Clothes dryers having their moment in Korea

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Clothes dryers having their moment in Korea

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Park Sun-young, 37, hates doing laundry. Every night, she returns home from work, puts her family’s clothes in the wash and hangs each piece on a drying rack before going to bed.

The next morning, she would often find her clothes still wet, leaving Park with few outfits to choose from. She finally had it. In November, she decided to buy a clothes dryer, and it’s made her nights easier.

“It was a decade ago during my studies in the United States when I first used a clothes dryer,” Park said. “Back then, I remembered clothes having a lot of creases right out of the machine, but the technology seems to have improved nowadays because I don’t see them anymore, not to mention that recent ones have sterilizing functions, too.”

Clothes dryers have been part of the daily laundry routine in American and European homes for years, and now Koreans are catching onto them. Sales of machines have grown rapidly, from 100,000 two years ago to 600,000 last year, according to industry estimates. The figure is projected to reach 1 million this year.

For Lim Jin-joo, 43, who lives by herself in a small 33-square-meter (355-square-foot) apartment, laundry was always a hassle. She would run the wash twice a week, but there would barely be any room in her apartment for the drying rack.

Lim also had to use a dehumidifier to help her clothes dry faster, but it wasn’t really working. Earlier this month, she invested in a clothes dryer.

“A drying rack unfolded felt too crowded in this small house,” she said, “and the task of hanging clothes was getting cumbersome.”

Clothes dryers have been selling well online and offline. Data from Ticket Monster, an e-commerce site, shows sales jumping 6.7 times last year compared to 2016. At WeMakePrice, another site, sales rose 8.9 times during the same period.

The popularity of clothes dryers was also evident at Emart. Sales totaled 30 billion won ($28 million) last year, up 100 times from a year earlier.

The biggest contributor to the demand has been worsening air pollution in Korea. Because of fine dust, people have been hesitant to open windows and put clothes outside to dry.

The rise of single-person households has been another factor since many small apartments can’t fit drying racks. According to the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, the average space of a single-person household is 48.6 square meters per person.

A trend of prodigal spending as exemplified by the catchphrase “you only live once” - YOLO - has also contributed to sales. Koreans have been more willing to spend money on conveniences that allow them more time for leisure activities. This includes clothes dryers.

Technological developments are another booster. Clothes dryers on the market today have more advanced functions than their predecessors. They purport to sterilize clothes, kill germs hidden between fibers and prevent coats and suits from forming wrinkles.

LG Electronics was the first Korean company to release a clothes dryer in the 1990s. Its most recent model, unveiled last month, is the LG Tromm Dual Inverter Heatpump. One of its functions is a “sterilizing course” that supposedly removes 99.99 percent of germs on clothing. It also eats up less electricity - according to the company, the cost of doing a 5-kilogram (11-pound) load is 117 won.

SK Magic added a “styling” function to its dryer, which the company says can remove odorous smells from fabric.

Germany’s Blomberg has a dryer that can brush off dust from blankets, and Hestia’s dryer is capable of clearing fluff, while Rinnai Korea’s dryer can reach temperatures of 90 to 110 degrees Celsius (194 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit) to sterilize clothing.

In Korea, most of these dryers are front-loading and largely divided into two categories according to their power source: gas and electricity. Gas-powered dryers require extra cost for installation because they have to be connected to gas valves. The advantage, though, is that gas tends to be cheaper than electricity.

Electric dryers can be divided into two categories according to the way they heat clothes: through a heat pump or condenser.

Heat pump dryers use lower temperatures and are therefore more economical. When choosing a dryer, it’s important to check how long it takes to dry clothes and the power it eats up in the process. In general, the less electricity it consumes, the longer it takes to dry a load.


BY CHOI HYUN-JOO [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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