What's in store for the washing machines of the future
Witnessing the evolution of the washing machine is a most fascinating journey through time. Ancient Romans are thought to be the originators of laundry soap, as ashes were found in Sapo Hill, Rome that contained the fat of sacrificial animals. While the Roman’s primitive version of Tide might not seem like much of a technological discovery, it was likely a welcome advance to the age-old chore of clothes washing.
Laundry day for the ancients consisted of pounding their clothes against rocks, scrubbing away stains with abrasive sand, and washing away the dirt in their local river or stream. And to think, we gripe about just having to fold our clothes!
The 1700’s brought about the washing board, and the 1800’s saw the invent of washing drums and a rotary machine, but it wasn’t until 1874 that a true “home washing machine” was invented by William Blackstone as a birthday present for his wife. Now that’s truly the gift that keeps on giving.
The Washing Revolution
Fast forward to our modern era of laundry, where you have your choice of top-loading or front-loading machines (and some people still prefer the older version), and we find inventors still rolling up their sleeves to further simplify this inevitable chore with new features. While the washing machine of the future is still a virtual unknown, there does appear to be several common themes that appliance manufacturers are leaning towards- namely, water saving abilities, speed, and ease of use. Gaze with us into our soapy crystal ball as we reveal your laundry future.
Beads Over Water
The average front-loading washer, while intended to be eco-friendly, still uses about 20 gallons a load. An invention by Xeros, a washer that uses polymer beads, could cut water consumption by an astounding 80 percent. But how?
According to the company, these recyclable, plastic beads are used in conjunction with detergent and, as they tumble through the cycle, they lift stains away “like a million tiny hands.” The washer then extracts the beads, cleans them, then adds them back to the basin where they drop to the bottom, ready for the next load.
The only downside- the washer’s beads don’t last forever. The balls are designed to last through 500-1000 loads of laundry, at which point it’s time to recycle them and purchase new beads. Don’t fret, however, as our landfill won’t become filled with tiny balls of polymer. Instead, once these beads are recycled, they find a new life as ingredients to car dashboards.
Before you get your hopes up, the beaded washing machine will first be used only in commercial settings- such as hotels, dry-cleaners, and laundromats, but will eventually find its way into consumers’ homes sometime within the next decade.
LG, always an innovator in home appliances, has released a twin-wash unit, a mini-washer that slides under an existing machine. Its purpose is to wash excess clothes if you have a huge pile of laundry, or to perform a quick wash if you only have a few items that need cleaning. So, if there’s an outfit you’d love to wear tonight, this little mini will give it a quick wash, eliminating the need to run your normal large capacity washer, thus saving you precious time and money.
Marketed as the LG SideKick, this twin-wash unit is currently for sale as an add-on to existing LG models, and serves not only as an extra washing machine, but also a pedestal for front load washers.
If you’re a city-dweller with no room for a washer, or you travel a lot, you may want to check out the Dolfi, a handy little plastic soap-shaped device. But this isn’t merely a novelty item: the Dolfi will clean your clothes without the need for a washing machine. Simply throw your laundry, detergent, and the Dolfi into a sink filled with warm water, and this little machine goes to work producing ultrasonic vibrations that create tons of tiny bubbles that agitate your clothes clean.
The Dolfi is currently available for sale and claims to work in about 30 minutes. While not as simple as throwing laundry into a washing machine, it’s definitely a blessing for weary travelers who’d like to remove steak sauce from their shirt without asking Siri for directions to the nearest laundromat.
On the company’s website, you can even buy separate power plugs so that the Dolfi can be used world-wide, no matter your destination’s outlet type. World travelers rejoice!
Whatever the future holds for our laundry days, you can bet that it will become more efficient, portable, and use less water than our current machines, helping us save time, money, and the planet.