Best new dryer innovation might also be the simplest

November 1, 2010 § Leave a comment today bring you news of a remarkable new innovation to the latest washer dryers 

Whirlpool dryer.jpeg

Last week, we stopped by the joint Whirlpool/Maytag press event intended to show off fancy new laundry gear. Are you ready for an LCD touchscreen and a USB port on your washer and dryer? Also new are dedicated function buttons — kind of like the "popcorn" button on your microwave, only for jeans and towels instead. You can also custom-select dirt levels and can tweak controls to maximize energy efficiency. And did we mention the new auto-inspired paint jobs? But do you really need any of this stuff in your laundry room? Instead of gee-whiz digital tech and iPhone-style control panels, we think two new under-the-radar features are more likely to cut down on everyday laundry annoyances. One of those — a new baffle system for dryers — was a real slap-your-forehead moment for Whirlpool engineers, according to senior brand managers Tanu Grewal and Brandon Buckingham.

Quad Baffle Drying System: Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?

In a regular dryer, what happens when most of your laundry is dry except for a towel or a sweatshirt? You remove the dried stuff, and leave those last two items in there, only to watch them go round and round in the dryer, stuck in the same ball that merely gets tossed from baffle to baffle (the baffles are those long plastic or metal dividers that run the width of the dryer drum). The newest (and most expensive) Whirlpool and Maytag dryers ditch the typical three full-length baffles in favor of four shorter, staggered baffles. The result? Drying laundry gets flipped from side-to-side instead of just up and down, so items are less likely to get stuck in the same rolled-up ball.

While the new baffles aren't exactly glamorous (Whirlpool and Maytag don't even mention them in their press releases), they're just the sort of un-sexy feature that solves a real problem. Furthermore, we can't imagine why the company wouldn't start including them on their less costly dryers as well (company reps couldn't tell us whether they had plans to do so). Right now, you'll only find the staggered baffles in the latest high-end models like the Whirlpool Vantage (*Est. $2,000) and Maytag Maxima (*Est. $1,300) dryers.

Automatic detergent dispensers let you reload soap less often

This feature is a little more high-tech, but at its heart, but it's still a simple improvement that can cut down on laundry-room mess. The newest high-end Whirlpool washer now includes a "bulk" soap dispenser that you can fill with any concentration of high-efficiency liquid detergent. After telling the washer what soap concentration you're using, the washers will dispense the right amount of detergent based on load size and cycle. Brandon Buckingham, senior brand manager for Whirlpool laundry, told us that if you're using 6X detergent, you'll only need to refill the dispenser about once every 36 loads.

Right now, the new automatic detergent dispenser is only available on the Whirlpool Duet WFW97HEX (*Est. $1,300).

Where's the GPS and Twitter app?

Other splashy new washer and dryer features include the sort of stuff we're seeing pop up on pretty much everything: touchscreens, USB ports (for software upgrades and diagnostics), and customizable settings, along with exterior designs that look Apple-derived or sportscar-like. It remains to be seen how reliable some of these features will be (and whether there will be enough repair people trained to fix them when they break). We'll certainly be keeping a keen eye on user reviews for these and other new models in our reports on washing machines and clothes dryers.



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