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.

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