Love Your Laundry Part IV: A Book Review

If you have been following this month’s blog/live video series, you will know that last week I promised a book review of Laundry Love by Patric Richardson. Why, you might ask, am I doing a book review??? The answer is quite simple; the author claims that we don’t need to be “bullied” by our clothing. He writes, “when it comes to cleaning, our clothes are bossy. Their tags bully us into time-sucking techniques and, before we know it, each article of clothing is trying to tell us what to do – and none of it is simple.” What, you might ask, is our clothing telling us to do? Well, “Dry clean only. Wash in cold water. Handwash. Dry Flat. Spotwash only. Blah, blah, blah.”

As a boutique owner with over 25 years of experience in the industry, my initial response to this was mixed. Elation came first. What, you mean I don’t have to wash everything on cold and hang it to dry – the thing I have ALWAYS done and was getting ready to counsel my customers to do? But, on the heels of that thought, came another – panic. What if I do this and ruin all my expensive clothing? And then another, even scarier option – what if I tell my customers to do this and THEY ruin all their expensive clothing.

My solution was to keep and open mind, and to do a good old fashioned book review for all of us to consider. Therefore, I am neither recommending nor discounting the ideas in this blog. I am openly curious about them.

Why should you trust Richardson, you ask? Well, he is a boutique owner, a former sales person at luxury stores, and ran Laundry Camp at the Mall of America for thousands of people. I tend to trust a store owner, so this role resonates with me. As boutique owners, we function as the middle man between the manufacturers and our customers. We get the benefit of product knowledge that comes directly from the source and that we then pass on. We want the best for our customers and know which manufactures we can trust and which ones we can’t – which ones just put hand wash in cold and hang to dry on every care tag regardless of the fabric used because they are covering their behinds and, frankly, because it is cheaper and easier to print one care tag for ALL of their clothing. Yes Fast Fashion brands, I am calling some of you out here. All of this is to say, I tend to trust Richardson here. He has all the right experience to make his methods worthy of consideration. But, hey, this is a book review, so you get to decide.

  1. Step one: sort your textiles (clothes, sheets, towels, etc) into 4-5 piles which include your whites and almost whites, your black clothes, your cool color clothes, your warm color clothes, and your athletic wear. According to Richardson, the rationale behind the warm and cool piles is, “if a microdye bleed occurs in the wash of either of these loads, no one will even notice” (20). Athletic wear needs to be washed separately because of its tendency to hold onto to body oil and to repel water. This particular load needs to be washed with a detergent that contains hydrogen peroxide to get out the body oil.
  2. Step two: Remove all silky items from the pile and put in a mesh bag. Richardson also recommends turning these inside out before putting them into the mesh bag. This same process can be used for wool items, but he recommends rolling them up tightly and then placing them in a mesh bag. Replace the items in the correct color pile.
  3. Step three: Stop using detergents with volatile organic compounds which he purports to be anything that comes in the gigantic bottles we can buy at the grocery store. These compounds can harm your lungs, organs and cause Cancer. Instead we should opt for, “soaps and detergents made with plant and mineral based ingredients, essential oils, and floral extracts. Look for words like, “nontoxic, biodegradeable, allergen free, bleach free, petroleum free, phosphate free, and phthalate free” (33). He also recommends to stop using Chlorine Bleach which actually yellows whites (who knew??). He suggests instead to wash whites with a tablespoon of chlorine free oxygen bleach.
  4. Step four: wash everything on warm in the express cycle. I found his explanation for this compelling. He writes, “even cold water detergents are designed to work in water that is 58 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit; manufactured define this as cold. Unfortunately, cold water in our homes is likely just 53 or so degrees. And that means our cold water setting isn’t warm enough to dissolve our detergents – which means they’re not activating and our clothes aren’t getting clean” (37). He goes on to explain that the express cycle on your washer only exposes your clothing to 8 minutes of warm water, long enough to activate the detergents and get your clothing clean but not long enough to harm your clothing. Additionally, make sure to set your washer on fast spin. This will mean that as much water as possible will have been spun out of your clothing, requiring less drying time.
  5. Step five: Hang to dry anything made with a woven fabric. Hang all sweaters or use a drying rack. Dry all “T-shirts, socks, underwear, sheets and towels” (47). His reasoning behind this suggestion is that, “most high quality textiles can endure fifty trips through the washer and dryer. That means if you machine wash and machine dry a favorite shirt once a week, you’ll have worn it out in a year. If, however, you skip the dryer and hang up this item to dry, you’ve just bought yourself at least seventy more trips through the washer – and more than another year of wear” (48). Richardson notes here that this statistic is taken from the National Council of Textile Organizations. He also contends that it is not necessary to lay all of your knits like sweaters to dry. Similarly to chemical detergents, dryer sheets and softeners are a no, no. They coat your clothing with silicone which keeps them from absorbing water, decreases the breathability, makes missed stains almost impossible to get out, and coats your dryer’s lint catcher.
Laundry heap on the white background. Hasselblad H4D XXXL

