Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Scrubba, World’s Smallest Washing Machine

Rubba dub dub,
Three men in a tub,
And the cow jumped over the moon…

Scrubba, World’s Smallest Washing Machine.

COG offers several obvious leads here. But check out the pics: this story’s clear as this simple photo sequence.

First: Australian vernacular idiomatic speech: the non-rhotic accent in Australian English renders “scrubber” as “Scrubba.” This non-rhotic accent among certain English–speakers marks presumed social ascendancy.

Second: What are those men from the nursery rhyme doing in that tub; what kind of tub is it? A washtub.

Third: Beta-testing hand-washing device available for a year in Australia, the Scrubba made the rounds of travel reviewers, April 2013.  However, reviewers love the Scrubba for the wrong reasons.

COG’s over the moon for the Scrubba Wash Bag.  Maximum star rating.

And we read the six American gear reviews we found online: Capable reports, correct and mildly enthusiastic.  But what the heck? Those early Scrubba reviews miss two salient features. (And if you’re washing whites, please check our suggestion at the end of this review.)

Even Scrubba president, Ash Newland, an outdoorsman, intellectual property attorney and great admirer of Sea-to-Summit (see COG review of Sea-to-Summit’s super-lightweight gear: Going lighter than GO-Lite?) owner, fellow-Australian Tim Macartney-Snape, seemed slightly reserved re our COG analysis. We spoke at the Scrubba booth , OR Summer 2013.

So, first things first.  As every RV-er knows, anyone can fill a five-gallon bucket with warm water, throw-in detergent, add a proportional volume of dirty clothes and drive down the highway for a few hours. Rinse and voila! Clean clothes. If you’re driving a rougher road less traveled, thereby increasing agitation (of clothes, if not passengers), your (auto!) wash-cycle will be shorter.

A dry-bag of water, soap and clothes on the rental car’s rear-window shelf or a zip–lock, similarly outfitted atop a backpack, renders some measure of the RV-er’s trick.

Which is to say, this Scrubba idea is not so brand new. But Scrubba’s iteration certainly merits intellectual property protection. Scrubba’s great! And here’s why: it’s cool, clever and works better and differently than any reviewer to date has noticed. Marketing department may also take note.

To wit: hands and sink plugs.

If you’re like our COG testers, travelling for months by foot, auto, boat and beast, usually remote from your favorite launderette, you hand-wash a clothing-set every night (naturally we travel with only two clothing sets, saving space/weight for dive mask, climbing shoes, organic coffee, et. al.). If you get our COG-style, get a Scrubba for your travels; you may end up using this hand-washing marvel at home as well. Your $2100.00 German Miele automatic clothes washer can’t get normally soiled clothes cleaner than a Scrubba. (The Australian manufacturer can produce a major university’s comparative, double-blind study as proof.)

If you’re wondering what our COG super-lightweight, elite-traveler attutude is about, we’fe sorry. Hand-washing in a sink is fine! The COG team’s done this for thirty years. First we stop-up the wash basin (if we can find one), add clothing and warm water. Next we lather-up our hand soap, scrub, soak and rinse. Or we use soap liquid or powder specially designed for hand washing.

So far so good. Except now, we run out of hand-washing soap. So we clever COG guys substitute shampoo. OK, but now our undies aren’t getting the washing they deserve/need. So we start using packets of regular machine-washing detergent. Bingo! In slightly more time than brushing our teeth, your COG team can sport perfectly fresh clothing every morning. Soak times being crucial here.

However, all cleaning soaps feature surfactants as their most active ingredient. Laundry detergents max-out these “surface-active-agents” (“surfactants”) with a chemical structure that grabs dirt and grease with a hydrophobic molecule-end while an opposite, hydrophilic molecule-end, draws the grime into the wash water and keeps it there. Agitation rounds the surfactant molecules into tiny balls that wash cleanly down the drain. Does this double-ended, hydrophilic-hydrophobic molecule sound familiar? (Think of the push-pull, capillary-action moisture management of today’s performance undergarments.)

But this is exactly what the less-traveled reviewers and PR folks have missed: hand washing clothing for extended periods with any detergent designed for maximum soil, dirt and grime removal will dry your hands quicker than Joshua Tree (NP) in July.

Our clothes may be super-clean but our palms are bleeding. Milder hand-soaps might leave our natural skin elasticity more lovely, but our socks not so clean.

(COG’s tested hand washing soaps and detergents for clothes extensively: our fair-skinned, Scandinavian tester split her fingernails after three weeks of nightly hand laundry washings; our olive-skinned, Mediterranean type cracked his finger skin after five weeks. Over time, the cleaner our hand washing laundry, the more wrecked our hands. Don’t try this at home: leave the gritty stuff to COG.)

Now if bleeding palms don’t annoy you enough while scrubbing your nightly wash-up, what about your hotel’s washbasin? According to our pragmatic studies of hundreds of hotels, motels, hostels, caravan parks, huts, refuges and communal shelters, the stoppers provided with basin or tub work at thirty-five percent efficiency. For the rest of your hand wash jobs, the water’ll leave the washbasin within minutes. As detergents (or greener products) work better with longer soak times, lousy or absent stoppers will leave your clothing “greener” than your traveling companions may tolerate. COG travels with several basin stoppers. And, unlike our Black Diamond Stoppers, often we can’t find a good placement in even the swankiest hotel sink.

Bleeding hands and leaky sinks for soaking dirty clothes? COG guarantees that if you travel fast, light and long, you’ll find the Scrubba more useful than a Eurail pass when you’re dead-broke.

Instead of hassling with sieved sinks or chapped hands, toss water, detergent and clothing into a Scrubba bag, bleed-off excess air trapped in the bag (there’s a handy, built-in vent for this), agitate (we roll ours around on the floor with bare feet), let soak and rinse. Pictograms printed on the side of the bag prompt memories challenged by late nights.

But naturally, our COG testers ignored the printed instructions.  Where Scrubba recommends a maximum-load of two tee-shirts, two-pairs socks and shorts, we jammed-in a well-used pair of jeans (four days, August, SLC): way overloading the compact, hand-washing system. Two minutes’ agitation and a ten-minute soak: perfectly fresh jeans.

Cleaner clothes than hand washing. Less active time required than hand washing. Ease of use. No sink or tub hassles. No bleeding fingers. 5.6 ounces.

What’s not to love? We also see a clear window along the bag’s cylindrical side-panel for monitoring those surfactants darkening the wash water (as clothing gives up dirt and grime) and a pebbled “wash board” on the interior, facing side-panel: the Srubba may be the most useful product introduction we’ve seen in years.

COG’s only reservation is this: no matter how carefully the user folds down the Scrubba’s  (dry-bag) top and bleeds extra trapped air through the neat, one-way value, a small amount of wash water may escape the bag. No problem…

Except, with our new bag, the wash water (with regular, automatic washing machine detergent) turned very pale green and carried the color of the Scrubba Wash Bag onto a white cotton bath mat. Normal machine washing removed the transferred color immediately.

We contacted Scrubba and note that they don’t recommend harsh detergents or long soak times for white clothes. Good advice.

COG says: wash that white, $300 Armani blouse as usual, in a clean sink. Wash everything else in a Srubba. Bring your BD Stoppers but leave the sink stoppers and bleeding-hands balms at home.

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