Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GREEN SWAP Q+A:
Gwen and Lindsey of The Laundress

From www.thehaystackneedleonline.com

I love The Laundress. And sure it's nice that their green detergents are packaged in chic black + white striped recyclable bottles, but it's how their dye-free detergents work that's made me a Laundress devotee for years. I won't use anything else to wash my cashmere + wool sweaters and my two pair of jeans (that cost a fortune but fit great) still have their prime dark finish as I wash them with The Laundress Denim Wash (then hang dry.) The Laundress line is green beyond what's in the bottle: recyclable bottle 1 (most recyclable), plant-based ingredients, and 3x concentrated for a smaller carbon footprint with freight.

Gwen and Lindsey started The Laundress five years ago — both coming from a background in the apparel world (Gwen worked at Ralph Lauren and Lindsey worked at Chanel.) Their cashmere was getting ruined at the dry cleaners. Woolite was the only alternative, and it's not made of the best ingredients (in fact sometimes Woolite can strip cashmere of color.) Gwen and Lindsey were educated in textiles at Cornell, and they found the proper way to care for textiles is through handwashing or machine-washing. In the process of trying to find the best ingredients for their detergents, they found that plant-based ingredients are better than the synthetic petroleum-based ingredients most often used in laundry detergents. (In fact, many people think they're allergic to the fragrance in their laundry detergent but it's often a reaction to the cheap artificial ingredients found in standard laundry detergents.)

Why do The Laundress detergents work so well? Gwen + Lindsey have put a higher concentration of active ingredients in their line. They use four different enzymes in their main detergents. Enzymes break down food on clothing, but they're expensive to buy — Woolite doesn't have any enzymes. Their Wool + Cashmere shampoo was their first product, and it's still their bestseller. The label on your cashmere likely says "dry clean only", but you can care for your cashmere at home. Their Cashmere shampoo is shampoo-based, so it's very gentle on the hair or yarn of the cashmere and brings out the natural oils of the cashmere. (Dry cleaning strips your cashmere of its oils so it never comes back feeling as soft.) There are no enzymes in the Wool and Cashmere shampoo because that can be damaging to cashmere.

Their Denim Wash works so well because it has a softener and color guard. The softener prevents stiffness for when you hang dry and the color guard helps preserve the dye. The Laundress — and other green detergents— use canola oil or other plant-based oils. One of the most disturbing things I learned in doing laundry research was that traditional fabric softeners, like Snuggle, use animal fat (tallow) as their softening agent. Ick!!

Here's more from Gwen + Lindsey on how they've made green changes in their lifestyle.

1. Three simple ways you've gone greener in your everyday life:
-We recycle all our boxes here at the Laundress
- We use a water cooler to cut down the usage of plastic bottles
- We also use hand towels and not paper towels
- We use real dishes and cutlery when we eat here to cut down on the use of plastic cups, forks and plates.

2. Last green purchase:
Reusable water bottles

3. One green initiative you'd like to see enacted in your own community:
More commercial and office buildings having recycle programs available to their tenants. Most NYC buildings don't have this in place and we need a recycling resource. Also, a more user friendly and efficient way to get filtered water in your home to reduce the plastic bottles we all buy in NY.

4. Best green gift you've given, received, or coveted:
Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo has been given, received and coveted by many including Gwen and myself. This product is helping towards eliminating our exposure to harsh chemicals from the dry cleaning and creating less waste by preserving your item overtime. [more on dry cleaning and green alternatives later this week!]

5. Hardest habit to break to be more eco-friendly:
When you adopt a greener lifestyle, it is easy to accept over time. It becomes part of your nature. I guess, keeping to our no bottled water rule. It is very tempting on a hot day just to stop somewhere and buy it, but the penalty is much worse than the quick water fix.

6. How you want to be greener this year:
Use less plastic bags, always remember my reusable Laundress shoppers with grocery shopping.
Thanks so much to Gwen + Lindsey for being a part of Green Swap!!

Friday, April 24, 2009


As Eco-Seals Proliferate, So Do Doubts
By: Gwendolyn Bounds
Thursday, April 2, 2009


It's too easy to be green.

Recently, Kevin Owsley went searching for a reputable organization that could validate the eco-friendly traits of his company's carpet-cleaning fluid. But after canvassing a dozen competing groups hawking so-called "green certification" services -- including one online outfit that awarded him an instant green diploma, no questions asked -- he grew disillusioned about how meaningful any endorsement would be to his customers.

"If you want green certification bad enough, you can get it," says Mr. Owsley, owner of Cleanpro USA LLC, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that franchises carpet and upholstery cleaning businesses. "I joke and say, 'I could buy some of these companies a case of beer, and they'd give us a certification.' I'm very frustrated by that."

