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How to choose between bio or non-bio washing powder

Find out how different detergents compare and how to pick the best one for your laundry with our handy guide.

Updated

The words may seem familiar – bio and non-bio – and you’ve probably seen them on laundry products, but what do they actually mean? And does using one or another make a difference to your laundry? Our guide has all you need to know about whether you need bio or non-bio washing powder.

What is the difference between bio and non-bio washing powder?

The simple answer is that biological products contain enzymes while non-bio products don’t. Enzymes are naturally occurring substances that regulate the rate at which chemical reactions happen (they are very important in the human body – without them, we wouldn’t be alive!). In the case of detergent, they work to power the break up of dirt on clothes, making stain removal faster and more efficient than it would usually be.

How do biological detergents work?

Enzymes are a type of protein and they are very good at breaking down their fellow proteins, which are the main ingredients of common stains such as food, grease, blood, and sweat.

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What are the advantages of bio detergent?

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

Because of the presence of enzymes, bio products work well at lower temperatures even if your garments are stained. This helps save money and energy (as otherwise you would have to use a higher temperature wash). Bio detergents will always outperform non-bio detergents at lower temperatures, from 30° C to 50°C, and they are better for quick washes as well.

What are the advantages of non-biological detergents?

Non-bio washing powders and liquids are generally favoured by those with sensitive skin as they are more gentle than their bio cousins. Non-bio is often the choice for parents washing baby clothes, for example. They can also be better for very delicate materials such as silk. Just remember that you will need higher temperatures to remove stains. If you aren’t sure how sensitive your skin is you can try a test. Wash one article of loose-fitting clothing in bio detergent. Wear it for a couple of hours and see if you have any reaction or the fabric feels uncomfortable. If it does, you should probably stick to non-bio.

How to use bio and non-bio detergents

Whether you use bio or non-bio washing powder, you can use them in the same way. Both types can be added to the laundry soap dispenser or used in the drum. Just make sure to follow the product’s instructions. Check our detailed guide on how to use detergent in your washing machine for further information.

Is biological washing powder bad for skin?

Some people with skin conditions find that bio detergents irritate their skin and prefer non-bio alternatives. There are a few scientific papers that show bio is no worse than anything else when it comes to skin irritation, but if you’re concerned, the best way to find out is to do a test yourself (see above). Check out our article for more on the best detergent for sensitive skin.

Does bio washing powder fade clothes?

Bio detergents can cause some fading to clothes, though there are other factors that come into play, such as the agitation of the wash cycle and the heat and action of the dryer.

Do bio detergents damage clothes?

In general, bio detergents won’t harm your clothing, though you want to avoid using them on fine fabrics such as wool and silk. These materials contain proteins, which is what bio cleaners are designed to attack (it doesn’t know that your best silk shirt isn’t a blob of ketchup, unfortunately). Check out our handy guide if you want to know whether liquid, capsules or powder are better for your clothes. And if you’re curious about other green-cleaning methods, ready our guide to eco-friendly laundry detergents.

Originally published