Despite advances in modern laundry technology, washing machines use about 100 liters of water to remove 1 tablespoon of dirt. Additionally, sewage, a mixture of chemicals from detergents and fabric softeners, typically ends up in water bodies, affecting the environment.
A startup, based in Chandigarhtries to solve two problems – the waste of water and the use of chemical detergents – with a single solution.
Launched by Ruble Gupta, Nitin Kumar Saluja and Varinder Singhthe startup claims its machine washes fabrics – and even metal components and PPE kits – in 80 seconds (can go higher depending on the stain) using a few milliliters of water and no detergent.
The machine is based on patented ISP steam technology which kills bacteria (sterilizes) using low frequency radio frequency microwaves (non-ionizing and non-polarizing), and further removes stains, dirt and odors at using dry steam generated at room temperature.
A single 80-second cycle (7-8 kg machine) can wash up to five garments using half a cup of water and no detergent, says the startup. The cycle can be repeated several times in case of stubborn stains. Usually about 4-5 cycles can remove stubborn stains. On the other hand, its largest machine (70-80 kg load) can wash 50 clothes with 5-6 glasses of water in several cycles (depending on the clothes).
Currently, the machines have been deployed in seven locations, including hostels, hospitals and the lounges in three cities—Chandigarh, Panchkula, and Mohali— as pilots to test their commercial viability.
A nearly waterless washing machine developed by 80Wash.
The seeds of the invention were sown at Chitkara University incubation center, located in Rajpura, Punjab.
In 2017, Ruble was pursuing his Btech in computer science when he met Nitin, Associate Director of Chitkara University Research and Innovation Network (CURIN), and Varinder, who was working as a project manager at Aautosync Innovations, an automotive center of excellence in Chitkara. . .
Nitin and Varinder have worked together on several startup projects and mentored students to help them find a suitable product for the market. Initially, the trio came together to work on curating an instant sterilization machine for hospitals using UV rays.
After a series of discussions and expert opinions, they decided to develop the machine for fabrics further and build something that was fast, automated and, above all, environmentally friendly.
However, the UV rays were not sufficient to clean the clothes.
“Simple sterilization was not enough. Microwaves killed 99.9% of bacteria, but we also had to tackle dirt, stains and odors. That’s when we started working on our patented technology around dry steam,” says Nitin. The trio brought together a team of microbiologists, textile experts among others to work on the proposal.
Dry steam (which is low humidity steam) is extremely effective at removing stains. However, as the co-founders explain, its generation requires the system to maintain high pressure which additionally requires high electricity. This makes the whole process extremely risky.
This is where the 80Wash team worked on their proprietary technology. “We succeeded in generating dry steam at room temperature and patented this technology. It affects all four aspects: stains, dirt, odors and germs,” they explain.
In early 2021, the team received their patents, officially launched the startup, and built a 7-8 kg washing machine for the pilots. He is looking to file an international patent application by next year.
The startup has outsourced its manufacturing by teaming up with certified partners in Ambala and Delhi and has a small garage near the Patiala-Chandigarh highway to conduct experiments. The team operates from the Chitkara University incubation center and has offices in Zirakpur and Hisar.
The initial phase of the experiments revealed a series of problems that needed to be solved.
For example, salons that were part of the experiment complained that hair stuck to fabrics while hospitals were unresponsive to machines due to cumbersome paperwork. However, some of them managed to keep the machine running for a while.
“They are happy with the results, but we would still need to get approvals to officially roll them out. We are working on the same for the future,” says Ruble.
In contrast, college hostels were a perfect testing ground as students were more open to pilots. This helped the team gain productive feedback and a source of income.
80Wash has rolled out a pay-as-you-go model and charges Rs 200 per student, per month for unlimited laundry. “It would help us cover some costs to continue with our pilots,” adds Ruble.
The startup received subsidies from the governments of Punjab and Himachal, Chitkara University and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
He works to get his test certificates, including electromagnetic interference (EMI) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) test certification. The stamp is mandatory for commercial electronic products.
“The government supported our product. It’s not just about low prices or saving time, but also about being environmentally friendly,” says Ruble.
The founders say they have received positive feedback on the machine and have even received inquiries from distributors in a few regions including Gujarat.
80Wash aims to set up a manufacturing unit in the future, for which the founders will explore partnership options. “Manufacturing is an extremely high cost business and something we won’t explore right away. Right now we are outsourcing our assembly and looking to create a unit for the same,” the co-founders explain.
The pricing of the machine is still under development.
Following the certifications, the startup would release 100 machines (7-8 kg load) by September 2022, followed by 70-80 kg load machines for the B2B audience. Work is in progress for the latter.
“We are not looking at the household audience yet. Our product is designed for B2B commercial use, including hospitals, hotels, salons, schools, etc. We would explore the laundromat where we could set up card options for customers. We are still exploring the best way to approach this business,” the team says.
According to BlueWeave Consulting, the Indian washing machine market reached $1.26 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 3.67% to reach $1.7 billion. by 2026. While the commercial washing machine market is dominated by key players like IFB, LG and Dexter who provide conventional washing and laundry services on a large scale, startups in the sector are trying to fill the void by offering complete solutions at a reasonable price, the report adds.
The concept of a “nearly waterless” washing machine has been around for some time. In 2010, media reported on Leeds-based Xeros Ltd claiming its machine used tiny plastic balls that sucked up stains. Consumer electronics giant LG also announced it was working on a “waterless” washing machine a few years ago. However, the product failed to reach the market.
LG recently said it has revived the project and is working on it under a regulatory sandbox program after the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (South Korea) approved the trial of technology. LG is working on using carbon dioxide to replace water in washing machines.
“Our technology is completely different from what others (LG) are using and is the first of its kind. We don’t know how eco-friendly and fast these other offerings are. Feasibility is a big issue,” says Nitin.
(This article has been updated to correct a sentence regarding the technology used in the washing machine and to add the locations of the startup’s offices.)