Sceptical housewifery

I got an e-mail message from a supermarket chain last week (loyalty card thingie – it’s not that I have a deep and intimate relationship with supermarkets).


They’re changing the size of laundry scoops and the size of laundry powder packs. Packs are reducing in size, but the price stays the same. Looks like a gyp, but scoops are reducing in size to, so they promise, promise, promise, that we will get exactly the same number of washes out of each pack.

Hmmmm….. not so fast with that claim, clever marketing dudes!

emptyscoopsHere are the old scoop, and the new. The new one is much smaller than the old. So on the face of it, it looks as though the claim is plausible. We will get just as many washes out of the new smaller pack and the new smaller scoop, as we got out of the old bigger pack, and the old bigger scoop.  Nothing to see here, move along please.

I thought that I might test the claim.  smallscoopfullAs it turns out, a full new scoop fills the old scoop up to exactly the half-way mark. So if the new scoop fills the old scoop up to the half-way mark, all must be well. Two halves make one whole; an old scoop must be twice the size of one new scoop. Just as many washes to be had out of the new pack and new scoop.

But, when you add a second new scoop to the already half-full old scoop, this is what you get.

overfullscoop moundscoop

A suspicious looking mound.

Two new scoops make more than one old scoop. Not so many washes out of the new smaller pack, which is sold at the same price as the old, bigger pack.

To be sure, there’s only about 10 to 15mls in it, in a scoop (old) that holds about 120mls, more or less. But the way I figure it, when you use the new scoop, you end up using about 10% more than you would have used for an equivalent old-scoop wash.

There’s probably some clever explanation for this. No doubt the manufacturers will tell us that on average, between half washes and full washes, we will get “about” the same number of washes out of the new packs and new scoops. No matter that in order to be environmentally friendly, we are urged to wait until we have a full load before putting the washing machine through.  Maybe it’s to do with the way we measure quarter cups (new scoop) and half cups (old scoop): a quarter cup is set for convenience at 60mls, but a half cup at 125mls. Maybe the manufacturers have run their claim past consumer organisations, and it’s all close enough, so that’s okay then.  Whatever. The fact is, on the face of it, I will get less washes out of the new packs.

All the washing powder manufacturers are making the move, so there’s nothing to be done about it. Except raise a sceptical eyebrow.


15 responses to “Sceptical housewifery

  1. T’was all news to me. It’s made no difference to my soap flakes and washing soda, with a bit of grated sard wonder soap for the kid clothes.

  2. We use low-residue laundry liquid (Renew magazine tested a bunch in Issue 98, we bought a good one coz the greywater goes onto our pumpkins and fruit trees). Also, you know that Choice/Consumer mag used to regularly report that the recommended quantity is typically half to 2/3 of a scoop? We have a pump on the container that delivers about half the suggested amount and that works for most washes. My workshop overalls and other greasy stuff get two pumps. Works for us.

  3. Yes…. I use a more-or-less 2/3 to a full scoop, depending on the amount and dirtiness of the washing. We use a ‘sensitive’ powder; a couple of us have somewhat sensitive skins. They don’t seem to be affected by occasional washing in ordinary powder, but after a while the effect seems to be more pronounced.

    Nevertheless, I’m grumpy about the manufacturers’ claims.

  4. 1. If they were really concerned about the environment, they would cease putting a plastic scoop in every packet.

    2. I suspect I am the last person left who pronounces housewifery as ‘huzzifree,’ the correct pronunciation (and something of a social shibboleth) before the Second War.

  5. For some reason, which I am unable to comprehend, the P&C craft group at my kids’ school collects those little plastic scoops, washes them VERY WELL, fills them with lollies and puts them in little cellophane bags to sell at the Fathers Day gift stall. I envisage a whole bunch of dads feeling really cheated when their Fathers Day scoop of lollies this year turns out to be half the usual size.

    I never fill my scoop up either, even on super dirty loads. Haven’t done since my cousin who was working at DJ’s selling whitegoods some years ago told us about how nearly all laundry powder recommended amounts were too much for Fisher & Paykel’s washing machines and that the excess suds were getting up into the electricals of peoples machines and killing them stone dead. The clothes get clean and the machine is still going strong so I guess it was good advice!

  6. I NEVER use a full scoop anyway – Probably about half to 2/3 on a normal wash.

    I don’t think the pricing is equal here either.

  7. There was a study done in Australia recently (which I haven’t googled, but possibly could have been done by Choice), where they found that washing with powder makes no difference to washing in plain water. I use a very small scoop to make the clothes smell ‘fresh’ and other than that, I let them go au naturel …

    Better for the hip pocket, better for the environment, and better for our skin. And the clothes are still clean!

  8. Ha, Mimbles, the image of dad’s getting all ‘WHAT???Ripped off!’ when looking at the new scoops makes me gigle a little

  9. Good spotting Deborah. I have a similar issue with dishwasher detergent – they are all shifting to the tablets but we have (had, it is now broken) a v old dishwasher which couldn’t cope with tablets at all and we had to use powder. But they stopped making the low-cost recyclable paper boxes of powder, so everytime we had to buy a new plastic container. Sure that container is probably recyclable, but you can bet the manufacture and recycling process is significantly higher impact than the box was.

  10. Not to mention the price of the plastic container powder was significantly higher than the old box refills. (Sorry, forgot my main actual point!)

  11. There’s some (possibly urban myth) saying that the most effective marketing ploy ever was when they added to the back of shampoo bottles, “Rinse and repeat”.

    This reminded me of that.

  12. Pingback: Did you see the one about . . . « Homepaddock

  13. Most of the washing powders are soda ash (a sack of which costs less than a 1kg of washing powder), which is not really needed with treated water.

  14. If you have front loader you’re not meant to use a whole scoop of laundry powder anyway (even though it says on the laundry powder packet AND the washing machine ‘max mark’). Or so the washing machine repairman says…. for about the last 2 years I’ve only been using about quarter of a scoop of washing powder and it washes the clothes exactly the same (apparently it’s more to do with the motion of the machine than the detergent) so it appears to be true. And a thing of washing powder lasts for months and months.