The Laundress Makes Detergents That Can Remove Almost Any Stain (Seriously)

Every so often, an unassuming product that the Most Wanted team recommends will experience a low-key viral spiral. Since its debut on our shopping pages back in February, a small and innocuous $6.50 stain remover called The Laundress Wash & Stain Bar has held a steadfast ranking on our Amazon top-seller list. Given its cult-like purchasing power, we decided to take a closer look at the company from which it spawns, The Laundress, an NYC-based luxury detergent brand that’s founded on the basic principle of exceptional fabric care. 
In essence, if you truly care about the longevity and well-being of your clothing or have cherished fabrics that you want to preserve the best you can, you really ought to be using The Laundress products — and you should be washing everything yourself, even if a garment tag says dry clean only. (That’s right, The Laundress is telling you to reclaim the notion that you have to surrender your favorite clothing items to a third-party cleaning process where you have no control over what chemicals are used.) What The Laundress has figured out is a line of highly effective plant-derived cleaning products that ensure your beloved threads — be it made of cashmere, wool, silk, synthetic, denim, et al. — can be machine- or hand-washed. Follow the recommended instructions on the labels or from The Laundress website, and your stuff will turn out fresher, more spotless, brighter, softer, and, in some cases — especially if you opt for a fragrant detergent — smelling subtly of luxurious perfume. (See: The Laundress’s collab with Le Labo, which so happens to be a brand bestseller.)
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@meghannfinley Part 1 removing the stains! The beading may take a day or two please bear with me 🥹💕 #weddingtiktok #weddingtok #weddingdress #receptiondress #therealreal #secondhandfashion #clothingrepair ♬ original sound - Meghann Stephenson
"A lot of people are surprised at how brilliantly white their whites come out or how quickly the stain that's been set in for multiple washes or even for years is removed,” says The Laundress brand director Hannah Yokoji. “We get so much passionate feedback from our customers who are like, ‘There was this heirloom that belonged to our grandmother and we removed the dinginess from this delicate silk’ or ‘I got a stain out from my favorite shirt that's been haunting it for over a year.’”
One major aspect that sets The Laundress apart from other detergent brands is the level of education that’s offered (for free!), so customers can take ownership of how they care for their fabrics. Laundry, for me, used to be a chore and a bore, but The Laundress has turned what has been a blasé routine into something far more personal and emotional. I can’t describe the overwhelming satisfaction I feel when I successfully remove a chili oil splatter out of my Harry Styles tour T-shirt or a massive rooibos tea spill from my Dusen Dusen blanket or when I get the dankiness out of my Girlfriend Collective activewear. “We’re all so passionate about laundering and that helps us make sure that our products meet our standards, not just in terms of cleaning power, but is it a delight to use? Does it feel like an elevating experience? Am I happy when I pull something out of the wash and put it in the dryer? All of those factors go into the final products that go to market,” says Yokoji.
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Ahead, we get down and dirty (and eventually come clean) with Yokoji about what makes The Laundress products so damn good and effective, how to navigate the brand’s vast hub of how-tos and tutorials, and discover Yokoji’s best tips for maintaining denim (yes, hot take, she is a denim washer).
There’s a breadth of cleaning products at The Laundress, and I’m wondering what the process is for developing formulas and how they differ from one another.
"We try to incorporate a holistic and thoughtful approach to the development of products and it's always to solve a very specific problem. Usually, it's our own laundry problems or problems that our customers come to us with at our Soho store in New York, where people come in with their stained garments and we try to troubleshoot alongside them. 
"We don't test on animals, so we always joke that our team members are the test subjects. We’ll do wash tests at the office or at home, and we'll report back, whether if it’s that the fragrance is not at the level we want or we feel the concentration could be tweaked. We have a product dev team that brings in their wealth of knowledge, like knowing if the combination of enzymes provides the most effective clean or if these types of fragrance ingredients will burn off in the wash cycle. There are many checks and balances along the way, and it's a very collaborative process. 
