Are you a pod person? (As in, someone who uses detergent in single-dose packages, not the body-snatching aliens of film fame.) While convenient, the little packages often cause frustration with users because they don’t always dissolve or can get stuck on the door of front-load washing machines. Electrolux says it’s solved this problem with the newest version of its SmartBoost washer. We saw it take on a couple of pods ahead of this week’s 2018 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.
Bursting the pod
The EFLS627S Front Load Perfect Steam Washer ($1,099) is the second generation of Electrolux washer with SmartBoost. The first version was our top washing machine of 2017, because of the ingenious way it premixes water and detergent before either comes in contact with the clothes. Not only does it keep the detergent from potentially staining your shirts, it delivers a noticeably better cleaning that we could see with the naked eye, no spectrocolorimeter needed.
The EFLS627S, which is due in stores in May, has the same technology, but it adds an “adaptive dispenser” that has a special spot for laundry pods. In addition to the usual compartments — like those for bleach, fabric softener, and pretreaters — the Electrolux has a fifth slot that holds up to two pods. For those of you that use three pods for large or extra-dirty loads, Electrolux’s engineers (and other appliance manufacturers we’ve talked to) say that’s overkill. A boatload of detergent can actually be too much of a good thing.
“Most of the time, you’re only going to need one,” Allison White, an application technical leader at Electrolux, told Digital Trends when we visited the company’s testing labs to see the washer in person.
When the pod button is selected (and once you press it, it stays on from load to load until you turn it off), the machine behaves differently than it does with liquid or powder detergent. First, a water valve runs for three seconds, spraying the pod with three high-velocity nozzles. This should cause the pod’s wrapper to break open and start to dissolve during the 30-second pause that follows. Next, the valve will pump in four liters of water to ensure the pod travels all the way through the dispenser. A flow meter ensures enough water is moving into the system, so even homes with low water pressure shouldn’t have a problem. The pod moves to the sump area of the SmartBoost system, where it mixes with water to evenly distribute the detergent throughout. The recirculation pump then sprays the mixture over the laundry. We watched the pods’ journey through the system and saw some very clean stain strips at the end of the cycle. The competitor’s machine actually trapped one of the pods between the door and the gasket, leading to a less-than-stellar cleaning performance.
Sensors that detect wetness are nothing new, but Electrolux also touted an innovation when it showed off its upcoming dryer. The EFME627 Front Load Perfect Steam Dryer ($1,099) has a new feature called “predictive dry.” Anyone with a dryer knows the time promised at the start of the cycle often doesn’t match reality. You either head down to the basement to find there’s still 20 minutes remaining or open the stopped dryer to a drum full of still-damp garments. If you sat and watched the timer (which we have; it’s not fun), it might hover at 20 minutes for more than half an hour or count down to three minutes, only to jump back up to 20 minutes because it’s still detecting moisture.
Electrolux says its new algorithm can predict the time your laundry will be done, plus or minus five minutes. The display shows it’s “thinking” for the first 90 seconds of the cycle as it measures the type of load, its size, and how wet it is. Then it will let you know when to expect a dry load. And it should be dry — but not too dry — thanks to the machine’s capacitive moisture sensors. Many dryers currently use sensors that require two metal bars to come in direct contact with your wet laundry. That’s no good if your socks are caught in the pocket of a fitted sheet.
“This sensor is going to be much more precise,” said White. There are four pads facing into the drum and four pads facing the outside. Those facing out are detecting dry air, while those positioned toward your wet laundry will get different humidity readings. “It’s detecting those signals both ways, and then it does signal processing to compare those two signals, and as they reach the same level, it knows that it’s dry,” she said. To demonstrate the technology, she covered wet laundry with a dry cloth, and the sensor was still able to determine dampness even without coming into contact with those items. The sensors should help prevent both over- and under-drying, she said.
With the dryer’s new activewear cycle, “we’ve tuned the algorithm and the thresholds for that capacitive moisture sensor to that specific activewear load, and those numbers are completely different than the normal cycle, for example, so it really it doing something different,” said White. Because these synthetic fabrics dry faster, you don’t want them to keep rubbing up against each other when they’re already dry.
In the dishwasher department, there’s the forthcoming Frigidaire Gallery 24-inch Integrated Dishwasher with Dual OrbitClean Spray Arms FGID2468 ($649). The OrbitClean has been around for a while; it’s a circular disc that rotates around on the spray arm. Electrolux claims it gets more coverage than a typical spinning arm, and it allowed them to reduce the number of nozzles to two for a more concentrated spray. Chad Fuhrman, a product line manager at Electrolux, compares it to the difference between a shower and garden hose with a nozzle attached. “What you end up with is that same amount of water distributed over a much larger area,” he said. The FGID2468 will be available this August.