our clothes.  No more stiff socks and scratchy towels!  Oh, and no it doesn’t make the washing smell of a chip shop.
For the stains I want to get out, I use eucalyptus oil.  The brand I buy absolutely raves about itself on the packaging, but to be honest I have found that it works on almost anything, so I have started to rave myself.  And as a bonus, the oil adds a lovely scent to the washing which is fresh and not overpowering (hmm, I am starting to sound like a commercial now).
OK, so I wanted you to understand my background and that I was pretty pleased with my eco-credentials and washing status before I tried the Eco Wash Ball.  Now to the product itself.  I was super-excited when it arrived in the mail and on opening it I found some cool eco-packaging (recycled cardboard, of course) and inside a green plastic ball with funky design.  Actually, it looks a bit like the Death Star collided with the forest moon of Endor (you know, where the ewoks live).  Either that, or it’s an alien pod which will open up after being washing 1,000 times and reveal a martian programmed to infiltrate our home.
I have put it in every wash load since it arrived.  For a top-loader it recommends putting it on top of the washing so that the drum doesn’t get damaged (a slightly worrying thought).  This brought to mind images of Indian ladies thrashing washing against the rocks, which started me thinking that might be how this gadget works.  Some extra assistance in the agitation process.
The marketing spin tells me that it will use less detergent, but unfortunately I don’t qualify as I started using less when I switched to my homemade detergent.  So no saving there.  It also tells me that it will clean as efficiently as a traditional quantity of detergent, but given that I was happily washing with less detergent and no Eco Wash Ball previously, this claim also passes me by.  I was hoping that my washing might come out even better, but to be completely honest I have not noticed any discernible difference at all.
Given that the main (and from what I can tell only) idea behind the Eco Wash Ball is that it washes clothes just as well but with less detergent, I find myself wondering if anyone has tested simply washing with less detergent?  Are we being conned by the detergent manufacturers to use too much detergent in our machines?  With the nature of marketing the way it is (“rinse and repeat” comes to mind) I wouldn’t be surprised if many people are pouring far more detergent into their machines than needed.
Would I buy the Eco Wash Ball?  Well, I won’t buy one when this one gives up on me (apparently after 1,000 washes, but who counts how many loads they do?*).  But I still use it, because something in me feels that it might be better to err on the side of caution and throw it in the machine rather than give up on it.  The little eco-warrior in me feels like I have struck a victory for the environment, even though I can’t see how.  And the mum in me feels like I’m doing the right thing by my children, even though there’s no logic to it…but then that’s exactly how the marketing gets you in, isn’t it?!
*It has a two-year guarantee, so perhaps this is a better gauge of how long it will last.
Reviewer 3: Penny (front loading washing machine gets lots of ‘sheepy’ farm clothes as well as the regular wash)
Wash ball does a great job – we have only ever used the recommended amount of detergent and the washing is great. This has cut our powder use by about ½.
We use a frontloader on cold water most of the time. It is changed to 30 degrees for greasy shearing shed work clothes and also woollen “hand-wash” cycle.
The only thing is I don’t know if I would have ever purchased the wash-ball to cut down on my powder use.
Also, I have tried to compare loads to see if it actually washed the clothes better, and that is v difficult. It certainly washes the clothes (overall) just as well as before and with ½ the detergent.
It will continue its little life in my washing machine – we love it!
Reviewer 4: Bernie(no nappies or frightfully filthy laundry but …)
I've used the eco-washball regularly for a few months and I can't say I've noticed a drop in the quality of washing. But because I only ever use half the recommended amount of detergent I wasn't using that much less than usual. I don't have nappies or footy clothes to contend with, so better check with a soccer mum or dad for the heavy duty stuff! Be interested to know what (if anything) the ceramic is doing!