Xeros keep beady eye on Symphony washing machine retrofit project

A British technology in which polymer beads are used to help remove soil from clothing, reducing the amount of water consumed, can now be retrofitted onto conventional washing machines.

Xeros, the Leeds University spin-out that has developed the polymer cleaning technology, has announced the launch of its Symphony Project, to provide washing machine manufacturers with an “open source” access to its system.

In a Xeros washing machine, detergent and a small amount of water are used to lift dirt from clothing during the agitation phase. This dirt is then absorbed by the polymer beads.

Water is used to pump the beads into the wash, and the same water is then re-circulated through the system to repeat the process, according to Jonathan Benjamin, global president of cleaning technologies at Xeros.

“It looks like a normal washing machine, and all that is really different from a mechanical point of view, is that the beads come into the wash drum, and then are exited through the perforations in the drum and go back into a sump,” he said. “They then get recycled around and around.”

In commercial use, the machines have shown they can reduce water consumption by at least 75 per cent for each load.

Now the company has developed a retrofit pedestal, which can integrate the cleaning system into conventional machines.

“All of the unique aspects of Xeros technology, in terms of the pump, the insertion into the drum and what comes out, are fixed in a very neat and tidy pedestal that can be attached to a number of different brands, said Benjamin.

The pedestal, which is compatible with most sizes and brands of washing machine, can be fitted to machines in a relatively simple step at the end of the production line.

Developing the pedestal will allow the company to make the technology available on a broader scale, said Benjamin.

“For us the vessel that brings the technology to market is of less interest than what actually happens inside the drum,” he said. “So for that reason, and knowing how big the problem (of excess water consumption) is, we know we can’t do this on our own.”

The company is also looking at other applications for the technology, including using the polymer beads to deliver dyes and other chemicals to surfaces such as leather hides, to improve their suppleness and quality.