Cleaning Power of Washing Balls No Better Than Plain Water - CHOICE
# 421 (November 15, 2011)
Washing balls are gaining popularity in recent years due to its
green claims. However, a Consumer Council test revealed that the
cleaning power of washing balls is no better than plain water.
The test samples included 13 powdered detergents, 10 liquid
detergents, and 3 washing balls. Liquid detergents had the highest
cost of washing, ranging from HK$0.37 to HK$5.75 per wash. Powdered
detergent and washing ball ranged from HK$0.18 to HK$2.13 and
HK$0.3 to HK$0.56 respectively.
The 3 washing ball samples were priced between HK$29 and HK$560.
One sample recommended adding suitable amount of detergent for
extremely dirty clothes, while the other two claimed to replace
detergents and no washing powder is needed.
In the test, cotton cloths with 17 types of stains were washed
with the powdered and liquid detergents, and with washing balls as
well as with plain water for comparison. Results showed that
washing balls did not perform any better than plain water in
Consumers trying washing ball might find its cleaning power
comparable initially to that of laundry detergents they normally
used. It could be due to two reasons. Firstly, the clothes might be
in fact cleaned by the washing agent left behind in the washing
machine from previous washes. Secondly, even plain water only can
perform acceptable washing if the clothes are not heavily
The weight of two washing ball samples dropped significantly
(12% and 40%) after 20 washes. The weight of one sample could not
be measured after 60 washes due to damage. That particular sample
labelled its active ingredient as nonionic surfactants, which might
be the reason for its significant weight loss.
In general, there was no significant difference in washing
performance between powdered and liquid detergents. Likewise, no
difference in stain removal ability could be found between washing
balls and plain water. Overall, powdered detergents performed
better in keeping clothing bright but caused greater discoloration
when compared with liquid detergents.
Sodium tripolyphosphate（STPP）and phosphonates
(phosphorus-containing compounds) serve as additive to soften water
in order to prevent the stain from re-depositing on the clothing.
However, wastewater containing phosphorus released to the aquatic
environment might threaten aquatic life.\
7 models of powdered and liquid detergents were found to contain
phosphorus compounds with total phosphorus content ranging from
0.03% to 10.7%. Among the 7 models, 4 powdered detergents were
found to contain STPP. 3 liquid detergents contained phosphonates,
of which 2 claimed to be non-phosphate or phosphate free. Their
total phosphorus content is still within the Mainland and Taiwan
standard for phosphate free laundry detergents.
The Council urges manufacturers to lower the phosphorus content
in laundry detergents to minimize the impact on aquatic
The Council also pointed out that the current regulation does
not require the laundry detergents listing out detailed ingredient
information. It is found that some of the samples only listed out
certain types of ingredient. Such labeling system does not offer
help to consumers with sensitive skin in choosing the suitable
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