Accessibility links

Tiny Bubbles Turn Water Into Effective Cleaning Tool

  • George Putic

While a stream of ordinary cold water may clean some dirt it is not considered an effective cleaning agent. But when two inventors at the University of Southampton added a little ultrasound the water became highly effective for removing germs from tiny cracks and crevices.

Under ultraviolet light greasy residue on human hands becomes visible, but trying to rinse it off with ordinary cold water is next to impossible.

Infusing the water stream with a bit of ultrasound turns it into an effective scrubber that quickly and harmlessly rinses the skin to spotless clean.

The simplicity of ‘Starstream,’ invented by two researchers from the University of Southampton, England, promises to change the way we clean our bodies as well as objects we use, from kitchen tools to medical instruments.

“We wanted to build some kind of micro-scrubber that can clean without bleach and detergents, and can get into the crevices and the cracks. And so what we did, what we found is the bubble," said Tom Leighton from the University of Southampton.

Normally, bubbles of gas contained in ordinary water have smooth surfaces. But the infusion of ultrasound makes their surfaces ripple, almost like the surface of sand paper. Flowing with water over contaminated surfaces the bubbles effectively take dirt away.

“One of the key factors of Starstream is that it takes any liquid that you are using and makes it several thousand times more effective. So if you are using soapy water or bleach, something like that, it will make it more effective," said Leighton.

Starstream is especially effective for removing bacteria where it hides, like in this piece of glass smeared with lipstick and mascara, or for cleaning rust spots from kitchen sinks.

Researchers say their invention could easily replace the recommended 20-seconds washing of hands with soap and warm water, with only a six-second wash with water infused with ultrasound.