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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Could It Be True? You Don't Even Need Laundry Detergent

Hot off the Wall Street Journal presses: Americans use way too much detergent, which makes their clothes dingy and causes problems for the machines.

The finale of this article is this shocker: Seventh Generation's co-founder, Jeffrey Hollender, wonders why more people haven't stumbled upon laundry's big, dirty secret: "You don't even need soap to wash most loads," he says. The agitation of washing machines often does the job on its own.


As with most of my household "routines," my laundry is done lackadaisically at best. I am definitely going to test out this new concept.

Anyone else daring enough?

19 comments:

englund said...

I thought I remembered reading about this matter several years ago, in the context of those expensive ceramic "laundry balls."

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/944/do-laundry-balls-really-work

I use about half the recommended amount of laundry soap--and we don't have especially soft water. It seems to get the clothes just as clean.

Seth said...

I did this a few times out of necessity in college. I never really gave it much thought, but the clothes certainly seemed clean enough.

Shelley said...

I already use half a capful of whatever powder or liquid we happen to have. Tightwad Gazette blasted some sort of laundry ball things ages ago.

I might try some soapless loads just to see how it goes...but don't tell Bill!

Sandy said...

Could this possibly be true? Seventh Generation does sell laundry detergent. I'm not sure my mind will accept that the clothes are clean without some kind of soap, but I am definitely intrigued.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

We live in a city with very soft water so I only use a tiny amount in my low water front loading washer and it does work, as for none at all....I'll wait for your report!

Deja Pseu said...

I don't remember where I read it, but did also hear the "use half the manufacturer's recommended amount" advice and have followed it since. My clothes seem to get clean just fine.

FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com said...

It's not so weird

I don't use ANY at all, unless I am washing kitchen towels covered in grease, or muddy, greasy items

I find they get clean, smell fresh and good, without that sickening smell of overly strong perfume in there...

Duchesse said...

I use about half but I am a huge fan of Orange A-Peel- do you know it? The citrus takes out some very funky smells. (23 year old males' sheets, not washed as often as mine- yeccch.)

Mary said...

Interesting. I'm willing to give it a whirl!

Over the Cubicle Wall said...

For the most part, detergent is just there as a surfactant - makes water wetter/slippier more or less.

Most things should get clean just fine without it, so if you try it and don't miss the Gain or Tide or whatever scent, I'd keep doing it. I only use water on my hair and I have no problems with it whatsoever.

I personally like the smell of Gain on my clothes so I keep using it. Stains that haven't set and oils should also clean much better with detergent, so I would keep some detergent around for those cases regardless of whether you use it on a normal wash or not.

Good luck.

Funny about Money said...

Wait...what? Really????

Hm. What about stains like blood and...uhm...other underpantsy substances? What about grass stains? So...would you use something like Shout or Spray-&-Wash for stains and rubbed-in cuff or collar grime, and then skip the detergent? You can substitute plain rubbing alcohol, BTW, for those proprietary stain removers -- works for most stains.

Maybe you could substitute O2 bleach for the stain remover, anyway.

Those laundry balls have been roundly denounced as a fraud. Claro, if people thought they worked, it was because PLAIN WATER works.

I'm going to try this. If the laundry comes out clean, I'm taking that gigantic yet-to-be-opened bottle of Kirkland detergent back to Costco.

Frugal Scholar said...

@All--The scientists seem to say we don't need soap. I use very little anyway, since I have soft water and low laundry standards. I do wonder about all the "make your own detergent" people--perhaps detergent need not be such a huge expense. It's never been for me. I await all the experiments. Report back, scientists and civilians.

Revanche said...

I'm not going to stop using soaps but I use a minimal amount of detergent anyway.

Cassandra Was Right said...

I came across this posting a couple of weeks ago, tried it and was also amazed. While I still use a bit of detergent for underwear, I've had excellent results for all kinds of other clothes with water only. In fact, yesterday I tossed filthy, sweaty gardening clothes; sweaty, grimy riding clothes; and my horse's sweaty, dirty, hairy saddle pad all into my front loading washer together, set it to cold water, cotton fabric, and extra rinse, and let it run. Everything came out perfectly clean.

I'm a believer.

Carpet Cleaning said...
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Ashar Ali said...
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Ashar Ali said...
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ystradandgelliplaidcymru said...

I've becoming increasingly concerned with the number of detergents I use, as my household budget is shrinking so I am looking at simplifying for environmental and economic reasons. I have just put my first half load of the ultimate testers, baby clothes and teenage boy underwear! if these come out clean then i will never buy washing powder again!! (I can't at the moment, as I have no money at all, hence the google search 'washing with no poweder', which lead me through another blog to this one! Thank you for giving me the confidence that it WILL work!

Frugal Scholar said...

@ystrada--It does work and your clothes will last longer too.