Somewhere between laundry room and witch’s kitchen

Myths about laundry or alchemy in the household

measuring cup for laundry detergent and towels in different coloursClick to enlarge
To do laundry in an environmentally friendly way, use the proper amount of detergent.
Source: ellenmol1814 /

Whether it is wash balls, baking powder or vinegar, there are plenty of widespread myths about ‘green‘ helpers in the household. However, their benefit has seldom been proven. UBA President Maria Krautzberger recommends: “To do laundry in a way that saves resources, is environmentally friendly and low-cost, you must always fill the washing machine to capacity, use the proper amount of detergent and keep washing temperature in mind.” Some 630,000 tonnes of laundry detergent are consumed every year, in addition to around 220,000 tonnes of fabric softener. The amounts of these chemicals could be reduced mostly by washing in an environmentally friendly way and by using eco-friendly products. The UBA advises against the use of miracle cures such as wash balls, baking powder or vinegar.

Wash balls

A number of manufacturers of wash balls claim that these spheres can partly or even completely replace laundry detergent. The Institute of Agricultural Engineering of Bonn University put this claim to the test on individual products. The results were not convincing. The Institute’s ecotrophologists concluded “that none of the alternatives to laundry detergent tested produced better cleaning results than washing with pure water.“ These products can thus not be considered an alternative to laundry detergents.

Baking powder

Baking powder is said to work like a miracle on stains and to prevent greying. It is a myth which has been passed on for generations, but baking powder is nothing more than baking soda and a bit of acid phosphate or other acid. The Stiftung Warentest consumer organisation tested baking powder and concluded: “Two packets of baking powder added to the testing detergent and clothing in the washing machine did not produce a verifiable white and clean effect.” Baking powder is thus superfluous when doing laundry.

Vinegar as a substitute for fabric softener

Nobody likes hard laundry, but fabric softeners are objectionable because they pollute the environment and contain many fragrances. Vinegar is therefore often used as an alternative. The desired effect of having softer laundry can hardly be achieved with vinegar because the stiffness caused by drying and washing is not only due to limescale build-up. In fact the washing process itself roughens the surface of cotton fibres, which is something vinegar can not prevent either. If you can not do without fabric softener. try to limit its use to a few selected pieces of clothing and to use as little as possible.

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