In comparison to what I am already doing, Richardson’s method changes some important things. First, I tend to wash my towels and sheets in separate loads. I was always taught to wash my sheets on hot to sanitize them and to wash my towels together because their rough texture would be abrasive to my other clothes. Richardson addresses the sheet issue when he writes, “When we wash our hands with soap and warm water, we know they’re clean. There’s no need to scald our hands to kill germs. The same holds true for our clothes” (40). He solves the abrasion issue with the mesh garment bags.

On a normal laundry day, I would have five loads – whites, darks, towels, cold water wash, and sheets. Using his method, I would also have five loads, but using the express wash will most definitely save time, and I was a little grossed out by the idea that I am not actually dissolving the detergent on all of my cold water wash items, which is about 70% of my laundry. I certainly like the idea of knowing my clothes are clean.

I already hang most of my clothes to dry, so all in all, I don’t think using this method will take more time. I am planning to try a couple of his drying suggestions like wool balls and bumpy dryer balls. He also suggests putting a few drops or essential oils on the dryer balls to add fragrance to your clothing in place of dryer sheets. As an avid essential oil user, I love this idea. He recommends peppermint and lavender.

Probably my biggest struggle is in removing stains. I am just not very good at it. I was, understandably, very curious about what Richardson had to say about this topic. In fact, he has a lot of say, but to summarize for the purpose of this blog, his basic stain removing method includes using rubbing alcohol and a cotton makeup pad to treat stains if you need to wear an item and don’t have time to wash it. You dab the makeup pad with the rubbing alcohol and then using a pressing and lifting motion, keep dabbing at the stain and switching to a new makeup pad until the stain is removed. His more advanced stain removal techniques include using a mixture of water and vinegar to cut oil and a laundry brush and bar laundry soap to gently scrub the stained area. I’ll be sharing his complete list of stain removal product recommendations in tonight’s Wednesday Wardrobing Live Video presentation,as well as some of his pro tips that caught my attention. You can watch that here on Facebook at 6 p.m. MST.

Love Your Laundry Part II: Fabric Primer

One of the most frustrating parts about shopping is understanding fabrics and how to care for them. In our new world of fast fashion, a lot of manufacturers of cheaper clothing automatically recommend to hand wash and hang to dry their garments. This is to prevent them from being held accountable when the fabrics perform poorly in a washing machine. In my experience, the only time you should have to hand wash a garment is if the fabric is cheap or it has embellishments like sequins, grommets, and embroidery. But, to safely NOT follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions, you need to understand fabrics. That is what this blog post will help you to do.

The following information was adapted from: This website will give you a comprehensive list of fabrics, but I am going to just focus on the the most common ones you will have to deal with when caring for clothing.

Cotton: This fabric is made from the cotton plant. According to the masterclass listed above, “Cotton is primarily composed of cellulose, an insoluble organic compound crucial to plant structure, and is a soft and fluffy material. The term cotton refers to the part of the cotton plant that grows in the boil, the encasing for the fluffy cotton fibers.” These fibers are then spun into a yarn and woven into fabric. The cotton fibers are uneven. In better cottons, the fibers are combed which removes the shorter fibers and makes the resulting fabric softer. Cotton can be machine washed and dried, but it will shrink so unless your garment tells you the fabric is pre-shrunk (washed and dried before production), you will need to take care to prevent shrinkage. I usually recommend hanging it to dry and then using a machine dryer for a 10 minute permanent press cycle to remove any stiffness in the fabric. Cotton is durable, soft, and breathable. It is always a great choice in clothing.

Georgette: This fabric can be made from silk or from Rayon, Viscose and Polyester. Obviously, the price of the Georgette will reflect which source fabric was used. Georgettes are often crinkled, sheer and have a non shiny finish. Care of georgette will depend on the source fabric. If silk was used, you will need to take greater care in laundering. Synthetic fabrics like Rayon, Viscose and Polyester can often be machine washed, but Rayon will shrink so you need to be aware of that possibility.

Jersey: This fabric is a soft, stretchy knit fabric that is made from cotton, cotton blends and synthetic fabrics. Sympli, as an example, uses Jersey that is made with polyester. The fabric can be light to medium weight. Jersey can pill and snag. For this reason, it is not recommended that you wash it with zippers, velcrow, items with grommets, etc, as these can catch and snag the fabric. Sympli recommends their jersey be washed in cold water in the machine and then hung to dry. Because jersey is wrinkle resistant, it will usually dry wrinkle free.

