Crankalicious Aqua Merino Apparel Wash will indeed get your kit clean, but being indistinguishable in output from bog standard wool wash, yet costing four times the price, it's hard to recommend.
- Pros: Gets wool (and other fabrics) clean
- Cons: Cost
If you like cycling you should like wool. It's magic, keeping you warm when wet, yet cool when hot once woven into a wicking baselayer; it really is a super fabric. Made into all manner of garments ranging from socks to hats to baselayers to jerseys, it really is hard to go past as a do-everything wondergarment. Another plus is that compared to synthetic fabrics wool is highly resistant to smell. I can wear a merino baselayer for quite a few days during winter without getting whiffy.
But if you've been working hard or getting mucky your kit will need cleaning, and that means using a specialist wool wash. Woollen kit is usually quite pricey so you want to be caring for it, not just bunging it in with your jeans and cranking the knob to 'Scorcho Waterblast' or whatever setting your machine might have.
Now that cycling is a lifestyle choice where your coffee can match both your stem and your socks, there are plenty of brands selling stuff in bottles with some manner of 'Cycling' to make you or your bike feel you're getting a performance benefit – cleaner, smoother, nicer-smelling, less-chafey, etc. Fair dos, it's called marketing and the world would be a duller place without it. I buy into spending extra on a bunch of things where arguably I could get the same performance/taste/radiant glow for less, but I like the brand association/eco-vibe/don't-give-your-money-to-a-jerk smugness.
Enter Crankalicious Aqua Merino Apparel Wash, a brand of car detailing firm Dodo Juice. In a 500ml bottle for £10, it's exactly four times the price per ml as Persil or Ecover Wool washes, and if you follow the recommended dosage per wash the cost remains four times that of the supermarket standards. This would be fine if it worked four times as well, but this is a wool wash. Incremental gains? Read on...
Basically the result is indiscernible from the supermarket brands. Over a month I washed various items of cycling kit, both wool and synthetic/cotton, and normal woollen clothing in it, each time inspecting for cleanliness and odour – and couldn't spot the difference.
The marketing blurb says the Aqua Merino is 'formulated specifically for merino garments' and 'contains a subtle mint fragrance to repel moths'. The smell of the wash neat is – to me – like Savlon, not mint, and despite heroic damp inhales afterward, I couldn't detect any mintiness on the results. Not that it isn't there, just no one in my house could tell.
Now you may suffer from an infestation of moths and regularly turn up to club runs looking like you've cycled past a tropical streetlight at high speed dosed in insect pheromones, but moths in my merino have never been an issue hereabouts, hence I can't speak to the efficacy of any supposed mintiness keeping them at bay.
What I can say is that you need to be careful with this stuff: the label warns that the liquid 'Causes serious eye irritation'. Now the Ecover and Persil products do as well, but Crankalicious goes further: 'Wash thoroughly after handling. Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection'. Given I'm not one for rubbing laundry liquid into my eyes and road.cc don't pay nearly enough for me to try, I can't vouch for the sensibility of wearing face protection when using the Crankalicious product vs. the alternatives, so let's call that point moot.
Crankalicious says it will wash merino garments "...without removing any of their protective or advanced properties". I have a few beloved wool jerseys and a pair of De Feet Woolie Boolie socks that must have been through the cycle literally hundreds of times and still work and look like new – so in the absence of proving the Crankalicious product doesn't harm merino, what I can say is that Ecover (our house brand for a decade) definitely doesn't.
Overall, it's hard to identify the value here over household wool washes, and certainly not at four to eight times the price. I've never had an issue with moths eating my kit in the 30+ years I've been curating increasingly expensive woollen garb, and short of hiring David Bellamy to camp out in my wardrobe for a year or so there's no way to prove any claimed insect-repelling benefit either way.
If you do choose to purchase Crankalicious Aqua Merino Apparel Wash I can say it will get your kit clean, and not smell of anything, really – which if you dislike other scented brands might be reason enough. A final bonus would be that you can laugh a clean-fleeced, moth-free laugh to the bank past the Rapha Merino Wash fans – that stuff's twice the price.
Expensive for what it does, but does that well enough
road.cc test report
Make and model: Crankalicious Aqua Merino Apparel Wash
Size tested: 500ml
Tell us what the product is for
It's for people wanting to clean their wool kit.
High performance, non-aggressive wash - formulated specifically for Merino garments. Contains a subtle mint fragrance to repel moths.
The fabrics we wear while riding take as much of a battering as the bikes themselves. This advanced wash formula is designed for effective hand or machine washing of your merino garments, without removing any of their protective or advanced properties.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Instructions: Approximately 50ml of Aqua Merino will clean one washload of Merino wool garments. In a washing machine, use a full wash cycle at 30c. Do not use fabric softeners or conditioners because these can clog the delicate wool fibres. Can also be used as a handwash by diluting in 5 litres of water.
It worked fine, getting kit as clean as anything else I've used.
Costing four times per wash more than perfectly good alternatives for no discernible benefit, value is not a strong point.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good enough – it got kit clean.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The danger element...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Ambivalent
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not really.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Compared with other 'cycling' brand wool washes, the Crankalicious product is reasonably priced. The marks come down compared to household brands that do just as good a job for a quarter of the price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling.