The heap of pointless products grows: we can’t find any persuasive proof that ‘washing machines live longer with Calgon’. Why are we sucked into buying products from manufacturers that won’t back up their claims?
Advertisers love exploiting fears. A key brand positioning tactic is to magnify a problem and then present your product as the solution. And that’s exactly what seems to be happening here.
The limescale science
Calgon claims that limescale makes washing machines break down and die early, and that its tablets make them ‘live longer’ by preventing this alleged cause of premature death. But this hinges on a shaky premise: does limescale really shorten the life of your washing machine?
After simulating three years of washing in hard water, but otherwise normal conditions of three loads a week at 40°C, we asked an expert with 17 years’ experience to inspect our washing machines for damage. Calgon kept the inner parts spotless, but the thin layer of limescale that had built up without it wasn’t enough to affect performance.
Our expert believes that it would take six to eight years of washing in particularly hard water before a machine would need attention for limescale build up. Plus, not even this would necessarily lead to the washing machine breaking down. And by this point you’d have spent £295 on Calgon tablets – enough to buy yourself a new machine.
Our ASA complaint
We’ve submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about Calgon’s claims, but there’s a wider issue. Why do we willingly accept the claims made by brands and manufacturers? And why do we think they’re doing us a favour by selling us their products?
Calgon may well have watertight evidence that one tablet per wash somehow extends the life of your machine. But no such evidence exists in the public domain, and the ‘research’ held by Calgon won’t be released to us for reasons of commercial sensitivity.
According to Calgon’s press office, the studies conducted were for internal use only – the results were never meant to be seen by current or potential customers. So how can Calgon possibly justify the claim that its product is solving a problem if it won’t prove that the problem exists? And with no evidence made available, why do we pay money for a product that can’t be justified to us by its own manufacturer?