Advanced Washer Technologies:
Although laundry care remains the leading product class with nearly half of total market sales during 2008, according to Kline’s Household Cleaning Products USA report, in the future it might be different. The science of cleaning our clothes has advanced rapidly in the last few decades, with new technologies entering the market, and the speed this market is developing laundry care may witness some changes in its leadership.
Not only are textile researchers developing ways to make cleaning easier, some new machine technologies are revolutionizing the way people wash their clothes. Besides cutting water usage, many of these also don’t require any detergent.
These machines are just becoming available in the United States and they cost more than traditional machines, but the way this innovation is concurrently occurring in more than one organization, we can assume that the technology is likely to become more mainstream, as well as more affordable.
From the latest inventions there is a Haier with its “no detergent” machine. The WasH2O works by breaking water molecules into its OH- and H=+ ions components, then the OH – acts as the cleaning agent by attracting and retaining stains which gives you clean clothes without the need for soap or detergents. The washing machine costs around €700 (US$957).
Another new washing machine uses just a cup of water, a pinch of detergent, and small nylon beads to clean clothes. It may be available in the United Kingdom next year. It is starting with a commercial intent, but should be extended to domestic use thereafter.
Researchers at Leeds University designed the machine, which will be marketed by a spin-off company called Xeros Ltd (which means “dry” in Greek). The machine is designed to reduce both water and energy consumption. First, the clothes are dampened with a small amount of water, and the nylon polymer beads are tumbled with the dampened garments. The polarizing properties of the polymers under damp conditions make them absorbent: dirt is locked into the center of the beads.
Furthermore, a new washing system from LG incorporates steam technology to clean clothes. The LG SteamWasher can be used as a stand-alone 20-minute steam cycle, which refreshes clothing, or combined with a normal hot or warm water wash cycle for better cleaning and a reduction in wrinkles. The steam is at a higher temperature and has smaller molecules than water, so penetrates the fibers better. The LG SteamWasher is at a suggested retail price of about US$1,500 for the washer and US$1,100 for the dryer. The LG Remote Monitoring Laundry accessory package is available for US$99.
These machines aren’t an immediate threat to the detergent industry, but similar ones will likely be in the coming years. They can also represent an opportunity for companies in that they can partner with the machine manufacturers to promote products that are used specifically for these new technologies. In the future, detergents may become less important, but additives may then become more important. These can be more value-added; less commoditized, and still bring a healthy profit.
As well as in washing systems, there is extensive research and development going on in the fabric maintenance sector. Read about the future of fabrics in our next blog!
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