A typical washing machine uses about 35 kg of water for every kg of clothes, in addition to the power needed to heat the water and dry the clothes. A washing machine using as little as a cup of water for each washing cycle could go on sale to environmentally conscious. Xeros Ltd, which has been spun out of the University of Leeds to commercialize the technology, has developed a technology that would use less than 2% of the water and energy of a conventional washing machine. Plastic chips are used to remove dirt and stains from clothes, leaving them dry and reducing energy consumption as there is no need to use a dryer after the washing cycle. Washing machine usage has risen by 23% in the past 15 years. The average UK household uses almost 21 liters of water daily on clothes washing, 13% of daily household water consumption. Over 2 million washing machines are sold in Britain annually, with a value of about 1 billion pounds.
The firm has recently secured investment of almost £500,000 (US$984,400) from IP Group Plc, to develop the new machines, the price of which are not expected to be dramatically different from (conventional) washing machines.
The revolutionary technology will provide alternatives to both domestic washing and dry cleaning, heralding the world's first �virtually waterless� washing system. A range of tests, carried out according to worldwide industry protocols to prove the technology performs to the high standards expected in the cleaning industry, show the process can remove virtually all types of everyday stains as effectively as existing processes whilst leaving clothes as fresh as normal washing. In addition, the clothes emerge from the process almost dry, reducing the need for tumble-dryers. Xeros' technology uses as little as a cup of water in each wash cycle and could also bring benefits to other industrial processes such as wastewater treatment and metal degreasing. Tests are currently underway in the dry-cleaning market with a view to replacing certain solvents that are currently used in dry-cleaning. Some of these solvents are potentially harmful, having been linked with certain types of cancer and some are now facing a ban in various states in the USA . The company believes that its new proprietary technology would eradicate the need for these solvents from dry-cleaning providing safety and monetary incentives for the dry cleaning industry.
The performance of the Xeros process in cleaning clothes has been quite astonishing. It can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick whilst using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional washing machines. The potential revenues for machines based on the Xeros technology are considerable. There are more than two million washing machines sold in the UK annually, valuing the UK market alone at around £1 bln.