Laundry detergent. Hmm.

We bought a different laundry detergent a while ago as we were waiting for the old bag to finish. We bought too big of a bag without trying the detergent out first, and we think that this detergent has been causing some of our clothes to rip, fall apart, and generally have weakened fibres.

I emailed a few people here – locals as well as foreigners who’d been here for a while or otherwise went through enough laundry in the course of a week to have a better idea about laundry detergent here than either I or Fahim.

See, as much as I talked about laundry in the beginning of this blog back in August, we don’t really do that much. It seems like it only because the washing machines here can’t handle anywhere near the load that North American washers can. The washing machine I had in Canada – and not an industrial size or anything – could take easily twice or three times as many clothes as the ones here. It all goes back to everything here is smaller.

The people are smaller, shorter, finer boned. The roads are smaller. Houses are smaller. Shops are much much much smaller. Bags of sugar, flour, and everything else is smaller. Everything is smaller.

And so washing machines are smaller.

So we were using Sunlight. It looked very similar to the Canadian (North American?) brand I’ve seen on the shelves in Canada and probably even used. However.

And this is where I yet again mention a television commercial we saw a long time ago – way back in the beginning of me being here. Way way way way back.

Okay, not so way back. November. But close enough.

And in this commercial, it was promoting its own laundry detergent because it’s not caustic and won’t burn your hands off, put holes in your sheets or clothes or whatever, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera ad nauseum.

And when I emailed a few people, one person seemed genuinely offended that I would have the nerve to suggest that laundry detergent here is caustic.

Must be my imagination, then. Same as it’s my imagination – and Fahim’s – that’s causing us to see holes in his sarongs ("saruma" in Sinhalese). Yep. Definitely my imagination.

We decided that we were going to try other brands and see for ourselves, and a couple were suggested, so we figured we’d start with those. But unfortunately, we bought such a big bag of laundry detergent – 2.5 kgs, I think – and it took us over a half year to go through it all.

Well, everyone said "don’t use as much as they tell you to. Only use 2 tablespoons per load." I’d already been using less than the instructions – translated from Sinhalese by Fahim – indicated, but that was even less than I’d been using. So okay, I’ll reduce.


Today was the day I noticed we’d run out.

Time to open the new – and much much smaller – pack of laundry detergent.

Advanced Ariel Compact. Rs. 145.

And I just noticed that the packaging is all English. No Sinhalese, no Tamil, no Hindi or Arabic or anything else. Just English.

It’s a product by Proctor and Gamble. That’s the Tide people, right?

Instructions for use? Well, here’s where it gets a bit interesting.

Machine wash. 1. Dip clothes in plain water, spin dry and drain away dirty water. 2. For tough stains, use Ariel paste. To make Ariel paste, add two scoops of Ariel to half bowl of water. Mix well & apply paste on dirty parts. Pour remaining paste in the machine. 3. Soak for 30 minutes and wash as usual.

Okay. Whatever you say.

But how much is two scoops? And how much water?

And yes, most laundry detergents suggest soaking in soapy water for a half hour before washing. It’s probably in part because a. there’s a lot of air pollution – lots of dust in the air. b. the water is never completely clean. It’s kinda brown-ish. We notice it more because of our drinking water reservoir and the water bottles in the fridge which have an icky brown residue at the bottom where the particles settled. Yummy.

And when otherwise white clothes go through the wash enough times here, they start going yellow and then brown. That is, as long as you’re not using bleach. Which you really have to do if you want clothes to have even a fighting chance of remotely approaching white.

Well, those instructions weren’t the really interesting bit. Here’s the really interesting bit.

Bucket Wash. 1. Dip clothes in plain water, wring dry and drain away dirty water. 2. For tough stains, use Ariel paste. To make Ariel paste, add two scoops of Ariel to half bowl of water. Mix well & apply paste on dirty parts. Pour remaining paste in the machine. 3. Soak for 30 minutes and wash as usual.


Well, the instructions are exactly the same. Word for word. The only difference is that there’s a picture of a washing machine beside the washing machine instructions and a picture of a bucket beside the bucket wash instructions.

Now why on earth would they give instructions for bucket wash? For all those people who don’t have running water or electricity in their homes.

Remember, only something like 67% of the country is on the electrical grid. If they don’t have electricity, they can’t use a washing machine. That’s point number one.

Then there’s the running water issue. I mentioned before about how there are neighborhood water spigots. Not everyone has running water to their homes. Some people have to use these neighborhood water spigots – at the side of the road – to do everything from taking showers, shampooing hair, washing dishes, doing laundry, and anything else you can think of as far as water usage is concerned.

There are two such water spigots I pass on the way to church – although I’m sure there are many more I’ve never seen. But these two are almost always busy. A few days ago, I saw a woman filling up a five or six gallon aluminum water jug. Man, she’s gotta be strong to carry that. To describe the jug? Big, wide body, narrow neck. And huge.

Anyway. There would be people who would have to do their laundry at such a water tap. The bucket wash instructions would apply to them.

Back to the laundry detergent.

One thing I’ve noticed is that frequently, manufacturers will pre-price their goods before it goes to the stores. That sometimes happens in Canada, too, but with things like publications – books, magazines, newspapers – or, uh, nope, that’s all I can think of. Everything else is pretty much charge what you can get away with. Not so here.

I’ve seen everything from the laundry detergent to dates, raisins, cocoa powder, to milk powder, coconut powder, and oh, the list goes on and on and on that’s prepriced. Why? Is this an effort at stabilizing prices to the consumer? Make sure the prices aren’t jacked sky high in rural areas?

I have no idea. I’m asking the question, remember?

Author: LMAshton
Howdy! I'm a beginner artist, hobbyist photographer, kitchen witch, wanderer by nature, and hermit introvert. This is my blog feed. You can find my fediverse posts at

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