As green marketing has proliferated, so has the number of "eco-labels" competing to be the environmental equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. According to the Web site ecolabelling.org, there are more than 300 such labels putting a green stamp on everything from cosmetics and seafood to bird-friendly coffee.

Timber to make wood products is graded by a host of groups -- among them the Forest Stewardship Council, the American Tree Farm System and the Tropical Forest Foundation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency itself awards multiple eco designations, while a sea of smaller entities can be found operating online under names such as greenbiznow.com, societyofgreenbusiness.com and begreencertified.com.

Some label programs, such as those run by the Forest Stewardship Council and other well-known certification groups -- including Washington-based Green Seal and Ottawa-based EcoLogo -- require independent verification of product manufacturers' green claims. But many others don't, partly because of cost and manpower, they say.

The result: increasing confusion among consumers about the veracity of green marketing promises and a growing sense that the federal government may need to take a stronger role in shaping standards people widely recognize and trust. Late last year, for instance, a proposal for a federal "eco-label" program was quietly floated by the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) that would recognize consumer products that are environmentally preferable over others throughout their life cycle.

"A growing number of consumers are interested in making informed choices about the environmental impacts of their purchases -- and I believe the federal government can help," Sen. Feinstein said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. "So, I am working with consumer advocates, manufacturers, distributors, and existing labeling and certification project leaders ... to create an accredited national eco-label program."

The Organic-Food Model
Some advocating a federal role point to organic food as a potential model; under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "National Organic Program," the government now sets labeling and certification standards. But with food, it took decades of competing efforts in the private marketplace and at the state level before the federal government came up with standards and regulations acceptable to the myriad interested parties.

Impatient retailers are now crafting their own labeling programs to help customers buy green. Home Depot Inc. has instituted its own "Eco Options" designation for items such as energy-efficient light bulbs and environmentally friendly paints. Office Depot Inc. rates thousands of products on everything from recycled content to reduced harsh chemical use, and publishes the info online and in a "Green Book" catalog for its largest business customers.

"To date, there is no universal standard on this, and we are trying to make sense of it," says Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy for Office Depot.
At the heart of the dilemma: What does it really mean to be green? Is having some recycled content enough, and if so, how much? Is something biodegradable still green if it travels a thousand miles to reach shelves? And if a green product doesn't perform as well as its nongreen peers, is it really preferable?

Equally important: Who, if anyone, should ensure green claims are valid? A soon-to-be-released study of more than 3,900 consumer products sold in big-box retailers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia found that in every product category, there was "green-washing" -- ranging from outright lying about green claims to simply providing no proof. The study was conducted by TerraChoice Inc., the Ottawa-based environmental-consulting firm that runs the 20-year-old EcoLogo North American certification program.

Rules of the Game
"What it tells me is that it's incredibly understandable why consumers are so confused because no one has stepped up to define the rules of the game," says Scot Case, executive director of the EcoLogo program, which requires independent auditing of the products it certifies. "The U.S. government hasn't said, 'This is what is acceptable environmental labeling' ... and consumers are being duped by meaningless labels while the truly legitimate labels are getting lost amidst the green fog."

Lilly Flanagan, who runs a title-insurance company, recently built a home with her husband on the water in Queens, N.Y., and insisted on using primarily green materials. But she grew frustrated, in part because of a dearth of information from product makers about why wares were dubbed eco-friendly. She eventually ended up patronizing a retailer called Green Depot in Manhattan, which has constructed its own filter system to judge products on multiple criteria, such as toxicity, indoor air quality, water savings and third-party certification.
Green-Label Roadmap

These 15 green-label programs are recognized as good benchmarks by experts and retailers such as Green Depot and Office Depot:
• Green Seal (www.greenseal.org)
• Energy Star (www.energystar.gov)
• EPA Design for the Environment (www.epa.gov/dfe)
• WaterSense (www.epa.gov/watersense)
• Forest Stewardship Council (www.fsc.org)
• Scientific Certification Systems (www.scscertified.com)
• EcoLogo (www.ecologo.org)
• Greenguard (www.greenguard.org)
• Cradle to Cradle (www.c2ccertified.com)
• Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (www.epeat.net)
• Global Organic Textile Standard (www.global-standard.org)
• Biodegradable Products Institute (www.bpiworld.org)
• FloorScore (www.rfci.com)
• Totally Chlorine Free (www.chlorinefreeproducts.org)
• Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label/Green Label Plus (www.carpet-rug.org)
*Source: WSJ research

While happy with her project's outcome, Ms. Flanagan would prefer a universal green seal to make shopping easier. "We can only do so much as a consumer," she says. "The government needs to come up with a stamp and someone needs to check the product, and there needs to be liability if they aren't telling the truth."


