Waterless Clothes Washing. Almost.

What if you could clean a load of dirty clothes and linens with just a spoonful of laundry detergent and a single cup of water? As soon as late 2010, commercial laundry rooms in hotels, hospitals, and the like may have the option to save massive amounts of (increasingly expensive) water by switching over to a revolutionary new washing technology. A nearly waterless washing machine designed by a company called Xeros (Greek for “dry”) purportedly uses only 10% of the water sucked up by conventional machines. The rest of the dirty work is done by little “rice-sized nylon beads,” according to BusinessWeeks’ Adam Aston, which “act like chemical magnets, absorbing grime and soap as they tumble over fabric.” Aston writes that the Xeros venture has already been backed by “some $3 million in public and venture capital funds,” and is slated to hit the market, well, relatively soon.

Here’s how it works: when a wash load gets going, that lone cup of water creates humidity, which makes the nylon polymer beads absorbent. The beads then beat into fabrics as the machine spins, and suck stains and dirt right into their spongy centers. When the load is done, they’re corralled through an outlet in the machine (so users don’t have to do any separating of clothes and beads), where they’re stored for the next use. One batch of beads will last for about 100 loads of laundry, so replacement is no hassle.


This is where things really start to sound too good to be true. According to an article in Gizmag, which covered the new ecovention earlier this year, the Xeros machine cleans clothes perfectly without a spin or rinse cycle, thereby using a mere 2% of the electricity guzzled by a conventional machine. But wait! There’s more. No need to dry clothes, since they emerge from the Xeros ready to fold or wear. The energy savings, needless to say, could be as astronomical as the water savings.

Seeing is believing, so check out the picture that GizMag ran with their story: it features a Cambridge Consultants staffer holding a bucket of the nylon beads, letting a handful of the little buggers sift and pour through his fingers. Sure enough, they look just like grains of rice.

And you’ll never guess the name of Xeros’ CEO. Bill Westwater.

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less