The very first practical washing machine was patented in 1858 by Hamilton Smith. Later, William Blackstone built one as a gift for his wife by adding a handle and a gear to it. The electric washing machines started to surface at the start of the twentieth century. By 1910, the units were being mass produced by companies like Maytag and Hurley Machine Corporation.
Those first machines had tubs made from heavy and dirty cast iron. A mechanism was placed inside a tub that was mounted on angle-iron frames. There were perforated metal or wooden slat cylinders inside. The unprotected motor was placed under the machine and dripping water often caused it to short-circuit. In the 1920s, Canadian machines had gas or electric heaters built in, but when most homes by the 1930s started using domestic water heaters, heaters in machines became useless. Later on there was the inclusion of a timing device in the machines and this allowed the unit to be set for a predetermined wash cycle. The early 1950s brought machines featuring spinning capabilities, which replaced the wringer as it tended to remove buttons. Finally, in 1957, GE came out with a machine having five buttons to control the wash temperature, rinse temperature and spin speed. All these additions eliminated the need of constant monitoring. While some improvements have been made in the washing machines since then to make them more efficient and convenient to use, the basic structure has not undergone any significant change.
One of the major issues with these washing machines is the fact that they use a lot of water and energy. Since both commodities are fast becoming scarce, it is the necessity of the times to come up with a machine that uses as little of these two things as possible. A new washing machine developed by the researchers at Leeds University uses only 2% of the water used by conventional machines.
This new devices utilize some basic chemistry as its principal of operation. The machine employs nylon beads which are positively charged and thus attach to the stains with ease. The structure of the beads is such that it accommodates the adhering of the beads to stains and acts as a catalyst for the washing powder. Thus, they increase the specificity of the washing powder to act on the hard stains.
Operating the unit is rather easy. All that needs to be done is load the machine with laundry, and allow the beads to intermingle with the dirty clothes. Then add approximately one glass of water and the washing powder like in a conventional machine, and allow the washing process to proceed. At the end of the wash, the water drains and the beads are filtered off.
Some of the advantages include a minimal amount of water and energy use. The process is suitable for dry cleaning, as well as conventional washing. The beads can be recycled up to 100 times making them economical. The wash is eco-friendly and does not harm clothes.