Netflix instead of going to the movies, a single-serve coffee machine instead of a trip to Starbucks; so how about a gadget to stave off that trip to the dry cleaners? The Swash is a new category of appliance that wants to help you freshen your delicate clothing at home.
The 4-foot tall, $500 device plugs into a regular wall socket and is intended more for your closet than your laundry room. You put clothes in, only two at a time, and then gel-filled pods release a fine mist to neutralize odors and freshen the fabric. Heat then circulates to dry and reshape clothes.
Whirlpool, which makes the device, says it only "lightly dewrinkles" and it won't remove stains. They say it isn't a substitute for ironing, but in our unscientific trials we put a cotton shirt in and used the tension clips to hold it in place. After the 10-minute Swash, the shirt looked fresher with almost all the wrinkles released. The edges of the shirt were turned up a bit, but it was definitely less crumpled. It did a similarly good job on white slacks.
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We also Swashed a sweater that smelled smoky from a barbecue. It smelled fresh afterwards with a light scent from the pod, but it wasn't just masked: the smoke smell was completely gone. Since many new dryers have a steam sanitizing or cleaning cycle, we tried a similarly smoky sweater in the dryer, but after 20 minutes on the steaming rack, it still smelled strongly of smoke.
The Swash is primarily intended for higher-end clothes: dry-clean only sweaters, embellished tops, premium denim and suits. The manufacturer says it restores the fit of jeans stretched out in the seat without fading dark washes. They also tout the reshaping of sweaters that can't be tossed in the dryer. The idea, says a company representative, is to increase the number of wears you get from a garment before you have to take it in to the dry-cleaner.
Tide makes the pods that the device relies on for de-wrinkling and freshening. They cost $7 for a dozen and come in three scents.
The manufacturers of the Swash say their research shows that if a family makes one trip to the dry-cleaners a month they will spend an average of $750 a year on the service. But a private dry cleaning industry analysis from 2012 estimated the average American family's annual dry-cleaning bill as $150 a year, so this device clearly wouldn't make sense unless you were a heavy user of the dry-cleaner. I could also see it as a genius idea for hotel rooms. The Swash will be available in September.