An (almost) waterless washing machine

Water—at least, the water that comes out of the taps—can be a precious commodity at the cottage. We all know stories of the toilet that kept running and running, finally draining the well, or that irritating guest who never quite got the point of “If it’s yellow …”

If you’ve got a washing machine at your cottage, you know it’s one of the biggest guzzlers of all—but what if you could run a load using 90 percent less water?

That’s the idea behind the Xeros, a washing machine that uses small recyclable polymer balls and a cup of water—yes, only a cup—to get your laundry bright and shiny clean.

Think of the technology as an updated version of “bang your laundry on a rock until it’s clean”—the balls agitate your clothes, and absorb dirt and stains. According to Xeros’ website, the washer would save the US laundry industry the equivalent of 5,331 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water a year over traditional commercial washing machines.

The Xeros machine, which also uses half the amount of electricity that a conventional washer does, is only available for commercial businesses right now, but domestic models are supposedly only a couple of years away.

Of course, one has to weight the environmental impact of manufacturing the polymer balls, and whether this device has achieved an overall reduction in its carbon footprint. But it’s certainly a welcome invention for those with a limited water supply.

What do you think? How do you manage to save water when you’re washing?