For much of the world, contemporary laundry chores involve multiple, tedious steps. First, the washing machine. Then, the dryer. Finally, sorting, folding and storing. And as for cleaning your expensive, delicate fabrics? That's a special trip to your local dry cleaning vendor.
Unless, of course, you forego all of these steps and opt instead for the LG Styler. The Styler isn't a full-on laundry replacement. It's a so-called clothes manager, a closet-sized machine that steams, shakes and dries your clothes so that after a long day of work, they're ready for another go around that same night.
LG introduced the product in Korea in March 2011. It's proved popular enough that the company is considering unveiling the Styler to other parts of the world, including the United States, perhaps in the near future. Of course, availability is one thing; price is quite another. And to take one of these babies home, you'll need to plop down about $2,000.
LG doesn't necessarily see the Styler as a residential product, although wealthy consumers can certainly squeeze one into their budgets. Instead, you may see these high-tech clothes managers at ritzy hotels, casinos, salons or even airports, where people have the time, money and desire to freshen up their clothes quickly and efficiently.
Harried executives, especially, might find the convenience of a Styler irresistible. Lose the wrinkled, bedraggled appearance and unseemly odors, make a better impression on your clients -- suddenly, the Styler is your new best business friend.
But how exactly does the Styler turn your cargo-crushed, red-eye suit into crisper apparel? Keep reading and we'll show you how the Styler gives your travel-worn, smelly clothes a new wearing cycle, without so much as a single spin cycle.
Cool Clothes, Not Cooled Clothes
Observers often peg LG's Styler as a skinny refrigerator. Even when you open the machine, its bright white interior and lower shelves make it look seem like a likely place for a six-pack instead of a Stuart Hughes.
There's no cooling technology inside, of course. Rather, it's the opposite. The Styler's linchpin is a steam generator that fills the compartment with water vapor. Bountiful steam sanitizes each garment, destroying 99.9 percent of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause foul odors.
To really put down tough smells, such as tobacco smoke, the door of the Styler has a slot for aroma sheets. Insert a sheet of your choice and your clothes will have a whiff of, say, cotton candy instead of your late-night taco binge.
After the steaming process ends, a heat pump raises the temperature so that the air to about 131 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), which draws moisture from your clothes. Heat pumps use some nifty heat-moving tricks to cut down on dampness. You can read all about them in How Heat Pumps Work.
Then, to really work out the kinks in your clothes, LG also incorporated a clothing hanger that literally shakes your suits or dresses. The hangers sway back and forth 220 times per minute, or much faster than your tired arms could ever go.
On the next page, we'll take a peek at the Styler's hardware and see how it works its steamy fabric magic.
Cook Teddy Bear, Too
Forget cramming the Styler into your studio apartment. For this gargantuan gadget, you'll needs some real room. It stands 6.2 feet (1.9 meters) tall, it's 1.7 feet (0.5 meters) wide, and it's 2 feet (0.6 meters) deep. And at 269 pounds (122 kilograms), you'll need your lumberjack friend to help you haul it up the stairs.
Once it's in place, you're ready to rock your dirty socks. There are enough hangers for up to five different garments, along with racks for sweaters, blankets, plush toys and other delicates, as well as hooks for caps and hats.
You can't start the Styler just yet, though. In order to make steam, you need a water source, and that comes courtesy of the portable water container (i.e. bucket) at the bottom of the unit. Fill it from the tap and now you can start a cycle.
To do so, you'll activate the 22nd-century-looking LCD panel on the front of the door. This translucent display grants you access to every different setting. By default, the Styler runs a 39-minute cycle. That standard cycle will work for all sorts of clothes. Regardless of the cycle, you likely won't hear it working, as its noise level caps out at around 40 decibels, much quieter than your typical washing machine.
LG designed the Styler to work entirely without the use of chemicals. So you won't have to worry about any harsh detergents of any kind ruining your ultra-expensive clothes. Its lack of chemicals also makes the Styler different from dry cleaning, which relies on a variety of solvents. You can read all about that process in How Dry Cleaning Works.
