Prototype of the water nozzle MISTELN.
Prototype of the water nozzle MISTELN.

Slow the flow when changing habits is not enough

How much water do you use? The average European uses around 150 litres per day, the average American even more. IKEA and the innovation company Altered teamed up to battle water scarcity. This is the story about MISTELN, a water nozzle that can help you save more than 90 percent of the water.

It is early morning. You go to the bathroom, turn on the water and start brushing your teeth. Maybe you run back to the bedroom to hit the snooze button, or step into the kitchen to start the coffee maker. The water is still running when you come back with a mouth full of toothpaste. Does this sound familiar?

Running water for one minute from a regular tap means up to 12 litres down the drain.

In Europe, the average person uses 150 litres of water a day, and in the US 200 to 500 litres per day. At the same time about 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to fresh water, and 2.7 billion people suffer water scarcity at least one month a year.

IKEA wants to empower people all around the world to contribute to a better world by using less water. Many existing IKEA products already save customers water. IKEA taps already feature a pressure compensating aerator that restricts the flow of water, but we need to do more, says Marie Olsson, business leader in Bedroom & Bathroom at IKEA of Sweden.

This is why IKEA joined forces with the Swedish innovation company Altered. By applying IKEA design thinking to Altered’s already existing technology MISTELN – a water nozzle that reduces water use by over 90 percent – was born.

For Johan Nihlén, founder of Altered, changing habits to save water is not enough. Changing our habits when we do the dishes or brush our teeth is too little, too late, he says.

“The ultimate goal is to not having to change habits, because is very difficult for people to change their way of living. One of the most common ideas about saving water is turning off the water when you are brushing your teeth. You would think anyone could do that, but test after test shows that we don’t. Why not? Because it is a habit,” says Johan.

 How did the collaboration between Altered and IKEA begin?

“We have had water on our agenda for quite some time. We have water saving taps in our Bathroom and Kitchen products, but we realized that we need to do more. We wanted to move into extreme water saving,” says Marie.

“We launched a kick-starter two years ago, and almost immediately we got a call from IKEA. To be honest we were a little scared in the beginning. A small startup being approached by a huge global company…,” says Johan.

After getting to know each other and discussing goals and values the design process started. To optimize the nozzle for different uses, from small bathroom washbasins to big kitchen sinks, they also tested the prototype in people’s homes.

Almost two years after IKEA and Altered first met they now have a prototype, and together Marie and Johan describe the final product. Recycled plastic will be used in the exterior parts. The inside will be made from reinforced polyamide plastic to ensure that the nozzle meets all requirements on durability and hygiene.

It can easily be attached to existing IKEA products that already restrict the flow of water. It can also be used with a majority of taps on the market since it comes with an adaptor kit. The nozzle is also designed so it can be easily separated into parts when it is time for recycling.

Working daily with innovations for water efficiency, both Marie and Johan have made changes at home to save water.

Anything in your daily water usage you wish you could do better, Johan?

“The water issue is so huge. It is not a single solution problem. I have the same perspective in my daily life. We have changed the faucets at home, but I am not happy with the shower we have, it is way too wasteful. Then you have the water use you don’t see from the production of things you buy. We have reduced our consumption of meat, but I would like to reduce it even more,” says Johan.

How about you, Marie?

“I have three teenagers at home. They take dramatically long showers, and every time I tell them: Short showers, short showers! We have one water saving shower, and I ask them to use that one. I also try to air my clothes and sometimes I pick up my teenagers clothes from the laundry bin and air them instead of washing them. They won’t even notice!”

Johan keeps coming back to our habits at the kitchen sink or in the bathroom, the habits that are too hard to change. With MISTELN you don’t really have to change habits.

“It is still good if you do, but if you let the water run for a minute with MISTELN when you brush your teeth you use a quarter of a litre, compared to maybe 12 litres with a regular tap,” says Johan.

IKEA and Altered aim to set the price to about 5 Euro. The ambition is that MISTELN will be in stores on all IKEA markets 2019.