Washing with the right waters

It’s good that we can mention good news in the beginning: the biggest problem of water pollution from washing detergents is largely solved in Germany now: The use of phosphates.

By legal regulations (prohibitions) and technical innovations in the water-treatment plants, the load of phosphate has been greatly reduced. Therefore, the energy efficiency in the washing process has become the most important environmental factor.

But still other ingredients of detergents pollute the waters.

Factors that influence water consumption and water pollution are:
1. Washing machine water consumption
2. Efficiency of the washing process and proper dosage
3. Choice of detergent and ingredients
4. Packing of detergent

1. Water consumption of the washing machine
When buying new washing machines, the consumption values must be specified.
Consumers should make sure to use a machine with the energy efficiency class at least A ++ or A +++. This machines consume at least 35% less energy than a machine of class A. In addition, care should be taken on water consumption. In the standard wash program – depending on the machine size – the water-usage should be between 40 litres (5kg machine) and 50 litres (8kg machine) per wash cycle.
In addition, the machine should have a capacity mechanism, which adjusts the amount of water used in accordance with the load factor of the machine.
The Eco-top-ten list of the Öko-Institut e.V. can help in selecting an appropriate product: http://ecotopten.de

2. Efficiency of the washing process and the dosing.
630,000 tons of detergent are consumed annually in Germany. That are nearly 8 kg of washing-detergent per resident on average. In addition, 220,000 tons of special agents, softeners, cleaning products, etc. pollute the environment and in particular the wastewater.
Compact detergents can help you to dose the detergent and additives exact amount. Detergents can work only with soft water. Therefore, each detergent must contain softeners. But the local water hardness varies depending on the region. The Berlin tap water has an average water hardness of 17 ° dH, which means that it is “hard” water. In order to ensure an optimal blend of detergents and softeners, we recommend the use of a modular system, because otherwise ready mixed detergents contain unnecessarily many surfactants, enzymes and possibly bleach and with this pollute the wastewater useless.
Duty detergents also contain bleaches and should therefore only used for white laundry or to disinfect laundry against infectious diseases. Modular systems in this case allow the targeted use  as well.
Instead of a modular system colour detergents are used with minimum dosage (soft water) and combined with additional bleach and softener. At the Berlin water hardness, this can save about 40% of the detergent substances. Remember: Also ecological detergent pollute the water – though usually far less than petrochemicals.

Moreover, the choice of the right wash cycle is of central importance.
Temperature: In general, the washing temperature should be set for standard soiling in between 30 and 40 °.  According to the German Federal Environmental Agency this is sufficient for modern detergent (also eco). To disinfect the machine (as well as in case of diseases) every 2 to 4 weeks a machine should be washed with 60 °C.
Only in special cases, where germ-free laundry is needed, a hot wash with 90° is recommended. Boiled washing requires more than twice as much energy as a 60° wash.
Wash cycle: It is important to adjust the wash cycle to the appropriate wash. This washing separation makes sense to use the optimal washing programs. In general, we recommend a high loading factor of the machine but ensuring not to overloaded it. This increases the washing efficiency and saves a lot of energy and water. Modern machines have extra long eco-programs. This saves despite its long program-duration a significant amount of energy and water.

3. choice of detergent and ingredients
Although no phosphates are used in Germany any more many other ingredients of detergents pollute water heavily.

The yield of the detergent, their ingredients and the proper dosage play a crucial role to reduce water pollution. Modern detergents use surfactants (cleansing substances) to dissolve grease and dirt from the clothes. The natural soap surfactant has been replaced with synthetic surfactants in conventional detergents, which are made with high energy consumption from coal and petroleum. But there are surfactants derived from renewable resources such as sugar and vegetable oils. They are readily biodegradable and are often used by eco-brands. Ecological detergent also go without fillers (to make it appear larger by volume), optical brighteners, chlorine or controversial genetically engineered enzymes that are frequently used by the conventional detergent industry. But who wants to minimize environmental burden, should resort to a perfume-free detergent. Some fragrances, such as the citrus fruits are toxic to aquatic organisms.

A major problem of vegetable detergent surfactant production is currently, the extensive use of palm kernel oil and coconut oil. The ever-increasing demand for these oils has already led to massive environmental destruction, especially in Asia and has a comprehensively dramatic impact on ecosystems and therefore the water. Palm oil from organic production can alleviate this dramatic development. However, the production of organic palm oil worldwide is currently negligible.

When selecting a detergent one should consider the following criteria:

1. Efficiency of detergent power even at low temperatures

2. Biodegradable (organic ingredients as possible)

3. Modular system to dispense water softener and bleach correctly

4. Free of optical brighteners and perfume

5. Not tested on animals

6. Recycled packaging material

7. Phosphate free (in Germany already standard, but in other countries not very often!)

8. In general, enzymes are important cleansing ingredients, but allergies sufferers should consider whether the use of enzymes for them has negative consequences.

Two certifications can assist in the selection of detergents:

The stricter Eco-guarantee logo and the EU Ecolabel

Apart from that also the usage of fabric softeners should be largely dispensed. Often they contain a large number of potentially allergies promoting and environmentally harmful ingredients.

The strength of washing of diverse products is regularly tested by e.g. Stiftung Warentest (Foundation of product-testing) or Öko-Test (eco-test).

