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If anyone had ever suggested that I would be sitting here writing an article about a washing-up liquid I would have laughed my face off. As subject matter goes, let’s face it, it’s neither stimulating nor thought provoking but here I am nonetheless. The reason is, of course, that Fairy liquid really is a very good product. It strikes me as one of the few products that REALLY does what all the advertisements have always suggested – and in this day and age, that make’s it kind of unique as far as I’m concerned.
As you are probably aware, Fairy Liquid is made by the well-known detergent manufacturer Procter & Gamble. It seems to have been around forever. As a child, I can remember television adverts with Nanette Newman and a cast of a thousand children, lined up on enormous tables to suggest that the liquid lasted longer than any of the competition. Nearly thirty years later, the product is as popular as ever, and the adverts still keep coming – the latest face of Fairy being the television chef Ainsley Harriott who is still trying to prove that a bottle of Fairy liquid will last forever – well, nearly anyway.
We live in a strange household in that for the last year or so we have had an electric dishwasher that simply never gets used. We don’t normally make enormous amounts of washing-up, so I prefer to rinse the dishes after dinner and put everything away there and then. I also object to purchasing dishwasher detergent on top of everything else, especially as it always strikes me as being very expensive. Dishwasher fanatics will probably disagree with me, but I’ve never been able to trust dishwashers either. I’ve witnessed just how difficult it can be to get dried food out of nooks and crannies and I’m just not convinced that a machine is as effective as me and my dish mop. I don’t really see a lot of savings where time is concerned either – by the time you’ve carefully loaded the machine, run a cycle, carefully unloaded the machine and then put everything away, it just seems quicker to do the whole thing by hand. It’s more environmentally friendly too – I don’t use any electricity and I also use far less water this way, and I get an excuse to wear a pinnie.
I also firmly believe that where washing-up liquid is concerned, then you really do get what you pay for. I’ve seen the economy brands in the supermarkets and once, when everything else was out of stock, I actually purchased a bottle of Tesco Value washing-up liquid. It was an unmitigated disaster. The bottle cap clogged and became very messy and I needed three times as much of the stuff just to get a decent lather up. The foam was unable to shift anything but the most superficial dirt and the bottle probably lasted a twentieth of the time that a bottle of Fairy does. The value brands may only cost twenty or thirty pence, but they really aren’t any good. I’ve also tried various competitors’ brands including Persil, Sainsbury’s Microban and Morning Fresh. Whilst they all fared much better than the Tesco Value stuff, they still left me wanting my Fairy back. I’ve now resigned myself, therefore, to the fact that I won’t even consider buying another brand.
So what it is about Fairy liquid that is so good? Well, in summary the product simply meets up to all the claims made by the manufacturer. These are as follows:
The bottle is logically designed. The plastic is clear, so I can easily see how much I’ve got left. The contours of the bottle are such that when I hold it, I can easily control how much I squeeze out, even if I have slippery hands or the bottle is brand new. A 500-ml bottle is relatively short and fits on just about any shelf, under any sink, unlike the old slim white bottles that were just too tall. The cap is robust, opens and closes easily and most importantly, never gets covered in congealed washing-up liquid. These bottles really have a true non-drip cap. Looking at the bottle we currently have in our kitchen, the cap is virtually as clean as new, despite the fact that we are now reaching the last ten or so washes. What’s even better is that as you buy the larger sizes in the range, the design of the bottle stays the same so all the good bits about it are retained.
It has a mild formula. I’m not that big a girl that I wash up with rubber gloves on, but there have been times in the past when I have wished I had. Cheap detergents dry my skin out and sometimes cause itchiness, but that is never the case with Fairy. I’m more likely to damage my skin by having the water too hot than I am by immersing my hands in Fairy solution. This is also a great advantage if the kids like playing around with the washing up water because they, of course, probably have the mildest skin of all. The bottle contains a warning that you should avoid prolonged contact but I believe that this is more due to legality than a serious potential problem with the product.
It smells nice. I’m a bit of a traditionalist at heart, so I always buy the original green variety. The smell is distinctive, but not over powering and over the years I have grown to associate it with cleanliness. There are lots and lots of different scents available – I’ve tried the citrus ones and a sea breeze one, but I still come back to the original because it is so innocuous. I have used detergents before that if not rinsed three or four times will actually leave a smell on the washed dishes. This is not good – but it never happens with Fairy.
You only need a tiny amount to get a good lather. It has almost become a cliché but it is absolutely true. If I am washing up a few plates, some cutlery and maybe a pan or two then I can fill a bowl with water and literally squirt in half a teaspoon of Fairy liquid – maybe a little bit more. Regardless of how hard the water is, with a few swills in the running water you always get loads of bubbles. Some detergents don’t seem to lather up so well in cold water either – this is not the case with Fairy. I would estimate that a 500-ml bottle of Fairy Liquid lasts me between six and nine months. I think that is superb.
It is more effective against all food residues than any other brand. I’d stake my salary on that claim, because I am so convinced of its truth. Fairy liquid effortlessly cuts through grease, dried gravy, jam, butter, dried sauces or anything else that you could possibly find on your average dirty dishes. What’s more, it is almost as effective regardless of the temperature of the water. The heat from hot water will in itself speed up the break down of lipids but I still find Fairy hugely effective in lukewarm water. The greatest test is the washing-up from a Sunday lunch. The plates are covered in gravy and fat. There are loads of pans, as well as a dish caked in the fat from the roast potatoes. There are delicate glass dishes, wine-glasses and tableware as well as huge great saucepans and iron pots. None of this makes any difference – Fairy cleans the last item almost as effectively as the first. I’ve washed up after Sunday dinner before now with another brand and found myself running three or maybe four bowls of water just to get things clean. With Fairy I can honestly say that I only ever run one. If you wash things in the right order (glasses and cutlery first etc) then you can do the whole job on just one load.
It eliminates scrubbing. This is probably the advertising claim that is hardest to accept because we all know that dried on food can be murderous to shift. Well, Fairy liquid simply takes away all the pain. You can leave something on the side for five days (I’ve done it!) so that the food is so congealed that a pneumatic drill wouldn’t shift it. A few minutes’ soak in a bowl of Fairy and can you literally just wipe off the residue, if it hasn’t floated off itself. It really is fantastic. My least favourite residue is custard or dried mashed potato – but Fairy sorts them out effortlessly. The only claim that I am not fully convinced about is the suggestion that you don’t even need to soak things. If you don’t soak them, the Fairy does work, but you do have to take up a bit of scrubbing.
The most amazing thing about Fairy is that it is amazingly cheap, considering how effective it is. A 500-ml bottle will set you back between seventy pence and one pound, which I think is huge value for money considering how long it lasts. What’s more, it is still often on special offer as well, with deals such as three for the price of two. During the Queen’s jubilee, there were one-litre bottles with 50% free, and I’m almost amazed to say that the same bottle is still going strong in our kitchen – well, for a couple more weeks anyway. It’s no wonder that the queen uses this when she’s washing up Philip’s ashtrays – well, that’s what I reckon anyway.
This is one of those products that you just can’t fail to recommend for all the reasons outlined above. I know that it isn’t fully biodegradable but at least a little goes a long way, so I do convince myself that I’m doing a minimal amount of damage to the environment. There is one other scurrilous claim of course and that is that Fairy is cruel to children. This is shamefully true. If the kids are waiting for an empty bottle to play with then they really will have a long and arduous wait.
(P.S. Does anyone remember the whole joke from which my title was taken?)