Adrianne Jeffries

IS IT GREEN?: The Laundry Ball

by , 04/30/11

greenwashball, eco friendly laundry, laundry ball, detergent free laundry, greenwashing, green laundry product, soap free detergent

The GreenWashBall is a device that you toss into the washing machine to clean your dirty laundry in place of detergent. An innovative concept, but not the first of its kind – “laundry balls” like the GreenWashBall are abundant, including the Miracle II Ball, the Laundry Solution ball, and the Mystic Wonder Laundry Ball. They are supposedly popular in Europe and the laundry ball industry is hoping to gain popularity in the U.S. Completely cutting the use of detergent is enticing from both ecological and economic standpoints, but how exactly does the GreenWashBall work, and can it up to its claims?

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Laundry balls seem to inspire skepticism. I speculate that this is for two reasons. One, they tend to be sold through direct marketing, like catalogs, and multi-level marketing schemes where sellers recruit buyers and other sellers — both mediums lend themselves to rackets. Two, the explanation of the technology involves some fuzzy chemistry involving everything from magnets to “far infrared rays.”

This company could not have picked a worse name for a product that Consumer Reports decreed ineffective and Wikipedia desribes as “pseudoscientific” and a “scam.” The GreenWashBall ($39.99) is filled with “antibacterial ceramics” that emit OH- ions, or hydroxides, and O2- ions, or dioxides, according to Michael Bitton of the GreenWashBall Team. The OH- ions have “strong sterilization capability” and the O2- ions have the “capability of decomposing organizing matters and deodorizing scents by being attached to oxidation reacting intermediates.” Both ions “destroy cell membranes of bacteria.”

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Does any of that make sense? The Straight Dope wrote a piece about laundry balls, saying that that metal elements in the ceramics could produce ionized oxygen, like peroxide, but probably not enough of it to clean your clothes. Hydroxides could be created in the same way, although not in large quantities. These ions could lower the water’s pH, the the same effect produced by lye soap and sodium hydroxide.

So at least the science isn’t entirely baseless. But it is weird. The pamphlet that comes with the GreenWashBall says that the ball can keep food fresh if placed in the refrigerator. The reason is that the ball’s ceramic material has antibacterial properties that “purifies harmful substances, enriches taste and flavor, and suppresses viruses from spreading.”

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I used the GreenWashBall and found that the effects were like washing my clothes with just water and no detergent (which I have done multiple times due to forgetfulness or lack of detergent). The dirt that was visible before washing was still visible and the armpits still faintly smelled like BO.

The company says there have been tests done on the GreenWashBall but did not have the results readily available.

Is it green?

Bitton says, “The GreenWashBall is made of natural ceramics and non-toxic plastics and pigments which is non-toxic for human and nature. The non-detergent ball does not release harmful and toxic chemicals back into the environment unlike detergent. Compared to a normal washing process, GreenWashBall reduces risks of allergic reactions linked to the use of detergent, eliminates germs and contributes to well-being, saves money and helps protect the environment. Also, one GreenWashBall equals 100 pounds of laundry detergent.”

I am not sure how to convert pounds into a unit of volume, but if you use this product for the recommended three years instead of laundry detergent, you will save yourself a lot of detergent and a lot of soap down the drain. The ball is reusable, but none of the components are recycled or recyclable. It comes from Korea, which means damage is done to the environment during transportation.

Sham or no, the makers of the product obviously have no commitment to the environment beyond invoking it as a sales strategy, I would say its claim to be “eco-friendly” is just like its name: greenwash.

+ GreenWashBall

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25 Comments

  1. donnamac03 December 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Not sure what you did wrong to end up with that result. I use another brand but my clothes are definately clean compared to just water, smell fresh,and it has saved me a fortune. I do agree that mine dont get rid of heavy sweat stains and I need soap to get rid of that smell. Otherwise wouldn’t change back to overly expensive laundry soap in this lifetime.

  2. mikat October 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    When I re-typed my former comments/questions, due to your website deleting them just bec my user name was already taken, I left out an important part of understanding what I was asking.

