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Soapless Bathing Coming to a Tub Near You
By Brad Frischkorn

Advances in the art of getting clean could mean that picking the right bar soap may soon no longer be a problem.

In fact, there won't be any need for soap at all.

Such are the hopes of Osaka-based home products maker I Feel Science, which has developed a microbubble machine so efficient at removing grime that widespread adoption could redefine bathing as we know it.

The firm's salespeople were busy at the recent Caretex trade fair held at Tokyo Big Sight in mid-March. Crowds looked on as a bikini-clad model took intermittent dips in a tub without even using a washcloth. Immersing herself in a cloud of tiny bubbles spewed from a nozzle-tipped hose, she emerged after soaking for 10 minutes, refreshed and presumably cleaner.

Unbeknownst to her admirers, she had been scrubbed and massaged by microbubbles not much bigger than one millionth of a meter in size. That's about 1/70 the diameter of a human hair, and 200 times smaller than a normal water bubble.

Microbubbles work in at least three convenient ways. Their negative ionic charge allows them to attract positively-charged particles such as dust and dirt and gently pull them away from the surface of the skin. Secondly, their small size allows them to reach into pores and hair follicles, allowing for a far deeper clean than an orthodox bath.

Lastly, the microbubbles collapse under water pressure, creating tiny shock waves, which, combined with the negative ions, provide a healthy stimulation for the skin.

All of this is done using regular tap water; the temperature of the water is almost irrelevant.

"The microbubble bath not only cleans far better that a traditional soap bath; it also allows the user to do away with the cost of soap, the cost of cleaning up soap scum, and of course the danger of having soap lying around on a slippery surface," says Takeshi Tanaka of the company's home sales division.

The full benefits of the high-tech bath have not been completely researched, but before/after thermal imaging show that the human body enjoys as much as a 3.0oC rise in warmth 15 minutes after a microbubble bath compared with a normal bath, the company notes on its website.

Microbubble technology is relatively new, and is currently utilized in some ultrasound imaging applications in the field of medical diagnostics. But commercial applications are still rare.

I Feel Science's proprietary bubble making machine is about the size of a milk bottle, and installs easily in the tub's pipe system either beforehand or as an aftermarket component. Marketing efforts began in earnest from October 2015. The single-unit price of ¥318,000 comes down dramatically as shipment volumes increase.

Dipping one's hands into a portable tub outfitted with the bubble machine is indeed a unique cleansing experience. After soaking for just a few minutes, the skin feel squeaky clean, and appears noticeably brighter minus the excess sebum, dirt, sweat, and oil.

Mr. Tanaka says the company is aggressively courting both domestic and overseas partners, and has thus far fielded strong interest from apartment developers and high-end home builders. With normal home use, the device can be expected to last up to 10 years, he adds.

"The cost can be leveraged over volume and over the life of the product," he says. "We believe the microbubble experience could very well revolutionize the industry."

Microbubble bath

“The microbubble bath allows the user to do away with the cost of soap, the cost of cleaning up soap scum, and of course the danger of having soap lying around on a slippery surface." -- Takeshi Tanaka

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