The new waterless washing machine could save you money

A washing machine that uses 90% water and cleans with tiny beads could cut your household water bills by 30%. The new washing machine by Xeros uses nylon beads measuring 3mm long and can be re-used hundreds of times over. The beads work by getting into all the creases of your clothes and actually suck out dirt and stains.

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Bill Westwater, who is the chief executive of the Leeds based firm responsible for the new technology, said: “The net saving in water, detergent and electricity and including the cost of the beads, we calculate, is about a 30% cost saving for the user.”

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The machine uses a tiny amount of water and detergent that ensures the clothes are damp, and it is this humidity in the machine that allows the beads to work their magic. Once the cycle is completed the beads are deposited into a tray at the front of the machine. Westwater boasts that his machine has had great results testing all kinds of fabrics and stains.

Perhaps more importantly, with fuel costs at an all time high, using this machine could not only save households money on their water, but their heating bills too. Westwater believes that if all households converted to the new Xeros washing machine, they could save around seven million tonnes of water per week.

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And according to the Energy Savings Trust, using the waterless machines would also help with the environment, as the carbon emissions cut from switching to the Xeros machines would be the equivalent of taking off 1.4 million cars from the roads. With laundry washing accounting for around 15% of all household water consumption, these machines are thought to require less than 20 per cent of the water used in normal washing machines and just 50 per cent of the electricity needed to complete a cycle with a traditional machine. It also allows people to ‘dry’ clean delicate and specialist articles at home.

The waterless machine is the brainchild of polymer chemist Stephen Burkinshaw, who spent over 30 years researching how to help dyes stay on fabrics for longer. Then he noticed a few years ago that the process could work in reverse to remove stains and wondered if plastics could be used for cleaning. He experimented with several different types of plastics but nylon seemed to attract the most stains, as when the beads are subjected to 100% humidity, their molecular structure changes and stains are drawn to the bead’s centre. Westwater said: “Not only are you able to suck the stain off the clothes, you’re also able to ensure there’s no deposition back onto the clothes.”

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So far only a prototype has been made, but Westwater hopes that a commercial product will become available by the end of nest year. He agrees however that people’s perception of waterless cleaning has to change: “There is more of a technical challenge [in development] as you compact the system. But it’s not just about that – there’s also consumer inertia. For millennia, people have been washing their clothes with water and a bit of detergent and suddenly we’re coming along and saying that most of that water can be replaced by these beads. That’s a big leap in the consumers’ minds.”

For more information check out Xeros Cleaning website.

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