Experiments to Try at Home from the Laundry Topic Week

The Laundry topic is all about dirt and how to get rid of it. Fragrances also play a role, as does the question of why the shape and appearance of packaging is so important.The experiments presented here deal with the most important components of detergents.

Incidentally, scientists working in detergent research use very similar methods. There is, for example, even a "staining machine" that they use.

For the laundry experiments, you will need:

  • Plain white T-shirts or a couple of your dad's old undershirts
  • Beetroot juice
  • Cocoa drink
  • Red jam
  • Wax crayon
  • A high-sided bowl or other high-sided vessel
  • A wooden spoon or similar for stirring
  • Measuring jug
  • Disposable pipettes
  • Thermometer
  • Sensitive scales or, preferably, spoon scales
  • Various detergents:
  • Basic liquid detergent without bleach (for colors and delicates)
  • Heavy-duty powder detergent


Before you can investigate how well individual detergent components wash, you first need to systematically make pieces of fabric dirty. Specialists call this "soiling." You should stain four pieces of white cotton fabric (approx. 30 x 30 cm/12 inches x 12 inches, preferably from old T-shirts or men's undershirts) with beetroot juice, cocoa, jam and wax crayon (12 stains per piece of fabric).

Make sure that:

  • each type of stain is applied to the piece of fabric three times in total
  • the stains are applied in an organized and identical way
  • the stains do not touch
  • a similar quantity of each staining type is used
  • each T-shirt is labeled with your name.

For each stain, apply a specific quantity of staining material:

  • 0.5 ml (⅛ teaspoon) of beetroot juice
  • 0.5 ml (⅛ teaspoon) of cocoa
  • A good pea-sized quantity of jam
  • Wax crayon: apply a suitably sized stain

Leave the stains to dry for approx. 10 minutes.

Laundry Experiments

  1. Label the pieces of fabric so that you can allocate them to the individual laundry experiments.
  2. Put 750 ml (25 fl. oz.) of water (20°C or 70°F) and a soiled piece of fabric together in a plastic bowl.
  3. Stir everything at an even speed and not too quickly for five minutes to "wash" the piece of fabric.
  4. Remove the piece of fabric, wring it out and hang it on a line.
  5. Repeat steps 2 to 4 with:
  6. 2 ml (½ teaspoon) of liquid color detergent
  7. 1.5 g (¼ teaspoon) of heavy-duty detergent
  8. Take the pieces of fabric that you washed with detergent and briefly rinse them with water.

Evaluating the Laundry Experiments

  1. Think of a standardized scoring system (e.g. school grades, smileys or +/-).
  2. Compare the pieces of fabric after washing and evaluate the results.

Then answer the following questions:

Which type of stain was best removed by the color detergent?
Which type of stain was best removed by the heavy-duty detergent?