Washers are designed to introduce detergent and water into clothes, agitate the water enough for the detergent to remove stains and then rinse the clothes with fresh water. Many manufacturers include extra features designed to help clean clothes more thoroughly, such as silver ion technology. The usefulness and practicality of silver ion technology has been debated, but several washing machines, especially models from Samsung, include the technology.
Silver ions are particles of silver that are moved from small silver bars located in the back of the washing machine using electrical current. These particles are spread through the water in washing machines. The treatment is designed to help clean clothes more thoroughly and remove all kinds of bacteria.
Silver ion technology is an application nanotechnology that makes use of atoms and molecules to help clean clothes. The silver bars tend to last for around 1000 washing machine cycles. The electrical current that attracts silver ions from the particles is used to move the atoms into washer water. These silver particles are toxic to all types of bacteria, so as they cycle they kill the bacteria in the water and in the clothes. As the water is drained, the silver particles wash away.
Silver ions are typically used with cold water when special care items need to be cleaned. This includes delicates, items with deep colors that can be easily washed away and other unique items. In these cases, the silver ion technology can take the place of bleach and hot water, which can ruin some types of clothing.
In 2007, the EPA announced that the silver ion technology should be classified as a pesticide since Samsung claimed that it kills 99.9 percent of odor-causing bacteria in the clothing. The matter is still being investigated, and it is not known what affect the silver ions may have on humans or on the environment in which they are drained. However, the EPA has allowed silver ion washers to still be sold, for now.
Samsung's silver ion technology spreads ion particles throughout the water, but it is not the only silver ion system available commercially. Other systems coat the inside of the washer drum with a silver ion sheet. This does not spread particles throughout the water in the same way, but is still designed to kill bacteria with every cycle.
- Photo Credit laundry washer image by Vasiliy Koval from Fotolia.com
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