Patric Richardson is betting he can make you see laundry not as a chore you tolerate—perhaps hate—but “something you enjoy, look forward to, maybe even love.” His book, “Laundry Love, Finding Joy in a Common Chore,” and Discovery+ series, “The Laundry Guy,” both launching this month, go so far as to argue clothes-washing can be fun.
Mr. Richardson runs what he calls a laundry camp from his boutique, Mona Williams, which has locations in St. Paul and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. The shop began as a vintage designer-clothing store but expanded into selling luxury cleaning products and offering free laundry classes as shoppers sought help in caring for their clothes. At laundry camp, attendees learn to “wash the unwashable,” he says, like wedding dresses and business suits.
Laundry, like cooking, could be elevated from task to hobby, if only it were more openly talked about and celebrated, Mr. Richardson says. “So many people are closeted laundry lovers. And it’s hysterical because they hush their tone when they tell me,” he says. “I tell them, ‘Sweetie, you need to shout that loud and proud—there’s no reason to hide.’”
Below, Mr. Richardson on the stains that still thwart him, why he hates fabric softener and how to clean a wool coat in a washing machine. Edited excerpts:
How did you fall in love with laundry?
One of my earliest memories is handing clothespins to my granny. When I was three years old, Santa brought me a toy washing machine. As I got older I wanted to be in control of my wardrobe and started doing my own laundry. At college I had a student budget but a dry-clean-only wardrobe. I figured out how to wash it thanks to one of my professors. Then I went to work for Neiman Marcus, so I had my hands on some of the most beautiful fabrics that existed. I found that the best way to care for Loro Piana cashmere was to wash it, so it keeps that loft and that sense of luxury.
How can people begin to see laundry as a love affair, not a never-ending chore?
All they have to do is get the right tools and change their mindset. The second you think it is fun, it’s fun. You have to have horsehair brushes and put together a good stain kit: a spray bottle of vinegar and water (for stains) a spray bottle of vodka (for odor) and a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol (for spot-cleaning). Then you need oxygen bleach and a good detergent or soap. I prefer soap to detergent. You spend money on your clothes so spend a little money on your soap.
Has the pandemic changed the way we do laundry?
It brought people back to taking care of the home, and part of that is laundry. You put on your favorite podcast or disco album and realize it is fun to do. And parents realized their children could help. The pandemic reminded us that things needed to be clean, but it also gave us time to slow down and realize we can do these things while enjoying them.
In your book you say you hate fabric softener and dryer sheets more than squirrels and mosquitoes. Why?
The whole reason you buy fluffy white cotton towels, a black cashmere sweater or silk pajamas is because you love the feeling of them. Fabric softener creates a coating that’s artificially soft. I want cotton to feel like cotton.
Do you ever get pushback from the makers of fabric softener or dryer sheets?
I haven’t yet but I expect it any day.
Why should we stop using the dryer and hang our clothes outdoors instead?
It cuts down on energy usage, which is great, but the bigger reason is that it helps clothes last longer. That lint is your clothes slowly dying. Also, when your clothes hang outside you get that heavenly scent.
What’s your worst stain nemesis?
Lipstick or barbecue sauce. I can do it, but it’s a multi-step process. In my book I’ve refined getting most stains out into one or two steps. I can get rid of barbecue sauce and lipstick, but it takes five or six minutes instead of 30 seconds.
For some people, odor is a bigger laundry challenge than stains. What’s your advice, especially for cleaning workout clothes?
Odor is a problem because of polyester. Polyester is one of the most awesome things that’s ever been created but it has one problem that we’ve never overcome: It’s hydrophobic so it hates water and it is oleophilic so it loves all the oil from your skin and the sweat that’s stuck in that oil. One trip through the washer with oxygen bleach and the odor will be gone. It is color-safe so your black yoga pants and a black yoga jacket that smell like a locker room will smell like summer. It’s so easy.
Newer washing machines have many settings. What do you recommend?
I only use the express cycle. Your clothes will come clean. If you use really good soap and stain removers, your clothes will be clean and ready in 30 minutes. You just don’t need a two-hour sanitary cycle.
In your book you say a washing machine can safely launder a wool coat or business suit. Please tell us how.
Easy. I roll it up and shove it into a mesh bag really tightly so that it’s like a sausage. I toss it in a washing machine and wash it on the express cycle with warm water and a cold rinse. I use soap, never detergent. When I take it out of the washer I hang it up and steam it. Having the mesh bag very tight [around the garment] is crucial. Felting, or shrinking, happens when wool is allowed to rub against itself. If you pack it in a bag so tightly that it can’t move, it can’t felt. The water will still move through it and get it clean.
Is there a final frontier of laundry challenges that you hope to conquer?
Stains that have been around for 70 or 80 years. I can get them 95% out, but the fabric is so old and fragile. If the fabric was brand new I could get those stains 100% out. At estate sales I see these stains on vintage napkins and old quilts that I love. I’m also hesitant to tackle stains on leather.
Why is it a mistake to pretreat a stain with dish soap?
There is so much technology in dish soap now. It’s become so acidic that it will remove the stain but will mar the fabric.
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