The end of the coin-operated laundry?

A new (almost) waterless washing machine promises to change the way we wash clothes.

A new way to wash.

Sure, saving water is great and all, and everybody loves the environment, but a new technology coming out of Leeds University might allow for millions of apartment dwellers to finally have their own washing machine and dryer.

I don't know about the U.K., but here in the States, I've found many apartments simply are not set up for installing a washer and dryer. Landlords typically pay the water bill, so even if the infrastructure is there, the enthusiasm for laundry capabilities usually is not.

All that is set to change if this new washing machine works as well as it claims. Users would simply insert some detergent and only one cup of water. A cartridge delivers thousands of small, reusable plastic chips (or granules) that would then absorb the dirt and water. Not only does the technology promise to clean your clothes, but also at the end of the cycle the load would be "virtually dry", eliminating the need for a separate dryer.

It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see the potential for this new spin on an old chore. The technology, dubbed Xeros, is already being compared to the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, which revolutionized the home cleaning industry when it was first released in the mid-1990s. The inventor, Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, is already in talks with commercial partners and hopes to see his idea become commercially viable as soon as next year. It would seem that for space-challenged apartment dwellers the future finally looks bright--without having to lug a closet full of laundry down the street.

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