Save Water: Drink Your Own Sweat

This machine turns stinky sweat into drinking water, using off-the-shelf parts. Continue reading →

Native English speakers love to chuckle at Pocari Sweat – an actual energy drink sold in Asia. A group of Swedish do-it-yourselfers decided to take the name literally, and built a machine that takes sweat from your gym clothes and turns it into potable water.

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Stefan Ronge, chief creative officer at Deportivo, an advertising agency which backed the project in conjunction with UNICEF, told DNews the idea is to highlight the scarcity of fresh water in some regions of the world.

Countries like Sweden have lots of fresh water per person and the infrastructure is there to deliver it. In many parts of Africa or Asia that isn't the case. UNICEF and Deportivo are showing off the machine this week at the Gotha Cup, a youth soccer tournament. Players will bring in their sweaty clothes and get a cup of water back.

Called the Sweat Machine, and built by engineer Andreas Hammar, the highest technology component is in the filter, developed at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The rest is off-the-shelf parts, including a clothes dryer.

To get the water out of the sweat - which is 99 percent water itself - they put the sweaty clothes in the dryer component. That spins and squeezes out the sweat. The sweat gets heated, exposed to UV light and pushed through the high-tech filters, to get rid of salts and bacteria. The water then goes through a coffee filter to get the fibers from the clothes out. The result: distilled water.

It still takes a full load of sweaty shirts to make a pint of water, but the team also hooked up an exercise bike to it so you can sweat and recycle that if you feel the need. Over just the lat day Ronge said some 500 people have tried it out.

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Drinking one's own sweat my seem odd, but Ronge said the idea came from an almost mainstream source: NASA. Long space voyages would require that astronauts recycle everything and that includes urine and sweat.

And leaving aside the ick factor, the water seems to taste fine.

"One person said it had a perfume-y taste," Ronge said.

Photo: UNICEF Sweden