Earth Notes: On Method F+C Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent: Review (2010)

Updated 2022-09-18 17:28 GMT.
By Damon Hart-Davis.
Is Method Free + Clear detergent the best way to save the world while washing your clothes? Maybe not.
Method Free and Clear laundry detergent packshot
VERDICT: not as good as small&mighty. Works at low temperatures. Can help save energy.

Product: Method F+C Laundry Detergent

Method Free and Clear laundry detergent packshot
Method F+C Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
  • Brand:
  • MPN: Free + Clear Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
    Review summary
    • Method F+C Laundry Detergent
    • Method "Fresh + Clear" washing detergent rated to work down to 15°C.

      Not as good as small&mighty. Does work at low temperatures, so can help save energy.

    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Published:
    • Updated:

    This review was undertaken in stages to test F+C on various wash cycles. We can't do perfect scientific tests with full controls. But we can report how Method compares with our other detergents.

    For Comparison

    As of July 2010, the two most common laundry detergents we use are Tesco own-brand tablets, and Persil (Unilever) "small&mighty" concentrated liquid. Both allow low-temperature washes, though the cheap-and-cheerful tablets don't work well (don't even dissolve) below 30°C. The liquid works reasonably down to the 9°C of a winter cold wash.

    In order to be useful in reducing our footprint, carbon and otherwise, not only does the detergent and packaging itself have to be eco-friendly as Method indeed claims, such as 4x concentrated to ship less water around. It also has to be effective in low-temperature and cold washes to reduce the carbon footprint of warmer washes. When I asked Method about cold washes the reply was:

    Like most brands we have done our testing at 15C and above and we are happy with the performance. We would love to hear how you get on at 9C.

    We bought our first Method "Fresh + Clear" bottle from Waitrose at the equivalent of about 20p per full wash. Our current preferred Tesco-own-brand-tablets and small&mighty detergents work out at about 10p per wash normally or on offer, mid-2010 prices. (We were not able to use the voucher on-line that Method sent us.)

    The packaging for the bottle seemed to be fairly adult-proof. We needed scissors to free up the dispenser top ready to use.

    Incidentally, it's not immediately obvious to us whether this first bottle is intended for colour/white/whatever...

    Lidl: Formil Wildcard

    Lidl has unashamedly sporadic availability of particular products. For example, we now can't get hold of their good W5 eco dishwasher tablets. Today 2010-08-28 we managed to buy some "Formil small & powerful" 'colour' (non-bio?) washing detergent costing significantly less than 10p/load. It was marked as good down to 20°C, thus nominally only good for cold washes in summer. This detergent also claims to care for the environment and sports the badge. So we'll test this against Method and our other usual detergents below.

    Wash 1: Cold/20C

    With an inlet temperature of ~20°C we ran our first Method cold wash. Since we had a half load we used two squirts instead of the four specified for a full load. (This dosage control and the lack of mess are good.)

    The wash results seemed to be OK.

    Wash 2: 30C

    We used three squirts for a not-very-full load.

    Unfortunately the detergent failed to remove some marks/stains that we'd expect small&mighty or Tesco to manage, and we're not keen on the fragrance either at the moment! One of Method's pages said "squirt directly onto really stubborn stains," so we will try that another time.

    Wash 3: 60C

    Used 4 squirts for a full-ish load of towels.

    Once each week overnight Sat/Sun when grid carbon intensity is lowest we do a 'maintenance wash' at 40°C or 60°C, usually of towels, as much to get the washing machine clean as the load!

    Method seemed to do OK, neither spectacularly good nor bad. But the cheapest own-brand detergent will do OK too in these conditions, so you'd have to be very very convinced of the eco superiority over said cheapo to be prepared to spend over twice as much on the detergent, which in turn makes it more expensive than, for example, the 100%-green electricity used to run the load.

    At this stage my partner vowed to buy no more Method detergent, but I hope that we can at least get to try it in really cold water in winter, and a few others in the interim.

    Wash 4: 30C

    Used 4 squirts for a full load.

    Results OK: some marks did not come out of a child's bib that we expected to.

    Wash 5: Cold/20C

    Used 2 squirts for a half-load, plus some applied directly to stains.

    Results OK: direct application to (treatment of) some stains/marks did seem to help significantly. I left 30 minutes from applying to marks before starting the wash.


    Subsequent cold and warm washes have continued to underperform expectations, eg compared to our usual detergents.

    We saw mixed results from spot application for stain removal, but hanging on the washing line to bleach in the sun seems more effective.

    Heavy Soil, Cold/20C Wash

    We had a major nappy explosion from our younger one, so we chucked all his heavily-soiled clothes (plus some others waiting) with 4 squirts for this nasty half-load, on the maximum cold wash cycle (cottons, non-proportional, extra rinses), and it all seems to have come out pretty clean.

    Compared With Lidl "Formil" Cold (20C), and 30C

    Our first couple of (cool/cold) washes with Formil at 10p/wash seem to be matching the performance of the Tesco/small&mighty/Method.

    Grease Stain Removal: Method vs Small+mighty

    During our Sunday lunch, a top and a pair of jeans received significant grease stains, which we immediately spot treated with Method and washed cold ~19°C.

    Significant staining was still evident after the clothes had dried on the line.

    We re-washed cold, spot treating the stains with small&mighty this time, and the stains completely disappeared.

    So, another mark against Method I'd say.

    Washing Colder Than 10C

    In December (2010) the inlet mains water temperature has been significantly below 10°C, and Method has performed satisfactorily in a cold wash.

    This suggests that Method can indeed be part of an energy-conserving wash throughout the year in our part of the world at least. Which is good!

    (Our benchmark small&mighty has been fine too at these temperatures.)

    2019-05-25: Footnote

    As of 2019-05-25 a quick check at the washing machine shows that we are using Aldi's "Almat Non-Bio". About half of our washes are done cold.

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