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission can take action against unfair or deceptive marketing practices, and it recently has been reviewing guidelines it sets for environmental marketing claims. But the agency's police role is often retroactive -- after products hit the marketplace -- and advocates for a federal eco-label say one possible benefit would be consumers knowing green claims have been pre-checked wherever the seal legitimately appears.

That idea was a cornerstone of the proposal circulated by Sen. Feinstein's office last year. According to one draft, which the senator never officially endorsed, independent certification groups accredited by the government would award a federal eco-seal and check on the validity of claims. The process would be funded by fees paid by companies applying for and awarded the label; misuse could be punishable by fine or court action.

Because such a national imprint could dramatically affect the marketplace, groups representing pesticide and other chemical makers already are on alert. "If there are not parameters based on sound science, a lot of things could have unintended consequences," says Joe Acker, chief executive of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates, a Washington-based trade group. "For one thing, you could end up replacing products in the marketplace that have a long history of efficacy with things that don't."

Consumer Confidence
For now, bolstering consumer confidence is at the forefront of lawmakers' and retailers' labeling efforts. In 2007, for example, Mr. Case of the EcoLogo program bought a refrigerator made by LG Electronics Inc. that bore the Energy Star seal. That meant it was supposed to consume at least 20% less energy than required by federal standards.


Says Mr. Case: "I plug it in, and I feel wonderful because it's going to save me money and reduce my impact on global warming."


However, in February of this year, he received a letter saying his fridge didn't actually qualify for Energy Star status because LG hadn't adhered precisely to the test standards required by the U.S. Department of Energy. Notably, appliance manufacturers currently "self-certify" that they have met Energy Star test requirements. LG agreed to modify affected models and make payments to affected consumers for lost energy savings. But the issue underscored the potential pitfalls of letting product makers vouch for their wares' greenness without independent verification.

That may change. The Energy Department, which runs the program with the EPA, now says that while it believes self-reporting is still the most cost-effective method, "sufficient questions have come to light" to suggest that third-party verification may be necessary to ensure "consumers receive the promised energy savings benefits."


Whatever shape green labeling takes in the future, cost will remain a central issue. The EcoLogo program, which has certified some 7,500 products since its inception in 1988, charges a minimum of $1,200 to $1,500 for initial auditing of green claims and an annual license fee based on a percentage of sales (ranging from $1,200 to a negotiated cap) to use its logo. Mr. Case says the funds are used to maintain the program and to invest in creating new standards, but acknowledges the burden it places on small firms. "For big companies," he says, "that's peanuts; for small ones, it's significant."

Write to Gwendolyn Bounds at wendy.bounds@wsj.com
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D1

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Remember to be green and clean every day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Laundress is on Facebook!
Click here to become a fan...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gwen & Lindsey featured www.washingtonpost.com

Home Front is an online conversation between two Washington Post Home Section writers and their readers about the best way to feather the nest. Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, April 2, with special guest chatters Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber, founders and co-owners of the fabric-care line The Laundress.
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Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. The topic of the week is laundry and we dedicated an entire section to the subject today. And joining us for the chat this morning are Lindsey Wieber and Gwen Whiting, co-founders of The Laundress, a luxury fabric care and specialty detergent line. Lindsay and Gwen are here to answer all of your pressing questions about laundry and Jura and I will be around to answer the rest.
_______________________
Oviedo, Fla.: I got a great deal on a Martha Stewart down alternative comforter - $39/king size! But it says dry clean only - it is all cotton, white on white stripes. I think the dry cleaning would yellow it and I hate the idea of perc near my face all nite. It is carcinogenic. Can't I save money and wash it in a roomy commerical machine, cool water? Help me salvage my bargain!

