Last Updated on May 23, 2022 by The Filtery Staff
A while ago, a friend asked if I’ve ever tried laundry magnets. One of her acquaintances swore by them and had been posting about her experience online.
My friend explained that this laundry detergent alternative basically consists of two magnet “balls” that you put in your washing machine and use instead of detergent.
I was just as skeptical as anyone else… I am all about non-toxic and eco-friendly living, and I still procrastinated on trying them out because I was so weirded out by the idea of not using soap. But after some light persuading, I decided I have to give them a try. It seems like a weird concept, but I try to be open-minded!
So in this article, I’m going to tell you all about what exactly these laundry magnets are and my thoughts after using them for a few months.
What Are Laundry Magnets?
The Magnetic Laundry System is a patented laundry detergent alternative that essentially consists of two magnet balls (each one smaller than your palm) with a rubber/silicone type of material around the outside. They look like this:
Magnetic Laundry System (MLS) is a company based in Canada that actually has two patents on this product, (which is why it’s the only company that currently makes them). The MLS system has actually been around since the 90s.
The three main selling points of the MLS are:
- It’s a chemical-free laundry detergent alternative
- You only buy it once so it can save you quite a bit of money over time
- It’s a more eco-friendly option than conventional detergent
How Do You Use Laundry Magnets?
It’s super easy to use the laundry magnets; you literally just put them in the drum of your washing machine on top of your clothes, towels, and other garments. Like this:
How Do Laundry Magnets Work?
The concept behind the Magnetic Laundry System is essentially this:
- It starts with the fact that water is the universal solvent.
- Then you add the fact that magnets can change the properties of water:
- In the early 1900s, the Zeeman Effect (discovered by two Nobel Prize-winning scientists) demonstrated that a magnetic field can alter the normal state of hydrogen, which is one of the two main components in water.
- Then, in 1976, it was further demonstrated that magnetically treated water changes the electronic activity of hydrogen ions in the water.
- Further research showed that these “charged” hydrogen ions reduced the amount of dissolved nitrogen in the water, which decreased the amount of algae growth in rivers and lakes.
- The Magnetic Laundry System basically builds on this premise by working to increase the water’s natural solvency and make it more able to permeate fabrics to release soil and odors.
So basically, it’s not that the magnets “attract” dirt out of your clothes or anything like that. Rather, they change the property of the water in order to make the water itself clean your clothes more effectively.
Now, I’m not a physicist, and that info is based on the info about how MLS developed the laundry magnet concept.
But my reaction to that information is basically this: on one hand, the concept of not using soap is weird, especially because that’s just not what we’re used to. On the other hand, however, I can see how—based on relatively basic principles of physics and chemistry—this idea that magnets change the makeup of water in order to increase its solvency could make sense! I’d literally just never thought about it that way before…
Anyway, regardless of whether or not I totally understood the concept all the way, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Why not!?
But Is It Legit? Do They Really Work?
Independent Lab Tests
First, it’s worth noting that the Magnetic Laundry System company provides independent lab testing literature right on their website, so you can look at the results and see for yourself.
The third-party lab basically did two types of tests: one to look at whether or not the magnets cleaned different types of stains, and another to look at whether or not the colors or fabric quality were negatively affected by the magnets.
The first set of test results shows that things like grass, coffee, blood, mustard, and other things were in fact removed by washing the fabric using the magnets.
The second set of test results shows that using the magnets in the laundry does not decrease the quality of the fabric any more than washing in water does.
Of course, one set of independent lab tests isn’t enough to convince most people (understandably so!), but I still like the fact that they include those results for people to check out on their own.
Okay, but if laundry magnets work, then how come everyone isn’t using them?
This was one of my main questions. If laundry magnets are so great, then why have I not heard of them before? Why aren’t more people not using them, not only as a way to decrease toxic chemicals in their homes but also as a way to save money?
I essentially came up with two answers to that question:
One: the MLS system is under a patent, which means that only the Magnetic Laundry System company can currently manufacture them. This obviously puts a limit on how far and wide their reach can go.
