Laundry balls and disks – do they work?

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a slew of distributors touting the virtues of their laundry balls (or disks) as an earth friendly washing alternative. A few readers have also asked me about their effectiveness.

I haven’t tried these balls or disks as yet and there seems to be a lot of conflicting information around the web as to whether these things work as advertised. By the way, if you’re a distributor and really want to grab my attention; send a sample my way instead of promotional material; I’d certainly be happy to trial your product :).

What are laundry balls?

There’s a few different variations. Some are just a ball that bounces around in your wash that basically just provides extra agitation. Others act as dispenser for normal detergent or secret formulations that you’ll need to continuously buy.

Other types contain ingredients or components that supposedly assist in the release of “ionized oxygen” during washing. This reportedly raises pH levels of the water to soften the water and fabric, which in turn allows the water to penetrate the fabric and lift the grime. I don’t have the knowledge to either confirm or challenge that.

There are also ceramic disks available that work pretty much the same way as above.

Not a new product

Laundry balls and disks aren’t new – I found mentions of them as far back as 1991. They’ve often been sold under network marketing or multi-level marketing arrangements, whereby distributors also recruit distributors (whom are often customers) and share in the profits of sales made by those they recruit.

The recruiting side of the business can sometimes eclipse the emphasis on the product itself; with distributors promoting the profits to be made to other potential distributors aggressively. Some of the outfits selling these items in such a fashion have come under some scrutiny from consumer watchdogs and government departments over the years for questionable business practices and unsubstantiated claims.

Cost of laundry balls

These products aren’t cheap – costing anywhere from around US$50 to $75 initially, plus refills of the special additives in some cases. The idea is that the initial and ongoing costs of the additives will be far cheaper than your regular washing detergent and you’ll be using what’s claimed to be a “greener” and healthier product.

Points to consider

Something to bear in mind: if you wash your clothes without detergent or any additives whatsoever, you may find it works quite well with or without the use of a ball for a few washes; particularly if you use warm/hot water. What tends to happen is over time our clothes retain some laundry detergent, so when you stop using it, the reserves of detergent continue to work. That being the case, one test is likely not enough to gauge a product’s true effectiveness. Heated water in itself also helps to lift and dissolve stains.

On some of the sites I visited, additional pre-wash stain removers are recommended, as are essential oils for fragrance and even some borax thrown into the wash, which leads me to question the ball’s overall effectiveness:

washing ball
+ ball additive
+ pre-wash stain remover
+ essential oils
+ borax
+ warm or hot water

.. given all that, maybe it would be just as economical, effective and environmentally friendly without the ball; i.e. just bypass the product altogether and use an earth friendly detergent and a cold water wash?

If you do decide you’d like take the plunge and purchase these products with environmental benefits in mind:

a) ensure there’s a money back guarantee of at least a month. That will give enough time to ensure  the build up of your current detergent in clothing has depleted. If you find you have to switch from cold water to hot water when using the product, some of the environmental benefits of using such a product will be lost.

b) find out what the earth friendly additive used in the balls is comprised of first. You may well be spending a lot of cash on a ball that costs under a buck to produce and uses a detergent that really isn’t any greener than your current brand.

c) read sites carefully, look for buried or small print disclaimers as to what the product can achieve.

As mentioned, there’s a lot of conflicting reports as to how effective laundry balls and disks are. If you search around the web, you’ll find people who give them rave reviews and others who state they simply don’t work and are a waste of money.

If you’ve purchased these products, I’d love to hear your opinion of how they worked for you . I’m sure other readers would be appreciative of the information too so they can make a more informed purchase decision!

Please add your thoughts below!