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DO THOSE LAUNDRY DISCS
REALLY WORK?

You may have been hearing a lot lately about the popular new alternative products that are intended to replace laundry detergent in your washing machine. They sound like a good idea, reducing the use of detergent, minimizing impact on the environment, and saving you money. BUT-- do they really clean clothes?

To evaluate the cleaning performance of reusable ceramic laundry discs under a controlledlaboratory setting and to assess public satisfaction with the discs under field conditions, acomparative study was done through the University of Minnesota Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel and the Water Resources Center.

Previous laboratory studies by Consumer Reports and the cleaning industry indicated that thediscs were not effective. However, public perception is that the discs are a viable alternative to detergent and that they clean satisfactorily. A set of three discs are used instead of laundry detergent and are intended to last for hundreds of wash loads. The discs tested in this study soldfor about $64 a set, but are no longer available. Similar ceramic discs are available for about $40 for a set of three.

The laboratory component, conducted on campus, compared the ceramic discs with liquid laundry detergent and plain water in front and top loading washing machines. Volunteers wore and returned white cotton T-shirts six times to the lab to be washed under controlled conditions. Retention of whiteness was measured with a reflectometer as an indicator of soil removal in both the lab and field studies. Over all, the reusable ceramic laundry discs were better than water, but poorer than detergent.

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Written by:Barbara Liukkonen Water Resources Education Coordinator Water Resources Center


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