Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA)

January 2002


Report of the National Consumer Affair Center of Japan
"Full Automatic Washer with the Detergent Free Cycle
- From Consumer's perception of Laundry to Next Steps hereafter"

Note: Tentative translation by JSDA

1. Objective
2. The Washer
3. Test Condition
4. Test Results

4-1) Wash cycle time (actually measured)/Process
4-2) Cleaning Performance for Food Stains

4-3) Cleaning Performance in repeated Wear 'n Wash cycle with "Light Soils"
4-4) Cleaning Performance for the Cloths with Artificial Stain Formula
4-5) "How about Fabric Damage (MA test method)?" - Intensity of Mechanical force
4-6) Fabric Damage
4-7) Results of Consumer Research (about Laundry Habit)
4-8) Length of Wash Cycle & Cost (Electricity & Water Consumption)
4-9) Recommended Dosage of Detergent

5. Conclusion
6. Advice to Consumers
7. Next Steps hereafter

A full automatic washer with the detergent free cycle (hereafter, the D.F.C) was launched in August 2001. The Washer allows consumers to select either "with detergent cycle" or the "detergent free cycle " depending on the level/ type of soils. The idea of "Removing soils without using detergent" is impressive, as detergent and washer have been perceived as an inseparable set. Those concerned parties have disputed "Classification of soils" and "actual cleaning performance of the washer", and also mass media has communicated the situation. However, the dispute may not be easy for consumers to understand, and not quite many information available for consumers how the real performance is.

At that, we conducted a series of tests for the washer, mainly focusing on the cleaning performance for "organic soils" and "light soils on the garments worn for a day", which the manufacturer claims as ones removable by the D.F.C, and fabric damage and laundry cost besides. We also conducted our consumer research regarding "soils on fabric", "laundering" and "their perception of the role of detergent in their laundry habit". Here we present our learning and proposal for next steps hereafter.

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2. The Washer
  • Name - Full Automatic Washing Machine, "Let's wash with Electrolyzed Water and Ultrasonic"
  • Number - ASW-ZR700
  • Capacity - 7KG (Detergent Free Cycle allows up to 4 KG)
  • Manufacturer - Sanyo Electric Co.,Ltd.
  • Suggested Retail Price - JPY118,000

    (Used for reference - launched in July 2001)
  • Name - Full Automatic Washing Machine, "Let's wash with Tilted Drum and Ultrasonic"
  • Number - ASW-EC701
  • Capacity - 7KG
  • Manufacturer - Sanyo Electric Co.,Ltd.
  • Price - Open

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3. Test Condition

We conducted cleaning performance tests in the following four different settings. Load of Laundry (4KG) and Water Volume (43L)/Temp(23C) are common across them.

a. ASW-ZR700 - Detergent Free Cycle
b. ASW-ZR700 - Standard Cycle with the washer-recommending dose of detergent. (20g/43L)
c. ASW-ZR700 - Standard Cycle with the detergent-recommending dosage of detergent (29g/43L)
d. ASW-EC701 - Standard Cycle with the longest washing time (20 minutes) without detergent.

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4. Test Results

4-1 Wash cycle time (actually measured)/Process: Total washing time of the D.F.C for 4KG load and 43L water was 1 hour and 8 minutes (average, n=3), started from pre-washing, then main washing, degerming rinsing, draining and up to spinning.

4-2 Cleaning Performance for Food Stains

Cleaning Performance for Food Stains
Stain/ Condition I II III IV Comment
Soy Sauce - - - - Removed well by any condition.
Orange Juice - - - - Removed well by any condition.
Ketchup A B A B Some removed much, and some did not.
Chinese chili oil A C B B There was difference among conditions, but overall all legs did not removed much.
Meat Sauce A B B B There was difference among conditions, but overall all legs did not removed much.
Canned Coffee C B A C Some removed much, and some did not.
* A: better than average, B: average, C: poorer than average

The D.F.C claims that "Organic soils disappear by the power of the Electrolyzed Water! It does not remove soils but radically decompose them." The results from 6 food stains as representative of organic soils confirmed that soy sauce and orange juice were sufficiently removed in the D.F.C, and also in Condition IV. Ketchup was removed better in the D.F.C than in the cycle with detergent. Chinese chili oil and meat sauce were removed slightly better in the D.F.C than in the others. But, None of all the conditions completely washed out these stains. On the other hand for coffee stain removal, "with detergent condition (II and III)" performed comparatively better than "without detergent condition (I and IV)".

