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12 Jan 2018

Would you pay £725 for a machine that folds your laundry?

The FoldiMate claims to be able to fold a load of laundry in four minutes
FoldiMate clothes folding machine CES 2018

Folding piles of laundry probably doesn't feature on your list of favourite hobbies. Well, it could be a manual chore of the past - if you have a big enough purse and plenty of patience, that is.

The FoldiMate, a clothes-folding machine which first launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2017, has been redesigned and relaunched for this year's event.

Its manufacturer claims that it can fold shirts, buttoned-up blouses, trousers and - in this redesigned model - towels and pillowcases. It will do this for clothing sized from child (aged six) to adult XXL. But it won't fold your socks, underwear, bed sheets, duvet covers, baby clothes or bulky clothing such as hoodies.

There are other downsides, too. For instance, the machine won't iron or de-wrinkle your clothes, so if you have an especially creased shirt at the bottom of your clean laundry pile, you'll need to iron it before it goes into the machine.

You also have to feed each item of clothing into the machine yourself, rather than simply placing it in a drawer. You may end up finding this just as frustrating as folding your clothes by hand.

It's expected to be available to buy at the end of 2019, so eager buyers have quite a long time to wait. The new model will retail for a pricey $980 (about £725).

Before considering a £725 clothes folder, make sure you have a tumble dryer that dries your clothes without running up enormous energy bills. Head to our tumble dryer reviewsto find the best for your budget.

What is the Laundroid clothes folding machine?

Foldimate has competition in the form of the Laundroid. Like the Foldimate, it folds your laundry for you and has been relaunched at CES 2018.

However, it has an even more eye-watering $16,000 (£11,862) price tag, and a system that is more sleek and sophisticated. Once you've placed the item of clothing into the drawer (there's no need to feed it in), the Laundroid uses robotic arms to pick up the clothes.

It then analyses the clothes with multiple cameras and uses artificial intelligence to determine the best way to fold the clothing. The machine is connected by wi-fi to a server, which can send gathered information to an app. From the app, you can categorize the data according to different types of item - or even who owns each piece of clothing within your family - for separated piles of washing. For instance, you could use the app to separate adults' clothing from children's, or to have a separate pile for your shirts.

The Laundroid clothes folding robot

The machine may be smart, but it's not especially quick. It takes around 5-10 minutes to fold one shirt, but the manufacturer envisages that you'll set it off overnight and wake up to beautifully folded clothes. The company hopes that once orders start to come in, it will be able to reduce the price of the machine to a still-expensive $2,000 (£1,483).

Xeros: a new energy-saving washing machine?

Alongside laundry-folding technology, CES 2018 also revealed a new washing machine that is claimed to be very energy efficient.

Manufacturers of the Xeros claim to have combined various technologies to improve cleaning power, enhance fabric care, reduce water usage by up to 50%, and filter out microplastics which can be released from synthetic clothing during washing. These fibres are so small that they pass through wastewater treatment facilities into our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans to then enter the food chain.

When a wash cycle is started, the machine releases polymer balls which help to massage the garments and loosen dirt and stains. The theory is that this will improve cleaning results, meaning the machine can use less water and lower temperatures.

After a cycle has finished, water is filtered through the XFiltra, which the manufacturer claims reduces the amount of microfibres that go down the drain. The polymer balls are returned to a holding area so they can be used in the next wash.

The price and availability for this machine is still being decided.

Xeros washing machine
The new washing machine from Xeros

Dr Stephanie Kipling, senior scientific adviser at Which?, says:'Xeros is attempting to make washing machines kinder to the environment by replacing water with polymer beads as the primary cleaning agent. It's rare that we find a washing machine that gives exceptional cleaning performance with little water, so we're eager to see if this technology can compete with traditional machines when it comes to removing stains from clothes.

'Innovations that claim to help prevent plastics being released into our oceans are also appealing, but for this technology to have a significant impact it will need to prove itself by being widely adopted by manufacturers, so we'll keep an eye out for it in our testing.'

How we assess washing machine energy efficiency

When we test washing machines, we don't take a manufacturer's word for how energy efficient it is - we also check it in the lab. We run three wash cycles, and measure exactly how much water and energy each machine uses.

We've found big differences between what's claimed on the energy label and the real-world energy efficiency. Our reviews also reveal how much it costs to run each washing machine over a year (based on running a 40°C cottons program four times a week).

Find out which is the most energy-efficient washing machine by heading straight to our washing machine reviews.