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Top tips for doing laundry, from a pro who enjoys washing and ironing (really)

Is your washing machine running 24/7 in the pandemic? Patric Richardson has suggestions for making sure you're doing it right

By The Washington Post | September 17, 2020 | Category

Image: Victoria Borodinova/Pexels
Image: Victoria Borodinova/Pexels

Patric Richardson makes doing laundry sound like a blast. He doesn't think laundering his merino sweaters in the washer in mesh bags is a chore, and he actually enjoys ironing, sometimes with a disco soundtrack in the background.

Richardson, who says he learned most things about washing and ironing from his mother and grandmother, shares his tips at His day job is running the Mona Williams boutique at the Mall of America, which sells designer resale, vintage fashion and his favourite products for caring for clothing. He also holds Laundry Camp events throughout the year for those who want extra help. His book, "Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore," written with Karin B. Miller, will be out next March.

Because we all seem to be doing more laundry during the pandemic, it's a good time for a refresher on how to care for clothes and bedding.

"People are concerned about properly washing the clothes and masks they are wearing out in the world," Richardson says. "They don't want to go to the dry cleaner where they used to take their shirts. So they are focusing on taking care of their clothing at home."

He says that, similar to baking, doing laundry is part of society's new focus inward on the home and what goes on there. "Before, many people just threw stuff into their washer and turned it on. Now, they want to know the best way to do this so they can do the job better."

Richardson recently appeared on The Washington Post's webchat to discuss doing laundry. Here are edited excerpts with some of his most helpful information.

Q: My husband works in the emergency room and wears black scrubs to work every day. What's the best way to keep them from fading?

A: First of all, thank you to your husband; that has to be tough these days. Wash them in express wash to minimize the amount of time they are abrading against themselves. Use warm water to get them clean, and if you are concerned about them being sterile, oxygen bleach (sodium percarbonate is the active ingredient you want to look for) is very effective and is colour safe.

Q: Can you list some of your favourite laundry products that we should have in our cabinets?

A: My favourite products are soap flakes and oxygen bleach. Then I would list white vinegar, rubbing alcohol and vodka. Spend a little more to get the soap flakes, and then use the vinegar or rubbing alcohol as your stain removers. The vodka will freshen fabrics between wearings. (It even removes cigarette smoke.)

Q: Over time, the bottom sheets of my fine white cotton sets become yellowish. What is the best way to handle this? I have heard bleach is not the best way. Is there really a time when a white sheet should be "retired"?

A: I don't want to retire sheets; they get so soft and cozy. Bleach is not the way, because it makes the yellowing worse. The best option is oxygen bleach. It will cut the oil out of the sheets without wrecking the color. The other trick is warm water and express wash with less detergent. If all of this fails, use the tiniest bit of bluing.

Q: I've been putting our masks in a mesh bag and washing them with our regular laundry. Should I be doing them separately on delicate? Should I use hot water?

A: This is exactly what I do at home. Make sure you're using a good detergent or soap. You want to ensure that they rinse completely clean, because they're next to your face, which can be more sensitive. A fun trick: If you want to make sure they're safe without washing, hold them over a pot of boiling water (with tongs) until they're damp. It's steam-cleaning at its finest.

Q: I do all of my laundry with the tap-water setting, and I use liquid laundry detergent. Should I be using hot water for towels and/or sheets?

A: I always use warm. Sometimes the tap isn't warm enough, but I never use hot, because it can damage the thread that holds the towels and sheets together. The cotton can stand the heat, but the polyester thread that sews them together cannot. This is why your towels sometimes pucker at the seams. Use less detergent, and never use fabric softener or dryer sheets for your towels; this will make them the most absorbent.

Feature Image: Victoria Borodinova/Pexels

This originally appeared on The Washington Post | Author: Jura Koncius