    The greenwash ball was $7.95 on Amazon, sold thru Lily’s Home, shipped thru Amazon. Essentially it is only $8 versus $25 at Drugstore. That is why I asked the questions that I did, so please add this to my previous comment.

    Also, this comment had been deleted when I wrote it and then signed in, so I had to do this one twice too.

  3. mikat October 13, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    I made a mistake the second time i wrote my comments/questions about the greenwash ball…I meant to say that on Amazon, sold thru Lily’s Home, but thru Amazon, it is only $7.95 (down from list price $22.44…yes, $22.44)…how can it be so much cheaper than it is at drugstore where it is $25 down from $30?

  4. mikat October 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    This will be the 2nd time I am writing this…just bec someone had my user name my entire comments were erased…Does anything make any sense any more?

    I saw the green wash ball online at drugstore for $25 down from $30. I also saw it on Amazon, sold by Lily’s Home but sold thru Amazon. If I purchase $25 worth of items, I get free shipping (free super saver shipping). How can it be so cheap in cost on Amazon? Is it too good to be true? Has anyone else purchased these there? Is there only one green wash ball company? Do they make only one type of green wash ball? Is there a website and contact number so that I can find out if Lily’s Home is legit?

  5. cbriedis August 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    My family has been using the Green Wash Laundry Ball for a month now. It was purchased through Amazon. I was very very skeptical but at only $9.95 and free shipping it wasn’t much of a risk. I have been inspecting (including sniffing) the laundry and I can’t see any difference between using it and detergent, except the lack of added fragrance. I tried comparing it to a load washed with no detergent–the no detergent load appeared as clean as the laundry ball load, but it still smelled. It isn’t a miracle on stains, but I am wearing a top right now that has a stain that I previously pretreated and did not come out. It seems to be significantly lighter after being washed several times with the laundry ball. I have to give this product two thumbs-up.

  6. A.J. July 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I have used this laundry ball for over a year, even on the dog’s laundry, and it works. I live in Los Angeles, where the water is horrible. (I would like to find something to de-chlorinate the washing machine, though, as I often get chlorine smells depending on the water treatment from the city. This has nothing to do with the lack of detergent: when the neighbors water their yard, my yard smells like chlorine…) I had tried a more expensive laundry ball first and it required a little detergent to get the clothes smelling nice (It also doesn’t work with hot water, which I was never informed of, ruining the ball.) I don’t have to supplement loads with detergent like I did with the other ball. I highly recommend this product, and Amazon has very reasonable prices.

  7. REMI January 22, 2011 at 9:29 am

    THE VERY DAY I SAW THIS DETERGENT ADVERTISE ON DSTV, VE WISH TO START USING IT, BUT THERE ARE NO PLACE TO PURCHASE IT IN MY COUNTRY, PLEASE AM RECOMENDING NIGERIA AS A VERY GOOD PLACE TO MARKET YOUR PRODUCT AND MAKE A GOOD SALES, OR IF THERE IS A NEED TO COME DOWN AND ESTERBLISH, IT WILL BE GREAT.In case YOU WILL NEED MY ASSISTANCE, THIS MY PHONE NUMBER +2348035428563 or remiobayemi@yahoo.com, ro91035@gmail.com .

  8. Miles G. Madayag January 6, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Where can we buy the Greenwashball.can we buy it online? I’m from Philippines.

  9. zyd623 September 7, 2010 at 12:15 am

    We are a private company located in NingBo China, specialize in finished eco-friendly washing balls for the Middle eastern and europe market.
    We can supply many kinds of wanshing ball(some are unique design) for you ,if you need any details please contact MSN:zyd623@hotmail.com,or send email to :reyuiandy@163.com

  10. Monica814 August 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    From a marketing perspective, of course the laundry balls need to be sold in direct sales. The huge corporate franchises like Wal-Mart or Target would laugh in their faces if someone tried to sell the balls through their stores. Why would they want any competition for the highly consumable detergents and soaps that are being sold by the thousands per second while the laundry balls are consumable once or twice a year. Think about it.

