Water wheels are ancient tools that were used for centuries to perform a huge variety of jobs. They aren’t often used today, but a handful of Chinese designers want to bring back the water wheel for a brilliant purpose. The invention, called the Waterwheel Washing Machine, was a Red Dot Design Award winner in 2013 designed by Huang Tao, Jin Ronghao, Zhang Yixin, and Zhong Ce. If produced and used, it could make the process of washing clothes much easier for people who live near water but have no access to electricity.
The concept is impressive and simple. A water wheel with three individual closed chambers is driven around and around by the flow of river water. The chambers can hold the laundry of three families or three individuals. Ridges embedded in the wheel’s structure agitate the clothes, much like a traditional washboard. The ingenious invention could not only ensure good hygiene, but could also save time for the women who currently spend many hours every week washing their clothes in the river with washboards.