Machine washing uses large volumes of water as well as energy, both to run the machine and heat the water. The average washing machine uses 41 gallons of water per load, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website
In a very near future we will be able to purchase a washing machine that uses polymer beads to do the laundry, cutting 80% of the water and half the detergent per load.
The beads are made of the same nylon as many carpets, because the properties that make nylon easy to stain also make it a great scrubber: Its polarized molecules attract soil, and in the humidity created by a little water, the polymer chains separate slightly to absorb grime and lock it into the beads’ cores.
Xeros aims to put machines in commercial laundries next year, where they will use eight gallons of water instead of 80 for each 45-pound load. They may be cleaning your favorite T-shirts at home within several years.