The Best Laundry Detergent for a Lower Cost Laundry Day

washballa laundryball or washball


Which is the best laundry detergent for the environment and a green lifestyle and is also the best for your pocket?


A laundry ball! (Except that, of course it isn't really a detergent at all... but it does the same job.)

Here are some easy ways to slash your laundry bills, and be a bit greener. This page looks at some of the best eco laundry options for an inexpensive and effective home laundry day, starting with wash balls or laundry balls, as they are sometimes called.


Washballs, laundry balls, eco-balls

Could this be the best laundry detergent?

Washballs, laundry balls or eco-balls are small plastic containers that you put in the drum of the washing machine. They are about the size of a tennis ball.

They wash your clothes by ionising the water.

Inside they are filled with small clay balls - which do gradually wear away and need replacing but...the good news is that they last for months before this happens, so you just use the same ball over and over again.

You save on detergent because the laundry ball simply replaces it. For most washes you can just use a washball, keeping your detergent for really stubborn stuff.

Less fabric softener needed

You don't really need so much fabric softener either because the resulting wash is far less harsh. The clothes are not heavily scented with artificial fragrances and there are no harmful effects upon skin as they contain no complex chemicals.

Clothes last longer, too and the colours don't fade so much.

Best of all, there's no need to worry about the environmental impact of your need for clean clothes. For my money, that makes washballs the best laundry detergent!

See here for more on washballs.

Do you still need detergent?

Colourful pegs - though perhaps not so eco-friendly!

Wooden ones generally last longer and are bio-degradable - though many may be imported from the other side of the world.

Yes, it may be necessary for items which are heavily soiled, especially with grease. I reckon that my spending on detergent is about 1/10th of what it was before I started using laundryballs.

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Why is it good to cut down on detergent?

There are many environmental costs to our detergent use. From an environmental standpoint the best laundry detergent is no laundry detergent.

Just one recent finding is that modern detergent formulations often include nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). Many water treatment plants aren’t equipped to remove them and there is more than a whiff of suspicion that they are causing feminine characteristics in fish!

Many detergents also contain fragrances which are environmentally damaging.

Most detergents contain phosphates which cause algae to reproduce artificially fast in waterways. These "algal blooms" suffocate other living organisms. Phosphate-free detergents are not problem-free either, as other chemicals such as surfactants have to be increased to compensate - and these too need removing at the sewage plant.

Environmentally less-damaging detergents

While the best laundry detergent may well be none at all, we still need to wash our clothes effectively and washballs will not cover it all. So what are the best options?

A good quality, environmentally-friendly detergent such as Ecover or Earth Friendly's liquid detergent will deal with the stubborn stuff. The Magnolia and Lily detergent from Earth Friendly products has received rave reviews. I've not tried it.

You can also use washing soda as a pre-wash to cut through grease.

Washing soda is a fantastic natural mineral product which can be used to soak clothes and to make detergent go further. You can just add a tablespoonful to the wash along with the detergent. It softens the water and helps deal with grease and keeps the drum smelling fresh.

The British Co-op now sells a very effective and relatively inexpensive eco washing powder. Bio-D is also worth trying. Many of the big supermarkets have eco-friendly washing powders and liquids on sale. These can be of variable quality

Some of the best laundry detergents such as most of those mentioned above are actually very effective as well as being genuinely less of a strain on the environment.

See here for more on washing soda.

Best Laundry Detergent and Other Money-Saving Laundry Tips:
About Soap Nuts

Another alternative to conventional detergents that you might want to consider is soap nuts. Soap nuts are natural nuts which have a soapy effect when crushed. They come from trees which grow in India and Nepal. They have a pleasant, mild natural scent.

They are quite easy to use. You put a few into a small bag (usually provided) and put them into the washing machine drum. They can be re-used several times.

Soap nuts are quite an economical and environmentally friendly way of washing things. I have found them to be very effective and trouble-free so far - well at least until someone threw away the bag!

You do need a proper bag for them as they are rather bitty and could otherwise get into parts of the drum where they should not be.

Some people prefer them to washballs as there is a little visible lather to prove that something is going on. I'm still more of a fan of washballs as they are so hassle free!

If you aren't convinced by washballs, give soap nuts a try. You can even buy them as an extract which cuts out the trouble of the putting them in bags. This way they are just like using conventional liquid detergent - without the chemicals. NaturOli Soap Nuts, for example, do as many as 100 wash loads. This soap nuts liquid laundry detergent concentrate is suitable for HE or standard washers and it has won green awards.

For more on soap nuts see here

Best Laundry Detergent and Other Money-Saving Laundry Tips:
Ways to cut your electricity use for laundry

Cut down your electricity bill by using the drier far less.

How? Here are a few ways to save.

  • Spin, mangle or wring first to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Avoid drying heavy items such as towels if possible by drying them outside or on a rack or drier inside.
  • Dry only the items you need fairly quickly. It is generally not more economical to fill the drum, especially if you can let some of the wash load air dry.
  • Use the timer on your machine carefully so that you don't spend time and money heating up dry clothes!
  • Remove items from the drier before they are bone dry and let them air.
  • Use a drier ball which speeds the drying process by absorbing moisture. These are becoming more widely available. In Britain they are available from Lakeland Plastics. They cut your drying time by about 1/5th or more, so they are well worth using.
  • Use fresh air to dry most of your clothes! See the Laundry Tips page below for more details.

Best Laundry Detergent and Other Money-Saving Laundry Tips
More ways to save on laundry costs

Some other washday tips

  • Pre-soak any dirty items in washing soda (sal soda) and use a good stain remover for any trouble spots. Ecover's is good - check out the product reviews in "Green Clean" - link below.
  • Fill the drum of your washing machine each time but don't stuff it - you may cause undue wear and tear.
  • Use low temperature and speed washes for the majority of items. I find that most items are fine with this. Save the hot washes and complex programmes for the really dirty stuff. If anyone has an infection in your house it may be advisable to use hot washes to prevent transmission. In normal conditions, low temperature washes (40 degrees or even 30) are perfectly ok.
  • If you use a washball or laundryball you probably can dispense with fabric conditioner, or use a lot less.
  • Ironing is still a fairly slow, time consuming process. Many items, particularly cottons, can be folded and put away neatly. When they are taken out to be worn, the fact that they have not been ironed is fairly hard to detect. This is especially true if you use a laundryball and you dry your clothes in the shade or a place away from artificial heat. It won't work for everything, though, as some clothes are more prone to crinkling... and some family members are more fastidious than others! Just make sure that clothes are well aired before you put them away.


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On other pages

Here are some other related pages that might interest you:

More Details on Washballs

More on Washing Soda

More Laundry Tips

Safe Chemical Cleaners

Cleaning with Vinegar

Homemade Detergent

homemade laundry detergent



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