By Katherine Noble-Goodman
U.S. Water News Online
HOUSTON, Texas -- The average family uses about 16,000
gallons of water each year to clean their clothes; only toilets use
more household water than the washing machine. But what if you could
wash your clothes with half that amount of water, eliminate the
detergent, use only cold water, and still have them come out clean?
EcoSafe, a company with headquarters in Utah and a research team
in Texas, has developed a washing machine cleaning resin and delivery
system that not only significantly reduces the amount of water needed
for cleaning clothes, but it also eliminates the need to add
detergent to the wash.
Designing a washing machine that uses less water isn't entirely
unique. New machines with the Energy Star label use only 18 -- 25
gallons of water per load (compared to 40 gallons per load for the
typical machine) and save about 7,000 gallons of water a year. In
fact, these machines -- often with a front-loading design -- are up
to 40% more water efficient and 70% more energy efficient than
conventional top-loading washers.
But, they still use detergent and, to really get the dirt out, hot
EcoSafe's designers say it does better than that. A future EcoSafe
machine would not only reduce water consumption by about the same
amount, but it would eliminate the need for detergents, which are not
only hard on clothing, but hard on the environment. Even detergents
that don't contain phosphates still contain many synthetic products.
"It might be biodegradable, but it's still something that you have
to rinse out of your clothing," says EcoSafe developer Eric Briggs.
Briggs (who along with chemist/inventor Eddie Caruthers, II, and
publisher James Corenflos designed the resin and delivery system),
says that the resin-based, EcoSafe machine won't look much different
than a machine that uses detergent. "Instead of dropping detergent
into a wash load, you would just simply unscrew a little lid in the
machine, put in the resin and run it for 40 to 50 loads. The resin
gives itself up, so it gets smaller. A red light comes on saying it
needs to be replaced and you put another one in.
"It's not magic, it is basic elementary chemistry."
That elementary chemistry is this -- when water comes into contact
with the EcoSafe resin, its chemical properties change. "Water is the
best cleaner there is, but in order to make it wash clothes, you need
to change it. You have to raise the pH or add gasses to the water
such as carbon dioxide or oxygen to change its surface tension."
When the EcoSafe resin comes into contact with water, it creates
an abundance of oxygen and raises the pH. "A higher pH mixes with the
oils in your clothing from your skin, and it becomes soap," says
In fact, it is because detergent changes the properties of water
that it gets things clean.
The idea for EcoSafe grew out of conversation the three inventors
had four years ago after watching a news report on a detergent-less
washing system that turned out to be a flop. "We knew it was a scam,
but we were amused by the whole idea," says Briggs. "We were laughing
about it, but I said to Eddie, 'Is it possible to do laundry without
That was the beginning of the quest to find out. "Eddie (who has
devoted much of his professional life to blending detergents and
developing cleaning applications) started playing around with it, and
3 to 4 months later, he had developed the first form of the resin we
use today," says Briggs.
Because rinsing is not required, Ecosafe washers use less water.
"You don't have to use another 15 gallons of water to rinse the soap
out of your clothes. You could cut out 30 to 40 percent of the
Another benefit to resin-based washing is that there is usually no
reason to use hot water.
"One of the big financial benefits is we can operate strictly on
cold water, because we are changing the basic properties of the
water," says Briggs. One exception might be cleaning soiled sheets in
hot water to kill bacteria.
Once the resin was designed, the next step was the delivery
"We had to regulate the amount of water that goes across the
resin. It's a time release item, so we designed and patented a
Briggs admits that most people are skeptical of EcoSafe at first,
including the folks at an independent ASTM (American Society for
Testing and Materials) certified laboratory who tested the washer.
"They stopped the testing in the middle of the test (on EcoSafe) and
called us," recalls Briggs. They were puzzled as to how the machine
could possibly work.
ASTM is a not-for-profit organization that provides a forum for
the development and publication of voluntary consensus standards for
materials, products, systems and services. Businesses, scientists,
engineers, architects, and government agencies use ASTM standards.
Now, the next step is getting the product to market. Hydromaid, a
company that makes water-based, environmentally friendly appliances
(including a garbage disposal that is operated by water), is in the
process of acquiring EcoSafe.
Culley Davis, CEO of Hydromaid, is convinced that the product will
sell. A retrofit device that is compatible with many types of washing
machines should be on the market in six to nine months, he says, and
a new machine designed for resin-only operation is probably only a
few years down the road.
"We're working with one of largest appliance companies in the
world, and we're doing testing in Europe," says Culley.
Briggs and his partners are also in the process of testing a
resin-based dishwasher application. "Doing the dishwasher system was
easy compared to the clothes cleaning because solid surface cleaning
is much easier."
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