Eco balls. Well, quite. Much has been said about these over the last few years, since their stealthy appearance in the marketplace, so I think any contribution I might make to the debate will be of little use. However, that’s never stopped me in the past, and I see no reason to change now.
With these washing machine balls, the theory is that you put them in with your wash and it obviates the need for washing powder, thus turning you instantly from polluter of the planet to protector. High eco-status and a clean wash. And all for the price of a pair of plastic balls. A result, by anybody’s estimation. However, being a veteran of camping, austerity and periodical impecuniosity, I can tell you that it is perfectly possible to wash your clothes without any detergent. Agitation, or even a small amount of controlled physical abuse, as in bashing against rocks, seems to be what dirty washing responds to best. The net effect of adding detergent seems to be nothing more than a lingering chemical perfume which tells the world that, despite appearances to suggest otherwise, your laundry has definitely been through an electronically controlled washing cycle. The net effect of adding eco balls seems to be that you have simply added eco balls to your wash. Where is the comparative data on how the wash performs in a water-only situation? That’s what we really need. Some kind of elimination testing that defines precisely what results can be achieved through the use of eco balls.
Then, of course there are eco dryer balls. I think I can see what’s going on here. The manufacturers of eco wash balls have pulled off a marketing coup by selling us all a virtually useless product (made from shamelessly eco-unfriendly plastic) from which they have netted some serious cash and now, in a brazen attempt to prove that lighting does strike twice, they are selling us the same thing again with a slightly different spin. Or, to put it more accurately, two slightly different spins for, if you have noticed, the blurb on the (eco-unfriendly) packaging tells you that the knobbly bits on these dryer balls are of different shapes, and the balls are of different strengths, ‘to lift and separate the laundry, making your clothes soft and fluffy.’
Come on. I can spot a Naked Emperor when I see one! This has got to be a scam of the first order. Everything about it spells ‘quack.’ These balls are described as ‘safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.’ How can that be? They are made of plastic, derived from fossil fuels. In true quack doctor style, the claims don’t stop there. These balls, allegedly, are also ‘ideal for anyone with asthma, eczema or psoriasis.’ Well, that’s all right then.
I suggest that the manufacturers are counting on the fact that, once the balls have been put in the tumble dryer and the machine has been switched on, the operator leaves the machine to do its thing and goes off to attend to other matters of greater urgency. I wonder how many people have done what I did this morning, and that is spend five minutes watching the tumble dryer tumble. If they have, they will have noticed, as I did, that the two balls are either outside the washing or wrapped up in its midst. In the latter instance, the balls merely go around with the washing, eventually falling onto the floor of the laundry room upon extraction of the dried clothes, and rolling away out of sight under the boiler. In the former case, the balls just bang about against the drum as it tumbles. Like a pair of clueless juvenile collies running randomly around a flock of sheep, these balls just take up space without achieving anything.
Yet I can see how this in itself might be turned into further successful sales, because logic tells you, as you watch the drum tumbling, that the presence of two balls is simply inadequate. I wonder how many people have gone out and bought another pair in order to increase the effectiveness of the process. And in fact at this point the brain starts racing, imagining how logic might propel an exasperated laundry assistant to the purchase of a whole bag full of eco dryer balls with which to carry out a sustained assault on the wet clothes, working on the theory that you can’t have too much of a good thing.
And, yes, I can see the finger pointing. I can hear the accusing voice saying, “Well, you must have bought some, otherwise you wouldn’t know about them.” In my defence, I can say that their appearance in the tumble dryer came as a genuine surprise to me, but I accept that the purchase must have been made at some point. But would you have it any other way? After all, someone has to road-test such things for you – so think of us as a public service and, if there are any other products out there that you want us to look at, just say the word. Magic balls, for instance . . . now there’s a good idea.