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"But it all goes back to the heart of textile science. A lot of these formulas target very specific fabrics or specific problems. If you're dealing with odors, what's the best way to remove them? If you're dealing with this stain versus that stain, what's the best way to remove them? For instance, we have two different stain removers, one for protein and tannin stains and the other for more oil-based stains. So it's a highly targeted and highly customized approach. We have over 90-plus SKUs now on our site, so it’s a large breadth of products, but at the end of the day, the philosophy of exceptional fabric care remains the same."
I don’t get how The Laundress products are so good. Like, you’ve figured out how to remove or lighten up pit stains or rings around the collar, things that have been set in my shirts for years. 
"You know, I think it’s that we’re not afraid of including a higher concentration of active ingredients. I think that for some brands, you know, it's cost prohibitive to use a higher concentration of enzymes or additional surfactants that might help improve the cleaning power but, ultimately, raises the cost of the product. But for us, it's more important to get the job done right, even if it means you're going to be paying a little bit more. At the end of the day, we want to see the results and that's what people get excited about.
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"We have an incredibly passionate community that read our newsletters [editor's hot tip: sign up for the newsletter for a 20% off code], and they're extremely engaged and want to educate themselves on how to make their pieces look good and last longer. It’s an investment but a little goes a long way, and after seeing results, a lot of people see the value in terms of the cleaning power. People have an emotional connection to the garments they're cleaning, and using these products adds a layer of luxury and joy when it comes to taking care of their pieces."
And for me, knowing that The Laundress exists gives me less anxiety about wearing stuff that I normally feel precious about. Like, if I wear something out to dinner and stain myself, I won’t freak out.
"Same here, I didn't wear white as much before, but now I'll break out my white jeans and get dirt on them or spill coffee and I'm not going to worry about it because I know how to remove them in the wash. There's something empowering about that, and you're able to live in a more open and carefree way. You can go about your day without feeling like, ‘Oh my god, this shirt's ruined.’ It’ll also change your buying behavior because a lot of people will see ‘dry clean only’ and don't want to deal with the high maintenance of these fabrics [but you can] conquer those stains or improve the brightness with a simple soak, or if you’re sweating in 100-degree heat, you can learn how to remove odors and have your activewear come out beautifully clean in the wash."
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Providing education for your customers is a huge aspect of what sets The Laundress apart from other detergent brands. Where can people learn how to clean anything and everything?
"We have a How-To section where you can literally type in a specific stain on a specific fabric, and it'll automatically populate a whole how-to recipe for you. You can also search by fabric A to Z, like if you have a shirt made out of cupro and you don't know how to wash it, you just click on C for ‘cupro,’ and it'll show you exactly what products you need to use and how to use them. We also have a Clean Talk Blog where we frequently publish guides that we’ll link out to from our emails and social channels. We want the education to be as accessible and available through as many touch points as possible. There are instructions on every bottle, they are on every product page, and if you want something more in-depth, usually it's on the Clean Talk Blog or our How-To section on our site. The newsletters are always a great roundup, and the content is usually seasonal."
I have to ask you about The Laundress x John Mayer collaboration because it's so unexpected. 
"It’s funny because it was such an organic partnership, even though it sounds random and unexpected. It originated in 2016 or so when John Mayer randomly posted a Snapchat of him washing his shirts in the sink with our Classic Signature Detergent. It was a tutorial about how to wash shirts, and we started having back-and-forth conversations. He met our founders at a bar and gushed about fabric care and how he’s into preserving his garments since he’s into fashion and design and has an amazing wardrobe collection. You’d be surprised to know that he's very into maintaining all that himself. From there, it developed into, ‘Let's make a product together,' so we launched with John Mayer Out West, and a portion of those proceeds support the Montana Association of Land Trusts, which is a cause that is important to him. Last November, we launched the second part of the collection. It’s been cool to work with someone so passionate about fabric care. He’s like, ‘I need to put the guys on. You know, you've got to learn how to do your laundry. This is the next level of your self-care routine. Doing laundry is cool.’"
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My last question for you might be controversial. What’s your take on washing denim? 
