Innovative technologies created by British washing machine manufacturer Xeros, and Dutch textile–dying company DyeCoo have removed the water from the textile cleaning and dying process, saving millions of gallons of water and preventing waterway contamination.
Researchers developed the waterless cleaning process at Leeds University in the United Kingdom while trying to come up with a way to make dyes stay on fabrics longer. Scientists inadvertently found that when millions of tiny polymer beads (like the ones shown above) are introduced to a wash cycle the amount of water needed to clean the clothes is greatly reduced– only 20% of the water used in a regular wash cycle is required.
The way the Xeros process works is first a small amount of water is used to dissolve stains on clothes, then the polymer beads are added which then absorb all the dirt from the clothes. In a humid environment, like a washing machine, polymers become very absorbent. Beads can be used for 500 loads before they need to be replaces. And though currently these special machines are only available for large commercial launderettes, Xeros is working on bringing this technology to the consumer level.
Another company, DyeCoo from the Netherlands, has removed water from the textile dying process, which not only saves water, but also prevents watershed pollution– something the textile dying industry is notorious for.
The waterless dying process uses heated and heavily compressed carbon dioxide that makes it become supercritical– a state between liquid and gas. When carbon dioxide becomes supercritical it turns into a solvent and solute at the same time. This makes colors penetrate textiles much quicker and without the necessary addition of chemicals or salts. This process cuts dying time in half, and since fabrics come out dry, it also uses 50% of the energy required for conventional dying techniques.