Environment

‘Waterless’ washing machine cleans using nylon beads

Nathan Wrench, program manager at Cambridge Consultants, and the nylon beads used in the Xeros washing machine (Photo: Xeros)
Nathan Wrench, program manager at Cambridge Consultants, and the nylon beads used in the Xeros washing machine (Photo: Xeros)
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Nathan Wrench, program manager at Cambridge Consultants, and the nylon beads used in the Xeros washing machine (Photo: Xeros)
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Nathan Wrench, program manager at Cambridge Consultants, and the nylon beads used in the Xeros washing machine (Photo: Xeros)

A washing machine that cuts water usage by 90% is due to hit American shores next year. The Xeros washing machine, which takes its name from the Greek word for “dry”, cleans clothes using reusable nylon polymer beads with an inherent polarity that attracts stains.

The beads are added to the wash along with as little as a cup of water and a drop of detergent. After the water dissolves the stains, the beads, which become absorbent under humid conditions, soak up the water along with the dirt. The dirt is not just attracted to the surface, but is absorbed into the center of the beads.

The beads are removed automatically within the machine at the end of the load so there’s no need for the user to worry about separating the beads themselves. They also don’t require cleaning and can last for about 100 loads or laundry, or about six months of average family usage.

Since the Xeros doesn’t require a rinse or spin cycle the it uses just 2% of the energy of conventional washing machines, cutting CO2 emissions on top of the water savings. The energy savings are further enhanced by the fact that the clothes come out nearly dry, meaning no power-hungry clothes dryer is required. Xeros claims that, taking all these factors into account, its machine achieves a 40% reduction in carbon emissions over conventional washing and drying.

The technology was developed by researchers at Leeds University who have established a spin-off company called Xeros Ltd to market the technology.

“We will not make the machines ourselves so are inviting interest from machine manufacturers who would want to partner with us to bring the Xeros system to the market,” Xeros Ltd CEO, Bill Westwater, told Gizmag.

Westwater went on to say that the company plans to launch the technology in the commercial laundry market first “with a target date of late 2010."

"After we are established in this commercial sector we will certainly be examining how we can compact the technology so that it can fit into consumer homes.”

6 comments
Chris Kunce
This looks cool, but the numbers didn't make sense to me. It says it uses just 2% of the energy of a regular washing machine and the clothes didn't need to be dried. But when you compare the energy use to a washer AND dryer the savings is only a 40% reduction in carbon emissions.
Alexis Olson
So, I'm curious what happens to the beads after they are all filled up? Do you dump them in your compost? I haven't known nylon to be particularly eco-friendly, but I could be wrong.
Leanne Franson
To both Chris Kunce, and Alexis Olson, if you look on their site (link is above), it uses 2% of the energy of a regular washing machine per load, and the 40% reduction in carbon footprint is based on the whole life cycle of the beads vs water with detergent wash, including manufacture and recycling. And yes, they are recyclable: \"Xeros reduces carbon foot print impact as well - up to 40% saving if reduction in tumble drying is included (source: URS Corp. study commissioned by Xeros). That's because far less electricity and detergent is required than conventional systems. This calculation also includes the environment cost of the Xeros nylon beads which will be recycled, never just thrown away.\" http://www.xerosltd.com/laundery-environmental-benefits.htm
Shah Hafiz
how can i get the full spesification details for this Washing Machine..?
Gregg Eshelman
I bet it leaves beads in all your clothes\' pockets.
Dave B13
They need to go slightly further to keep from being a big fail. Their machine needs to kill bacteria. Could add a heat cycle and/or UV light cycle to sterilize clothing. Normal process bleach or high heat of dryer cycle does this.
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