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You can absolutely wash this item in hot or cold water since it is 100% cotton. I would stay away from the dryer and hang dry if this is an option, or low tumble dry.
_______________________
Springfield, Va.: What can I quickly get around here to avoid moths? I'm sending some clothes to a friend and some boxes won't be opened for a year. I want to put something in the boxes for possible moths.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Be sure to wash everything before you begin storing.
We recommend storing everything in a cotton bag with a zip closure. We have a large laundry zip bag that can be used for long term storage.
Do not use moth balls, Lavender is a great alternative to moth balls and is a natural repellent for moths.
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Washington, D.C.: What is the best way to wash my 100% cotton white sheets? And how do I remove stains? I've tried the standard stain removers, oxygen boosters, non-chlorine bleach without much luck... is chlorine bleach the way to go?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Do not use bleach. What kind of stains are you trying to remove? We have an enzyme based stain solution which is the best for tough soiled areas. The Laundress Stain Solution or any enzyme based remover will work. We soak tough stains. Use hot water when washing cotton sheets. Don't dry or iron if the stains are not removed.
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Canton in Baltimore: I have a hand crocheted beige/coffee colored cotton lace table cloth that has decades old rust stains. It's perfect otherwise but I never use it because of the stains. Is it possible just to bleach the whole thing, let it go to white, and then restain it with coffee?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have been successful with our machine cleaner which we developed to remove rust from irons and steamers.
We removed rust from a white t-shirt. The product will turn yellow and then you have to rinse with warm water and hand wash afterwards with detergent, not Woolite. We cannot guarantee this will work but this is really your only option with rust. Bleach will eat away at the lace and damage it.
_______________________
Greenbelt, Md.: I was wondering if you might have any intel on washing machines that are less than 27" wide. I have an extra-narrow space, but I want a regular (stacking) washer and dryer, not a portable one. 24" might work, 23" would be even better. I have not been able to figure out a way to search online by width. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend contacting www.gringerandsons.com as they work with small spaces.
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Montgomery Village, Md.: You say not to use bleach on the white cotton sheets. Should I not use it on my white towels and bath mats as well? How else do I keep them bright?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You dont have to use chlorine bleach. We recommend an oxygenated bleach or our Whites detergent that has an optical brightener to keep your whites bright without harmful chemicals. Bleach cancels out detergent and it will break down the fabric over time, eventually causing holes or tears. It can also yellow.
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Washington D.C.: I love doing laundry! I have been using your cedar cashmere wash on my sweaters, and it's wonderful. I see that you are making one for J. Crew. Does it have the same cedar scent?
Also, I try not to put my clothes in the dryer, and they often end up stiff after hanging dry (especially jeans). Any tips to soften them up?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: The J.Crew Cashmere Wash is a lavender blend which also repels moths-it is a wonderful scent that we created especially for J.Crew.
We have a denim wash that we developed for this exact reason. It contains color guard and a plant based softener so your jeans will not be stiff after hang drying.
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D.C.: I have always had trouble with my husband's white t-shirts. I've tried Shout followed by a combination of detergent and chlorine bleach followed by detergent and non-chlorine bleach followed by a rinse. They inevitably develop a stiff dark area under the arms and I end up throwing them out and starting fresh. Suggestions?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You definitely need to follow our stain removal recipe as it is designed for stubborn stains like under arms, ring around the collar and cuffs.
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/pits.asp
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Richmond, Va. : In an effort to save money, we are cutting back on dry cleaning. My husband has started doing his shirts and they do not look good. Is it my imagination or is this aging them significantly? They are all-cotton dress shirts. Right now, he washes them (regular Tide, front loader w/cool water) dries them briefly and then irons them. Is it the detergent? I always assumed whatever industrial process they used to get them laundered was harsher than what we do at home.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Washing your clothing is the best way to care for them and to have longevity in your item. Are you noticing fading?
We recommend not putting his shirts in the dryer. You might want to us a detergent with color guard. Are you starching your shirts? The dry cleaning process is much more harsh.
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Washington, D.C.: Any ideas on how to prevent deodorant build-up in the under arm area? I am a female, and I sweat a lot, so I cannot go without. It seems like I have to buy new shirts every season!
I have a laundry room in the basement. There are 3 settings: hot, cold and warm. And a load costs $2 wash/0.75 dry

