SERIOUS MONDAY: COMING SOON – A WATERLESS WASHING MACHINE?

Imagine being able to wash a full load of dirty laundry – using only a single pint of water.
Sounds like science fiction, but university researchers in Leeds say they have invented the world’s first “virtually waterless” washing system.

The system uses polymer granules to remove stain and dirt and could save billions of litres of water every year.

And, as if that isn’t good enough, the fact that it uses only 700ml of the wet stuff means that your clothes come out almost dry so you don’t need a tumble dryer either.

The technology has been invented by Leeds university professor, Stephen Burkinshaw, an internationally-recognised expert in the science of textiles and dyeing and a new spin-out company, Xeros, has been founded to exploit it.

Professor Burkinshaw says this could be the beginning of a huge change in the world of washing – and will be particularly popular in countries which suffer from water shortages.

Obviously, the nature of the granules is a tightly guarded trade secret, but apparently they can be recycled and used many times over.

“The performance of the Xeros process in cleaning clothes has been quite astonishing,” says Professor Burkinshaw. “It can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick, and you don’t need to rinse or dry the clothes either.”

Tests are now underway to see whether the Xeros technology could also replace the potentially harmful solvents used in dry-cleaning and it could also be used in other processes such as fabric dyeing and  wastewater treatment.

A typical washing machine uses about 35 litres of water for every 1kg of clothes and across the country, this adds up to around 450 million litres of water per day – so the new process would lead to huge savings.

But of course water doesn’t just clean stains from clothes – it gets rid of any nasty odours too, so hopefully the magic granules cope with those too.

Susan

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