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Washing machine that uses just a cup of water

A washing machine that cleans clothes by pounding them with plastic chips could save billions of litres of water a year, its inventors claim.

The Xeros uses less than 2 per cent of the water – and energy – of a conventional model and leaves clothes almost dry, doing away with the need for a tumble drier.

The machine uses thousands of reusable plastic chips to remove and absorb dirt. Tests have shown the machine can shift virtually all types of everyday stains, according to a team at Leeds University.

Professor Stephen Burkinshaw, who invented the machine – which uses one cup of water each cycle – said: "The performance of the Xeros process in cleaning clothes has been quite astonishing.

"We've shown that it can remove all sorts of everyday stains including coffee and lipstick while using a tiny fraction of the water used by conventional machines."

About 20kg of the chips are added, along with a cup of water and detergent. The chips can be used up to 100 times, the equivalent of six months' washing.

Xeros Ltd, the company developing and marketing the machine, believes it could be on the UK market as early as 2009 and expects it to be used in the washing and dry-cleaning industries.