We asked 15 panelists whether they felt a reluctance to wear the after-wash garments by the means of five grading scale. Their reactions were ok for the garments, which were with soy sauce or orange juice, as these stains completely gone. But, they showed a sort of reluctance to wear the garments, which were with the other stains. This was because these stains were not completely removed in any conditions, while they recognized the extent of unremoved soil varied across the conditions.

4-3 Cleaning Performance in repeated Wear 'n Wash cycle with "Light Soils" (Underwear Worn for a Day)

Factor/ Condition I II III IV
Dirt Removal B
Noticeably Dirty
Noticeably Dirty
Odor C
Slightly Noticeable
Slightly Noticeable
Skin-Feel C A A B
Shape Retention
Overall Evaluation
Want to wash by a detergent
Wear as it is
Wear as it is
Want to wash by a detergent
* Repeatedly Worn by 8 adult males for each leg (total 32 panelists). Evaluation by 16 panelists (ave. age was 38)

Total 32 adult males wore underwear for a day and we washed at the end of the day. We repeated this cycle 10 times.
(8 per washing condition - total 32 people). We checked the cleaning performance of the washer in "Dirt Removal", "Odor removal", "Texture", "Shape Retentionability" and "Overall Evaluation".

Wash Conditions without detergent (I and IV) were evaluated poor in all of these elements. For example, panelist said that dirt-removal performance through the conditions without detergent was different from that through the conditions with detergent. For "Odor", they felt that body odor/else remained over the garments, and the intensity was somewhat unwelcome. In addition, the underwear washed through the condition I and IV got noticeable black dinginess at the tag sewed to the neck and at the seams. This suggested wash without detergent was causing accumulation of unremoved soils and redeposition of released soils. Based on these, panelists judged the cleaning performance without detergent was poor. We however did not find a big difference in cleaning performance between condition II and III despite different detergent dosage.

4-4 Cleaning Performance for the Cloths with Artificial Stain Formula

The cloths with the artificial stain formula, which is used for a performance test of washers by the JIS standard method, contains inorganic soils as well as organic, and is regarded as a model of relatively heavy soil, such as mud soil. Thus, it is NOT applicable to the D.F.C for "light soil". Knowing this, as the current JIS standard method designates the cloths to evaluate the performance of washer, we tested the machine with the cloths as a reference.

Cleaning Test Results for the cloths with artificial stain formula.

Performance Index 0.72 1 1.34 0.63

We compared the results thorough the condition I and IV to what we conducted in July 2001 (note - a test for standard cycle of Sanyo's machine with less detergent dosage) as a reference. Yet these index are smaller than before, so we may conclude the cleaning performance is unsatisfactory. Of note, NO standard compendia methods for cleaning performance for light soils.

4-5 "How about Fabric Damage (MA test method)?" - Intensity of Mechanical force

We checked if the washed garments got damaged, by measuring the force of mechanical power with Denmark-made MA test fabrics. (The intensity is expressed by the number of frays (MA numbers), so that the more the number of frays, the greater the mechanical force is.) The results were shown below.

Results of MA test method (Number of frays)

I II III IV Average of 5 full automatic washing machines sold as of July 2001
MA number 91 42 43 67 22 - 59
Washing Time
68 min 33 min 33 min 48 min 31 - 46

As the above chart indicates, MA numbers through the cycle without detergent (I and IV) were 91, and 67 respectively. Particularly, we found the D.F.C (I) used very powerful mechanical force. This may be due to the length of the wash cycle (> 1 hour). MA numbers through the condition II and III were almost the same despite different detergent concentration, and yet within the range of the average MA numbers of 5 full automatic washers which we reported in July 2001.

4-6 Fabric Damage

We washed towels for 20 times and checked loss in weight and extent of fabric damage. The D.F.C Wash resulted in 1700 frays per towel, so it extremely damaged the towel. It is obviously different result from the condition IV (470 frays), II and III (some 70 each). In addition, towels washed in the D.F.C lost the weight by 3.2%, and the texture lost the original softness. Through-the-condition II and III obviously showed the difference.

24 new underwear were washed 10times repeatedly, and were checked their fabric damage and loss in weight. The D.F.C Wash resulted in 2.7 frays per wear, of those length were 5 cm longer at collar, cuff and neck. Also we found significant damage for seams. The average numbers of the frays per underwear through the condition II and III were just 0.3 and 0.4, respectively. Washed underwear through the condition I resulted in 1.5% loss in weight, and those through the II and III resulted in about 1.0% loss in weight.

