Laundry isn't a particularly exciting activity, but it has consequences: It accounts for a quarter of all water consumed by the average household, and it puts a lot of nasty detergent into the water system (including a particularly harmful carcinogen called 1,4 dioxane).
EYeka, a "co-creation" platform for companies to source new ideas, recently set up a challenge: Come up with "an original and revolutionary idea about the future laundry detergent that makes this ordinary household item extraordinary." The platform received 61 ideas from 17 countries. These are some of the best from the competition, which was sponsored by "a major FMCG firm based in Asia-Pacific," according to eYeka.
A "preventive" detergent is designed to minimize washing. Javier Páez, a designer from Buenos Aires, envisions a "hydrophobic solution" that we would spray onto clothing, "creating a protective layer." It would be formed from nano-particles, and dispensed from a handheld device small enough for a handbag. Páez calls it the "new way to wash," though he doesn't say exactly what the liquid is made from. The idea won the 3,000-euro first prize.
Not every part of your shirt is equally dirty. Hence the need for "detergent stickers" that you fix to particular areas, and that are designed for certain stains (grease, chocolate, and so on). French textile designer Cynthia Dubus-Verrier says the idea was inspired by sticky notes and her own experience as a mother of two small kids. "As I often put extra detergent on stains, I thought that inventing something that would be applied directly on dirt or body odor, would be good," she says. The product would be lighter than conventional liquids, she points out, and reduce environmental impacts (because chemicals would be localized). The idea won the second prize, worth 1,500 euros.
This concept turns laundry into a game of hoops. You get a choice of nine colored detergent balls, corresponding to fabric types (cotton, synthetic, etc). Then you have to hit jump-shots, throwing clothes (and then balls) into a circular drum washing machine on the floor. "It's a machine that you don't need to hide and is easy to use," says Denis Verdier, a designer from France, in an email. "Why not create a machine, which looks like a bag, that you can put your clothes, like a game?"
These re-usable, mobile device-controlled electronic balls release detergent when the water reaches a certain temperature. The concept looks like a bocce ball set, though it was conceived by Emil Zenko, a designer from Germany. "I wanted to be involved in the contest, because as a young man I'm interested in modern gadgets," he says. "I wanted to do something about harmful detergents and inefficient use of resources."
This "rainbow dust" from Indonesia is more whimsical than practical. The anonymous designer behind it envisions a line of "eraser crystals" in several shapes: flowers, stars, and snowflakes. He doesn't say if this actually improves the wash, but snowflakes are superior to Tide any day.