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The Latest in Laundry

Doing laundry is almost always a chore, but the latest developments in washers/dryers, irons and detergents promise to make it easier. Nancy Soriano, editor-in-chief of "Country Living" magazine, takes a look at the latest washing machines and dryers that are available now.

The latest machines, Soriano says, are both space-saving and energy efficient. Today's laundry trends mirror what's going on in the rest of the house.

For example, people are installing what once were considered commercial- style things such as theaters, gyms and spas. Now the laundry room is getting into the act with new appliances that offer the same conveniences as your local dry cleaner. Soriano reviews three such washer/dryers:

  • Maytag Neptune Drying Center ($1199-$1349): This is a state-of-the-art front-load dryer with a unique shelving system attached that allows you to air dry clean delicates up top, while heavier stuff goes in the bin below. It's really a simple idea with twofold results: It saves a trip to the dry cleaners and also (because you don't have to tumble dry all the time) prolongs the life of your clothing.

    It's great for hanging shirts that you'd usually have to iron (the dowel where you hang the clothes shakes back and forth, easing out the wrinkles) or you can put sweaters and other "lay flat to dry" items on the racks, (rather than spread out all around the house).

    Maytag claims it also prevents shrinkage. New drying technology eliminates the unavoidable shrinkage that occurs from tumble-drying. Maytag also claims that the machine refreshes clothes -- steam and optimum temperatures work together to grab odors, while gentle airflow removes them.

  • LG combo Wash & Dryer ($1899): As far as technology goes, the big news this year is LG's WM3632HW combo washer/dryer. While it's not a stackable system, this combination both washes and dries clothes. The LG is the first full size (22lb capability) washer dryer combination in the United States.

    The LG Combo washer and dryer is the top combo unit available, in a soft, brushed stainless steel color. It saves space since clothes are washed and dried in the same chamber. It has a direct drive (no belts or pulleys), which results in a quiet, efficient operation with fewer breakdowns. Available are both a new larger capacity unit (perfect for those with large families or big comforters or blankets) and a smaller unit, suitable for apartments, condos, and folks with no room to spare.

    Note: Combo units take a bit longer to wash and dry and can only dry 12 pounds at a time, but if you're strapped for space, it's worth it.

  • Thor's Uniquely Portable Washer and Dryer Combo ($1,098.00): Like the LG, this one unit washes and dries your clothes. Even the smallest apartments now have space for a complete laundry system if you buy this combo unit. You only need a household faucet and standard 110 V outlet. With Thor's portable kit, the drain line connects directly to your faucet, ensuring water ends up where it's supposed to - in your sink. Unlike similar ones, this unit comes completely assembled and ready to go.

    In addition to the latest innovations in washing and drying, Soriano covers the newest gadgets geared toward keeping your clothes looking like new:

  • Black & Decker Tide Buzz Ultrasonic Stain Remover removes coffee, makeup, grease, grass, and blood stains. Like a high-tech version of SHOUT, Buzz uses ultrasonic waves, special cleaning fluids and tiny pads to remove most any kind of stain. If that sounds like a lot of work, itis, but the results speak for themselves. $49.99 for starter kit, $4.99 for replacement fluid and Stain Catcher Pads.
  • The Good Home Lavender and Beach House detergents are made with natural ingredients. The Good Home company makes everything from laundry detergent to dryer sheets and linen sprays. These products are not tested on animals, and many of the detergents are phosphate free. Price: $16.00.
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  • The Laundress is a luxury detergent brand. The brand carries detergents for everyday clothes, baby clothes, etc. The Laundress Swimwear Care is specifically designed to be delicate on your items while thoroughly removing buildup. This product is perfect for both hand and machine washing.

    The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo is a combination of cedar extracts and sulfate-free shampoo to clean and preserve the natural components of the yarns. This product can be used for both hand and machine washing. Available at specialty boutiques. Prices range from $4.00 to $18.00

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