About Xeros Washing Machine
The Xeros Washing Machine is a new kind of clothes washing technology that cleans laundry using primary nylon polymer beads and very little water. The machine releases nylon polymer beads into a main compartment where laundry is washed. These beads are small and super absorbent which allows them to go through clothing to absorb dirt and stains. This technology is invented by University of Leeds professor Stephen Burkinshaw, who currently has partnership with Xeros Ltd. in perfecting this technology.
The beads work on stains in three ways. The first is mechanical; they’re made out of nylon and will help lift stains as they move about the drum. Because they’re polarized, the beads’ negative and positive charges attract stains. Finally, the nature of the nylon material is that it becomes more porous at a lower temperature when wet, so it helps absorb the stain molecules and carries them away from the clothes without the need for very hot water.
What makes the polymer beads so attractive to hotels and other retailers that do a lot of laundry is that the Xeros system uses 80 percent less water than regular machines. In order to do that and still deliver pristine-looking sheets, the washer works differently. The main reason is that you don’t want the beads whisked away with the water and dirt. Instead, they’re stored in a special sump that pumps them into the drum during the cycle; they then flow back to the storage housing through an opening in the drum. The machine then rinses the laundry with a small amount of water and finishes the wash cycle.
Will waterless washing eventually translate to home use? So far, this remains to be seen. Some commercial laundry customers—such as the hotels, athletic clubs and third-party linen services highlighted on Xeros’ site—have employed waterless washing machines on a large scale and have reaped significant water savings. Cost is a major barrier to indvidual waterless washing, and while the Xeros machine may cost less to run through water, detergent and dryer energy savings, this savings must balance with its up-front and maintenance costs.
There are other questions and concerns about polymer bead cleaning aside from financial costs. Washing with water removes not only stains, but also dust, allergens, mold spores and other potentially unhealthy contaminants. It is doubtful that washing with little water and heat, as in polymer bead cleaning, could remove these contaminants as effectively as a conventional machine.
Polymer bead cleaning and other waterless washing technologies are novel ways to reduce dependence on one of the planet’s most valuable resources. For now, though, they seem most useful for large-scale applications.