A colour-enhancing, quick-cleaning clothes steamer
The CEO of Levi’s jeans, Chip Bergh, made news earlier this year when he revealed he never washes jeans, even a pair he’s had 10 years – and doesn’t recommend that customers put theirs in the washing machine. There’s a growing movement arguing that washing clothes too much is damaging to them and bad for the environment. For those who beg to differ a little on this matter, there’s an environmentally friendly and labour-saving solution from one of Sweden’s plethora of startups.
Steamery Stockholm makes beautifully designed and built hand steamers that can be used – as is common in the fashion industry – to give an on-the-fly finessing touch to rumpled garments, but also for speedy and effective, if not deep, cleaning. The steam, at 96°C, kills odour-producing bacteria in clothes and removes dust and dirt, as well as – Steamery says – enhancing colour and making fabrics feel thicker and softer by causing fibres to swell, the opposite of the flattening effect of ironing.
I have to say that while I wouldn’t use it on everything in my laundry basket, the effect it has had on my shirts, jackets and, yes, jeans has made me pretty much a convert. And Steamery offers 30-day returns if you’re less convinced. Steamery Cirrus No 2, £110, from steamery.co.uk.
Naim’s edgy update to an extraordinary stereo
A battle of titans is developing between two brilliant high-end one-box stereo systems. I reported last month on the contender from Essex, Ruark’s magnificent R5. Now, from the Wiltshire corner, comes Naim Audio’s update of its extraordinary Mu-so machine, which I first reviewed in February 2015. Ruark and Naim are both exceptionally accomplished hifi-mongers but have a completely different aesthetic. Ruark is all about soft curves, tweedy grey fabrics and quality carpentry. Naim is a more dramatic, black-box, squared-off industrial look – its founder, the late Julian Vereker, was a music-mad ex-racing driver who was also a co-founder of the Brompton bicycle company. The 2014 model of the Mu-so was mounted on a block of clear Perspex lit up by white light, which brought to mind an architect’s model of a library or theatre on a fabulously well-endowed Californian university campus. Sensibly, Naim has kept exactly the same look and feel for the Mu-so 2nd Generation.
So much for looks. What, electronically, differentiates Naim’s system from the Ruark R5? Well, the Mu-so is even louder and sounds edgier; it really is a beast, with 450 watts of speaker power, capable of filling a big, big space with quality sound. I had the R5 sample in my bedroom, and it suited perfectly, but the Naim is, for me, over-the-top for nodding off to. It would be better suited to a living room and doubling as a TV soundbar. (Naim has just released a smaller, cube-shaped version, the Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, for £749 that multirooms with this.)
The Mu-so communes with a plethora of streaming services and has a decent accompanying app – better than Ruark’s workmanlike one – but it has no CD slot. I did find the Ruark’s ability to play CDs a reassuring sideline, though I only used it once, and then only because it was there. Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation, £1,299, from johnlewis.com.
Chunky Swedish machinery to scrub polluted city air
In 1996, a Stockholm resident was away with his baby at his summer house in the Stockholm Archipelago and found himself reluctant to take her back to the city air. How anyone could regard Stockholm as polluted compared with my London and New York stomping grounds I don’t know, but he went on to found the air cleaner maker Blueair, now part of Unilever.
Blueair’s squat machines claim to remove 99.97 per cent of pollutants by shifting large volumes of air through a mechanical (HEPA), electrostatic and optional activated carbon filter process. The one I tested through the summer, the Classic 480i, can scrub a 40sq m room five times an hour. Well, that’s if windows and doors are closed, which in summer they tend not to be. But Blueair promises that in a normal setting, with fresh air coming in from outside, its machines will still significantly clean the air.
The machine is quiet and fuss-free and, judging by the amount of London grime it picked up, it does its work well. It provides a pleasing movement of air through the room without blowing onto your face. A likeable and confidence-inspiring chunk of Swedish technology, with a WiFi connection to monitor the air via the inevitable app. Blueair Classic 480i, from £629, blueair.com.
The home flood detector with a direct line to your phone
Next to a fire, a major water leak is the most ruinous thing that can happen to your property. A colleague with a recent bad leak in a London flat needed days off work to deal not only with the plumbing consequences but with the legal threats from the owners of the flats below. Her misery could arguably have been dammed at source by this gadget from router maker D-Link. Its battery-powered WiFi sensors can be placed in every vulnerable spot in your property – near washing machines, dishwashers, sinks and more. They send a notification to your phone, and let out a 90-decibel howl, the second they detect water.
As with the Netatmo remote smoke alarm I featured in April, there is a question as to what you would actually do if you were in a meeting in Tokyo or on a beach in the Med and were notified about a flood. Nevertheless, in a world where most smart home devices are too complicated to bother with, I would feel more secure just knowing there was a water problem at my home. Do be sure, by the way, to buy from someone who offers a return guarantee, as a few US users of the sensors have reported connection problems. D-Link DCH‑S161 WiFi Water Leak Sensor, from £50, from d-link.co.uk.