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I have wondered about trying eco-balls for a while, but was initially put off by the cost. On talking it over with my better half, we decided that it was worth a try, so I did a search on the web for a stockist. I ended up buying my eco-balls from a site called EcoHamster! (http://www.ecohamster.co.uk)
EcoHamster sells the set of 3 eco-balls for £27.52: I decided to order their 'super saving pack' containing the Ecoballs plus a Kitchen / Bathroom Pack (2 cleaning cloths) and a Toilet Descaler (a magnetic ring that you pop into the cistern) at £34.98. I will try to review these other products at some time.
Here is some product information from the website:
"Replace traditional laundry powder in your washing machine and save money in the process.
"Ecoballs® are simple to use, effective and economical - costing around 3 pence per wash - and will care for your clothes, your washing machine and your environment. They are natural, efficient and deliver a clean, fresh, sensitive alternative to conventional washing powders.
"Their scientifically formulated filling produces ionised oxygen to penetrate powerfully into fibres, lifting away dirt without fading colours or damaging delicate fabrics. Just place the three Eco-Balls® amongst your washing and switch on your machine - they soften clothes even in hard water, so no fabric conditioner is necessary, and as they do not contain soap, you can also cut out the rinse cycle to save energy. Pack of three balls includes free refill pellets.
"These Ecoballs® are easy to use and reusable for up to 1000 washes.
"Instructions for Use: Place load in washing machine. Place all 3 Eco Balls on top of the load, together. Use stain remover provided on stains. Eco-Balls do not contain bleach, so add a natural bleach if desired. Select the desired water temprature (but DO NOT EXCEED 60C). There is no need to remove the Eco Balls® during any of the washing cycles, but do not put in the tumble dryer. Once finished washing, remove the Eco Balls and leave out to dry."
All well and good. Now for the personal opinion!
I normally wash the majority of my laundry in a 'minimum iron' wash cycle at 40C, so this is what I used for my eco-balls trial. I have not yet attempted to use them at higher temperatures.
I followed the suggestion on the pack & did not fill my machine as much as usual, to allow the ecoballs room to move. I will experiment over the next few days to see how much I can fill the machine before the eco-balls lose their effectiveness.
To my surprise, there was quite a lot of foam in the drum (was this due to detergent and/or softener left in the clothes from previous washes?), so after the wash, I set the machine to rinse & spin, wiped the remaining foam off the inside of the door, then repeated the rinse & spin.
The clothes came out looking clean, with no smells (even school shirts!), but they did not feel as soft as they did when I was using fabric conditioner. I resisted the urge to pop them back in the machine to add conditioner, in the hope that the softness will improve as the last traces of detergent wash out.
The balls were a little noisy in use due to them clonking around in the machine. This may be the magno-ball rather than the ecoballs. It might be worth putting it into an old sock to see if that reduces the noise.
Less foam this time - lots of noise from the magno-ball!
I allowed one rinse as the washing water looked very dirty. This still saved water and some electricity compared with a full cycle, as well as the cost of detergent and fabric softener. My washing machine takes about an hour for this wash and rinse, so I have to assume my eco-balls will last only 1/2 the time estimated by the manufacturers (they base their estimate on a 1/2 hour wash). It still works out quite good value: 500 washes for £27.52 = 5.5p per wash, plus the additional savings on fabric conditioner and water softener.
I'm feeling a bit more confident now, so foolishly (what was I thinking?) I included a t-shirt with some beading on it. Bad move - it came out with one of the beads broken. So now I know to wash delicate items the old-fashioned way!
The foam seems to have disappeared now, so that must have been due to detergent or fabric softener residues in the machine.
A mixed wash, including sports kit and a pair of jeans. I like being able to mix differrent types of fabrics - in this instance synthetics, polycottons and lightweight denim - now I'm no longer using fabric conditioner. The sports kit came out smelling sweet, which is great as I have found once or twice there were a few lingering pongs when using conventional detergents. The jeans needed a second wash due to having been well splashed with dirty (greasy) water from the road and pavement. This repeat wash would almost certainly have been necessary with detergent also.
Although I am very happy with the cleaning results I am getting, at this point one memnber of the family has developed chafing and irritation from an item of underwear which has previously been perfectly comfortable. Whether this has anything to do with the ecoballs remains to be seen. The offending item has now been washed by hand with a liquid detergent designed for sensitive skin - we shall see if this solves the problem. If it does, I shall have to discontinue use of the ecoballs for the family's 'smalls'!
(2 days later - the detergent wash seems to have done the trick. Back to detergent for intimate items!)
Whites this time (mostly sheets, some underwear). I'm very pleased with the results, as everything has come out looking very clean and bright. So far I have not needed to use the stain remover that came with the ecoballs.
I think I put too many items in the machine this time: everything *looks* clean, but one item came out still smelling of B.O., so that will have to be re-washed. Still, at least I know that I can wash about 80% of my usual load before the clothes are too tightly packed for the ecoballs to work properly. So they're still performing quite well, although not quite up to the manufacturer's glowing promises!
I have now been using this product for a week (I don't do laundry on Sundays!) so it's time to bring this review to a conclusion.I think eco-balls are:
Great for cottons and polycottons
No good for woollens and delicates
Less efficient at softening fabrics than a liquid fabric conditioner, although clothes do feel softer after ironing.
Possibly the cause of irritation to sensitive skin, despite the manufacturer's claim that they are fully hypoallergenic
Water saving - I think roughly 50%, as I'm running a wash plus 1 rinse instead of a wash plus 3 rinses
Electricity saving - I would estimate about 25% as most of the power goes on heating the water for the wash, but I'd be interested to hear if anyone has actually measured the electricity consumption for an ecoball wash vs a detergent wash
Reasonably 'green' - no detergents, but the balls themselves are made of plastic (probably non-biodegradable, this is not stated anywhere on the packaging)
I give eco-balls a cautious thumbs up. My disappointment may be due to living in a hard water area, so my advice would be to give them a try, and see how you get on.By the way - I will update this review when I have to top up the contents of the eco-balls: watch this space ...
Congratulations on your Diamond! l have tried an 'eco-wash ball' from Damart, years ago, but gave up due to skin irritation ~ my daughter uses some noisy (static reducing?) balls in her dryer, though
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HotBabes 22.03.2008 12:05
Interesting to read and something I might consider. Sounds like you have to re learn how to do the laundry using these.! x