We review the eco-friendly laundry capsules to see if environmentally conscious means a compromise on cleanliness.
Smell good, remove tan and don’t cost me my student loan. That is all I ask of my laundry pods.
I would say that I am your typical, somewhat eco-conscious twenty-two-year-old. I try to use reusable cups as often as I can, recycle and don’t use plastic straws for fear of them jamming into the nostrils of teeny tiny turtles. You know, just your everyday environmental concerns. One thing that I do forget about, is the environmental impact of my household essentials and with that, my laundry pods.
I’m a creature of habit and I tend to stick to my two trusty brands, Fairy and Ariel. I tend to spend around £3 to £5 on a clunky plastic box of 19 to 38 pods and that will usually last me for a few months.
For the past three months, I have seen Smol, an eco-laundry subscription service, inundate my Instagram feed with adverts trying to lure me in with a “free trial” of their environmentally friendly and cruelty free pods.
And then it dawned on me. If Smol market themselves on being eco-friendly, are my current pods not good for the environment?
According to the Smol website, Persil non-bio capsules contain around 16.9g of Chemical Dry Matter per wash, whilst Ariel pods contain an average of 18.5g. Smol, on the other hand, claim to only contain 10.1g per wash.
Why does this matter? Laundry capsules contain Bleaching ingredients, Phosphonates and Polycarboxylates that, upon entering the environment, can alter the pH of soils and damage plant roots.
I did not want my dirty washing to have a dirty impact on the environment, so I opted into the trial and decided to put them to the test.
The website directs you to start the “free trial” and there appears to be nowhere that you can begin the subscription service without opting into it.
You are then sent to a personality-quiz-esque set of questions: Are you bio or non-bio? (I selected non-bio as I have fairly sensitive skin) How many capsules do you use per wash? How many washes do you do per week? (I think that this is to determine the number of boxes that they send you per month).
For a usual subscription, without the trial, you are sent a box of 24, priced at £3.85. So, if you are like me and do two washes per week, you will only be charged and sent a new box every three months.
On to payment and, surprise surprise, the “free trial” is not actually free and requires you to pay £1 to cover the cost of postage for the nine pods. If you’re a PayPal-only kind of person then these might not be for you as they do not currently accept it. Annoyingly, there is nothing to say how long delivery will take and you are not given an email to update you on their dispatch, so you just have to sit and wait patiently. Nevertheless, I ordered them on Tuesday evening and on the following Saturday morning, a little brown cardboard package clunked onto my hallway floor.
Smol has won me over with the packaging. The nine little blue pods are neatly lined up in rows, within a slimline, white plastic container. The plastic, however, is made from recycled and sustainable materials and is also 100% recyclable itself. The box is much smaller than my usual laundry pods and, as it is flat, it fits perfectly in that weird dusty gap between my washer and the countertop. Out of sight, out of mind.
Smell Test: The Smol pods are less fragranced than my normal pods, most likely due to their fragrance being produced by essential oils rather than traditional perfume chemicals. The only thing that I enjoy about doing the washing, is the fresh linen smell that your clothes have after a wash and I found the scent of the Smol capsules to be a bit of a let-down. The website does state that Smol’s aim was to “ensure that the smell is not overbearing or artificial, just beautifully fresh and clean,” therefore, if you are a fan of subtlety you should give them a go.
Enough of the small talk, time to get down to the washing!
Wash number one: The darks
As dark clothes do not need to dazzle and gleam as bright as Simon Cowell’s teeth, I thought that this would be an easy task to start the pods on. However, my penchant for the black skinny jean and black crop top co-ord meant that this was going to be a large load.
Ordinarily, one of my usual pods would have excelled under these conditions however, the Smol website states to use two pods for a larger wash. To give it a fighting chance, I chucked two of the blue squidgy capsules into the back of the drum, followed by the clothes and added fabric softener. I set the washer away on its daily wash setting (40 degrees, 1400 spins, for one hour).
Overall, this wash (minus my frosted apple and winter pine fabric softener) cost me 22.2p on the free trial and would have cost me 32.08p on the normal subscription. Annoyingly, using two pods meant that it cost me more than it would have to run one of my normal pods which work out to be around 18.5p.
After the wash, my clothes do seem to be clean. The black pyjama top that I sit and do my makeup in on the morning has no longer got a beige foundation mark around the neckline and nothing else seems to be stained. One thing I did notice was the lack of fresh smell, they smelt vaguely clean but not enough to be wowed by.
Overall verdict for wash one: They have not impressed me
Wash number two: The lights
To make things interesting, I’m throwing an orangey curveball into the mix and deciding that tonight is tanning night. This means that my trusty, light grey, ‘One Tree Hill hoodi
e comes out of the pyjama drawer and prepares to take the hit of my sticky, tan-covered body and will be in the wash by the next day.
Many laundry powders have tried and failed to get the pinkish-brown developer stains off, but I am happy that my current laundry pods do the job well and, after yesterday’s wash, I could not say that I had much hope for the Smol tabs.
Using only one pod this time, the wash was cheaper at around 11.1p on the free trial and 16p on the subscription.
One hour later, I opened the glass door, fully expecting to see my tan run onto the other whites.
After close inspection, there is not a speck of tan left on the hoodie and all the washing smells so much fresher and cleaner than the day before. I think the trick is to cut down on the load size and do little-and-often.
It did not manage to get out some hair dye stains from an old Wham! T-shirt, but I was not expecting miracles.
Overall, I’m really impressed by how the lighter lot of clothes turned out and I would consider continuing the subscription if they performed like this regularly.
So, what have I concluded?
(Aside from the fact that I don’t deserve nice clothes because I’ll just ruin them with hair dye, foundation and fake tan).
If you are worried about your environmental impact of laundry, then I would say they are definitely worth the switch, as long as you don’t have masses of washing to be doing on a weekly basis. The packaging was the biggest positive for me because it is conveniently sized and there is something that I like about having them delivered in the post. I just wish they smelt better however, as they are a relatively new company, this might be something that they will work on in the future.
- You can alter your subscription to suit how many washes you need, change their frequency etc.
- The packaging is more convenient than regular pods as it is not as bulky and is sustainable.
- It is cheaper, per pod, than regular brands. Less toxic chemicals are being released into the environment.
- If you do a big wash, they don’t work as well and you may need two pods, making it pricier and releases more toxins into the environment than regular pods.
- You can’t pay by PayPal.
- It is a pain in the arse to cancel the subscription. Rather than press a button on your account to cancel, you have to e-mail them. They took two days to respond and accept my rejection, so do not leave it until a few days before your next payment comes out if you are wanting to cancel it.