The “Marie Kondo of Laundry” Shares 8 Ways You Can Learn to Love Washing Clothes

published Apr 1, 2021
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Credit: Brittany Purlee

Patric Richardson wants you to love laundry day. The “laundry evangelist” has just released his first book, Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore, where he passes along laundry lessons with his signature wit and warmth and is about to do the same on a new Discovery+ TV show, The Laundry Guy. (He’s even been called the Marie Kondo of laundry!)

“Something I always say is that you get to do laundry, you don’t have to do laundry,” Richardson told Apartment Therapy. “The reality is, it’s a privilege to do your laundry and to do it so easily.”

While we’re incredibly fortunate that laundry day in 2021 does not include a board and wringer like it did for our great-great-grandparents, that doesn’t make it feel less like a chore. However, Richardson is here to change that, and with a few simple hacks, tweaks, and wash day knowledge, you too can learn to love the laundry.

Jazz up your space.

For Richardson, making laundry day something you look forward to is all about mindset — he even recommends hanging a disco ball in your laundry space to jazz the place up and make it feel like a club, not a chore. If your washer and dryer are in a cold, dark basement, don’t hesitate to DIY a warmer, happier space; it can be as simple as changing out a lightbulb or as advanced as hanging some bright wallpaper. 

“Fix up your space a little bit — get a lamp, make it comfortable,” Richardson says. “Take 10 or 15 minutes and bring yourself some creature comforts. If that means going to the laundry room with a drink, music you love, a podcast, whatever it is — take it with you! I always have a Diet Coke with me.”

If you do your laundry in a shared space, Richardson recommends taking a book and even a favorite throw blanket in case you get cold. “Make yourself comfortable and make it feel good before you start,” he says.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Gather your supplies.

Much like the scout’s motto, laundry success is all about being prepared. Richardson recommends making sure you’ve got all your essential supplies together when it’s time to start the washing machine; keep your kit easily accessible and make sure that every item in it stays there and doesn’t travel to the kitchen or the bathroom. If you have to buy or make duplicates, do it and save yourself the stress of hunting down your vinegar spray.

“Make it easy!” he says, adding that his perfect kit contains laundry flakes, a laundry soap bar, oxygen bleach, a few horsehair brushes for stain removal, wool dryer balls, and three separate spray bottles of 50 percent water and 50 percent vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and vodka. Both vodka and vinegar are great for removing odors, and rubbing alcohol works wonders as a spot cleaner. “From there, you can customize it and trick it out.” Your kit may be more simple than his, depending on your laundry needs, but it’s all about having what you need within reach for the ultimate easy laundry session.

Think of the end result.

So you got lipstick or spaghetti sauce on your favorite cashmere sweater. Don’t dread the process of removing your mistake — reframe it as a fun challenge, and think of how satisfied you’ll be when that nasty stain is just a memory. “There’s a sense of immediate satisfaction,” says Richardson. “You treat the stain and five minutes later, it’s gone and you have fluffy, clean clothes. It’s fun!” Besides, there’s nothing better than slipping into a bed made with fresh, crisp sheets at the end of a long day.

Make laundry a family affair.

One of Richardson’s first memories is helping his grandmother in Kentucky hang clothes on the line. “It’s built-in quality time,” he says of getting the family involved. Have your children help sort or fold, and talk as you work. “You can have meaningful time with your children… it’s a great time to share your values.” Not only are they learning a skill they’ll require in the future, they’re spending quality time with you and lending a helping hand.

Richardson recommends using laundry day to give your kids positive reinforcement; you can also share knowledge about certain fabrics and why you prefer them, or tell stories about your own favorite garments. It’s also a wonderful way to show them the positive side of chores. “There’s a great lesson in the act of service for people you love,” he says. “You do laundry for people you love, and the idea that you do nice things for [your parent] is a good lesson.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Maximize your time.

The 30-minute wash cycle is my number one hack,” Richardson says. “You don’t need longer than that. If you use warm water and the 30-minute cycle, your clothes are clean.” He’s all about efficiency when it comes to laundry, and preaches the gospel of “warm water, cold rinse, express wash, fast spin” for almost every load, even higher-maintenance fabrics like cashmere and wool.

According to Richardson, making laundry fun and easy is all in how you sort and treat your clothes, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll save tons of time. Pre-treat any stains before you wash, not before you throw the item in the laundry basket. “When you take your clothes off at the end of the day and the baby is crying and you need to make dinner, you don’t have time to pre-treat [a stain] and you’re not in the frame of mind to pre-treat it,” he says. “Wait until you’re ready to do it and then just do it. That makes it so much easier.” 

When it comes to sorting, Richardson advises dividing up clothes into five different piles, regardless of the item’s purpose: whites, blacks, cool colors, warm colors, and activewear. Your favorite leggings and running shorts, for example, may be irritated by other fabrics and should be laundered separately to preserve their stretch, reduce pilling, and care for their unique fabric.  “Don’t be one of those people who’s like, ‘Oh, I have to wash towels separately!’” he says. “Don’t make all those piles. Get them clean and move on.” 

Richardson also adds that laundry day is the perfect time to multitask — or get some much-needed quiet time. “Take your computer to the laundry room while the wash is going and write the Great American Novel,” he jokes. “Tell your family you’re going to the laundry room and they won’t follow you! If you need time away, that’s the spot to go.”

Set your own schedule.

There’s no firm rule that you have to do laundry once a week, so let go of the pressure of holding yourself to a routine. “In the book, I say, ‘Don’t let your clothes be the boss of you. Don’t let the care label tell you what to do,’” Richardson recounts. “The same holds true with how often you do it.” He advises buying an extra set of sheets and towels to give yourself some wiggle room, especially if you live alone and want to put the laundry off just a few more days.

Plus, as Richardson adds, we tend to do too much laundry, and it’s not necessary to launder your jeans every time you wear them. “It’s totally OK to wear something more than once,” he says. “We overwash our clothes and it’s gross. It’s not good for the clothes, the environment, or your pocketbook.”

Invest in quality products — and know which products to use when.

“Laundry soap is not one size fits all. Learn what to use and use it,” Richardson says. For example, when washing your yoga leggings or running tights, you must use oxygen bleach to kill any odors or stains. If you have a baby, he recommends adding baking soda to every load to boost the cleaning power. Baking soda is an inexpensive and effective way to fight stains and odors, whiten whites, and soften fabrics, but it’s still gentle enough for your precious bundle of joy.

When it comes to products, there are thousands of blends, scents, and stain fighting-power promises to choose from, but Richardson advises investing in quality products. “My laundry flakes, which I formulated myself, are $22 a pound, but they do 90 loads of laundry,” he shares. “Quality products last a long time. I don’t think they’re that much more expensive, but they’re that much more effective. If you buy a less expensive detergent but you have to buy four stain boosters, that’s not any cheaper.” Figure out what laundry products are essential to you and spend your cash there, then round out your core kit with inexpensive mixes like vinegar and water or the aforementioned baking soda. (Is there anything baking soda can’t do?)

Embrace it.

You can’t escape the reality of laundry, so you might as well embrace it! “There’s one thing I’ve learned about laundry: it’s inevitable,” Richardson says. “If you decide to slow down and enjoy it like it’s anything else … it’s fun!”