Laundry stains have met their match.
Meet Patric Richardson, the self-proclaimed “Evangelist of Laundry” and star of the new series “The Laundry Guy,” premiering March 31 on Discovery+ (with a onetime airing at 9 p.m. on HGTV). The series is filled with plenty of tips on how to pre-treat, wash, hang dry and properly fold all that laundry. But there are also the stories behind the people and the items themselves — everything from wedding gowns to baby blankets to vintage clothing.
Born and raised in the eastern Kentucky foothills of Appalachian Mountains, Richardson began his love of all things laundry at the age of 2 ½, during the times spent with his grandmother in the small town of Grayson, Kentucky.
“My granny used to drive to Columbus, Ohio, to shop. And she would buy these beautiful clothes. And when she was young there were no dry cleaners in town. So she figured out how to wash things that weren’t washable,” Richardson recalls during a recent phone chat. “And that kind of got me started, because one of my earliest memories [of doing laundry] was handing her clothespins because she would hang everything on the clothesline.”
Richardson went on to study apparel, merchandising and textiles at University of Kentucky, quickly discovering that a college student’s budget left little funds for dry cleaning. Ultimately one of his professors gave him a life-changing revelation, telling Richardson, “you know, all that stuff is washable.”
Jobs at Neiman Marcus and as a manager and buyer of designer apparel at Nordstrom exposed Richardson to the world’s most luxurious fabrics and labels. Eventually, he opened a designer resale store, where he also sold a detergent he created to specifically wash the vintage haute couture. He says if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a laundry soap, don’t buy it. “Plant-based detergents are the best.”
His customer base became increasingly focused on how best to care for their purchases — including the dreaded “dry clean only” ones — as well as their existing closet inventory. This led to weekly “laundry camps”— part social gatherings, part wash-day tips — or as he calls them: an evening of “clean clothes and dirty martinis.”
When asked, Richardson is happy to debunk some of the most popular laundry myths.
Silk and wool: “Cashmere goats stand on mountainsides in the snow and the rain. Same with sheep; farmers will shear them and wash the wool, comb it.
“Silk is the second strongest fabric known to man. (Snail’s teeth from the European limpet snails are the strongest natural material in the world, he reveals.) It’s very durable, that’s why they make parachutes from it. If you want to wash it by hand that’s fine, but I recommend putting it in a mesh laundry/lingerie bag from the dollar store and throwing it in the washer on warm water.”
Water temperature: “Never use cold, even on silk or wool. Warm is warm enough to activate the detergent, but it allows you to speed up the process. The thing that is scariest about the washing machine isn’t the water, it’s the abrasion. That’s what really causes your problems. If you bring up the water temperature you can shorten the cycle. Express on warm is so much better for your clothes than cold with a long cycle. … You’d be surprised how much less water you use and how much less energy.”
Pre-soaking: “I am not a fan,” he says. “I treat the stain and then I wash.”
Dryer versus hang-drying: “Hang dry everything. The abrasion in the dryer will ruin your clothes.”
So what are his must-have tools of the trade? Vinegar, vodka, oxygen bleach, mild soap and a horsehair brush.
Never blot a stain, especially on upholstery or rugs. But if you must, use vodka.
“Vodka is a great stain remover,” Richardson says. “Ever come home from a restaurant still smelling like the cuisine, or been somewhere people are smoking or around a campfire? Spray yourself with a mist of vodka from a spray bottle and the odors will disappear. It’s also great on car seats. It dries fast, is odorless and colorless and leaves no water ring.”
And when to do laundry?
“I’ve turned into my mom,” he says chuckling. I do laundry once a week.”
On Mondays, no doubt.
Richardson’s first book, “Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore” (with Karin B. Miller, Flatiron Books) comes out March 30 and features his “revolutionary methods” for doing laundry and how to have fun doing it.