Wash, Dry, Iron
Insights into diverse laundry care in Europe
Weinheim, February 17, 2017. Clothes that have been worn first find their way into the linen basket, then they are sorted by colors and put in the washing machine, and finally hung up to dry on a drying rack or in a tumble dryer. Then they are ironed (or not, as the case may be) and worn again. So far, so good – but is this procedure the same everywhere? “Generally speaking, yes,” says Barbara Helmerking, Marketing Manager at Freudenberg Home and Cleaning Solutions (FHCS), “however, market studies revealed some very interesting regional and national differences in laundry care.“
Freudenberg expanded its portfolio of laundry care products with the acquisition of the Italian company Gimi in July 2016 and became the largest supplier in Europe. The Freudenberg-Business Group FHCS markets the full range of laundry care products, in particular ironing boards and clothes dryers, in Europe and further afield under the Vileda and Gimi brand names. The company must understand consumer needs in order to consolidate and expand this strong position.
“There are big differences when to comes to drying washing. For example, the so-called wing-type dryer that is very popular in Germany is hardly used in the UK or France,” Helmerking says. “Our neighbors in France prefer the space-saving tower dryers.” That is because apartments are generally smaller, particularly in urban areas. In the UK, on the other hand, rotary dryers are very popular, probably because Britons are a nation of garden lovers. Sales figures show that rotary dryers, which take up a lot of space, tend to be sold in rural areas where customers often have more space. In Germany, 23 percent of households have a rotary dryer – and almost half (42 percent) have a tumble dryer, so they are equipped to get their washing dry in wet weather, too.
“A household usually has several options for drying clothes. For instance, half of the people in Poland use clothes lines. 75 percent of the population also owns a clothes dryer. Or to be more precise – there are 1.2 clothes dryers per household,” Helmerking explains. A large proportion of the Europeans interviewed prefer to dry their washing in the fresh air, provided there is enough space and the weather is good. The material used to manufacture the clothes dryer is an important factor: “The clothes dryers made from steel commonly used in central Europe rust quickly in salty sea air. That is why people in southern Europe prefer clothes dryers made of plastic or aluminum.”
Once the clothes are dry, they need to be made nice and smooth. As far as ironing is concerned, the Freudenberg market researchers discovered big differences between people in southern and northern Europe: While residents of the southern parts like to iron everything from clothes to bedsheets, those on the north limit this activity to the essentials. That being said, about two-thirds of all Europeans agree that ironing is “annoying and time-consuming”. “We make a distinction between ‘committed’ and ‘pragmatic’ consumers,” Helmerking explains. “The ‘pragmatists’ pick out their favorite shirt from fresh laundry in the morning and iron it. The ‘committed ironers’, on the other hand, tackle the entire pile in one go. They often listen to music or watch their favorite TV series while they are completing the chore.”
The ironing board must be particularly stable and save to use; after all it has to withstand heat, hot water and steam. The average German buys a new board once every ten years, paying particularly close attention to quality, and not just in terms of the framework. The ironing board cover also plays an important part. To ensure that the clothes lie smoothly on the surface and no additional creases are ironed in, the cover needs to have a certain level of thickness. “We are seeing a ‘trend towards convenience’ in laundry care, too, which offers significant market opportunities. That is why we constantly invest in developing innovations that make people’s lives easier,” says Helmerking.