the business of laundry: major myths revealed
Laundry is a business. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about millennial’s reluctance to use fabric softener (an outdated practice in today’s world of high-quality fabrics and efficient detergents and machines) and how P+G plans on changing that. In 2016, laundry detergent sales accounted for 232.3 million USD and this year sales of washers and dryers are expected to exceed 17 million. To keep up these sales, myths around washing laundry have evolved to keep consumers needing and buying these things. Here are three major myths to watch out for:
Myth #1: Wash your clothes after one wear
First off, you don’t need to wash your clothes every time you wear them. No, you’re not dirty if you wear your clothes a second or even fourth time. In fact, some jeans aren’t meant to be washed — ever. Raw denim is made to be worn in by the wearer, not the washing machine. The end result is a totally custom pair of pants that are worn out to fit all of the curves and bends of your unique body. The way you clean raw denim is by putting it in the freezer, this will kill all the bacteria. This technique can be applied to all denim, and any other clothing you want to clean without washing.
Myth #2: Follow the detergent instructions
The next myth is about the suggested amount of detergent to use listed on the box. About ⅕ of the suggested amount is needed, maybe even less! How do we know this? We have worked in commercial wash houses. No, a commercial wash house is not a laundromat. It is where clothes and fabrics receive wet processing and can also be laundered before they get to the consumer. Wet processing involves everything from a color tint being added to give a fabric more dimension, or maybe some enzymes are used to break down a fabric in order to give it a vintage look, or maybe it just needs a good rinse to get all the production grime off. Detergents are strong, and at a certain point, you don’t get any more cleaning benefit the more you add. Use less, a lot less, and we promise your clothes will still be clean.
Myth #3: Follow “Dry Celan Only” labels
Lastly, we have the issue of dry clean only, which doesn’t always actually mean dry clean only. A top sitting in your closet that reads dry clean only, might be just fine washed as normal. How is this possible? Clothing companies (especially small ones) use dry clean only as a way to get around paying for wash testing and to excuse themselves of liability during the home laundering process. Basically, your top could be totally fine on a regular wash and dry cycle, but you have been dry cleaning it because of a labeling loophole that saves the company money. This practice is actually illegal, but completely unregulated. The companies doing this are not necessarily evil. Maybe they are small, starting out, and don’t have the funds for full testing for correct labeling, or maybe they just don’t know any better. The dry clean industry uses some pretty terrible chemicals, that often seep into soil and groundwater so using this process as little as possible, if at all, is best.