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Cleaning effect of alternative laundry products – A comparison of soap nuts, laundry balls, washing pellets, laundry magnets, water and regular detergent


National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO)
PO Box 4682 Nydalen, NO-0405 Oslo, Norway
*Corresponding author


The cleaning effect of soap nuts, laundry balls, washing pellets and laundry magnets has been tested and compared with washing with conventional compact powder detergent for coloured textiles, and washing with water only. The cleaning effect was evaluated by measuring the tristimulus Y reflection values of pre-soiled fabric strips after they were washed according to standard EN 60456 at 40 C. The results showed that the cleaning effect of the four alternative laundry products was equal to that of water alone. Conventional compact detergent showed significantly better cleaning effect at all tested soil types. However, the results also indicate that water alone already has a substantial cleaning effect.

Washing of textiles has major environmental impacts as energy, water and different chemicals are used. Several Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies demonstrate that use phase of detergents, washing machines as well as clothing dominate the environmental contribution (1-4). Therefore, any improvements in the laundry process such as reducing washing temperature, filling the washing machine to its full capacity, correct detergent dosing, less frequent washing and avoiding tumble drying can reduce the environmental effects of laundering (5). Compact detergents are environmentally preferable compared to the traditional detergents due to lower use of chemicals as well as advantages in transportation, packaging and storage needs (6). The benefits include reductions in aquatic toxicity, eutrophication, ozone depletion and photochemical smog (1). The detergent industry is also working to increase sustainability by using less harmful chemicals and more bio-based, readily degradable ingredients (7). New alternatives to conventional laundry detergents have merged into the market, including soap nuts, laundry balls and laundry magnets, to mention some. Th ...

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