I’ve been traveling a fair amount lately, more than usual. Some of these trips have required packing light, packing less cycling clothing than the number of days I planned to ride. Dirty laundry while traveling isn’t much of a problem until you’ve got sweaty polyester to deal with. I’ve had to pursue multiple solutions to saving the rest of my clothing from the ignominy of stinking like my used cycling kit. Zip-Loc bags are a limited form of insurance.
In the past, I’ve taken the Assos wash with me, or Woolite in a small container. However, on two occasions the Woolite solution went awry. TSA took a container that had a threatening 6-oz. capacity from me as there was a chance that I might clean everything on the plane, and then, as must inevitably happen in every traveler’s life, the Woolite container soiled itself and the rest of my toiletries bag. I showered with a foaming bag, twice.
I doubt I’d be taking the time to review a laundry detergent if it weren’t for two details. The first I touched on earlier, the TSA. ‘Nuff said. The second was the kaleidoscopic laundry disaster a friend suffered some years ago at the laundromat. In an effort to limit his time in the purgatory of a town, he pulled his wet clothes from the washer and stuffed them in the dryer. Unfortunately, as you might be able to guess from my earlier descriptor, things didn’t go so well in the dryer. It heated his clothing to a temperature sufficient enough to turn paper to ash and redistributed the inks from his jerseys and bibs, taking them from the brightest panels and Robin Hooding them to less fortunate spots. You could tell he was a fan of Eddy Merckx even when he was wearing our team kit.
Actually, his story isn’t the one that really made a difference to me. That event only confirmed that I shouldn’t put cycling clothing in the dryer, something I already knew to be a bad idea. It was when another friend did laundry while on a tour in Europe—three times in two weeks—his combined usage of heavy-duty detergent and the dryer and clothing that was new at the beginning of the trip was showing wear by the end of the trip.
These are the reasons why I wanted to review the Toko Eco Wash. However, I’m not really sure how to review a laundry detergent. My concerns were whether it got the clothing clean, how many pieces I could wash with a single package and how easy it was to rinse from the clothing. To that end, I can say that I was able to wash six pieces fairly effectively with a 40ml packet. Pieces that hadn’t been hit by mud while mountain biking—that’s a whole different realm of dirty—were easy enough to get clean. And in this case, I define clean as no longer smelling like a post-ride me. Rinsing was easy enough—and quicker than finding something good on TV—with an empty sink and running water.
The “eco” part of the name comes from the fact that this stuff is phosphate-free and biodegradable. You can use it in a river without worrying that you’re killing fish. It’s also purported to be gentle enough for Gore-Tex; to that feature, I can’t speak.
When I hear people complain that their cycling clothing doesn’t last, clothing from manufacturers with whom I’ve had luck, I’m usually mystified. It’s been hard for me to calculate why their experience could be so different from mine. It’s a concern for me because if I take the time to review something and report good things about it, the experience of those who choose to purchase that product as well should be congruent with mine. It was as I was doing laundry in a sink in a motel in Medford, Oregon, that I asked myself if maybe the folks whose luck with pricey cycling clothing was worse than a rookie playing roulette might be rooted in using too much harsh soap. Surely no one is still using a dryer, right?
In addition to this 40ml packet, which goes for $3, Toko also offers a 250ml bottle of the wash for $21.95. By any measure, this stuff isn’t cheap, but the packets, by virtue of being too small to be stolen from you by TSA and coming in a package durable enough to be foolproof for travel makes the $3 a bargain.