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Samsung’s senior vice president says all of the company’s product development is now being done “through the lens of hygiene” as the pandemic continues on. Other appliance manufacturing giants, such as LG Electronics and Whirlpool Corp., are adding new technologies to their products for advanced disinfection capabilities. LG Electronics’ refrigerators have been retrofitted with ultraviolet, sterilizing lights, reports Whirlpool’s washing machines now offer built-in heating to remove germs and allergens. And Samsung is expanding its team with water and air quality experts. These changes come as a response to the pandemic, but also as a response to the increased use of home appliances.

Indeed, hygiene is driving the home-appliance industry’s extreme makeover. For decades, firms saw sales grow sluggishly, especially in lucrative markets in the U.S. and Western Europe, churning out a predictable cycle of dryers, ovens and microwave ovens. A push toward digitized “smart homes” failed to captivate consumers who saw little reason to track their milk levels through artificial intelligence or get text alerts when the laundry was done.

But now, virus-weary buyers are perking up everywhere. Household appliances are breaking down faster than before with increased use as people shelter at home, and existing malfunctions have now become more intolerable. As travel remains limited because of the pandemic, wealthier consumers flush with cash are choosing to upgrade household products or splurge on new purchases.

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