• Kyodo

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Responding to changing lifestyles, household goods manufacturers have been racing to flood the market with the next big thing: products that help dry laundry in the home, without the musty smell.

Japanese have traditionally preferred to dry laundered clothes and linen out in the sun, but modern life has forced growing numbers to dry their washing inside the home.

For working couples, evenings are often the only time available to do laundry. And for people who live in big cities and close to major thoroughfares, drying laundry indoors is the only way to avoid grime caused by car fumes and airborne dirt.

Many also dry their laundry indoors to avoid pollen.

People are left with few options during winter and the summer rainy season. Electric dryers have not caught on here, probably because of the hefty electricity bills.

But drying laundry indoors has its own drawbacks: It is more difficult to dry wet clothes indoors, and matter that survives the wash can emit a moldy smell.

In October 2001, Lion Corp. launched Heyaboshi Top, a special detergent that features a protein-dissolving enzyme designed to help remove stains and odor-emitting fungus.

Lion said the Heyaboshi Top brand now moves more than 1 million cases a month, and sales in March rose 40 percent over the previous year.

Rival detergent maker Kao Corp. has also introduced an odor-blocking product.

The quest for odorless laundry is not confined to the field of detergent.

Home appliances maker Sharp Corp. is selling a washing machine that it claims eliminates musty odors by dissolving silver ions in the water during the rinse cycle. Sales of this model between December and May 31 are 50 percent higher than those for comparable models without the silver ion feature, Sharp officials said.

Odor-removing dehumidifiers have also hit the market.

In April, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. launched a dehumidifier incorporating an air filter that contains an antimold agent.

As the rainy season envelops the nation, major retailers are jumping on the indoor-laundry bandwagon.

“We hope to boost sales by combining laundry goods with rainy season products,” said an executive of a Daiei Kyobashi store in Osaka, where the supermarket chain has set up a special corner dedicated to indoor-laundry goods.

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