Linen: This fabric comes from the Flax plant. It is known to be strong and lightweight and breathable. It is often used in clothing for hot and humid places because it allows air to flow through and helps regulate the body temperature as a result. Linen should be washed in lukewarm or cold water and gently dried. It is important to use medium heat when drying your linen.

Modal: This is a, “semi-synthetic fabric made from beech tree pulp that is used primarily for clothing.” It is a form of Rayon but is stronger. You will often find Modal in fabric blends, and it is considered a high end fabric because it is soft and luxurious feeling. It is important to point out that Modal is more expensive than cotton or viscose.

Polyester: This fabric is man made and originates from petrochemicals, including coal and petroleum. It is durable and doesn’t shrink, making it very useful in clothing. It is often blended with other fabrics, as it can be used to strengthen more delicate fabrics. The big downside to polyester is that it is not breathable and can become smelly when it absorbs sweat. Polyester can be blended with other natural and more breathable fabrics to help with this. It also acts to stabilize fabrics that are prone to shrinking when it is used in blends.

Rayon: This fabric, like Viscose, is a semi-synthetic fabric that is made from wood pulp. It also requires chemicals which keep it from being considered a “natural” fiber. According to Who, What, Wear, “one of the most common types of rayon is viscose rayon, which has a lot in common with cotton. It’s breathable, moisture-absorbent, and a popular choice for casual and athletic wear. It also shows up in dresses, blouses, and outerwear. Secondary types of rayon include modal rayon (typically made from beech trees) and lyocell (seen in everything from denim to dress shirts).” This website also notes what we all have experienced in that Rayon is not durable and machine washing can cause it to shrink, loose its shape and bleed As a result, clothing with Rayon or Rayon blends will often require hand washing and line drying.

Satin: The word “satin” refers to a weave and not a fabric, just like twill. Satin is elastic, soft and silky with a beautiful drape.

Silk: Silk comes from the fiber produced by Silk Worms to make their nests and cocoons. It is known for its strength, sheen, and luxury. It is often used in formal attire.

Spandex: This fabric name is interchangeable with the words “Elastane” and “Lycra.” It is a synthetic fiber that is used to add stretch to clothing. It can also be blended with other fabrics for this same purpose.

Tweed: Tweed is usually made of wool and is woven into a stiff and durable fabric that is characterized by warmth. This fabric is usually used in jackets and slacks, particularly suits. It is typical for this fabric to be made with different colored strands that are woven to create different patterns.

Twill: The word “twill” refers a weave rather than a fabric. It is characterized by a diagonal pattern. They usually have a darker side and a lighter side. It is durable fabric that is not see through. Twill is typically used in denim and in chinos.

Velvet: This fabric is known for its soft and luxurious feeling. It is shiny and soft and is often used for dressy fabrics, especially those for holidays. Velvet can be made from Cotton, linen, wool, mohair, and synthetic fibers, but it was first made with silk.

Viscose: This fabric is part synthetic and part natural. It resembles silk because of the wood pulp that is used in its creation. This wood pulp gives it a very similar look and feel to silk. It is often used in clothing items that might have been made from silk like blouses and dresses, but it is much less expensive.

I hope this has helped to demystify fabrics for you to some degree. Understanding fabrics helps us to know how to care for them properly so they last a long time. It helps us choose fabrics based on the environment we will be in and the level of care we are willing to be subject to. It also helps set our expectations of how fabrics will perform. Additionally, when we comprehend the pros and cons of certain fabrics, we are able to understand the fabric blends that we often find and how those blends might perform in our day to day life as well as in the laundry.

Typically, less expensive clothing will be made of synthetic fabrics, semi-synthetic fabrics or fabric blends whereas more expensive clothing will have more natural fabrics or a greater quantity of the natural fabric in the blend. For example, if you have a Rayon/Cotton blend, the fabric will likely be more durable than a Rayon/Viscose blend.

Personally, I have a cold water dirty clothes basket and warm water dirty clothes basket. My only clothing that goes into the warm water basket is underwear, pajamas, yoga wear, denim jeans, sweatshirts and tee shirts. Everything else gets washed in cold on delicate and hung to dry. If the fabrics dry stiff or wrinkled, I put them in a permanent press cycle just to soften the fabric and release the wrinkles. I always put a 1/4 of vinegar into my washing machine. Not only does it clean the machine and act as a natural softener, it also helps set fabric dye so I get less fading of colors.

If you’d like more information on this topic, you can watch me live on Wednesday, May 10th at 6 p.m. Mountain Standard Time for a live video on this topic. Watch that video here. If you miss the live video, it will be added to my YouTube channel as well.

