This Laundry Expert Never Uses Laundry Detergent—Instead, He Recommends Something Even Better

published Jan 25, 2024
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Doing laundry seems like one of the most straightforward household chores. Just separate your clothes in a laundry hamper, toss them into the correct wash cycle (or hand wash them), and add your desired dose of detergent. It’s all standard practice—unless you’re laundry expert Patric Richardson.

Richardson has a lot of unique (and effective!) philosophies for taking care of his garments: He does laundry a lot less frequently than most people, he washes delicate and dry clean-only clothes in his washing machine, and most notably, he never uses standard laundry detergent. Instead, he opts for gentle laundry soap. 

Why Laundry Soap is Better Than Laundry Detergent

Richardson says the two products are manufactured differently, so they yield different results. “Detergent is synthetic—it’s basically just a bunch of cleaning agents stirred up in a drum, with petroleum or other oil additives,” he says. “The process of making soap is simpler and more natural. You take an oil and add an acid, and you have a gentle cleaning agent.”

Since soap has fewer ingredients and is less oily, it thoroughly rinses out from your clothes better than detergent—which is another reason Richardson prefers it. “Soap rinses completely clean, so even if you overuse it, you won’t have residue on your clothes,” he says. “On the other hand, detergents are manufactured with more oil to hold fragrance, so they coat your clothes with a grimy coating.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Speaking of grimy coating: If you’ve ever seen those famous laundry stripping videos on TikTok, Richardson says detergent itself is the most likely culprit for the dirty wash water that’s left behind. Gross, right? Instead, he says, swap your detergent for soap, which will help your clothes get cleaner and stay cleaner. “The oil in detergent traps the grime in your washing machine, so even if your clothes smell clean, they won’t truly be clean unless you’re using soap,” he says.

Transitioning to laundry soap from normal detergent can be a bit of an investment. For example, Richardson’s laundry soap flakes cost $26, while the average detergent can be half that price. But it could be worth the investment: You’ll end up using a lot less product (soap doesn’t contain water or additives), and your clothes will stay in better shape since you’re not coating them in gross oil every time you wash it. Plus, since it’s not as harsh, you can use laundry soap on more delicate materials like cashmere and silk.

“I like to tell people using soap is like buying high-quality shampoo at the salon: It’s pricier, but it lasts longer and it’s healthier for your hair,” Richardson says.

Ready to take the leap to protect your wardrobe with a gentler alternative? The best move, Richardson says, is just to start. You don’t have to strip your clothes or do anything special to your washing machine—over time, the soap will wash out all the gunk. “I don’t think the switch has to be this drastic transition, like going on a diet and throwing out all the cookies in your house,” he says. “Just make the switch, and after a few washes, your clothes will be a lot cleaner.”

Ready to make the switch? Here are some laundry soaps you can try out at home:

This post was originally published on Apartment Therapy. Read it there: This Laundry Expert Never Uses Laundry Detergent — Here’s Why