For some years now, Eco bolas or wash balls have been marketed in our country, with the use of which manufacturers claim that an effective washing of all clothes is obtained in an ecological way and without the use of detergents. Since more and more people are addressing us with questions about eco-buoys and the washing of our products, especially cloth diapers overnight, we have thought it convenient to publish this article with our opinion on it and the result of a small investigation.
Although Eco bolas are currently marketed in different formats, the most popular appear to be those made of ceramics inside a plastic ball that must be “recharged” by exposure to sunlight. Given the promise of a totally ecological wash, the first thing one asks is the principles on which its operation is based, and this is where we find ourselves with the first surprise. If one goes to the different web pages where they are advertised, you will see that the argument is based on pseudoscientific statements that, more than clarify, confuse potential buyers. The well-known and old commercial strategy of resorting to complicated physical theories that no one can understand seems to be the main sales argument. However, if they are analyzed in some detail,
Even at the risk of falling into too technical explanations,
Let’s see some of these assertions and their real meaning:
Powerful infrared rays emitted by natural ceramics break the hydrogen combinations of the water molecule to increase molecular movement”
The truth is that any element that has temperature emits infrared radiation, which is nothing more than the expression of heat. Among other things, the water and clothes that are put into the washing machine also emit infrared radiation, and much greater than that of the Eco bola. On the other hand, it would be fantastic if a ball could break the water molecule and separate the hydrogen; this way we would have a source of clean and renewable energy that would solve the problem of global warming forever.
“It emits negative ions that weaken the adherence of the dirt”
It is possible that the ceramics generate negative OH ions (hydroxide), but, if it were, it would be in such small amounts that they would have no effect on the dirt.
“It maintains a pH of an approximate value of 10, which is equivalent to the normal pH of an ordinary chemical detergent.”
Increasing the pH of water to 10 is equivalent to alkalizing water, an effect that is achieved by dissolving detergents in water. But the fact of submerging an element that does not dissolve, does not change the pH of the water.
“It eliminates the chloride components in the water and reduces its surface tension”
Chlorine and its derivatives (bleach) are part of many detergents and its effect is just to provide a proven antibacterial action (that is why in most swimming pools it is used chlorine). It seems a contradiction to remove it from water if you intend to clean the clothes of microorganisms. In addition, drinking water has a very low chlorine content (less than 1 ml per liter of water), so its effect on the surface tension of the water is negligible.
Some Eco bolas also make use of magnetic properties, and indicate that
“Permanent magnets change the ring structure of water molecules, thus improving the efficiency of cleaning”
The supposed magical properties of the effect of magnets on water have been widely used to sell all kinds of products, including eco-balls Of course. There is no evidence or proof that supports the supposed advantages of using magnetic fields in water.
Why the Eco bola seems to wash then?
Although there have been no rigorous studies on the alleged effectiveness of Eco bola, some consumer organizations have carried out their own tests. Among them, the OCU in its article “Eco bola: how to wash with water” reports that, according to its efficacy tests, using an Eco bola does not do much good.
However, there are people who claim that it seems to work and leaves clothes clean.
Some reasons that could explain this perception are the following:
- Water alone already washes. If the clothes do not show stains, the soaking and mechanical movement of the washing machine are usually enough to leave the laundry more or less clean.
- It is possible that the Eco bola produces a mechanical action inside the drum of the washing machine, similar to the rubbing by hand that helps to detach part of the dirt. If this were the case, it would suffice to use a toy plastic ball to achieve the same effect.
- In many cases, both the laundry and the washing machine may contain detergent residues from previous washes. It is possible that this residual detergent dissolves in the following washes. In these cases, which coincide with the first uses of the Eco bola, it is paradoxical that the clothes come out clean and softer than ever. Depending on the hardness of the water, the soap used and the effectiveness of the rinsing, the usual casting can have a caked appearance as a consequence of the fact that part of the detergent remains attached to the fibers. The simple fact of re-washing the same wash only with water removes part of the detergent and softens the clothes, but not thanks to the Eco bola.
- Many times it is recommended to use some detergent or stain remover to remove stubborn stains. This detergent, even used in small quantities, is the one that really cleans clothes. Many times the doses recommended by detergent manufacturers are excessive, and good results are obtained with only half or one third of the indicated amount.
Our recommendation for diapering
To wash cloth diapers a reasonable amount of water and little detergent is required. In most cases, diapers will be wet only. The urine is formed 95% by water, while the rest is urea, dissolved salts, and other organic compounds. It is this rest of the components that must be eliminated from the use of natural diapers, and for this, water is fundamentally needed to re-dissolve them and some soap that facilitates this process. In particular, it is very important that the washing machine has enough water to completely cover the diapers during the washing, and that the rinsing phase is effective in order to eliminate the possible soap residues. If the washing machine is “self-programmed” according to the weight of the laundry, it is advisable to “raise” the level of water detected for better washing.
The use of the Eco bola is not recommended for the washing of diapers due to the erosion and wear that can occur in the tissues that make up the diaper. Some Eco bolas have a surface with edges or protrusions that can break, tear or wear both the waterproof cover and the seams of the absorbent material, and cause the diapers to leak. Unlike conventional clothing, cloth diapers are subjected to many washing cycles and the technical fabrics with which they are made require a delicate treatment that guarantees their durability for a long time.
In conclusion, we recommend washing the diapers with plenty of water, a little oil-free detergent (one-third of the recommended dose) and without using bleach, softeners, vinegar or mechanical objects of doubtful efficacy and that can damage them, such as Eco bola.