July 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM ET
How thirsty are you? Thirsty enough to drink your own sweat? How about somebody else’s? A Swedish engineer has developed a new machine that sucks the sweat out of dirty clothes and turns it into drinking water. Mmmm….
It was developed as part of a UNICEF campaign to highlight the fact that 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water. Sweaty water doesn't exactly strike us as clean, but who are we to judge?
The device whisks moisture out of sweaty clothes by spinning and heating them. It then filters the stinky liquid through a GORE-TEX®-like fabric that allows only water vapor to pass through it. The less desirable bits, like bacteria, salts, clothing fibers and other substances get trapped within the filter. And out comes a splash of pure, drinkable H2O—which, we’ve been told, is cleaner than your tap water.
The amount of water produced by a single garment depends on just how much you sweat, but inventor Andreas Hammar told BBC News, “one person's T-shirt typically produces 10ml (0.3oz), roughly a mouthful." That’s a lot of sweaty workout clothes to hydrate a village.
This isn’t the first machine to turn bodily fluids into drinking water. Two hundred and fifty miles away from Earth, where it costs $15,000 to ship a pint of water into space, NASA created the toilet-to-tap system, which transforms urine into the finest drinking water in the galaxy. The machine also sucks moisture from astronauts’ sweat and breath and recycles that, too. Perhaps it was the astronauts’ squeamishness that led to the U.S. space program’s final demise.
Back here on Earth, ABC News reports that roughly a dozen communities in parched areas like California and Texas have plants that turn raw sewage into drinking water that’s as pure as the distilled stuff.
But as impressive as all this may be, I’m still holding out for the machine that turns water into wine. And, yes, even if it came from urine or sweat, I might just drink that, too.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.