Earth Notes: On Method Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent: Review

Using your laundry detergent to save the world - another way to reduce the impact of our clothes washing? Is Method the best available?
Method Free + Clear

VERDICT: not as good as small&mighty, but does work at very low temperatures so can help save energy

Review

  • Method Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
  • Reviewed by: Damon Hart-Davis on 2010/07/31
  • Not as good as small&mighty, but does work at very low temperatures so can help save energy.
  • Method "Fresh + Clear" washing detergent rated to work down to 15°C.
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This review was done done by degrees as to test it on various wash cycles, etc. We can't do perfect scientific tests with controls, but we can report how it seems to do against other detergents.

For Comparison

As of July 2010, the two most common laundry detergents we use are Tesco own-brand tablets, and Persil (Unilever) "small&mighty" concentrated liquid. Both allow low-temperature washes, though the cheap-and-cheerful tablets don't work well (don't even dissolve) below 30°C, whereas the liquid works reasonably down to the 9°C of a winter cold wash.

In order to be useful in reducing our footprint, carbon and otherwise, not only does the detergent and packaging itself have to be eco-friendly (as Method indeed claims, such as 4x concentrated to ship less water around), it also has to be effective in low-temperature and cold washes to reduce the carbon footprint of warmer washes. When I asked Method about cold washes the reply was:

Like most brands we have done our testing at 15C and above and we are happy with the performance. We would love to hear how you get on at 9C.

We bought our first Method "Fresh + Clear" bottle from Waitrose at the equivalent of about 20p per full wash, whereas our current preferred Tesco-own-brand-tablets and small&mighty detergents work out at about 10p per wash normally or on offer, mid-2010 prices. (We weren't able to use the voucher on-line that Method sent us.)

The packaging for the bottle seemed to be fairly adult-proof, needing scissors to free up the dispenser top ready to use.

Incidentally, it's not immediately obvious to us whether this first bottle is intended for colour/white/whatever...

Advertisements

Lidl: Formil Wildcard

Lidl has unashamedly sporadic availability of particular products, so for example, we now can't get hold of their good W5 eco dishwasher tablets, but today 2010/08/28 we managed to buy some "Formil small & powerful" 'colour' (non-bio?) washing detergent costing significantly less than 10p/load and marked as good down to 20°C (thus nominally only good for cold washes in summer). This detergent also claims to care for the environment and sports the sustainable-cleaning.com badge, so we'll test this against Method and our other usual detergents below.

Wash 1: Cold/20°C

With an inlet temperature of ~20°C we ran our first Method cold wash. Since we had a half load we used two squirts instead of the four specified for a full load. (This dosage control and the lack of mess are good.)

The wash results seemed to be OK.

Wash 2: 30°C

We used three squirts for a not-very-full load.

Unfortunately the detergent failed to remove some marks/stains that we'd expect small&mighty or Tesco to manage, and we're not keen on the fragrance either at the moment! One of Method's pages says "squirt directly onto really stubborn stains", so we will try that another time.

Wash 3: 60°C

Used 4 squirts for a full-ish load of towels.

Once each week overnight Sat/Sun when grid carbon intensity is lowest we do a 'maintenance wash' at 40°C or 60°C, usually of towels, as much to get the washing machine clean as the load!

Method seemed to do OK, neither spectacularly good nor bad. But the cheapest own-brand detergent will do OK too in these conditions, so you'd have to be very very convinced of the eco superiority over said cheepo to be prepared to spend over twice as much on the detergent, which in turn makes it more expensive than, for example, the 100%-green electricity used to run the load.

At this stage my partner vowed to buy no more Method detergent, but I hope that we can at least get to try it in really cold water in winter, and a few others in the interim.

Wash 4: 30°C

Used 4 squirts for a full load.

Results OK: some marks didn't come out of a child's bib that we expected to.

Wash 5: Cold/20°C

Used 2 squirts for a half-load, plus some applied directly to stains.

Results OK: direct application to (treatment of) some stains/marks did seem to help significantly. I left 30 minutes from applying to marks before starting the wash.

More...

Subsequent cold and warm washes have continued to underperform expections, eg compared to our usual detergents.

We've seen mixed results from spot application for stain removal, but hanging on the washing line to bleach in the sun seems more effective.

Heavy Soil, Cold/20° Wash

We had a major nappy explosion from our younger one, so we chucked all his heavily-soiled clothes (plus some others waiting) with 4 squirts for this nasty half-load, on the maximum cold wash cycle (cottons, non-proportional, extra rinses), and it all seems to have come out pretty clean.

Compared With Lidl "Formil" Cold(20°C) and 30°C

Our first couple of (cool/cold) washes with Formil at 10p/wash seem to be matching the performance of the Tesco/small&mighty/Method.

Grease Stain Removal: Method vs Small&mighty

During our Sunday lunch, a top and a pair of jeans received significant grease stains, which we immediately spot treated with Method and washed cold ~19°C.

Significant staining was still evident after the clothes had dried on the line.

We re-washed cold, spot treating the stains with small&mighty this time, and the stains completely disappeared.

So, another mark against Method I'd say.

Washing Colder Than 10°C

In December (2010) the inlet mains water temperature has been significantly below 10°C, and Method has performed satisfactorily in a cold wash.

This suggests that Method can indeed be part of an energy-conserving wash throughout the year in our part of the world at least, which is good!

(Our benchmark small&mighty has been fine too at these temperatures.)