Washing clothes is one of the most resource-intensive chores in the home. It’s estimated that there are 76 million top-loading washing machines with agitators, 25 million of which are at least 10 years old, still in use across the United States. According to Energy Star, these inefficient washers cost consumers $2.8 billion each year in energy and water.
Upgrading to an Energy Star-rated, front loading washer can drastically reduce this consumption, but still require about 15 gallons of water per load. With the entire country facing devastating drought, decreasing this demand even further could go a long way toward conserving water for drinking and agriculture. But how? You can’t wash clothes with a thimble full of water. Or can you? UK-based Xeros recently made a splash here in America with the debut of its “virtually waterless” washing machine that uses 90 percent less water than a conventional machine.
The secret to being able to get clean clothes with less than a gallon of water is Xeros’ polymer bead technology, a revolutionary cleaning method that has been proven more effective than traditional “soap and water.” These tiny snippets of nylon are infused with a proprietary detergent solution. When introduced into the washing machine with just a tiny amount of water, dirt from soiled items is attracted and absorbed by the beads, producing cleaner results than conventional washing methods. According to the company, the nylon beads are capable of hundreds of washes before reaching life span, which can then be collected and recycled.
Although the Xeros “virtually waterless” washing machine has only recently moved out of the prototype stage, the implications of this technology are enormous. Think about all the water used by commercial linen laundering services, dry cleaners, hotels, schools, and gyms. All of this water consumption could be eliminated, cutting operating costs and detergent use by at least 50 percent.
With the first U.S. installation underway in Manchester, New Hampshire, Xeros will introduce an official roll-out at the 2013 Clean Show to the commercial laundry marketplace, with a household sized machine in development for launch in 2014.