By the end of the cycle, your clothes will be dry, wrinkle-free and, hopefully, less stinky than when you hung them for some Styler action. And because it works at lower temperatures than a conventional, dryer, it's less likely that your clothes will shrink substantially.
Crisper Collars for Your Dollars
LG's Styler isn't meant to replace your laundry room. It won't obliterate the coffee stains in your favorite button-up shirt, and it can't magically nix all traces of horrendous body odor. It's meant to be a complement to your normal clothes-cleaning cycle.
That's why LG is targeting this product toward wealthy professionals with hectic lives. These people need sharp-looking clothes at all hours of the day, but they don't always have immediate access to machines that can promptly make clothes look like they came straight from a dry cleaner. And although the Styler can't stand in for the full service of your local dry cleaner, it will do nicely in a pinch.
What's more, LG constructed the machine to have a gentle touch. Sure, it jostles your dresses to and fro in order to smooth wrinkles, but it's far easier on them than a full dryer cycle.
In fact, the Styler could actually help you get more mileage from painfully pricey pants. Wear those slacks for all of two hours? Hang them in this LG contraption to freshen them up without subjecting them to a full cleaning cycle and you can bet that they'll see a longer lifespan.
Although it may seem revolutionary and novel, the Styler isn't an entirely new concept. Maytag offered many of the same features (steam, heat and fragrance) in its Neptune Electric Drying Center for around the same price as the LG. Instead of a shaking hanger, though, the Drying Center blew clothes around with a gentle fan in order to smooth out wrinkles.
Maytag's version didn't cause a laundry revolution. But perhaps LG's more refined machine, with its glossy appeal and luxury target market, will elevate laundry to a new, tech-driven art form.
When I lived in my college dormitory, laundry became a footrace of epic proportions. Everyone in the building used the same 10 washers and dryers, so to even find an available machine during peak hours was a minor miracle. If you lucked out, then the real race began.
No one wanted to sit and wait for each cycle to end, so people would invariably wander back to their rooms. But very few people learned to time the machines just right, and the house rule was this -- if you weren't present when the cycle ended, the next person in line had the right to pull out your clothes and pile them onto a table.
Oh, the wrinkled, damp messes that resulted. Laundry might not be a footrace these days, but a Styler would simplify things even further. We can't all have a Styler, but we can definitely all dream.
- Bybord, Sam. "LG Styler 'New Concept Clothes Manager' Hands-On." The Verge. Jan. 13, 2012. (July 6, 2012) http://www.theverge.com/2012/1/13/2705214/lg-styler-new-concept-clothes-manager-hands-on-video
- Geek News Central. "LG Styler Overview." Jan. 27, 2012. (July 6, 2012) http://www.geeknewscentral.com/2012/01/27/lg-styler-overview/
- LG News. "TV Commercial for LG Styler, New Concept Clothes Manager in Korea." June 5, 2011. (July 6, 2012) http://www.lg.com/global/commerciallaundry/eng/news/newsView.jsp?param=news_20110105&pageNo=1
- LG Press Release. "LG Styler Keeping Clothes Fresh at IFA 2011." Aug. 31, 2011. (July 6, 2012) http://www.lgnewsroom.com/ifa2011/view.php?product_code=87&product_type=87&post_index=1427
- LG Press Release. "LG Styler Offers a New Way to Manage Clothes." Jan. 9, 2012. (July 6, 2012) http://www.lgnewsroom.com/ces2012/view.php?product_code=95&product_type=95&post_index=1823
- Park, Jan. Account Director at LG. Personal Interview. July 2, 2012.
- Velazco, Chris. "LG Styler Refreshes Your Stinky, Wrinkly Clothes with Steam." Techcrunch.com. Jan. 13, 2012. (July 6, 2012) http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/13/lg-styler-refreshes-your-stinky-wrinkly-clothes-with-steam/