Wonder washing machine 'virtually waterless'

Designers at the University of Leeds have developed a washing machine which uses just a cup full of water whilst leaving clothes as clean as normal washing.

The technology, which uses plastic granules rather than water, can cut water consumption by 98%.

As an added bonus, clothes come out virtually dry reducing the need for energy-hungry tumble drying.

The university is heralding the device as having the potential to revolutionise laundry, both at home and commercially.

It is already working with major players in the dry-cleaning industry to see if the technology has the potential to replace certain chemical processes - some of which are harmful to the environment.

The process does still require cleaning products - and is more effective with a liquid detergent than washing powder, due to the low level of water used.

The new technology could be on the UK market as early as 2009 and is produced by Xeros, a commercial spin-off of the university.

Professor Burkinshaw, professor of textile chemistry and director of Xeros, said: "The performance of the Xeros process in cleaning clothes has been quite astonishing.

"We've shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick whilst using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional washing machines.

A typical washing machine uses about 35kg of water for every kg of clothes that are washed - as well as large amounts of energy to heat the water and to dry the clothes afterwards.

With environmental concerns becoming increasingly urgent and water becoming an increasingly scarce resource, there is pressure to reduce the amount of water and energy used for washing clothes.

Xeros director Rob Rule told edie that the process itself was fairly simple and the chips could be reused over and over.

"There will come a point when the chips need replacing but we haven't found it yet," he said.

He said they had tried using the same set of chips for a hundred washes without problem but stressed that more heavily soiled clothes would be likely to degrade the chips faster.

Sam Bond



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