We can use a lot less detergent because our water is very soft

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Back in 2007, the Capital Regional District ran a campaign to get us to use less detergent. Detergent in the water we dump down the drain can damage the ecosystem, we were told. Use less to help the environment. Save money at the same time.

I missed that campaign, but I’m catching up now after spotting a weathered CRD brochure posted at a laundromat. (I had strolled past the laundromat countless times and decided last week to spend a few minutes checking out its machines, prices, ambiance and bulletin board.)

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Here’s a summary of what the CRD brochure says:

Because we have soft water coming out of Greater Victoria taps, using less detergent than what is recommended on the packaging will still provide good cleaning results. This applies to detergent for clothes, dishes, housecleaning and our bodies.

Use half the recommended amount and you’ll still be fine. Recommended amounts are based on using water with moderate hardness. The harder water gets, the more detergent you need to maintain cleaning performance.

A cynic might also say that manufacturers want you to use more detergent so that they can sell more. So they recommend using more than necessary. But I’m not a cynic.

I’ve been testing this use-less-detergent approach, and it seems to work. My tests have not been scientific or even organized. I’ve eyeballed clothes and dishes washed by machine using less detergent, and they meet my reasonably rigorous cleanliness standards (namely, no food stuck to the dishes, most stains on clothing gone).

As a result of this, I’m going to use boxed dishwasher detergent powder most of the time, where you pour free-form amounts. Ever since we bought a new dishwasher last year, I’ve mostly been using tablets, where the amount is pre-set, because the dishwasher manual said they are the most effective option. They’ve apparently been overkill, and they also cost more by volume than boxed detergent powder.

So, it’s a new era at the dishwasher and clothes washer for our household.

Next up: using dramatically less shampoo.

CRD’s laundry detergent reduction page

Wikipedia entry on water softening

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