Do air conditioners really need chemical washing

Detergent Pods - New on the market, but not necessarily better for the environment!

Manufacturers advertise their detergent pods with the simple and practical application and suggest "environmentally conscious washing". One pod is recommended per wash cycle (up to five kilograms of laundry, normal soiling and medium water hardness). Two pods should be used for six kilos of laundry or in the case of high levels of soiling, i.e. double the amount. It is not possible to dose the detergent individually. However, environmentally conscious washing means that the detergent is dosed depending on the hardness of the water, the amount and how dirty the laundry is. The dosage tables on the detergent pack provide the necessary information.

More information on sustainable washing

Germany, the land of laundry

Around 20 million tons of laundry are washed every year in German households. Depending on the age of the washing machine and washing program, approx. 30–70 liters of water, 0.3–1.5 kWh of electricity and approx. 76 g of detergent are required per wash cycle (Industrieverband Körperpflege- und Waschmittel e.V. 2017, Kruschwitz et al. 2014).

Correct and sustainable washing

Resource-saving washing through the correct dosage of detergent and sensible washing behavior not only saves costs, but can also make a major contribution to environmental protection. For this, the washing drum should be filled to the maximum, depending on the washing program and the manufacturer's instructions. The detergent is dosed based on the amount of laundry, the degree of soiling of the laundry and the hardness of the water. With this information, the amount of detergent can easily be determined from the dosage table on the detergent pack. The cup required for precise dosing is available free of charge from retailers or from the detergent manufacturer on request.

Which detergent is the right one?

Not only the amount of detergent but also the type of detergent influence the washing result and the environmental impact of washing. But which detergent is recommended when price and environmental impact are to be taken into account? The "compacts" are recommended for color detergents. They offer a high concentration of active washing substances, contain few fillers and are cheaper than color liquid detergents. For dark colors, however, the liquid detergents are more recommended because they dissolve well. Powder detergents, on the other hand, can sometimes leave white residues on the laundry. However, when disposing of the liquid detergent, the plastic bottles pollute the environment much more than the outer packaging of the compact ones. In the case of special hygienic requirements, the use of heavy-duty detergents in powder form is recommended. The bleaching agents contained in it render most germs harmless at a temperature of 60 ° C and prevent unpleasant smells from the laundry and the machine. But how are the new self-dissolving detergent pods to be assessed in terms of handling, price and environmental impact?

Detergent pods / caps

The so-called pods or caps are liquid detergents with a high concentration of active washing substances. A pod contains a maximum of 30 milliliters (ml) of detergent (Henkel AG & Co. KGaA 2018; Procter and Gamble 2018; Unilever Deutschland GmbH 2018). In contrast, a dosage of around 50 ml is recommended for liquid detergent from the bottle (Stiftung Warentest 2018). A water-soluble and biodegradable film, usually made of polyvinyl alcohol, surrounds these pods. The film dissolves during the wash cycle and is then no longer present as a solid component in the wash liquor. Packaging made of polyvinyl alcohol and other soluble substances therefore does not contribute to the formation of microplastics (Umweltbundesamt 2018). The pods / caps are available both as color and heavy-duty detergents and are often offered as duo or 3in1 products. By separating the individual components right up to the washing process, these promise a particularly good washing result. In the current test on heavy-duty detergents by Stiftung Warentest, however, the pods / caps only received the marks sufficient or poor with regard to their washing performance. The reason for this is that, in contrast to powdered heavy-duty detergents, liquid detergents do not contain bleach. This cannot be stably integrated in liquids. However, not only the pods / caps, but also liquid detergents in general are affected by this problem (Stiftung Warentest 2018). There is no current report from Stiftung Warentest on the actual washing results of the Color Pods / Caps.

Due to their bright colors and similarity to sweets, the pods / caps are very attractive to children and pose a serious health risk when consumed or in contact with the skin. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment therefore recommends that parents always keep the pods / caps out of the reach of their children (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment 2014 ).