Love Your Laundry Series: How To Identify Quality

With the popularization of fast fashion and our society embracing throw away mentality, I sometimes feel we have lost an understanding of the benefits of quality and why it really is worth the extra money to get it. I don’t know how you are, but before my husband purchase just about anything, we research the product and read reviews. We are big fans of consumer reports because we believe that while you don’t have to buy the most expensive thing on the market, you do get what you pay for.

My experience with all kinds of appliances, electronics, and clothing is that there is usually a reason why an item is more expensive. Whether it is longer battery life, better quality circuitry, the reputation of the manufacturer, or the actual features of a product, a good sales person should be able to explain to you why two items are different prices.

I think we all have a choice to make. Do we want to buy it cheaply and know that it will have a shorter life or do we want to spend more up front and expect, with care and attention, it will last a much longer time? The fast fashion world like H&M and Sheen peddle cheaply made clothing with cheap fabrics. The price tag is very affordable, but don’t expect it to wash and wear well or for a long time.

As the owner of a boutique that is focused on quality as well as an Outlet that is focused on budget and price, I have a lot of experience at both ends of the spectrum. I have shopped the same manufacturers that supply H&M, and I have shopped high end clothing companies. I believe quality if always worth the extra money, but I also recognize that the general shopper doesn’t always understand what makes a clothing item high quality.

The purpose of this month’s Wednesday Wardrobing Series, then, will be to explore this topic. I have named it Love Your Laundry because of the delight that comes when you wash something for the first time and are elated at how it performs instead of frustrated at the mis-shapen mess that comes out of your dryer.

So how do you spot quality in clothing? Here are my top tips:

  • Fabric matters: I spend a lot of time in last month’s Wednesday Wardrobing series talking about how when you are trying to dress your body type, you always want to choose heavier fabrics to wear over your trouble areas. This is because heavier fabrics will have a better drape, whereas lighter fabrics tend to cling. Additionally heavier fabrics are less likely to show cellulite.
  • Every fabric comes on a scale from the cheapest to the most expensive version of itself. Cotton, for example, can be light weight and not much better than Rayon or it can be beefy and weighty. The truth is, you can feel quality. Take a garment in your hand and rub the fabric. Is it soft or scatchy? Is it heavy or light? Does it resist wrinkles or does it wrinkle easily? Does it have stretch or is it stiff? Is it already showing signs of pilling just from being handled in the store? Are the sleeves too long indicating the fabric may be stretching out as it is hanging? Is the fabric see through? Has the manufacturer provided a lining or are you going to have to layer it? These are all questions that will help you identify classic areas that reveal poor quality vs. better quality fabrics.
  • Construction matters: Beware of puckering hems and linings. Items that are sewn quickly and without care will often have puckers where the seams meet. Examine all the seams. Similarly, hastily sewn linings will reveal similar problems. If you see lots of stray strings or even massive amounts of thread, it is a very good indication the item is poor quality.
  • Similarly, buttons that are half on and not secure; button holes that are too small; and zippers that are sewn in crooked are further indications of poorly constructed items.
  • If the garment is printed, look at how the print comes together at the seams. Does it make sense or is the stripe on the front two inches lower on the back? Matching fabrics up at the seams is always a sign of good quality.
  • Look at the pockets. Do they lay flat or stick out?
  • When you try the item on, do all the style details lay in the right place. For example, does the shoulder cut out show your bra strap?
  • Details Matter: If you are comparing apples to apples in the sense that two tops are made with a similar level of construction and fabric quality, what separates one price level from another are the details. Better quality brands take the time to pay attention to the small features that help a product sell.
  • Many manufactures are including shapers in their clothing, whether it is a mesh panel or a wide waist band with extra smoothing qualities, these additions are going to help the garment flatter your body better.
  • Consider also things like tabbed sleeves, reversible neck lines, and reversible prints, or multifunction pieces as all of these features will give you multiple ways to wear the item or an option that looks better on you.
  • Also, look for embellishments like extra layers, fringed hems, bra friendly straps, seaming details, embroidery, etc. Things like buttons can also be a good indicator of quality.
  • Does the clothing item have unusual buttons like wooden or brushed metal? I happen to love buttons and have seen how they can really add style to an item when they are unusual or of a higher quality material.

Hopefully, this list will help you to begin to notice small differences in clothing items. Believe me, small differences add up. And when how you look really matters, quality matters! It is worth your money to get the best quality you can afford. You will be happier with the item and it will last longer than its less expensive option.

You can watch me cover this topic live in my Wednesday Wardrobing Series in our VIP Facebook group. These videos air each Wednesday at 6ish.