Towards a better tinyhouse

Inventing to freedom?

Laundry for tinyhouses or off grid

with 9 comments

Okay, so to start with, some cool technologies you may or may not have heard of :

centrifugal dryer

Cold water detergent (mind you, reviews of how well it actually works seem to be mixed, but I quite enjoyed the ingredients section of that site)

Ultrasonic washing machine I’m wondering if the latter could be used for clothes, even though it is for vegetables.

hand operatedplunger washer

ventless dryers includes centrifugal
Some thoughts:

The wash and rinse cycles are, I think, basically processes which get the clothing into equilibrium with the surrounding water (or water- detergent mixture aka “wash liquor”). Certainly the rinse cycle, anyway. I’m not as sure about the wash cycle, because the way it goes, is the greasy substances on the clothes come off into the water as “micelles”, colloidal sized globs of greasy stuff surrounded by detergent. Does all the greasy stuff get converted into this form? Well, not all of it, some must stay on the clothes, but I wonder how much…. If it all got converted, then in 1 wash cycle, the amount of greasy stuff that goes along with on the clothes would be proportional to the amount of water in the clothes divided by the amount of wash liquor in the chamber. So the wash cycle is a divide-by operation – divide contaminants on the clothes by (total wash liquor volume)/(liquor volume absorbed by clothes).

This matters, because 2 half size divide by operations can get the clothes cleaner than 1 full size operation, if the divide by is more than 2 (which it is). (x/2)^2=x^2/4 instead of just x. This could be used to get the clothes just as clean, with a lot less water and detergent. Same applies to the rinse cycle if you wanted to do a better rinse with less water.

Another thought is that the micelles can be removed from the water, while leaving the rest of the detergent in. Ultrafiltration can remove them. Not all the detergent gets used up in forming micelles, because there is a certain amount of detergent that must be present in the water before micelles even start to form. Only the detergent that is added In addition to that amount can be used to form micelles. If this worked, you could save the micelle-free water for the next round of washing, or use just a very small amount of wash liquor in the wash chamber, and as the wash cycle proceeds, continuously run the wash liquor through the, this could be used to greatly reduce the amount of detergent and water used. However, dissolved stuff would still accumulate…

Okay, but with regards to the machine, I was just thinking, if you have centrifugal drying machine, you don’t really need a machine with a spin cycle, do you? You might have to take the clothes out and put them through the centrifugal dryer in between the wash and rinse cycles, though (because this reduces the amount of wash liquor in the clothes, thusly increasing the value of the divide by operation mentioned above). There must be a lot of “broken” front loading machines around that can wash, but not do the high speed spin, that would be cheap or free.

You might be able to actually rinse the clothes in the drying machine, though, and save a bunch of water at the same time. Suppose the dryer is spinning. The clothes are pressed up against the side of the machine. You spray water on the inside layer of this wall of clothes, and it gets centrifuged through the clothing, displacing the dirty water. Voila. No dirty water in the clothes. Keep spinning until they are dry. You can get motor controllers that could be used to slow down the speed of the dryer while you do this, if the full speed is too high to safely open the lid. I just bought 2 of them for greenhouses, you just plug the motor into them, and they have a dial to adjust. They work much the same as a light dimmer, you can buy fan speed controllers at the hardware store too, which require you to wire them in. One problem with this is that it wouldn’t rinse out any particles or lint, but might be worth trying….

You can use the rinse water from the last load as the wash water for the next load, that’s fairly common.

I remember seeing a bigger version of that ultrasonic washer somewhere, called the “xcube”. Could be more suited to clothes.

I remember reading a nasa paper while doing research for the water recycler, that said the reason the ISS doesn’t have a laundry machine is because the detergent would be too taxing on the (physico chemical based, a biological recycler would have no problem with it) water recycler. Mire had a washing machine. However, the authors said that ozone actually works pretty good in place of detergent. Could be worth further investigation.

Lastly, apparently that “laundry alternative” machine doesn’t work for beans, so forget that…


Written by gregor

September 21, 2010 at 14:14

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. Hi,
    This is very interesting. Have you done any research on adding certain kinds of bacteria to the wash water instead of soap. The bacteria would consume any odors, stains. or matter that was clinging to or staining the clothing perhaps by an overnight soaking, and then just spinning the water out and air drying the clothing.
    It’s just a random thought, but may be possible. It would require some experimenting.
    Great blog!

    Walt Barrett

    November 1, 2010 at 06:11

    • Hello, Yes, the idea did sort of occur to me. What you really want to do is ask a microbiologist, I think. I think it mostly would rest on finding a suitable bacteria. There are bacterial enzymes of varying sorts in the laundry detergent, so in a way that is a handy way of doing much the same thing bacteria would do, digest the undesirable contaminants, without the bacteria actually floating around. To grow bacteria in situ, they need, of course, to respirate in some way. I learned a bit about this during investigations of the water recycling MBR. If the garment is submerged in water with no aeration (like bubble aeration) the digestion would be anaerobic, almost always produce foul smells, and some anaerobes are human pathogens. But maybe you could inoculate the system with a large amount of the desired bacteria, and they could prevent the pathogens from growing by competition. A couple more thoughts: If you didn’t get rid of them after the treatment cycle, before the clothes were worn, I think almost any bacteria would be irritating to the eyes and maybe skin (partly because of immune response to them, even if the bacteria are otherwise harmless).

      Anaerobic bacteria also grow very slowly, but you’d have to check to see what the rate would be. Aerobic digestion could be done my either using bubble aeration, or maybe just making the clothes a bit damp with a fine spray nozzle. And again, you might have to inoculate them with the desirable bacteria.


      November 1, 2010 at 09:38

  2. […] Sigh. I want it to be good, don’t get me wrong. But I think the options in the laundry options post are more […]

  3. […] I want it to be good, don’t get me wrong. But I think the options in the laundry options post are more […]

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