Fabric Damage

Towels - Average Number of Frays approx. 1700 approx. 70 approx. 70 approx. 470
Towels - Weight Loss by 20 washes 3.2% 1.1% 1.1% 2.5%
Underwear - Average Number of Frays C (2.7) B (0.3) B (0.4) B (0.9)
Underwear - Weight Loss by 20 Washes 1.5%

4-7 Results of Consumer Research (about Laundry Habit)

We conducted consumer research about laundry habit to 210 readers of NCAC's monthly magazine and 348 consumer advisors. The data speaks, 1) 62.7% of them do laundering once a day, 2) 85.7% of them do wash-class separation, depends on "Delicate/ Heavy Duty" and "dark Colored/ Light Colored + White". But, frequency of doing so is irregular.

We asked them when they felt their garments had lost the cleanness. Many people answered, "after wearing a couple of times or once". 48.2% of them answered "after wearing once". In addition, we asked when to decide laundering, 82.1% of them answered "After wearing once".

Furthermore, more than 80% of panelists answered that they washed underwear after wearing once, and more than half of them considered T-shirt, men's dress shirt and blouse as what they wash after wearing once. It appears to be clearer that many consumers perceived of garments worn for a day had got dirt, regardless visible/invisible. So they wash them out.

It was also found that more than half of them (56.3%) had adjusted detergent dosage themselves. Plus, 51.6% of them were willing to save the dosage for the sake of environment and other reasons. 4.7% of them would save even if no satisfactory finishing.

4-8 Length of Wash Cycle & Cost (Electricity & Water Consumption)

We compared the cost of the Detergent Free Wash to those for conventional standard cycle wash.

Length of wash cycle and cost (Average of 8 loads)

Washing Time 68 min.
33 min.
33 min.
48 min.
Electricity Consumption 132Wh/ JPY3.0 43Wh/ JPY1.0 43Wh/ JPY1.0 59Wh/ JPY1.4
Water Consumption 123L/ JPY18.4 99L/ JPY14.8 99L/ JPY14.8 99/ JPY14.8
Detergent Consumption 0g/ JPY0.0 20g/ JPY7.8 29g/ JPY11.3 0g/ JPY0.0
Cost per load JPY21.4 JPY23.6 JPY27.1 JPY16.2
Annual Cost JPY7,811 JPY8,614 JPY9,892 JPY5,913

As shown in the chart, The D.F.C (I) took 68 minutes to complete one wash cycle, took twice as long as standard cycle (33 minutes). The D.F.C consumed triple amount (132Wh) of electricity versus standard cycle. This may be because of the installed compressor which works to generate the electrolyzed water and ultrasonic. In addition, The D.F.C required 20% more water consumption. We concluded that the D.F.C cost lower in total than standard cycle because of no use of detergent, but cost higher in water and electricity.

Of note, The D.F.C does not allow to wash whatever, in case like washing heavily soiled items (muddy socks) or delicate items, detergent is necessary per the users manual. Thus, actual cost in the daily life gets higher than the estimated.

4-9 Recommended Dosage of Detergent

Recommended dosage of detergent is instructed both on the carton box of detergent and washer panel, so that it is natural to think that consumers are referring either way. (Our research said that 34.8% of consumers follow the carton box instruction, 17% follows washer's.) Here are dosage instructions from both.

Recommended dosage - detergent carton box and washer.
(20g / 30L detergent)
Load Wt. Detergent Carton Box Washer A Washer B Washer C
3.0KG 30g/ 45L approx. 18g/ 39L 25g/ 38L 27g/ 41L
4.0KG 37g/ 55L approx. 20g/ 43L 29g/ 43L 36g/ 50L

(15g/ 30L detergent)
Load Wt. Detergent Carton Box Washer A Washer B Washer C
3.0KG 23g/ 45L (No suggestion) approx. 19g/ 38L 21g/ 41L

This Chart shows the instructed reco.dose from detergent carton box and washer. As seen, there is a gap in recommended dosage between them. However No significant difference in actual cleaning performance was observed either way.

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5. Conclusion

We see the washer with the D.F.C as taking friendly-to-environment into the consideration. The washer dared to ask the world to revisit questions like, "why always detergent for any soils?", or "what if no detergent for it?", and we think that is a credit for them. Data from our consumer research says, as long as worn for a day, many people tend to wash their garments even without visible stains, while the other many concerns whether detergent may increase load to environment.
Through the series of our test, it was found the D.F.C performed better for food stains removal than the other conditions, however, never showed satisfactory performance for "light soils on the garments worn for a day". In addition, the intensity of the mechanical force was extremely powerful, so that fabric damage was more obvious than the other washing condition. Furthermore, as the D.F.C does not allow to wash whatever, consumers need to do soil class separation and wash them separately. Net, even taking workload for users, water, and electricity, further technical improvement is necessary in order to be popular in daily life.