Our Eco-Tips

AlmaWin / Klarwashingcomparison

During our research, we were particularly convinced by the products of the company’s Almawin / Klar. In addition to using exclusively plants, easily biodegradable and largely organically produced detergents, the company produces with clean power. With the product line “Klar” the company Almawin offers a perfume-free detergent, which achieved good washing results in the test of the magazine “Öko-Test”. But it’s relatively expensive.

Finally OBUK e.V. decided to use the AlmaWin detergent in the guest-house as a first choice.


Products of the company Ecover also have good washing results. Ecover pays attention to ecological production and use of substances that put little stress on the the waters. In addition, perfume free products are offered. Ecover endeavors to reduce and perspectively abolish the usage of detergents that contains environmentally and socially often very problematic produced palm oil.

Frog – to strike a balance

The Color washing powder of the brand “Frosch” convinced us with good washing results, good environmental properties and an average price. The German manufacturer Werner & Mertz is committed to organic production, ensuring animal welfare and the exclusive use of plant surfactants with high and rapid biodegradability. In addition, the manufacturer is trying to reduce the use of palm oil and foster the use of surfactants from European raw materials. Unfortunately, however, he offers no perfume-free products.

The conventional way

The drugstore chain DM offers with their product “Denk mit – Colorwaschmittel Aktiv Schutz” value for money as well as good washing results but little information about the production process. After all, the manufacturers have set their target of sustainable production.

Report of the last meeting in Diyarbakir, Turkey: 9th – 11th April 2015

9th of April 2015

  • 9:00 meeting at the hotel Dies and transport from its zone (centre-north) to the northern region of Diyarbakır, passing through the newest part and then a traditional Kurdish village;
    • information about the modern developing area and the use of the land: traditional cultures of the farmers, technical innovation, public administration;
    • information about the village: school, traditional working activities;
    • local nature observation around water: flora and fauna (above all birds and frogs).

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Report of the meeting in Bologna, Italy: 11th – 13th december 2014

11th December

On the first day in the morning we took the Bologna Water Guided Tour to discover how the history of the city has been closely linked with water since the medieval ages. The guide told the participants that water has been the source of economic progress and prosperity in Bologna. We learned that Bologna used to be the fifth biggest city with regard to the number of inhabitants and the main centre of textile production in Italy in the 13th century. We found out that for many centuries water represented the main source of energy for manufacturing and commercial activities, especially running mills for the production of silk in Bologna. So, it was not surprising that the Fountain of Neptune became the symbol of the city of Bologna for us. We were told that all water canals were buried underground. After lunch we gathered at the meeting hall located in Atelier – Urban Centre – Sala Borsa, Piazza Nettuno. At the beginning of the conference, the protocol of the Polish meeting was evaluated and accepted by all the partners. Continue Reading

Report of the meeting in Porto, Portugal, 10th – 12nd April 2014

10th April

The portuguese Partner welcomed us  in the conference room of the Hotel. We made an overview, who prepared which presentations for the meeting and decided, in which order they will be presented during the next days.

The conference room

The conference room

After a  coffee break, the Portuguese partner presented us a short movie with informations about Porto. Afterwards we evaluated the protocol of the last meeting in Swiss. This included corrections and additions of some more important aspects. We noticed, that the protocol should be more detailed, also with more summary of discussions in our group and descriptions of the pedagogical methods, we did during the last meeting. We’ll have a new folder with the reworked protocol.

For lunch we had a picnic at the city park.

The city park

The city park

Afterwards we did a guided tour through the water pavillon in the city park. Continue Reading

Report of the meeting in Locarno, Switzerland, 5th – 7th December 2013

Organiser: SUPSI, Locarno, Switzerland

People taking part in the meeting:

  • Francesco Bedussi, Italy
  • Yunus Bayram, Turkey
  • Tommaso Corridoni, Switzerland
  • Jerzy Lebek, Poland
  • Liliana Moreira, Portugal
  • Cetin Mutlu, Turkey
  • Olivia Nogueira, Portugal
  • Marzena Pasek, Poland
  • Luca Reggiani, Switzerland
  • Tim, Germany
  • Jens, Germany
  • Tanja Weiβe, Germany

5th December

The day started with a welcome by DFA and being shown around the institution.

Tour of DFA facilities

Tour of DFA facilities

DFA presented its approach to their water footprint.

DFA presentation

DFA presentation

In the afternoon the participants visited the dam in Verzaska Valley.

The Verzasca dam

The Verzasca dam

The Verzasca Dam, which is 220 metres high, forms the artificial Lago di Vogorno near the entrance of the valley. We had a chance to talk to the dam engineer, who has been working for the company for quite a long time and was able to give us a lot of useful technical information about the place. His personal involvement could reflect the importance of local thinking about sustainability.
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Report of Berlin meeting, 16th – 17th October 2013


  • Francesco and Sara, from Università Verde di Bologna/Centro Antartide, Italy
  • Yunus from Diyarbakir Zirai Mücadele Araştirma Istasyonu Müdürlüğü, Turkey
  • Tim, Jens, Béla and Tanja, from OBUK, Germany
  • Joanna and Aga from Centrum Ksztalcenia Ustawiznego, Poland
  • Lili and Olivia from Tabanca Pequena, Portugal
  • Luca from SUPSI, Switzerland

16th October 2013

We started presenting ourselves and our organisations. During the morning we engage in several social activities to know each others. Then we start to discuss our organisations’ commitments.

We meet for the firs time

We meet for the firs time

Some questions about work organizations are introduced:
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