Engineers at Xeros Ltd. in Leeds, U.K., (www.xerosltd.com) have developed a washing machine they claim will save energy, water, and detergent, and still get your clothes clean. The machine takes advantage of nylon's polarity and its propensity to absorb and retain dirt and stains.
Users simply add a small amount of detergent and put the dirty clothes in the machine's drum. A replaceable cartridge in the machine holds up to 40 lb of nylon pellets, each about a quarter -inch in diameter, which the machines releases into the laundry drum along with about a cup of warm water and the detergent. The soap and water, together with the mechanical action of the spinning drum, gets dirt and stains out of the clothes. Then the nylon pellets absorb the dirt and other chemicals.
The spin cycle is shorter than in conventional clothes washers because so little water needs to be removed. Moreover, there is no reason for a high-speed spin to pull water out of the clothes, as used in conventional washers. But the spin cycle might be used to help remove pellets from the wash, then they fall into an outer drum where they are collected and transferred back into the cartridge. The nylon beads can be reused hundreds of times, according to the company. And so far, Xeros engineers have designed a bead recycling system that reclaims 99.95% of all the beads.
The machine will likely be introduced as a commercial model next year, so workers will be on hand to remove any stray pellets. In the meantime, the design team will develop a better bead removal technique as well as a detergent optimized for this new cleaning method. A consumer model could be one to two years away and should not cost more than conventional washers. It should, however, use less energy, water, and detergent, and take less time to clean clothes. Plus drying should be faster because so little water is used.