Kickstarter backers beware: This high tech laundry ball smells like a scam

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There’s a new smart home gizmo on the loose that’s making quite a splash on Kickstarter: a laundry ball that will reportedly save you from ever having to buy detergent ever again, help you save the planet, and even send you a text when each load is done. At time of writing it has gathered up more than $60K in pledges from over 850 backers — but you might want to take a closer look before you whip out your wallet. Something smells fishy about this project.

At first glance, the Crystal Wash 2.0 sounds amazing. Just take a gander at the description:

“Crystal Wash is a proven technology that literately [sic] lasts for at least 1000 loads of laundry.  It uses the power of Bio Ceramics from the earth, which naturally clean your clothes as effectively as laundry detergent. It is better for your skin and more gentle on your fabrics. It is also better for the environment because it reduces contaminated waste water filtered back into the water supply, saves water by lowering required rinse cycles, and effectively reduces CO2 production by requiring less energy than a traditional detergent based wash.”

Sounds great, right? Well keep reading. The product’s Kickstarter page raises a bunch of red flags.

crystal washApparently, the key to all this magic is the bioceramic beads inside of the ball. These supposedly react with water to “produce far infrared rays that effectively reduce negative ions in the water of your laundry machine, which raises pH level to 8.5 or greater. This process shrinks the water molecule clusters to a size that allows dirts and soils to be soaked free naturally.” Furthermore, the creators claim that “Crystal Wash also creates Hydrogen Peroxide, which disinfects clothes and kills bacteria and oder [sic].”

If that sounds like a load of pseudoscientific nonsense to you, it’s because it totally is.

Crystal Wash isn’t the first laundry ball that’s ever been invented. A wave of similar products hit the market back in the late ’90s, sold on home shopping networks, online, and directly to consumers through multilevel marketing schemes. They had a boom in popularity for a moment, but after receiving numerous complaints from consumers about the less-than-miraculous wash performance of the funky balls, the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection investigated the issue, and eventually published a report about laundry balls, saying, “At best, they’re marginally better than washing clothes in hot water alone and not as effective as washing them with laundry detergent. At worst, these products are completely useless.”

But even such a damning report didn’t snuff laundry balls out completely. They’re still around, and still just as useless as they’ve ever been. Crystal Wash 2.0 is just the latest one to pop up, and far as we can tell, it’s just a dressed-up, high-tech version of the same old scam. The new version (which is hardly even under development yet) will supposedly boast Bluetooth connectivity, integrated pH and temperature sensors, and an accompanying smartphone app that’ll alert you when your laundry is done.

The company may very well succeed, and end up building these technologies into the Crystal Wash 2.0, but what good are all those tech specs if the ball doesn’t actually wash your clothes?

We could be wrong here, but based on the general lack of supporting scientific evidence; vague sources listed on the Crystal Wash website and Kickstarter page; missing founders’ names and personal contact information; and overall scammy feeling we get from the entire operation, we’re going to advise that you steer clear of this project.

If you want to do some digging yourself, the Wikipedia page on laundry balls is a good place to start.