Part of my money saving regime for 2007 involves having to change a few habits, laundry being one of them. For a good few years, I've been using stuff called Ecover, a laundry liquid that is fully biodegradable. I have to consider such things as I live in a house with a septic-tank. The liquid also has limited environmental impact.

The stuff costs about a fiver a bottle, which can mount up, so I looked into alternatives. I had a Google around for an option that would be environmentally safe, but cheaper too. This is where the "ecoballs" come in.

They're funny looking things - a bit like green flying-saucers.

They cost £30, which initially might seem expensive - but if that means you're going to save money in detergent, you can reclaim that investment fairly quickly. They apparently last for 1,000 washes. I do about 3 a week, so they should last me at least five years, over which time I calculate I'll have saved myself about £60 - £70 a year.

But do they actually work?

Well, your washing machine does sound like it's got a bag of stones in there, but initial tests look encouraging. I did a regular wash, which was fine and also used them when washing my gi (ju-jitsu outfit), which is white and can get quite stained. I couldn't tell the difference between using the balls and a regular detergent. It's weird, because you don't expect such a thing to work that well, but they do. As an added bonus, they also come with a 30 day money-back guarantee - so if they don't deliver the goods, you can return them.

It's also worth noting that because you're basically buying three flying saucers full of stones, they're good for people with skin allergies.

Anyway, consider it an endorsement. The money-back guarantee was the clincher for me, so I felt I had nothing to lose by giving them a go - and as it happens, I'll be keeping them. I got mine from Nigel's Eco Store, but having a quick google does show other places that stock them.
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