New washing machine technology could cut water useBillions of litres could be saved each year

28 November 2008

University of Leeds

University of Leeds

Plans for an innovative new washing machine are set to slash household laundry costs and produce major environmental benefits in the near future.

Researchers from the University of Leeds, who developed the technology, claim that the machine uses just 1.5 litres of water per kilogram of washing. In our tests, we calculate that the average water consumption of a conventional washing machine is around 13 litres per kilogram.

If widely adopted by households, the machine could save billions of litres of water each year. According to Waterwise, a non-governmental organisation that aims to decrease water consumption in the UK, washing machine use has risen by 23 per cent in the past 15 years. Nationally, we use approximately 455million litres (800million pints) of water a day doing the laundry.

Xeros washing machine technology

The technology, dubbed 'Xeros' after the company that is pushing the project forward, is claimed to work by using 20kg of plastic chips added to each load, along with a small amount of water and detergent. The plastic chips help lift soils by increasing agitation within the drum and helping the detergent to be more effective. During the washing cycle, the water is heated to 40 or 60 degrees in the usual way to help dissolve dirt into the water.

The makers say the chips can be used for over 100 washes - the equivalent of five months of washing before needing to be replaced. Xeros says the chips can then be recycled be the user.

Katie Waller, Which? researcher, said: 'The reduced amount of water and detergent used, makes this innovation increasingly relevant as we all become more ecologically prudent. This is certainly a development that we shall be keeping a close eye on.'

Save time, money and water

With a Xeros model it's claimed buyers can look forward shorter wash times. A normal load of heavily soiled clothes should take around 30 minutes, over hour quicker than most conventional models. So little water is used there's no need for a spin cycle, which means washes should be quieter overall.

Martin Gregson, non-executive director of Xeros, said: 'We tested the machine on stains like beer, coffee and tea and it's as good as a normal washing machine. We've also been cleaning clothes from local charity shops and both cotton and synthetic washes compare favourably with machines on the market. I expect prices to be similar to those domestic models on sale now.'

Which? has almost 200 washing machine test results and some useful advice on using a washing machine. There are also 22 detergents tested in our detergent report.

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