Devices to reduce the drudgery


January 14, 2001|By Karol V. Menzie | Karol V. Menzie,Sun Staff

A century ago, many homes had servants who did the heavy work of the household -- cooking, cleaning and washing. Gradually, those household helpers changed from laborers to so-called labor-saving devices.

But anyone who's ever done a load of laundry, ironed a shirt, put on the coffee, or any of the myriad chores required to keep a house running efficiently, knows there's no lack of labor involved. Manufacturers keep trying to save us from the drudgery. Already there are robot vacuum cleaners that negotiate a room on their own, and clever appliances such as microwaves that know what they're cooking and how long it takes. And even ordinary appliances like washers and irons are becoming more efficient. So, for the humans who have to lug the laundry, push the iron and make the coffee, among other tasks, here are some products that do the rest of the work better than they used to.

We've gotten used to power breakfasts and power lunches; are we ready for the power laundry? Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse stores and Whirlpool think it's time to give the laundry room as much design thought and care as a gourmet kitchen or a spa bathroom. Storage, functional lighting, a large surface for folding, a fold-down ironing board and spaces to hang drip-dry clothing join state-of-the-art appliances to make doing the laundry pleasant as well as efficient. Lowe's has 600 stores in 39 states. For more information, visit .

Maytag has enhanced its Performa line of laundry products by giving washers spiral fins that agitate clothes without shredding them, and a wash system that cleans from every direction. Dryers are larger inside, with high-capacity blowers, and some even have a wrinkle-release cycle for dry clothes. The Performa washer costs $469, and the Performa dryer, left, is $429. Available at appliance dealers. For more information, call 888-4-MAYTAG, or visit .

Miele makes having an afternoon latte or cappuccino as easy as pushing a button and waving a wand with its new built-in coffee system. There's an adjustable grinder for the beans, and the system produces 8 1/2 ounces of coffee at a time - while controlling the amount of caffeine to your preference. It alerts you to add coffee beans or water when needed. There's also a hot water dispenser for those who want tea or hot chocolate. The system doesn't clutter the counter, and, because it requires no plumbing, it fits sleekly into any setting -- kitchen, office, family room. The coffee system comes in black or stainless-steel finishes with a suggested retail price of $1,695 to $1,795. For more information, call 800-463-0260, or visit .

It's true, some people actually like to iron. There's something about smoothing out the wrinkles that makes life seem a little easier. But ironing could be a little easier, too, with Rowenta's new line of professional irons. This "next generation" of irons features consistent heat, a precise thermostat, consistent steam, a large steam chamber and an extra-thick sole plate. The steam delivery ranges from burst to variable to vertical. Prices range from $100 to $150 at small appliance retailers. For real ironing fanatics, Rowenta offers a two-part system of a stainless-steel steam generator connected with flexible tubing to an iron that can be used horizontally or vertically. It offers up to 1 1/2 hours of continuous high-powered steam ($250).

Home Front welcomes interesting home and garden news. Please send suggestions to Karol V. Menzie, Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or fax to 410-783-2519. Information must be received at least four weeks in advance to be considered.

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