October 23, 2014

Laundering Without Water – Almost

Is this really the environmentally correct alternative?  This idea was found at popsci.com:

Clean Your Clothes with Plastic: Nylon beads sit in the outer of two nested drums. When both drums rotate, the absorbent beads fall through the mesh of the inner drum to tumble with your laundry, where they dislodge and trap dirt. After the wash cycle finishes, the outer drum stops moving and centripetal force pushes the beads back through the mesh into the outer drum, where they await your next mess.

Xeros’s prototype washing machine uses 90 percent less water than ordinary models, which also eliminates energy-intensive spin cycles and dryer blasts.

The machine replaces all but one tenth of the usual water and about one third of the usual detergent with 0.1-inch plastic beads, reusable for hundreds of washes. The beads are made of the same nylon as many carpets, because the properties that make nylon easy to stain also make it a great scrubber: Its polarized molecules attract soil, and in the humidity created by a little water, the polymer chains separate slightly to absorb grime and lock it into the beads’ cores.

Xeros aims to put machines in commercial laundries next year, where they will use eight gallons of water instead of 80 for each 45-pound load. They may be cleaning your favorite T-shirts at home within several years.