Home & Design

Spin City

Innovative technology and design combine to create a new watermark for the laundry room

LG's Steam Washer 

If the measure of a great home-technology innovation is its ability to elevate menial tasks, then today’s new washers and dryers are succeeding with, ahem, flying colors.

The transformation of the laundry room has come in cycles. First, it soared to new heights, rising from dank, cement-floored basement spaces to airy quarters off the kitchen or bedroom. In these new spaces, paneled doors can grace the front of washers and dryers in the same way they do kitchen appliances, blending beautifully with cabinetry.

Then came the introduction of front-loading machines for the home, which at 3.4-plus cubic feet accommodate larger loads (think king-size comforters), make less noise, save energy and water and clean better than the old stick-agitator technology. Homeowners looking to shrink the existence of bacteria in clothes and their hours in the laundry room are flocking to the front-load camp with gusto, pushing penetration of front-loaders in the States to 30 percent, according to industry estimates.

“This is a big time for laundry in the U.S.,” notes Miele spokesperson Lori Dolnick. “We’ve bought what our mothers bought for years, which is the top-loader, while customers in Europe have used front-loaders for years because energy and space were at a premium. Now we’re starting to become more conscious of the same things.”

Color and design advances followed hand in glove, with sleek shapes, advanced display screens and color choices ranging from warm golds to contemporary blues to industrial stainless steel.

“Consumers are buying what they want to showcase because the machines are not hidden anymore,” says Tim Kavanaugh, director of merchandising for LG Electronics, whose SteamWasher is now available in midnight blue.

He is among those who believe the days of the top-loading machine are numbered. LG, for one, does not market any top-loading models in the U.S. “As more people become familiar with front-load in terms of culture and benefit, I think eventually the only reason to go to top load is cost,” Kavanaugh says. (While top-of-the-line top-loaders usually run between $550 and $900, the front-loaders in this article average from $1,100 to $2,400.) This fall LG will introduce its new Tromm Laundry System, a 4.0-cubic-foot washer and 7.3-cubic-foot dryer whose control panel can be moved from the top to the bottom of the dryer for ease of reach if the units are stacked. “When you stack laundry machines you get a whole lot more floor space,” Kavanaugh says. “Today 20 percent of the market for front-load does stack the units; maybe with this feature, we will see an increase.”

The latest layer of laundry sophistication comes with tech-infused machines that are smart and specialized in their capabilities. If you’re in the market for a new washer today, you’ll quickly discover differences among manufacturers’ approaches to cleaning, drying and monitoring cycles. Following are some of the latest and greatest in clean machines:

LG’s Steam washer ($1,499 to $1,599) has a cycle that uses a generator to remove wrinkles and odors from clothing without the use of water or detergent. While this function is not meant to be a dry-cleaning replacement for all clothing—it works best on cotton blends because 100 percent cotton gets too moist—it will cut down on trips to the cleaners. The SteamWasher also works in conjunction with LG’s Remote Monitoring Laundry System monitor ($99), which can be plugged in elsewhere around the house so users can monitor cycle progress remotely, and is part of a new trend in multilingual programming. The machine has a menu-driven LCD control panel that can be programmed in English, French or Spanish. Visit us.lge.com.

Kenmore Elite’s HE4t washer/dryer set (about $1,500) has a built-in heater that deep cleans and removes stains; its super-fast spin cycles and automated water level adjustment mean it uses 64 percent less energy and 69 percent less water than traditional washers. It also features specialized cycles like the Kids Wear Cycle that targets common stains like food, grass, and milk with a built-in heater. A Skincare Option adds a third rinse cycle to remove detergent. Visit www.kenmore.com.

Samsung Electronics’ SilverCare ($1,099 to $1,399) takes a true scientific approach to cleanliness. Using a patented technology that releases quadrillions of silver ions (known for their anti-microbial properties) during the wash and rinses cycles, this washer in effect generates its own cleaning solution that penetrates deep into the fabric to sanitize clothing without using hot water or bleach. Visit www.samsung.com/products/laundry.

Bosch’s Nexxt washer ($1,199 to $1,479) features curved paddles that efficiently lift and separate clothing, a 180-degree door hinge for easier loading and unloading and a three-part detergent dispenser. The machine has 15 cycles and sensors that continually analyze the load’s temperature, weight, water level and balance. Set the complementary Nexxt dryer (available in gas and electric, $769 to $949) to tumble intermittently during a three-hour period to reduce creases and wrinkles, or use the dryer rack to protect delicates from tumbling at all. All Next dryers feature gauges to monitor moisture and temperature levels. Visit www.boschappliances.com.

Samsung Electronics' SilverCare 

Miele’s Touchtronic washers ($1,799 to $2,199) and dryers ($1,399 to $1,899) feature an innovative honeycomb drum design. In washers, which have 10 cycle options and seven temperature and spin choices, the dimpled drum reduces the number of water extraction holes by 80 percent, evenly distributing a thin layer of water so clothing can spin more gently without snagging or pilling. In Touchtronic dryers, the honeycomb design creates air pockets that cushion tumbling items as they dry. Both machines come with the option of a flat or angled control panel. Visit www.miele.com.

“This is a big time for laundry in the U.S.,” notes Miele spokesperson Lori Dolnick. “We’ve bought what our mothers bought for years, which is the top-loader, while customers in Europe have used front-loaders for years because energy and space were at a premium. Now we’re starting to become more conscious of the same things.”

For those who simply aren’t ready to make the switch from top-loading washers, there’s good news. GE Profile’s Harmony laundry pair ($1,948 to $2,098 for washer and dryer) is tech-savvy and green, with an LCD touchscreen programmable in English and Spanish, an internal water heater, a comprehensive stain remover and king-size capacity. Best of all, its HydroWash system replaces the agitator with a centrifugal force spin that cleans more thoroughly and gently and saves loads of energy. Visit www.geappliances.com.

Kenmore Elite's HE4t washer/dryer 

Bosch's Nexxt washer 

Miele's Touchtronic washer 

GE Profile's Harmony

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