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This plug-in dryer is like a salad spinner for my clothes

When my Panda arrived, I went on a cleaning spree

A cylindrical device in a bathroom. Marisa Carroll

I live in an apartment three blocks from the closest laundromat. It’s not the in-unit laundry setup of my dreams, but it gets the job done: I drop off, I pick up, I pay the kind clerk between $20 and $45, and I’m on my way. In New York, laundromats are considered essential businesses allowed to operate during the stay-at-home order. But I’ve also noticed more and more voluntarily closing to protect their employees from the virus. I’m comfortable washing my clothes in the tub, but have neither the indoor laundry space nor the Mamma Mia! line-drying setup to let my clothes dry for hours on end. I needed a solution.

And my husband, apparently, needed an internet rabbit hole to fall down. After a few hours reading online reviews and watching YouTube videos for portable spin-dryers, he landed on the Panda. The “ultrafast portable spin-dryer” is the size of a garbage can, comes in white or stainless steel, fits one load of wet laundry, and plugs right into the wall. It’s essentially a giant salad spinner: It whirls your clothes around for five minutes and barfs the water out through a spigot. Ever dry your Speedo in one of those small dryers at the gym? That’s a Panda. At $150, it was expensive, but cheaper than a few months of wash-and-fold.

When my Panda arrived, I went on a cleaning spree.

A white cylinder with black top and bottom.

I filled my tub with water, a little bit of OxiClean, and an even littler bit of detergent, let my clothes soak and whoosh around for 20 minutes (I used the end of a Swiffer Sweeper as my stirrer, like a witch at her cauldron), then emptied the tub and refilled it with cold water to rinse off remaining soapy residue. I drained the tub again, put the Panda into the tub, plugged it in by the sink, filled it with clothes, and turned it on. The appliance, whirling and spitting the clothes’ excess water (if you don’t want to put this in the shower, you can just put a bucket underneath the spigot), managed to get thin items (T-shirts, shorts, leggings) very dry and thicker ones (towels, denim, sweatshirts) pretty dry. And watching it work was like a magic show … for extremely bored people … trapped in their homes during a pandemic.

I was possessed. I took down the shower curtains and washed those. I cleaned the duvet covers. I cleaned every pair of sweatpants and leggings I own, which I have been pairing with button-down shirts and earrings for Zoom meetings (in the beginning, I wore pants with zippers — no more). Now, I can’t wait for the workweek to end so I can spend whole days stress-cleaning with my cute little dryer friend. My Panda. My Wilson.

Other at-home laundry tools

A hand pours liquid from one bottle into aonther.

Patric Richardson, a.k.a. the Laundry Evangelist, who runs a laundry camp and offers how-to videos on his site, says it’s easier to wash your clothes in the kitchen sink, which is generally much roomier than the bathroom. He also says the most straightforward cleaning agent is one you probably already have on hand: foaming hand soap. “Never dish soap,” he says, because it’s generally quite acidic, which, while being effective for cutting through grease, could damage fabric.

Plastic container with handle.

In terms of spot-treating stains, Richardson recommends “using one part water mixed with one part white vinegar in a spray bottle to saturate and soak the stain before washing.”

A folding rack.

If you do have room for a drying rack, Marilee Nelson, a nontoxic consultant and co-founder of Branch Basics, recommends a drying rack, like this one, which she suggests should be placed in a room with an exhaust vent, “like the bathroom or laundry room, to speed up the drying process.”