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Can Magnets Clean Dirty Laundry?

A brand new white t-shirt is stained in four ways.

Can placing magnets inside of your washing machine effectively clean your clothes, without using any laundry detergent? This is a question we get asked occasionally, but have never had a solid answer for.

There are some magnetic products that claim to wash your clothes without the use of laundry detergent. Simply stick the magnets to the drum of the washing machine and run your regular wash cycle.

We were skeptical of these claims so we wanted to conduct this experiment for ourselves. After all, Magnets Are Weird, right?

 

Scientific Method: Ask a Question

Magnets vs. Detergent

Can placing magnets to the drum of a washing machine effectively clean clothes, without using any laundry detergent?

 

Background Research

While searching the Internet for some information regarding these claims, it’s hard to find any information on the basis for the claims…how this actually works. Perhaps it’s because the products are patented, or maybe they’re not popular enough to have public data yet.

One piece of information we found said that you have to use warm water for this to work - we can do that!

A few years back, we explored the topic of Magnetic Water Treatment -- the idea that you can use strong neodymium magnets to soften hard water. We were skeptical of these claims, too. Through various tests, our data was a bit inconclusive, however there was a small amount of evidence that the magnets might have had some kind of effect on the water. Our conclusion was that, despite the abundance of misinformation on the subject, there might be some real effect.

Do magnetic fields affect some particles in the water? Do they “charge” ions in the water? If there is dirt in the water, could the magnets affect these particles, too?

 

Hypothesis

If we place strong neodymium magnets in a laundry system, then the clothes will become just as clean as when using laundry detergent.

 

Experiment

Four identical, stained t-shirts for our testing.

The experiment consists of 4 tests, using 4 different kinds of stains. We spread an equal amount of ketchup, peanut oil, soy sauce and mud on plain, white, cotton t-shirts. We let the stains dry overnight.

Since we don’t have a washing machine here at K&J, we filled up four containers with warm water. This may seem like a weak imitation, but it does have some real advantages. Some nay-sayers suggest that residual soap in a washing machine makes testing with just magnets not really a fair test. Our primitive washing methods are sure not to have soap in them.

Plus, all of the tests are on an equal footing.  Even if it isn’t a perfect simulation of the washing machine, they are all the same.

Our 4 scenarios are as follows:

The Four Tests
  1. The Control – Just warm water,
  2. Detergent – Warm water + laundry detergent,
  3. Magnets – Warm water + magnets, and
  4. Magnets and Detergent – Warm water + laundry detergent + magnets.

 

Magnets secured to the container, arranged attracting to provide a strong field between them.

Container 1 had just warm water to act as our control.  Container 2 had warm water and laundry detergent, mimicking the usual way people run their laundry.

Container 3 had warm water and two BY0X08DCSPC-BLK on the inside of the container, attracting to a smaller BX8C6DCSPC-BLK on the outside. One magnet had the north pole facing in, and one had the south pole facing in. This configuration creates a stronger field between them.

Container 4 had warm water, laundry detergent, and the same magnet setup as container 3.

We submerged the soiled t-shirts in the water, stirring them with a wooden spoon. We tried to mimic the movements of a washing machine. We stirred each setup for 5 minutes. After the five minutes, we wrung the t-shirts out as best we could.

 

Analysis

For analysis, we hung up the shirts and judged their cleanliness visually.  It seemed obvious that shirts 1 and 3 looked alike, while 2 and 4 also looked alike. Both sets of shirts seem nearly identical to each other. This leads us to believe that the magnets did not have an effect on cleaning the shirts.

Not surprisingly, the stains on shirts 2 and 4 were removed more than the stains on shirts 1 and 3. The detergent can help remove stains better than just water can. 

It is interesting to note the color differences between the two test sets. Shirts 1 and 3 have an overall brownness to them, while shirts 2 and 4 kept their whiteness. The detergent is good at keeping the whites white!

Watch the video to see our experiment from start to finish!

 

Conclusion

The results are clear. The top two without soap are not as clean as the bottom two with soap.

Soap works. Science understands how it works. Companies are good at making soap that works. Here is an article that explains the science to how soap gets things clean. It’s proven, both scientifically and practically.

No such information exists for using magnets to wash clothes.

However, all we’ve proven here is that using detergent cleans better than not using detergent and magnets don’t get clothes nearly as clean.

As is the case with most things, there are some bad things about soap and detergent. Most are made with various chemicals and artificial substances that can affect people with skin sensitivities.

There are also environmental concerns that are worth thinking about.

To address these concerns, there are plenty of more natural laundry detergents out there.

We like to think magnets can be used for just about anything but I might not slap them on the inside of my washing machine!

If you want to try this test for yourself, or for any other experiments where the magnets get wet, be sure to use our Plastic Coated Magnets - they're waterproof!