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend soaking your items before putting them into the machine and dryer to make sure the stains and buildup are gone. This will save you time and money. You might find out that you don't have to use your washing machine and you can handwash/soak most of your items and hang dry. We do this a lot for workout clothing, dress shirts and delicates. Try this recipe for your deodorant buildup. We have that happen to us and are successful with this:
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/pits.asp
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Washington, D.C.: I have the hardest time with perspiration stains. I don't glow or feel the heat - I sweat! I need a step-by-step lesson on caring for my clothes from the time that I walk in the door after work and change out of my work clothes. What is the absolute best way to remove these stains?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Here you go-try this.
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/pits.asp
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Arlington: I bought some fabric in Cambodia that I use as a table runner. It's skirt fabric that is rather heavy brocade with gold threads. Can I handwash it? Sorry, I don't have good information on fabric content.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: What does it feel like? Silk?
You can use our Delicate wash to handwash it. It will probably lose a lot of color in the water which is normal.
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Washington, D.C.: I'm looking for a compact plastic drying rack that I can put in my tub whenever I want to drip dry clothes. Not having much luck. Most drying racks are too big or are made out of metal. Can you recommend something?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Check out www.organize.com. they have a great selection you might like.
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Alexandria, Va.: For the person interested in storing clothes for a long time: a hint I learned years ago about storing woolens is that you can sprinkle loose pipe tobacco over your woolens, including cashmere and other fine wools. Then put into a pillow case or store in a cotton bag. The tobacco is a very strong insecticide. Use whatever smells good to you. It will not make the clothes smell like tobacco, but will definitely keep insects away.
washingtonpost.com: But will it stain the fabric?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have had success with lavender wrapped in a breathable fabric like linen or cotton. Cedar Chips will help as well.
We have never tried the tobacco, I imagine it could stain if it gets wet and possibly stick to clothing if the temperature where it is being stored is too moist.
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Washington, D.C.: White sheets again -- The stains are mainly from lotions and cosmetics.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We recommend an Enzyme based detergent and stain solution.
The hottest water you can get and extra soaking is great for cotton sheets. Check for stains before putting your sheets into the dryer.
Our Whites Detergent is a great for white sheets, and pretreat with our stain solution before washing.
www.thelaundress.com
Here is a 15% off coupon to use if you want to try out our products.
"2009laun"
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Dry Cleaning vs. Washing: As a knitter, I use Soak to handwash a lot of sweaters that say they have to be dry cleaned. And I am noticing that other things with a dry-clean only tag seem to be quite washable including fancy-pants silks and linens. Is there a guide to materials that can be handwashed or even machine-washed and those that will shrivel up and die unless dry-cleaned?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We have a washing chart on our website that will be helpful.
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/PDFs/washingChart.pdf
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Dale Blooming: Settle a debate for me: I say it's unsafe to leave your house while the washer and especially the dryer are in use. The roommates don't believe me. I have come home to an empty house with the dryer running. Is this unsafe or okay?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: The washing machine should be fine but the dryer is not safe to have running when no one is there. A lot of house fires are caused by dryers. Make sure to clean your lint tray all the time.
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Alexandria - Yellow Pits: Hello and thanks for this laundry chat! If the pits of your t-shirts are already yellow (have been washed and dried several times) is it too late to get them white again?

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Never to late to try. Follow this recipe:
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/pits.asp
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New HE on the way!: I am expecting delivery of a new HE washer and dryer next week! Very excited about this.
In practical terms, how much more stuff can I put in one of these? Current washer fits an almost-full Ikea bag of clothes; new one is an average size for HE.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: Do not overstuff your HE machine. The drums are smaller and if you put too much in your clothes will not get clean.
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RE: Dry Cleaning: Since you say dry cleaning is more harsh, how would we wash items that say "dry clean only" other than dress shirts? I am thinking sweaters, silks, etc.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: You can wash most silk and cashmere items. Please follow our washing chart on what fabrics can be washed. If the label says dry clean only, check what fabric it is made of to know if you can wash it or not.
http://www.thelaundress.com/LaundryTips/PDFs/washingChart.pdf
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Alexandria: I have read about all in one washer/dryers. Do these work well? Thanks.

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: If you have the room and ability to get a separate washer and dryer then you should do so. If you have the ability to manage the controls then great, but we don't use the dryer for a lot of items so that would not work very well.
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Gettysburg, PA: I always seem to have problems with green clothing and the color fading out in splotches. What am I doing wrong? and why does it only happen with green???

Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Wieber: We don't know about this issue but color loss in splotches can occur from leftover bleach in your machine. Do you use bleach?
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Terri Sapienza: We're out of time for today. Thanks to Gwen and Lindsey for all of their great advice, and thanks for everyone for joining us. Chat with you next week.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009


The Laundress on Cool Hunting

Combining the captivating aroma of Le Labo's Rose 31 perfume with The Laundress' outstanding eco-friendly detergent, this product is a joint creation that elevates "the clothing care experience to a heightened sophistication." While we're usually more prone to opt for unscented soaps, this is a collaboration we'll make an exception for.

The Laundress' biodegradable, non-toxic detergent is an ideal base for Le Labo's award-winning fragrance Rose 31, as both companies share a passion for quality ingredients and redefining luxury. All-purpose, the formula is suitable for both hand and machine washing, while the scent is fitting for both men and women with its Centifolia rose aroma containing hints of spice and cedar.

The 16-ounce bottles are available at Le Labo's retail labs, The Laundress website, and select retailers worldwide for $45.

Click here for the article.

Monday, April 6, 2009

If you're in Australia - be sure to check out the just opened Donna Hay General Store carrying The Laundress!
49 Holdsworth Street
Woollahra, NSW, Australia
+61 2 9328 6555

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