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'Waterless' Washer Uses Plastic to Clean Clothes
As efficient as most washing machines can be, they remain one of the more demanding consumers of energy and water in the home. Enter 21st century laundry -- a new efficient concept developed by Xeros and Cambridge Consultants uses plastic to get stains out while keeping a trim carbon footprint.

Using 90 percent less water and minimal detergent, the "virtually waterless" washer utilizes reusable small nylon beads to trap dirt. The beads act like water, tumbling alongside the clothes, and can be used hundreds of times over.

The process was discovered by Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, Xeros founder, at the University of Leeds. Cambridge Consultants and Xeros are working towards commercial product release by the fourth quarter in 2010. Less water means less drying, improving already on the 30 percent energy savings that the devices will provide over traditional washers.

Cambridge Consultants assisted the startup in determining product potential and how to effectively remove the polymer beads from damp clothes. Six months of work yielded a successful demonstration of removing and recycling the beads-- no one wants wet bedsheets full of tiny plastic bits (which you could remove with the vacuum wand attachment).

The washer provides significantly smaller life cycle emissions than conventional washing, according to an independent assessment from the URS Corporation. The product is intended first for commercial purposes, and will eventually be licensed for home use. Xeros' technology may very well find its way into American dry cleaning businesses, thanks to a new partnership with GreenEarth Cleaning. This new washer might do what concepts have only previously been able to promise.

As an alternative, the Airwash uses no water or detergent, but only negatively charged ions, compressed air and deodorants to clean clothes. Waterless washing machines may soon be a necessity, with certifications such as LEED requiring reduced water usage and with increasing demands for efficiency.

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