Most of your "Dry Clean Only" clothes can actually be washed at home. You just need the right products. The Laundress is the 15-year-old company recently acquired by Unilever that's making these safe, highly effective detergents and fabric care products. Each highly concentrated bottle is filled with toxin-free and plant-based ingredients that deliver more value per wash than traditional detergents. You can wash your everyday fabrics, delicates, and even wool and cashmere without a worry. We're also big fans of its stain-removing bar soap.
No matter what material your clothes are made of or how carefully you wash them, maintaining them to look and feel brand new seems like a challenge no one is ever able to surmount.
We've come to accept that the stains of life — sweat, everyday dirt and grime, wine, baby burps, and more — are inevitable, but removing the evidence is a task less easy to swallow as we get our daily arm workouts scrubbing vigorously in the sink, encounter washing machine mishaps, and schlepping armfuls of clothing to the dry cleaners.
A few years ago, we discovered the power of a $6, 2-ounce magic-in-a-bar stain remover from a company called The Laundress and it gave us hope that the nice clothing we've spent hundreds of dollars on will really last a lifetime.
Founded in 2004, The Laundress makes highly effective, eco-friendly detergent and fabric care products for the clothing you thought you could only let the dry cleaners handle. It was recently acquired by Unilever, which will only help accelerate its mission of "taking the chore out of doing laundry."
We're not surprised The Laundress caught the eye of the consumer goods giant because its products work beautifully at cleaning while doing better things for both your body and the environment. From food to beauty, shoppers are more concerned than ever about how their purchases will impact them and the world around them, but they still want the products to work well.
The founders of The Laundress, Lindsey Boyd and Gwen Whiting, first met at Cornell University's Fiber Science, Textile and Apparel Management and Design program. Both went on to careers in luxury fashion, Boyd as a US sales manager at Chanel Ready-to-Wear, and Whiting as a senior designer at Ralph Lauren.
Their specialized knowledge of all things fabric and garments, plus their frustration with toxic cleaning products and ineffective natural ones, put them in the perfect position to bring change to the laundry market.
Knowing that 90% of "Dry Clean Only" items are actually washable, they developed powerful cleaning formulas that can take care of fabrics like cashmere and wool, as well as everyday cotton, linen, and blends without ruining them. The formulas don't resort to harsh and harmful ingredients to be effective. They're free of ammonia, chlorine bleach, dyes and colorants, perchloroethylene (a chemical solvent often used by professional dry cleaners), parabens, phthalates, and VOCs.
Instead, you'll find ingredients like oxygenated bleach, which is gentler, safer, and just as effective as chlorine bleach; enzymes like cellulase, lipase, and mannanase, which quickly break down soil and stains; plant-based grease-cutting agents; biodegradable surfectants made from coconut and sugar to help dissolve dirt and stains; and natural essential oils to lend a light, fresh scent to your clothing.
Some Laundress products we recommend are the Delicate Wash, Signature Detergent, and Sport Detergent. These 16-ounce bottles are highly concentrated and should last 32 washes, giving you more value and less waste per wash. Fabrics that you thought you couldn't confidently wash yourself, like silk or performance fabrics, will stay preserved with each wash.
My experience using the detergents:
Long hesitant to buy more wool and cashmere clothing simply due to their tricky care process, I was most excited to try the Wool & Cashmere Shampoo on my favorite soft sweaters and coats. I lightly hand-washed the wool and cashmere items with the shampoo, let them soak, and dried them on a rack. They kept their shape and came out softer than I ever remembered, plus they had a light cedar scent (which also happens to keep moths away).
The convenient thing is that you can use the products for hand-washing or any laundry machine at any water temperature, so you don't have to juggle a handful of different care instructions for every load of laundry. Putting aside time to do laundry is enough of a nuisance, but The Laundress makes the chore seamless, and our clothes look like they got the professional dry cleaner treatment without the high cost or harmful chemicals.
The aforementioned Wash & Stain Bar that multiple Insider Picks members swear by is another secret to vanquishing the realities of coffee spills and makeup stains. This vegetable soap is excellent for spot treating and pre-wash prep. Since it's small, you can carry it wherever you go in case a stain disaster ever strikes.
The bottom line:
The Laundress has also succeeded in making laundry and cleaning glamorous and sophisticated — something the category has never been described as. With its minimalist designs and Le Labo partnership that have landed it in the shelves of luxury department stores, it's making shoppers excited to do their laundry.
Shop The Laundress cleaning products at Amazon, Target, Nordstrom, or Shopbop.
SEE ALSO: The best cleaning products for kitchen and laundry appliances you can buy
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