According to the latest studies, only see 30% of laundry grime is visible. The remaining 70% of the particulate matter infesting your garments is not visible to the human eye. Minute soot, dirt and chemical particles present in the air land on your clothes throughout the day. Your clothes also absorb the oils and sweat released by your body. Absolute cleaning requires removing all of this.
Laundry detergents today do a lot more than just get rid of dirt and stains. The correct laundry detergent will not only remove stains but disinfect them, keep them looking brighter and smelling great. There is a large variety of laundry products ranging from basic powders to liquid, pods and more. The key is to know the pros and cons of each. Comprehensive knowledge will allow you to select the best product for the job without spending too much.
Importance of Enzymes & Surfactants in Laundry Detergents
Most of the soil and other visible stains on your clothes are removed by the mechanical action of your machine. Enzymes and surfactants take care of the things you can’t see.
Plant-based enzymes like proteases, lipases and amylases make the grime attached to fibres soluble. The surfactants reduce the surface tension by prying the soil away from the fabric. This allows the soil attached to the fabric to be washed away with ease.
Working together, they give your laundry a deep clean. This is especially beneficial for heavy garments like towels, bedsheets and jeans. Detergents containing enzymes are gentle in the environment and work effectively even at low temperatures.
Another factor to keep in mind; the higher the concentration, the less quantity of detergent you will need to use.
Types of Laundry Detergent
If you are looking for something kinder to your skin and eco-friendly, then laundry soap is your solution. Detergents contain loads of synthetic chemicals that can’t be removed even by water treatment plants. So they end up in the environment creating chaos.
Laundry soap is biodegradable and so more environmentally friendly. It is made by combining oils, fats along and a base. Having fewer ingredients rinses out more thoroughly from your clothes without leaving that oily film.
Powder laundry detergent
Powdered laundry detergents arrived on the shelves in the 1930s. However, they are a dying trend in the American market where liquids and pods have overtaken them. Hard as may be to believe, when taken globally, powders are thriving in the developing world. Outselling liquids, and pods by twice as much.
- Least cost per laundry load
- Best for hard-water areas
- Easy to recycle cardboard packing
- Best mixing with non-chlorine bleach
- Works better on grass and mud stains
- Many contain oxygen bleach, not found in liquids
- Bulky packing, difficult to carry
- Some brands leave a residue
- May not dissolve in lower temperature
- Harder to pre-treat than liquids
- Greater chances of overuse
Liquid detergents made their appearance in the 1950s and have been gaining popularity ever since. While they are more convenient to carry, store, and use they have their fair share of downsides.
- More economical than pods
- No soap scum in washing machines
- Works well even in cold water
- More effective against oil/greasy stains
- Convenient to use for pre-treating stains
- Available in different scents
- Easy to over-dose
- More expensive than powders and soaps
- Available in plastic packing, not eco-friendly
- Water-based, do not combine well with other cleaning agents.
- Being water-based makes them heavy and environmentally costly to transport
Pod Laundry Detergent
Laundry pods are a comparatively recent invention, being introduced in the market in 2012. Due to their convenience in handling and appealing scents, they quickly took the market by storm.
Each pod contains the exact amount of detergent needed to wash a single load. No more fumbling around with measuring utensils or risks of overdose. They are super concentrated. The tiny packets house all the same ingredients found in liquid detergents but with only ten per cent of the water content.
- Premeasured, so super convenient
- No chance of accidental overdosing
- Compact and light easy to handle especially for the elderly or someone with a disability
- Capable of integrating multiple cleaning technologies (3-in-1 pods)
- Cost significantly more than liquid detergents and powders
- Useless for pre-treating.
- The danger of being mistaken for sweets by children.
- Can become trapped in the machine drum and not dissolve.
Fabric softeners perform several functions. They eliminate static that is especially troublesome when a dryer is used. You can use them to add scent, reduce wrinkles and make your laundry soft to the touch. They work by coating your garments with lubricating materials which help to make fibres of garments soft. There are three main types of softeners, liquid, balls and sheets.
These are best for removing odours and making clothes soft. Some are formulated to prevent fading, collecting fuzz and eliminating stretching.
Softener is added to a specially built compartment next to the detergent input of your washing machine. If your machine does not have it, then simply add it to the final rinse cycle.
Liquid softeners contain loads of harsh chemicals. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to stay away from them. They also leave a fair-sized negative imprint on the environment.
Laundry Dryer Sheets
These carry out some of the same jobs as laundry softeners but they go in the dryer instead of the washing machine. Compared to liquid softeners, they are more economical and more convenient to use. They are very good at preventing static in addition to fighting odours and softening clothes.
Laundry dryer sheets are best not used on flameproof clothing as they reduce the effectiveness making them less fire-resistant. They also tend to cut down on the absorbency of towels if used over the long term.
Laundry Dryer Balls
For those wanting to minimize their carbon footprint on the planet, dryer balls are your best option. They are constructed out of wool or BPA-free plastic and help to dry clothes faster, thus impacting your energy bill. The drawback is that they leave clothes a bit scratchy and do nothing to get rid of odours.
Bleach is a supplementary washing aid that works in conjunction with detergents to eliminate stains. It works by oxidizing soil and converting it to soluble particles which are then washed away. Also, it brightens and whitens different fabrics while some brands also kill bacteria.
These three commonly used bleaching products available in the market chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite), oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate) and hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
This is actually a 5.25% solution of sodium hypochlorite usually available in a liquid form. Chlorine bleach is very potent, thus need to be diluted before use. Before use on coloured garments, a test run should be done on the small hidden patch to ensure colour fastness. It should also never poured on clothes directly as it will dissolve the fibres of the clothes.
The safest way to use it is by adding to the automatic dispenser or to washer water before putting in laundry.
Liquid bleach has an approximate shelf life of six months, after which it begins to lose its effectiveness. It has a strong odour that tends to linger even after being washed.
Accidental overdosage can ruin the whole laundry load by washing out the colour from clothes. For safety reasons, it is recommended that they be used only on white garments.
Alternatively, it is known as the “all-fabric” bleach. This is because it is safe for a vast majority of fabrics and colours. It works much more slowly compared to chlorine bleach, and it cannot disinfect. But if your purpose is to make dull, lifeless garments brighter, then your patience will pay off.
Oxygen bleach is not recommended for use on silk, wool and leather. Usually, it is sold as a powder that has to be dissolved in water before use. Dropping oxygen bleach directly on clothing may cause spotting.
Most of us think hydrogen peroxide is the stuff we clean wounds with or bleaching hair. Surprise! It also works wonders in the laundry. It whitens, brightens, eliminates stains and odours and disinfects all in one go.
You can purchase hydrogen peroxide as a 3% or 6% solution at pharmacies in liquid form. This is very mild bleach, safe for most fabrics like any oxygen-based bleach.
Still, it should not be poured on clothes directly, as it will discolour fabrics. It considerably more eco-friendly than chlorine bleach, as hydrogen peroxide converts to oxygen and water in time.
So there you have it. Everything you need to know about picking the right materials for doing justice to your laundry.