Book Review: Take a load off with Laundry Love, a helpful, personal guide

May 8, 2021 | Terri Schlichenmeyer
Book Review: Take a load off with Laundry Love, a helpful, personal guide

Tomorrow's outfit is on a chair over there.

That's where it's been since you last washed it. What you wore today came from the basket. The shirt needed ironing, and there was a tiny stain on the pants, but who noticed? And you just bought new socks, so at least there's that.

Time to do the wash? Yeah, but first get a load of Laundry Love by Patric Richardson (with Karin B. Miller).

If you're thinking that a book about the joy of washing clothes would be a mighty skinny book, you're right - but laundry is only a part of this story. The rest is biography, and a love letter to Appalachain and Southern women. In giving props to the women who raised him, Richardson shows how his interest in fabric grew, too - the subject of textiles, perceived as mundane by many, is treated as something precious and accessible.

In one of his earliest memories, Richardson's uncle holds him aloft so that he can watch laundry swimming in the washer. He was almost a baby then, but the fascination was set: at age three, he was "over the moon" when he received a toy washing machine as a birthday gift. He remembers that it was Harvest Gold.

Growing up, Richardson absorbed washday secrets from an extended family of women and learned the appeal of laundry hung on a line outside. At the University of Kentucky, he met three pro-fessors who taught him about textiles, and his employers educated him further. Love of fabric eventually became his career and laundry is his love language: "Caring for your loved ones' clothes shows them love."

If, on the other hand, you come for the biography, you'll be glad you stayed for the hints, as Richardson instructs how even the most delicate items can be safely home-cleaned. That fur you love? Clean. That stinky-perfumed vintage item you found? Clean. Ahhhhhhh.

The first thing to know, Richardson states, is that "our clothes are bossy." If something you enjoy wearing says "Dry Clean Only" on the label, lay it on the kitchen counter, grab a pair of scissors, and cut that label off, because "anything can be washed at home."

You'll also learn how to save time on wash day, why big-brand-name detergents are unsafe, and what you need to care for your clothes properly, not to mention how to iron, eliminate horrible stains, wash woolens and other awkward-to-clean items, and rescue yellowed linens and special-event clothing like a pro.

Remember, says Richardson: "You don't have to do laundry - you get to do laundry."

These days, though, Richardson doesn't "get to" very often. His husband, he says, does their wash, while Richardson runs a clothing store and offers "laundry camp" at the Mall of America. But since not everyone can be a happy camper, there's Laundry Love.

So pick up the undies in the corner, use Grandma's linens, shop thrift-stores with impunity. Go ahead, free of fear. Having Laundry Love should take a load off your mind.

LAUNDRY LOVE: FINDING JOY IN A COMMON CHORE
PATRIC RICHARDSON WITH KARIN B. MILLER
Flatiron Books
$25.99 / $34.99 Canada
185 pages