Google’s ad-serving algorithms are getting kind of spooky. I don’t mind the endless stream of ads for beard and pube trimmers. I’m a bloke, after all. The machines have almost a 50/50 chance of guessing that correctly, even without reading my emails, watching where I go, peeping at my photos and eavesdropping on my inane voice queries (“Hey Google, why are Shepard avocados still a thing?”).
But I was unnerved when Youtube recently showed me an ad for Samsung’s new space-age dry-cleaning cabinet, the Airdresser. Does Google somehow know that ironing is my most-hated household chore? (For real. I’ve often fantasised about the whole world collectively agreeing that wrinkly clothes are A-OK so we, as a supposedly intelligent species, can move past this pointless, tedious, 19th-century regime of steam and hot iron.)
Get this: I was so excited, I watched the entire ad. And it was one of the old TV-length ones. Not one of those new, unskippable five-second jobs. I learned that the Airdresser holds three items, which it can deodorise, sanitise and dry via air jets, steam, a dust filter and internal UV light. Fancy.
Within minutes I’d opened Gmail and contacted Samsung to request an Airdresser for review. The machines enjoyed watching me do this, I assume. It confirmed their psychological profile of me is still bang-on.
The unit arrives a couple of weeks later. It’s bigger than I expected; about six foot high, like a tall fridge, and two-thirds as wide. It feels like a fridge, too. The door is lined with rubbery hermetic seals. I just manage to squeeze the box into my little bathroom, where its sleek, glass-fronted body towers over my stumpy 20-year-old washing machine and its yellowed, nicotine-chic plastic shell. “You’re old news,” the Airdresser seems to sneer.
Or maybe that’s just what I’m thinking. I’m feeling triumphant. I’m about to kiss goodbye to ironing and expensive dry-cleaning forever. I even have a plastic bag of wrinkly clothes ready. It’s been stashed by the back door for six months now, waiting for a trip to the drycleaner that no one ever got round to making.
I pull out two of my wife’s things: an Alannah Hill skirt and a ’50s-style pleated dress from Danish label Pop Copenhagen. Together, the two pieces contain cotton, rayon, polyamide, elastane and polyester. Both are shockingly wrinkled after six months crumpled in the bag. The skirt says “professional dry-clean only” on the label, but I’m undeterred. The Airdresser was just a glint in a Korean engineer’s eye when that faded label was printed. We’re living in a new age now.
I’m further encouraged by the manual, which lists a heap of fabrics – including cotton, wool, cashmere, silk, leather, polyester and nylon – and whether they’re compatible with the Airdresser. Most are, if only on delicate cycles. Likewise, almost 20 fabric care labels such as “hand wash only” and “dry flat” are listed with advice attached.
I scan down to polyester, which makes up the outer shell of the dress. There’s a big, satisfying dot under the “reducing wrinkles” column. The Airdresser should smooth this out. The skirt is more difficult – the outer is 81 per cent cotton, a fabric the unit supposedly can’t de-wrinkle. Whatever. Both garments go in.
There are three removable plastic hangers inside, with handy clips for suspending pants and other items that don’t have shoulders or straps. A special weight kit is supplied to help these garments to hang straight, and a lower shelf has room for a hat, kids’ toys, or a pair of shoes.
After filling the Airdresser’s plastic water-reservoir (also removable) and offering thanks to its creators for not insisting on a plumbing connection, I swing the door shut and select the “delicate” cycle. The touch-sensitive buttons make pleasant little musical chirps, very unlike my washing machine’s growly, grinding dials.
The Airdresser has a “silent” mode that reduces operating noise, but it’s not too loud in the first place. Its mid-range thrums and piston-like hisses are background level at most. I retreat to the couch and forget the thing is even running. Exactly thirty-six minutes later, a cheery robot birdsong announces that my glorious, ironing-free future awaits.
Alas – the skirt and the dress look the same. Did I do something wrong? Or are all those dense sunray pleats too much for mere steam to handle? I scan the manual again, then check Samsung’s website.
The manual does mention “reducing wrinkles” in artificial fibres only, but it seems to be like those “splash resistant” watches. They’re not actually waterproof. The website is more explicit, suggesting the Airdresser can remove “up to 100 per cent of wrinkles from woollen clothes and 80 per cent of wrinkles from rayon material”. But only those two materials – not much help for people who iron five cotton shirts or blouses a week.
I was so excited to partake in the post-ironing utopia, it seems I mostly dreamed it up. How sad. I re-watch the ad and realise it didn’t mention it either, a sure sign that Samsung thinks this is a secondary function at best. (For the sake of this article, I did try de-wrinkling a 100 per cent wool jumper – see the results for yourself.)
Back to the key messages, then: deodorising, sanitising and drying via air jets, steam, a dust filter and internal UV light. The fine print lurking at the bottom of the ad even talks about laboratory tests proving the Airdresser kills 99 per cent of “selected viruses”, 100 per cent of dust mites and 99 per cent of common odour-causing compounds.
I remember my pillow, which has the thankless task of being in contact with my head for eight hours a day and collecting drool. It must be a disgusting haven for at least some of the above. Unfortunately it’s made of memory foam, with a strict “do not dry-clean” tag. But it has a polyester-rayon protective cover, which I whack in the Airdresser. I add in my rayon face mask, which cops my morning breath seven days a week en route to the local cafe. These items stay in the Airdresser for an hour and a half on the “sanitise” cycle and emerge looking and smelling much the same. I assume they’re cleaner and more hygienic, but without a lab I can’t really tell.
As the weeks roll by I start to wonder what else to do with this machine.
A pair of pants accidentally get left in the washing machine for a few days before they’re hung outside to dry. When I try wearing them, they smell dank and mouldy. A turn in the Airdresser doesn’t improve the situation and I end up re-washing them. (“We recommend washing items with strong odours”, the manual advises.)
A couple of freshly washed towels need drying, but it’s raining outside. I activate the Airdresser’s sensor-dry program, but even after two cycles, the towels remain soggy. The manual does warn against trying to dry “excessively wet” items, perhaps suggesting that a coat with a light sprinkling of rain is more in line with the Airdresser’s capabilities. If I had a dryer, the towels would go in there. I don’t, so they’re hung by the heater.
A mildly sweaty T-shirt goes in and emerges fresh, without the soapy, chemical whiff that washing machines often impart. Great, but I can’t see myself filling the Airdresser, three T-shirts at a time, just to deodorise them. A washing machine can do that in bulk, far more thoroughly, while at the same time removing oil, dirt, sweat and stains.
Of course, there are everyday things that can’t go in the wash, such as suits, scarves, shoes, hats and jackets. The Airdresser could certainly be used to freshen them up from time to time. Whether you’d notice the difference is another question, though.
If a suit or other unwashable item smells so bad you can’t wear it, I’d say you need a professional drycleaner. By the manual’s own admission, the Airdresser isn’t powerful or thorough enough to do the job. And if the smell is faint enough to be remedied by the Airdresser, then it’s not really a problem in the first place.
That leaves us in a curious spot. What is this machine really for? I’m still not sure. If you’re the kind of person who worries about germs or dust mites, then having a chemical-free disinfecting cabinet might be handy. For the rest of us? The washing machine plus the occasional trip to the dry-cleaner will do just fine.
You hear that, machines? You can start showing me ads for dry-cleaners near me. And maybe even a home ironing service.
The Airdresser retails for $3,049. Thanks to Samsung for providing a unit for review purposes.