Two: there’s a lot of money to be made in detergent. There are billions of people around the world who have to buy soap each and every month to wash their clothes over and over again. Do you think companies like P&G (who makes brands like Tide) or Unilever (who makes Seventh Generation) would really want to switch to selling a product that each household only had to buy once and then never again?
Alright, now let’s get to my personal experience with the laundry magnets…
My Personal Review
Although I can’t really confirm or deny from a truly scientific perspective whether or not laundry magnets actually work, I will just tell you about my personal experience…
Despite my skepticism about the magnetic laundry system, I was surprised to find that it did seem to work. My clothes didn’t smell and they seemed to be just as clean as they usually are when I wash them with detergent.
Not to give you TMI, but I even washed our underwear separately since that’s what was of the most concern to me. (If a t-shirt or a pair of jeans doesn’t get all the way clean, that’s not as much of an issue!) And after close inspection of the undies after going through the wash with the magnets, they too seemed to be just as clean as they usually are.
My Own Little Experiment…
One thing that kept coming to my mind was: okay, so these magnets seem to be working… but how do I know it’s not just the water alone doing the work?
So, I decided to do my own little experiment:
- I took three pieces of fabric and stained them with mascara, wine, coffee, olive oil, and mud.
- I let them all dry for several days in order to try and get a true stain.
- I washed each piece of fabric in a regular load of laundry (the same way I’d normally do laundry).
- One piece of fabric was washed with my regular non-toxic laundry detergent, one load was washed with the magnets, and one load was washed with just water.
- Note: MLS recommends that the magnets may work better with hot water, but I used cold (tap) water since that’s what I usually use for my laundry and I wanted to mimic my normal behavior.
Here are my results:
As you can see, my experiment kind of failed… Not in the sense that the fabric swatches didn’t get clean, but in the sense that it basically gave me no information—hah! As you can see, it basically looks like all three methods worked about the same.
If I was to do this experiment over again in the future (and I might!), I would do a few things differently:
- I would use a thicker kind of fabric. (The fabric I used was pretty thin so some of the liquids leaked out onto the paper towel underneath as I was applying them, as opposed to soaking through the fabric.)
- I would use larger fabric swatches and spread out the stains more. (They bled over onto each other too much.)
- I would more carefully measure the exact amounts of the materials I put onto the fabric. (I just eyeballed it, so I could have ended up putting a little bit more or less of the materials on the different pieces of fabric, which could have affected the end results.)
Does It Kill Bacteria?
MLS states that the laundry magnets won’t necessarily kill 100% of bacteria, but neither will standard laundry detergent. In order to really kill bacteria using either method, you have to use hot water and/or bleach.
What Does It Smell Like?
The laundry magnets have zero smell to them and leave your clothes smelling like… nothing!
Some people really like for their clothes to have that “fresh” laundry smell, and if that’s you, the laundry magnets may not be the best choice for you.
For me personally, though, I don’t really care about my laundry smelling like “lavender blossoms” or “fresh air” or whatever. A lot of the ingredients used to make these smells are toxic, anyway (at least when it comes to more conventional brands like Tide).
Although there are definitely some non-toxic laundry detergent brands that leave a nice smell on your clothing, I personally just don’t care if my clothes smell like nothing. I know that it’s really just a psychological thing and that if something smells good that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually clean. On the contrary, when things have strong smells to them, it could mean they’ve just got a bunch of toxins added to them! No thanks.
But, if you’re someone who likes to leave your clothes smelling fresh and you still want to try out the laundry magnets, you could just put a few drops of essential oils on your wool dryer balls and add them smells that way instead.
Are Landry Magnets Worth a Try?
I think if you’re curious about it, the laundry magnets are worth a try. It costs more upfront than typical laundry detergent ($70 + shipping), but since you have a 30-day money-back guarantee, you don’t really have much to lose. (You may not get your shipping costs back if you choose to return the magnets, though.)
