This Kickstarter is Clearly Just a Marketing Scam from the '90s

By Kate Knibbs on at

Yesterday we learned that Kickstarter is trying to hire someone to make sure scammy crap doesn't slip onto the crowdfunding page. Not a moment too soon: one of the oldest-trick-in-the-book marketing scams recently raised over $210,000 (£138,000) and has the stamp of approval as a "Staff Pick" for peddling a revamped version of an infamous "laundry ball" scheme that's been around for decades.

CrystalWash 2.0 claims that its laundry balls clean as effectively as detergent by shrinking water molecule clusters and producing hydrogen peroxide from rubbing ceramic against water. Ding ding ding! Is your bullshit detector going off yet? It should be. The whole idea of re-structuring water is a well-known scam that has been debunked by actual scientists.

Back in 1999, a US trade authoritie issued a consumer alert against laundry balls claiming to clean clothes by changing water molecules. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined several companies for making unsubstantiated claims about restructuring water for an "eco-friendly" clean. Yet this hokum has found a perfect place to resurrect itself and squeeze more money out of people: the poorly monitored digital galleys of crowdsourcing platforms.

I sent CrystalWash an email asking them to be straight with me: "First, we would like to make it clear that we are not the creators of Crystal Wash. This product was developed by a group of Korean Scientists and we were approached by their company to market the product," a spokesperson wrote me, emphasising that they believed in the product and the studies sent along to verify its claims. The spokesperson also stated that the product on Kickstarter was CrystalWash 2.0, which'll have smartphone-connected features.

They sent me the "studies" which...I'll just link to all of them here if you want to take a look, but they're unconvincing. Several say, at the bottom, "Under no circumstances shall this report constitute any recommendation or endorsement of the product tested." None of them back up the scientific claims made by showing how the process works.

I sent Kickstarter an email about the scam, including evidence of why this campaign was schilling quackery.

"It's our policy to not comment on individual projects. Generally speaking, it's up to backers to decide whether a project should be funded, and we always recommend doing some research before pledging. Our Trust & Safety page has advice on how to evaluate projects," a spokesperson told me.

It's clear that Kickstarter needs to get its quality control in order, because having this type of con as a Staff Pick highlights how its standards are essentially non-existent.