    Like some people have stated in their comments, there\’s many different types of laundry balls, some are a scam others actually work pretty well. I\’ve been using the SmartKlean ball (www.smartklean.com) for a year now and it\’s still working great. The stains and smells in the armpit area are caused by some common deodorants, it used to happen to me even with detergents. I use organic deodorants now and it doesn\’t leave stains in the armpits now.

    Also, one can simply test the effectiveness of the balls with PH balance strips. They sell those on Amazon or at local pool supply stores. With the smartklean ball, the PH went up to 7.4, which is above neutral (7.0). This is the same effect detergents have. If you look up information on this, it is a known fact that increased PH in water softens water and this helps remove dirt and bacteria off of surfaces.

    So it doesn\’t have the same effect of washing with only water.

    Detergents and soaps hide the smells of clothes with fragrance or pthalates – extremely harmful substances for health, specially children (triggers asthma and linked to autism.) Also look up Endocrine Disruptors – many detergents contain ingredients that cause this terrible reaction in health.

    Inhabitat should make an article about the negative effects of detergents on human health and the environment someday.

  11. Estelle July 30, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I have been using the Biowashball for 3 months, but I am not happy with the results. I cleaned my front loader washing machine as prescribed. My kitchen cloths smell ok after the wash. I store them in a drawer and taking clean cloths out after a few days to repalce the dirty ones, there is a stale smell on them. It is as if the bacteria are still in the cloths.

  12. Holly May 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I started using the washer balls in the UK while living there 7 years ago. I have 5 children and have washed many cloth diapers with them, as well as my normal laundry. It’s really a shame that they have gotten so much bad press due to scam knock-offs, but there are real ones that do work! Some people say that the negative ions, hydroxides, etc. may not be enough to clean clothes. I disagree. How much do we really need? Large soap companies really push the chemicals that are harmful to the environment and ourselves. I loved them so much that I started my own company in Canada. (We sell the washer balls online at http://www.beegreener.org) I hope that everyone can see the benefits of reducing the impact on the environment. We guarantee our balls, and if anyone ever gets the chance, they would be surprised with the results! Europe has been using them for a long time and it’s sad that we are afraid of anything new-

    Hope this helps. Happy washing!!!!

  13. tarakelly6 May 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I just got the laundry ball from h2o at home I had a party so I paid nothing for it. I am a foster mom who takes medically complex infant and toddlers so there is a lot of smell in the clothes I washed the clothes using 1/4 the detergent I was using with just detergent and the clothes were still dirty and they really smelled the ball did nothing. I am returning it and will trade it for their microfleece sponges which are really wonderful and make cleaning easier.

  14. cjflory March 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I have this greenball. I give it two thumbs up. I live out in the country and have a well, not city water. Before using this ball about a month ago, I made my own laundry soap, which cost about 68cents for 2 gals. I don’t seen any cleaning difference between the store laundry products, my homemade laundry product and the greenball as far a cleaning goes. I will continue using the greenball. I will be giving one to my daughter for Easter. She has two young children and one on the way. This will be the true test, if it cleans their clothes ( I am sure it will) then there will be alot more given as gifts. Of course I will still us my homemade spot remover as even with the store brand laundry product I had to use something extra to remove stains.

  15. GrayDog88 December 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    I’ve now read several of these sites reviewing these products. It seems hard to tell why people are so split on whether laundry balls work. I have to admit that recently I tried the product. I’m writing here (along with a few other of the sites that I looked at first) in the hopes of helping people on the fence like I was.

    I tried a laundry ball called the Bio Wash Ball. I picked this one because they seem to be the original. This is an issue that none of the reviews that I have read yet has discussed. From what I have seen, it appears that the Green Wash Ball is actually a knock off of the original Biowashball that has been selling in Europe for years. I decided to stick with what works rather than risk a knock off.

    As for my experience, I was pleasantly surprised. I am currently studying at university, so I loved the idea of saving money. I actually do save a good chunk compared to my friends (though some of them don’t wash their clothes as much as they should). In any case, extra beer money for me. :)

    After the wash cycle, I take out the biowashball, put the clothes in the dryer – and here’s the secret – put a dryer sheet in. I like doing this because I still get the “fresh” scent we have all become accustomed to.

    In any case, this is just my opinion.

  16. laundry_man November 1, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    We find that none of the sellers ever want to do real testing to prove they work. As we are in the laundry business many companies want to sell them to us, but the second we ask for tests, they just give us a bunch of testimonials. As tests would be pretty inexpensive, this probably means they know they don’t work. There is a company in the UK working on what appears to be a more scientifically based water saving solution at http://www.xerosltd.com

    We find that the best ways to save money on laundry and protect the environment are front loaders with lower water use and faster RPM’s or using a spin dryer such as at http://www.laundry-alternative.com/drying.htm and of course the clothesline.
    Clothes dryers use enormous amounts of electricity (nearly 6-10% of total home energy usage).

  17. Tracy Grover September 16, 2009 at 4:04 am

    i’d like to think of 3 points here ;
    1> not all laundry balls are equal. there are good, non-chemical ones out there like wellos brand … http://www.wellos-ball.com.
    2> tv ads for detergents have done a great job of brainwashing people to believe all that cleaness is to be expected. well it’s not so – think about the damages caused to people’s skin and to the environment by all the chemical ingredients in detergents. drinking water with detergent in it would be almost suicidal – why put the same thing on your skin (by wearing clothes with chemicals embedded). and once these chemicals get out into water supplies (river, pond, ocean,,,) it’ll will take decades to go away.
    3> detergent companies are not exactly thrilled to see their market share and/or profits taken away – think about what they would or could do to keep people from converting to non-chemical washing.

  18. Tracy Grover September 16, 2009 at 3:38 am

    for what i’s worth, there are 3 things you may want to consider … 1) not all laundry balls are the same. there are very decent ones. check out http://www.wellos-ball.com 2) many of us have been brainwashed by detegent advertisement to expect snowy white, extra clean washing is the norm. well it’s not. think about the chemicals in detergents. think about the harm they cause to our skin and to the environment. 3) detergent companies may do whatever that’s necessary to keep their business growing. they won’t idly stand by & see products like laundry balls eat into their profit.

  19. jenb13 April 21, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I disagree. I love my green wash ball! I have super sensitive skin and ever since I\’ve been using the green wash ball, not one break out. I bought mine from the website and customer service was great but I recently found a website that sales them and offers free shipping! http://www.evosales.com Its such a great investment. I have save probably $40 in just 3 months!

    jen

  20. Bulgarianlily February 3, 2009 at 3:41 am

    All the washballs I have tried out say ‘no detergent’ but if you read the small print they have sodium lauryl sulfate in them, which is a detergent! Sometimes you have to google all the ingredients to find out how they are disguising this. This is the blurb from one I used “Scientifically formulated pellets inside the Wash-It Ball ‘activate’ water molecules producing electrolytic oxygen and hydrogen ions, which unleash their natural power to lift dirt from clothing fibres.” But the ingredients include
    higher alkyl sulfate
    non-ionic surfacant
    sodium metasilicate
    calcium carbonate
    sodium carbonate
    All are commonly found in much cheaper cleaning products! It is a mild detergent with added washing soda. They are a con!

  21. stotion December 1, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for your review. I don’t want to get caught up in the greenwash brainwash.

  22. rozzius November 25, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Hello,

    Nature will provide

    http://ethicstrading.com/soapnuts.html

    Cheers

    Jos

  23. krisw November 24, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I have to disagree with the reviewer. I have been using the Green Wash Ball for the last couple of months and I don’t know what I did with out it. My clothes are clean and very fresh! I am a college student and this is a great “green” alternative to detergent. And a huge plus—no lugging detergent around anymore!

  24. postal November 21, 2008 at 9:01 am

    i think we need to add an inhabitat take on the mythbusters “busted” “plausible” and “confirmed” signs….

    perhaps earth with happy, confused, and frowny faces? maybe a squirrel with thumbs up or thumbs down?

  25. ms sashimi November 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    i would have to agree w you w everything you just said about this thing.

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