I think those who would be most interested in trying the laundry magnets are those who have limbic system disorders like multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and/or chronic skin problems like eczema. I know how frustrating it can be to deal with these types of issues and how even ‘non-toxic’ products can cause reactions in the most sensitive people. So going completely chemical-free could be worth a try.
The laundry magnets would also be a good option for people who are trying to go low/zero-waste. Even though they do come in packaging that has some plastic, it’s going to greatly reduce your packaging waste over the long term since you only have to buy the magnets once.
Ultimately, I think it’s going to come down to preference. Some people absolutely love the magnets, while other people may not be able to get past the no-soap idea and prefer to stick with the more ‘conventional’ route of washing their garments.
Summary: Pros and Cons of the Magnetic Laundry System
- Saves money over time
- Non-toxic, chemical-free option
- More eco-friendly, low-waste option over time
- Super easy to use
- Good option for the most chemically-sensitive people (who might even have reactions to natural & non-toxic detergents)
- 30-day in-home risk-free trial
- Higher cost up-front
- Not a great fit for people who use a laundromat (you’d have to buy several sets of magnets in order to do multiple loads of laundry at once)
- MLS recommends the magnets work best in hot water (a slightly more expensive and less eco-friendly option than cold water)
- You still might need to use boosters for tough stains (the same way you would with normal detergents)
- You might take some getting used to the concept of not using soap!
Where To Buy Laundry Magnets
Here’s where you can buy the laundry magnets:
What About the Magnetic Laundry System Dryer Balls?
I went ahead and purchased the set of both the laundry magnets and the dryer balls just for the sake of trying them both out. (The dryer ball is the green one pictured above.) It looks like they’re not selling the dryer balls on their website anymore, but you can still find them on Amazon.
I have to say: I don’t recommend the dryer balls. First, they are very loud in the dryer. Second, it’s unclear what they’re made out of, but it seems to be plastic.
I highly recommend using wool dryer balls instead. They do the same job as the ones MLS carries, but they’re more eco-friendly, much less noisy in the dryer, and you can add a few drops of essential oils to them if you want to add a nice natural smell to your laundry. Coyuchi, Avocado, and Public Goods are a few great brands that carry them.
There are also a few non-toxic dryer sheet brands on the market as well. This article provides a full breakdown of your non-toxic options for the dryer!
More Non-Toxic Laundry Options
If you’re still weirded out by the concept of using magnets to clean your clothes, you’ve still got plenty of other non-toxic laundry detergent options that are much safer than conventional detergent brands. Check out this article to see our recommendations.
More FAQs About Laundry Magnets
Can You Use a Front-Loading Washing Machine?
The Magnetic Laundry System company says you can use the laundry magnets in both top-loading and front-loading washers.
What If the Magnets Stick Together in the Washing Machine?
It’s totally fine if the laundry magnets stick together. MLS says on their website that it will “not detrimentally affect their ability to clean. If you want to separate them, you can put them in different pockets of a pair of pants you are washing to keep them separated.”
Can You Still Use Additives like Oxy Boosters or Bleach with the Magnets?
Yes, MLS says you can still use extras like stain removers with the laundry magnets, especially for those tough stains!
Despite the weird concept, laundry magnets seemed to work for me and I do think they’re worth a try.
BTW, this article was not sponsored and the magnetic laundry system was not gifted; we bought it to try out and write this article for you!
Unfortunately, their independent study has no controls and is quite flimsy. The effects of the magnets would be effective on perhaps a single piece if clothing that the magnets were continuously near. Although their basic science facts are in the ballpark of correct, once applied to the amount of gallons in a drum, the constant rotation of the drum, and number of items in the wash, the effects would be so minimal that it most likely wouldn’t hold up to their “claims.”
Wash with just water, or with some baking soda and vinegar and get the the same or better results.
Thank you! I am curious to know if you have continued to use the magnetic laundry detergent?
I do still use them, but not all the time. This is in large part because I’m always testing out different non-toxic laundry detergent brands for this article! Maybe I will loan them to a friend who will be able to use them consistently for a longer period of time so we can get another opinion!