Both washer and detergent carton box are instructing "recommended detergent dosage". The way of expression and actual recommended amount, however are different. Considering to establish the harmonized instruction is important from now on. We suggest that entire society (consumers, appliance manufacturers, detergent manufacturers, both industries and government) to discuss "How we can educate consumers about soils and washing frequency", "How we can secure satisfactory cleaning performance" and "how we can decrease load to the environment due to detergent."

Hereafter summarized the details in conclusion.

1. Cleaning Performance

Cleaning performance of the D.F.C. was relatively good for food stains, or even better than the standard wash with detergent for some types of stains. For "light soils on underwear worn for a day", however, cleaning performance from the D.F.C. was inferior to the standard wash with detergent in "soil removal", "odor removal", and also "after-wash texture", despite the fitness to light soils was claimed in users manual. Quite a few panelists did not say no hesitation in going on with the D.F.C. only for daily laundering, because they would mind unremoved soils.
Of note, no significant difference in cleaning performance was observed between two different recommended doses of detergent, one from the washer instruction and the other from the detergent carton box label respectively.

2. Fabric Damage
More powerful mechanical force was confirmed in the D.F.C. vs. previously tested model. The higher the force intensity is, the greater the negative impact to fabric is. After repeating the wash cycle ten times, 2.7 frays (5 cm long) at collar, cuffs area per underwear were observed in through-the-D.F.C wash, so that meant D.F.C caused severer damage to fabric than the other three tested conditions did. Similar trend was observed with towel, too. After repeating the wash cycle twenty times, the drawn conclusion from the loss-in-weight and those frays (1,700 frays) over the towel was, again, D.F.C caused severer damage than the other conditions.

3. Consumer Research
According to the result from our consumer research (n=558), they perceived that their clothes had got soiled as worn a couple of times or once. Majority of them were even thinking that worn once was already dirt. Plus, it was found that 82.1% of them saw their worn once clothes to wash.
Examples of clothes they saw as the subject to wash after they wore once were, underwear, T-shirt, men's dress shirt, and blouse. So the data suggested, the trend of "You wear once, then you wash it" had well anchored in daily habit, even with no visible stains.
As for detergent dosage, fewer followed the recommended dosage blindly, rather, majority had adjusted the dosage themselves. Also more than half of them asserted their intention to save the dosage for environment, even if they were not satisfied with the finishing result.

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6. Advice to Consumers

1. Our data said, 1) more than half of consumers intended to save detergent dosage for environment, 2) majority of them perceived their clothes would get dirt after being worn once, and 3) over 80% of them washed their worn once clothes. This suggested majority of us were not doing a conscious laundry. It is better to keep in mind that the more you do your laundry, the more the chance of fabric damage, and also the more the utility cost (water/electricity).

2. The greater mechanical force in the D.F.C wash caused significant fabric damage. On top of this, taking the poorer cleaning performance into account, it is better to see that D.F.C wash may fit only to light soils as instructed in the users manual. Also you'd better purchase this washer in the knowledge that you need to do soil class separation.

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7. Next Steps hereafter

(For Industry of launderers)

The Detergent Free concept for light soils may be perceived to be good, however, it was concluded that the subject washer caused severe damage to fabric due to the greater mechanical force. Suggestible next step to the washer manufacturer is improving the performance from fabric damage point of view. Also right PR message needs to be used in the advertisement not to cause misleading for consumers.

Only negligible difference in cleaning performance was seen between two different detergent doses. Suggestible next step for detergent manufactures is, considering minimal, but just right dosage corresponding to the load of clothes/soils.
Also both washer and detergent manufacturers would better to discuss 1) what is just right dose and 2) how to communicate that to consumer in any easier ways. This is because the difference in the communication means of recommended dosage is not consumer friendly.

According to our research data, it appears to be general that lightly soiled clothes are regularly to be the subject to wash. Industry of launderers would better to consider future laundry system taking load of clothes and just right detergent dosage into account.

(For the controlling body - Government)
It is easily foreseeable to see the next generation washer launch for light soils. As of now, NO objective means and criteria are available to evaluate cleaning performance for light soil, which are often invisible, but available for moderate to heavy soils. (i.e. JIS cloths with the artificial stains), so no way for us other than our own means and criteria.

Establishment of clear definition for soil class is necessary. This is one of the findings from our research, since consumers generally care even invisible soils. Then, establishment of practical test method and criteria to evaluate cleaning performance for light soil comes, needless to say, for fabric damage as well.

(End of Report)

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