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Whirlpool Swash review: Pseudo-dry cleaning at home

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The Good The Whirlpool Swash improves the look, feel and smell of lived-in apparel in 10 to 15 minutes. It has simple controls and an LED light countdown timer.

The Bad Though less expensive than similar products, the $400 Swash is still pricey. The machine requires proprietary pods to function, can't remove stains or duplicate the pressed look of ironing or dry-cleaning. It also only handles one garment item at a time.

The Bottom Line The Whirlpool Swash might have unique appeal for habitual re-wearers of designer denim and fancy sweaters, but it's more economical for everyone else to wash, dry and iron their clothes, with the occasional trip to the dry-cleaners.

6.2 Overall
  • Features 5
  • Design 6
  • Performance 7
  • Usability 6

Meet the $400 Swash, an appliance Whirlpool says will limit trips to the dry-cleaner by "refreshing" garments right at home and in just 10 minutes. Using a combination of heat and scented chemicals, the Swash's gentle treatment supposedly translates to fewer runs through harsh washer and dryer cycles too, which in turn means less wear and tear.

The Swash is not a complete replacement for dry-cleaning, or even basic washing. This machine doesn't actually clean soiled fabric nor remove stains. Rather it offsets unpleasant odors with its own perfumes and smooths out obvious wrinkles. And unlike much pricier appliances such as the new $2,000 LG Styler, the Swash can't handle multiple items of clothing either which makes it far from practical. Worse, the Swash requires proprietary scent pods to operate, which at about 60 cents a pop can add up quickly. So while the Swash is tempting, especially if you're in the elite subset of people who habitually re-wear designer jeans, you're better off tackling laundry the old-fashioned way.

Design

At first glance the Swash looks a lot like a classic steam radiator but one constructed from plastic instead of metal. A curved row of blinking LED lights which runs along its foremost edge, however, reveals that this is a 21st century appliance. Another giveaway is the Swash logo, a stylized silver "S," emblazoned on the machine's front face.

The Swash is big and heavy.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Something else you'll notice right away is that the Swash is big and heavy. Tall, yet narrow and with a wide profile the appliance stands at a height of 4 feet 3 inches, which is well above waist level. Tipping the scales at a hefty 80 pounds, the Swash is no lightweight gadget either. All these physical realities mean you should put some thought into where you'd like to place the Swash within your home. Thankfully once deployed the Swash doesn't require a dedicated water line or other plumbing, only a standard 120 volt outlet (three-prong) for electrical power.

Using the Swash

With very few buttons, settings or special functions operating the Swash's controls is a simple affair, but this doesn't mean it's easy to use. The first step is to load and hang your clothes. Start by grasping the machine's silver knob to slide its door open. Once fully extended, you then hang the item you'd like to treat inside the door using the Swash's bundled plastic hanger. Specific types of garments the Swash is designed to accept are shirts, sweaters, pants (both creased and jeans) along with dresses.

The controls are few and simple to use.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Since the hanger's width is adjustable, you can also insert blazers and jackets of varying sizes into the Swash. Lengthy items though such as raincoats or winter coats must be folded over the hanger to avoid creating wrinkles in their bottom sections.

Of course one of the claimed abilities of the Swash is removing wrinkles and creases from your clothes without having to whip out and wield a hot iron. To accomplish this the inside of the door has an array of "smoothing clips" meant to latch onto garments and pull their fabric taut. Six in all, the plastic clips are spring-loaded and sit on the lower and bottom edge of the Swash's sliding clothes compartment. These clips are also attached to retractable cords which are the source of the clips' tugging force.

Open the Swash then hang your clothes inside.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Despite its basic mechanics, hanging clothes properly in the Swash takes more time and effort than you might think. For instance the hanger employs a Y-shaped handle, instead of a traditional curved hook, which you place in slot on the door. The slot's wide channels make it easy to slide the hanger into the door, but also for it to pop out while mounting the clips. And because garments hang the entire length of the machine you will have to kneel, squat or sit down on the floor to attach every clip.

You'll need to clip the smoothing clips too.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Next you drop a Swash pod, a plastic oval cup, into a receptacle inside the door's top edge then slide the door closed. To seal the appliance up properly you'll have to give the door a firm but gentle push during the final three-quarters of an inch or so. Using too much force or speed, as I did on my first attempt, causes the pod to slightly escape its resting place and be crushed by the Swash's pod-opening mechanism (and results in a wet, perfumed mess).

The Swash uses proprietary pods to function.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Lastly all you need to do is select either the Swash's 10 or 15 minute operation cycle and the machine will launch into action. The curved line of LED lights then begin a countdown to cycle completion. Aside from the two cycle buttons, there's a cancel key as well to bring the Swash's activity to a halt. Additionally, the Swash may ask you to empty or return a reservoir, located at the foot of the machine, before you can run a cycle (communicated by blinking orange and blue lights).

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