Conclusion

The detergent pods / caps are easy and quick to use due to their pre-dosing and the 2in1 or 3in1 system. Furthermore, the high concentration of washing-active substances means that less detergent is required per wash cycle. Since the outer packaging of the pods / caps consists of a water-soluble and biodegradable film, there is no need to worry about environmental pollution from microplastics. However, the relatively high price and the lack of the possibility of individual dosing speak against the use of pods / caps. Too much detergent is harmful to the environment and your wallet. In addition, detergent residues in the laundry can cause skin irritation. Underdosing leads to poor washing results and limescale deposits in the washing machine. By using compact powder detergents or liquid detergents, individual doses can be made, depending on the amount of laundry, degree of soiling and water hardness.

Our request to the Federal Environment Agency

The Housekeeping Competence Center asked the Federal Environment Agency about the packaging film for the pods and received the following answer from Markus Gast.

"Detergent Pods" - Statements on Environmental Impact

Laundry detergents are detergents within the meaning of Regulation (EC) No. 648/2004. According to this ordinance, for example, they are subject to certain requirements with regard to the biodegradability of the surfactants they contain, the maximum permissible phosphorus content and the labeling of the ingredients. Regulations on the biological degradation of other ingredients that would affect microplastics, for example, are not part of the regulation. Detergents usually contain surfactants, soaps, complexing agents, alkalis, fragrances, dyes and / or enzymes. Heavy-duty detergents in powder form also contain oxygen-based bleaches. Furthermore, both water-insoluble synthetic polymers in the form of particles, e.g. B. as opacifiers, as well as water-soluble synthetic polymers, e.g. B. polyacrylates and other polymers are used. The name alone does not always tell whether the polymer is water-soluble or water-insoluble.

The technical definition from the criteria for awarding the EU Ecolabel for detergents and cleaning agents is used as a definition for microplastics in connection with detergents.

"Microplastic": Particles less than 5 mm in size of an insoluble, macromolecular plastic obtained by one of the following processes:

  • a polymerization process such as B. polyaddition or polycondensation or a similar process in which monomers or other starting materials are used
  • chemical modification of natural or synthetic macromolecules
  • microbial fermentation
After dissolving in the washing process, this water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol is not present as solid particles in the washing liquor. Soluble substances such as polyvinyl alcohol for use as water-soluble outer packaging of portioned products are therefore not microplastics in the sense of the above. Definitions.

Swell:

  • Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2014): New liquid detergents can cause poisoning accidents in children. Online at: https://www.bfr.bund.de/de/presseinformation/2014/07/neue_fluessigwaschmittel_koennen_vergiftungsunfaelle_bei_kindest_verursachen-189849.html (24.09.2018)
  • Henkel AG & Co. KGaA (2018): Persil Color Duo-Caps. Online at: https://www.persil.de/de/startseite/produkte/produktform/caps/duo-caps-color.html (20.09.2018
  • Industrial Association of Toiletries and Detergents V. (Hrsg) (2017): Sustainability in the detergent, care and cleaning agent industry in Germany 2015 - 2016
  • Kruschwitz, A. Karle, A. Schmitz, R. Stamminger; (2014): Consumer laundry practices in Germany; International Journal of Consumer Studies: John Wiley & Sons Ltd
  • Stiftung Warentest (2017): Liquid detergent: more concentrated in the future. Online at: https://www.test.de/Fluessigwaschmittel-Kuenftig-zentrierter-5197866-0/ (24.09.2018)
  • Stiftung Warentest (2018): Heavy duty detergent: The best for whites. Online at: https://www.test.de/Vollwaschmittel-Die-Besten-fuer-Weisses-4770157-0/ (27.09.2018)
  • Federal Environment Agency (2018): Environmental pollution from "detergent PODs"
  • Unilever Deutschland GmbH (2018): Caps Optimal Color. Online at: https://www.coral.de/de-de/waschmittel/coral-optimal-color-caps (20.09.2018)