This appliance envisions the future of folding and sterilizing children’s clothes

We have become more attuned to the sometimes unsanitary conditions of our homes in recent years. While harmful microorganisms may have been there all this time, their effects have been placed under a microscope thanks to concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus. There has been an uptick in interest and sales of air purifiers as well as the new breed of UV-C sanitizers. But while these take care of the air we breathe, they don’t really handle other places where germs, viruses, and other harmful substances can gather, especially on different kinds of surfaces. Clothing for children, in particular, requires special handling because of who wears them, and this simple yet innovative concept offers a way to ease the burden off parents and automate how clothes are kept neat and clean.

Designers: Junsik Oh, Da-yeon Choi, Kim Eun-seong

Perhaps next to taking out the trash, one of the most disliked chores is doing the laundry, probably because it’s actually a multi-step process that goes beyond just washing clothes. Even with smart washing machines and dryers, there are parts of the chore that can be considered manual and menial labor. And as if folding clothes and putting them away weren’t already tedious enough, people now also have to be mindful of keeping those clothes sanitized and germ-free.

The latter is a growing concern among parents today, especially with all the worries about viruses and germs in the air and sticking to surfaces. Anti-bacterial laundry soap only works during washing, but the clothes can be exposed any time afterward. That can even happen while a parent or sibling is folding a child’s clothes, potentially putting younger and more susceptible members of the family in danger.

FOL:U is an appliance concept that tries to do away with both the tediousness as well as the fears when folding clothes. It actually doesn’t fold clothes but rolls them up in a bundle for more space-efficient storage. It also sanitizes those clothes before they’re rolled, and you don’t even have to touch a single part of the fabric at any point in time.

The idea is that you’d pick up newly washed clothes with tongs that come with FOL:U and mount them inside. When you’re ready, you can soak the clothes in UV-C light to sanitize them. There’s even a tray on top that will let you also sanitize other items like baby bottles or toys simultaneously to save on time and energy. The machine then rolls the clothes into bundles that can be kept at the bottom of the tall box, which could also be sanitized along with the next batch of clothes.

With UV-C sanitization becoming more common inside households, it might only be a matter of time before appliance manufacturers turn their attention toward this use case. FOL:U might not be the most efficient machine for folding, and some might disagree about rolling clothes, but it does address the need for automating other parts of doing the laundry. It won’t be long before we reach a point where the entire process could be automated from start to finish, just like in some cartoons that portray future home appliances in a comical way.