P&G Revisits Its Laundry Day Miracle: Machines That Don't Wash

Links With Whirpool for $499 Swash Appliance That Uses Pods To Deodorize, De-Wrinkle and Reshape Clothes

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Swash, a brand Procter & Gamble Co. once tested as a line of products for college students to freshen clothes without washing them, is taking on new life as a high-end system aimed at professionals looking to do the same thing -- at a far steeper price.

P&G is joining Whirlpool for the national launch of a Swash appliance at a suggested retail price of $499 that uses Swash Pods sold at $6.99 per 12 pack to refresh clothes. (Think of it as pod coffeemakers coming to fabric care. The pods come in fragrances named Awake, Recharge and Unwind that could easily pass for coffee or tea flavors.)

Swash products are already available nationally for pre-order at Bloomingdales.com, with models on display in some stores in or near New Jersey, Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago. As of September, they'll be available more widely at such retailers as Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond.

P&G originally test marketed Swash in Columbus, Ohio, and Lexington, Ky., in 2007 and later sold it online nationally. The idea was that college students already were saving time and money by using Febreze or a tossing clothes in the dryer with fabric-softener sheets without actually washing them, so why not develop a brand endorsed by Tide to give the practice some legitimacy?

Swash in its new incarnation takes the idea further with a system that promises in its press release to de-wrinkle clothes without a steam iron by "precisely holding clothing in place to allow the formula in the Swash Pods cups to gently relax fabrics as the rapid-drying system leaves them ready to wear."

It requires only a standard electrical outlet, and works for denim, wool, polyester, Lycra, cotton, cashmere, sequins, delicate beading and lace.

P&G and Whirlpool will market Swash in part through installations at Delta Sky Clubs, where travelers can use macheines between flights. Hollywood stylist Kate Young has signed on to help promote the product in publicity and social media, too. And the two companies will back Swash with digital and print advertising that has already started and will increase in the fall, with TV ads possible in the future, said P&G spokeswoman Lauren Thaman. Anomaly, New York, and Devries Public Relations are working on the brand.

The original test of different Swash products seven years ago on a limited basis isn't likely to cause confusion, said Ms. Thaman said. Some of the original Swash lineup was also sold at Tide Dry Cleaners and still is under the Tide name, which continues as a co-branded endorser on the new system.

P&G has been working with Whirlpool on the "personal valet" concept for more than a decade, first testing such an appliance under the Presiva brand name in 2001 with freshening/de-wrinkling fluid sold for $11.99 a bottle. And P&G in 1999 launched Dryel for freshening and de-wrinkling dry-clean-only clothes in the dryer. It later divested when sales didn't meet P&G's expectations.

While $499 may seem steep, P&G says people who dry clean at least once a month spend $750 a year, and 80% of consumers don't enjoy ironing.

"We do know at least 90% of consumers re-wear at least one item a week," Ms. Thaman said, defining that as not putting items in the laundry or the dry-cleaning bag, but doing something else to remove dirt or odors. "This is really designed for those times in between laundering or dry cleaning."

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