Washing Powder versus liquid detergent

Washing powder is a powdered form of soap designed specifically for the purpose of cleaning fabric.

Well that sounds obvious doesnt it, and easy to understand.

The term washing powder is universally applied to powdered detergent. Like a liquid detergent, powdered detergent is added to water for the purpose of cleaning the fabrics. These days thankfully most washing takes place in a washing machine though in some parts of the world it is still common for families to have to complete laundering tasks by hand.

The purpose of all detergent is to produce a solvent capable of tackling soils and deposits on fabrics. All surfactants/detergents are both water loving and water repelling. Having both a hydrophobic and hydrophilic head. 

Over the years laundry powder has been perfected so that it will grab the dirt from the fabric during the wash cycle and hold onto it in the water solution until it is ready to be rinsed away. Thus completing the Laws of Transferrance – displacing dirt from one place to another.

The use of washing powder has a long history – probably far longer than you imagine.

“Over four thousand years ago, mankind’s most advanced race of its time the “Ancient Egyptians” were using detergents made from plants and alkaline salts to launder their clothes. Obsessed with wearing clean clothing and often very white linens, this work was usually completed by men.”  Experience Ancient Eygipt

Millenniums later, we’ve got our formulas a lot better, but we still add powered soap or liquid detergent in with our water to clean our clothes.  Just as our ancestors did,  but fortunately, with the invention of washing machines, the process is now much easier.

So why choose washing powder, versus a liquid detergent? Or vice a versa?

Is Powder sensible or old fashioned?

Some people might consider washing powder old fashioned. After all liquids and tabs have only been around for the last couple of decades. So if they are the new invention in detergent, then what are the advantages and disadvantages of the two? And, why is Distinctive only manufactured as a powder?

Well, powder has a few things on its’ side.

Washing powder safety record

Liquid detergents alarmingly get squirted by accident into young and old people’s faces or eyes. In more recent years we have heard a lot about young people ingestin them, on purpose with depressing regularity. University and college youngsters in the USA were reporting it as a craze not so long ago. Resulting in a trip to the hospital, at best. But powder is harder to swallow and slow to dissolve and tastes horrible instantly so in comparison isn’t an experiment many people would be willing to try. Everyone’s heard a horror story about an accident involving liquid or pods detergent.  When was the last time you heard of an accident involving loose washing powder?

Similar: sweets and tabs
Safety issues with tabs and liquids. Washing powder has almost no cases of ingestion compared to liquids and tabs.

Laundry detergent pods have a terrible safety record. Something about those little packets is irresistible to children, it seems. Not just to eat, either. To a toddler, a capsule resembles a squishy toy, but if they pop the fun can end in tears. And cases are on the rise, with researchers last year finding an increase of over twenty percent in the reported cases of children ingesting laundry detergent – and of those cases, the ones that contained liquid instead of granules had the worst outcomes.

We are a family of three and our youngest child managed to pop a liquid tab when she was quite small resulting in screams and a hospital visit when it went all over her face and in her eyes. So being entirely unjudgemental please if you are reading, becasue these accidents easily happen.

And accidents are not confined to youngsters. Age Concern has serious fears for the elderly using liquid tabs in unsteady hands. Spills of detergent on thinning skin that isn’t immediately washed, (due to lack of sensation) can cause third-degree burns after being in contact with the skin for only 30 minutes or so. Having seen an elderly gent in hospital with the side of his face seriously marked in this way it is no small matter.

Wash Results

There is an advantage in the way powder is dispersed in a washing machine. Being collected from the dispenser drawer it is still grainy whilst water is first added taking approximatley 20 minutes o dissolve and therefore is only fully dissolved by the time the machine has filled with water and mad dozens of rotations. If the machine isnt overfilled resulting in nice and even wash.

Beware if the machne was overstuffed with clothes, overdosed with powder  and barely fills with water then you are going to find patches of powder residue left on clothing. This is not the powders fault but the user that needs further laundry lessons.

The disadvantage of liquid is similar;

Soap is collected from the detergent drawer as soon as the machine starts working and has a tendency to go straight onto dry fabric and soak deeply into the dry material. This can have pretty dire consequences if you overload on liquid detergent, or are running a wash cycle that uses very little water. Resulting in a rather patchy effect.  Have you ever seen a laundry liquid stain at the end of a short wash?

To be fair to liquid detergents this is why some machine manufacturers have introduced dosing systems that dispense liquid directly at the back of the drum as the water flows in so that dillution is accurate. But that doesnt leave the consumer any personal choice over the detergent they would like to use and keeps them buying a detergent they are almost certainly paying a commission on to a particular manufcturer.

Situation where powder can have complications

As mentioned above Washing powder takes a little while to dissolve, which means if you overpack your washing machine too tightly with clothing you can be at risk of white powder marks on fabric. This is what happens when pockets of fabric remain too tightly packed and don’t come into contact with water equally. Avoided by not overdosing and not overpacking your machine. Did you know a full machine should hav enough free space that you can waggle your hand around inside.

Cleaner washing machine drawer

mould caused by fabric softener
mouldy washing machine drawer

Liquid tends to gunk up the machine more. If the door seal is looking black and mouldy, there’s a pretty high chance that you’re using washing liquid or a liquid softener. Using powder on its own keeps the drawer cleaner.

And little did you know before reading this, that the mould which starts in the drawer goes all the way through your tubes to the washing machine drum. Meaning that you need to use an antibacterial/antifungal just to get clean washing. Have a look at yours and give it a good clean

Washing Powder can be transported in paper packaging.

Distinctive benefits from a plastic liner that also doubles up as a 30litre bin bag afterward. We tested delivering with a liner and without and our customers concluded that a liner was best, in order to keep the fragrances and essential oils fresher for a longer period of time.

Dry powder holds designer fragrances perfectly without needing preservative content but open to the air, it is the same as potpourri, and will evaporate fragrance over time.

Some of our customers only buy twice a year and decant into the airtight glass Kilner jars at home to make the most of our fragrances. If you are a business using a lot of laundry powder and scent isnt likely to get chance to evaporate we can send you detergent without any plastic liner at all.

All liquids need bottles and all liquids need chemical preservative content to keep them from going mouldy 🙁

Other Washing powder disadvantages

Some powders can have problems dissolving if the water temperature is too cool or wash cycle too short.

If you’re using washing powder, here are some good, general tips:

  • A little goes a long way. overload and you’ll just end up with a white residue, not cleaner clothes.
  • You don’t have to have a machine to use washing powder!
  • Judge the amount you’re dosing with by how dirty the load is and your water hardness. (Side eyeing my brother here), Half a scoop of Distinctive is enough if you are in a soft water area just freshening clothes after normal wear.

Share this post to laundry lovers and haters everywhere! They all might discover something useful they did not know

#beDistinctive use offer code “tryusout” in the checkout if you’d like a sample with a small discount