Battle of the Bubbles

use me instead!

The chances are, if you ask The Man from Salford to pop down the shops and pick up some washing-up liquid, he will return armed with the most luridly coloured, toxic looking stuff he can find.  I fear he has Cillit Bang! tendencies.  Trying to appear gracious at the same time as patiently explaining this will not do for the delicately balanced  micro-organisms in our septic tank is not easy.  It comes out more like, ‘What on earth have you bougth that stuff for?  Why do you think I’ve been feeding the toilets Yakult?’  If you remember rightly I have been trying to restore our septic tank’s bowels to perfectly non-smelly harmony without the aid of a dead sheep. (Please see Septic Tanks and Dead Sheep.) 

Apparently he has bought it because the ‘stuff you use’ does not have enough bubbles and that when I do the washing up the glasses are all smeary.  This, I think, is the fault of my slapdash housekeeping rather than the fault of the liquid, I confess, my main concern when it comes to glasses is that they should hold wine.  All this, however, has inspired me to conduct a little survey of some of the eco-liquids out there, for all of you who care about what we are tipping into our water courses.  When it comes to waste and energy consumption, industry is well ahead of the domestic sector in unsustainable practices, but when it comes to pollutants and chemicals, our homes put together form a mega-factory pumping out toxic waste. 

I have called in my friend Sarah in order to eliminate  the variable of my poor washing-up standards.  Sarah does stuff like ironing and can form perfect pyramids out of blu-tack; when she pulls on the Marigolds she could win a dust-up with Kim and Aggie any day.  Credentials sorted!

We put three liquids to the test; Ecover, Bio-D and the Co-operative’s own label eco-friendly washing up liquid.   I had to bribe Sarah with the promise of curry, wine and coffee – all suitably yukky stuff to wash up.  Each wash load consisted of four plates and asscociated cutlery, four wine glasses, four coffee cups, one pan sticky with rice starch and one pan with some burnt on chickpea dhal.  I hasten to add we didn’t actually consume between us twelve portions of curry, twelve glasses of wine and twelve cups of coffee!   We just dirtied the dishes up again each time. We discovered that without the pleasure of sitting down and eating this is almost as tiresome as actually washing up.  We measured out (using one of those kiddie’s medicine dosers) 10mls of each liquid and used even amounts of hot and cold water.

We were in total agreement that each of the liquids performed equally well in terms of doing the job of washing up, not a smear in sight!  The difference in price among them (and the leading non-eco brand) was negligible.  Sarah liked the fact that the Bio-D made her hands feel soft and was almost scentless.  I actually prefer the subtle scent of Ecover.  We both agreed that the co-op brand was unnecessarily green and smelt strongly of pear drops. 

So far, there is really very little of substance to differentiate the three liquids.  I had a quick glance at which rates products out of twenty against five criteria; environmental impact, people (treatment of  employees for example), animals (welfare and testing) politics (armaments dealings, financing) and product sustainability.  These are not given equal weighting in the overall score however, go visit to find out more.  Bio-D came out on top with a score of 16.5, followed by the co-op brand at 12 and Ecover scored 10.5.  To put this in perspective Fairy and Persil washing-up liquids score 0 and 0.5 respectively.

There is little uniformity in the ingredients listings of any brands of washing up liquids, some are very precise, others use catch-all terms like ‘surfactants’.  (It simply means detergent)  As a general rule, however, the more vegetable based the ingredients are, the faster the biodegradability of the product.  Read the ingredients listings, I think it’s good to question them, but I’ll simplify here, in the unlikely event I was forced to eat one of these liquids I would choose Bio-D. 

 Sarah with her prize!

My main hope is that having read this, I will have convinced you (if not The Man from Salford) that swapping to a more environmentally friendly product will not have a negative impact upon your quality of life.  Sarah says they work!   A good range of Ecover products is available from Simply Fair, obviously if you’re in the co-op and you happen to need washing up liquid you could do worse than buy their eco-brand.  You can buy Bio-D from Amazon either in 1l or 5l, the latter works out cheaper.

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