"I feel very passionate about this topic. I know a lot of people who don't wash their jeans. I also know people who put their jeans in the freezer, which doesn't kill bacteria by the way. Obviously, there are different finishes to keep in mind, but for me, I opt for washing and stretching the time between washes. Also, I wash but don't tumble dry because it’s the drying process that degrades fabric the most. It causes dye release and degrades fibers in terms of their elasticity because you're baking fibers in the heat. If you're really concerned about denim, you can hand-wash it and soak it in our Scented Vinegar. If you're dealing with odor, we have a Darks Detergent that I would recommend if you want to protect the dye and finish of your denim. You only need a little bit. You also don't have to wash the entire jean every time — in between washes and wears, I use a steamer to help kill bacteria and to freshen the denim. We also have a Fabric Fresh that you can spray, and it makes the garment ready to wear between washes. My vote is washing denim even if it's once every few months. Again, everybody has their own approach, but that's my take on it."
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The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars and 658 reviews
What They're Saying: "I visited The Laundress website and found this detergent - was a little worried about the cost, but thought, 'hey, it's concentrated, it may last longer than the chemical-laden garbage I'm using right now...' and took the plunge. All of this leads to my first washing, with the classic scented detergent and the classic scented fabric conditioner... and my nose being literally buried in my clothes when I pulled them out of the dryer. I think it took me twice as long to fold and put stuff away because I was so busy sniffing my clean laundry. It brought me back to my childhood - I'm just past 50 - when my Mom used to dry our clothes on the line outside in the summer. I almost cried when taking the first load out of the dryer, to be honest, because that scent brought to mind and heart a wealth of beautiful memories. Thank goodness the stuff cleans great too - cold, warm or hot water, doesn't matter - this detergent works. I am SO happy to have found this detergent, and I could care less about the cost - it's worth every single penny." —Sandy, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.7 out of 5 stars and 260 reviews
What They're Saying: "I've been using stain solution for years, but I had to write another review today after it saved my favorite t-shirt. I wore my beloved white linen t-shirt to take my niece to the water park. It got wet and as I carried my bright pink beach bag the dye bled and I had pink all over my shirt. I thought it was probably ruined, and didn't even treat it right when I got home like I should have. Today I pre-soaked it in hot water with The Laundress whites detergent, stain solution, and bleach alternative for about 30 minutes and then hand washed it. It looks like new! No trace of pink. Stain solution works wonders." —BrittMax, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.8 out of 5 stars and 276 reviews
What They're Saying: "My daughter is five. She has a dress that resembles Pikachu and, if I would let her, she would live in this dress. However, she poured chocolate milk on her favorite dress and the chocolate stained the bright neon yellow fabric. I tried to get it out with regular laundering, then with Shout, then pre-treating with Tide, overnight soaking in Oxyclean, I could not get this dang stain out! It wasn't even lightening! I decided to go visit The Container Store on a whim since I am also revamping my master closet, and I found this stuff in the laundry section. I figured, why not? I've tried everything else, what's the worst that could happen? I bought this and the stain solution, mixing the two was magic but this stuff, I don't know what's in it but it blew Oxyclean out of the universe. Within one soak, my daughter's beloved Pikachu dress was on the mend. It took a few washes and a lot of elbow grease, but this stuff and the stain solution completely got the stain out. I'm pretty sure this stuff is made up of ground up unicorn horns or something, because I've never had a stain remover do anything like that before. I'm sold! It's a heck of a drive up to where I bought this stuff, but I'm sold. It will be a worthwhile drive to restock when I need to." —Patti, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.7 out of 5 stars and 200 reviews
What They're Saying: "I recently spilled a chili oil-based stain on one of my favorite light blue sweaters, leaving a glaring red stain down the front. Because I was traveling at the time, I couldn't wash it right away. After a week of sitting in my suitcase, I plopped the sweater in a warm bath with this delicate detergent, and within minutes, the stain was gone (without any scrubbing or vigorous agitation on my part). I could have cried." —LD, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.6 out of 5 stars and 128 reviews
What They're Saying: "I absolutely love this fabric conditioner the scent is amazing and the scent stays on your bedding, clothes and jacket forever!! I will be buying this product for years to come!!" —Elle, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.7 out of 5 stars and 140 reviews
What They're Saying: "This product is the only thing I use on my hot yoga clothes. Other detergents could not get the funk out. The scent is great without being overpowering. Love the bigger new size." —Julie L, The Laundress reviewer
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The Hype: 4.7 out of 5 stars and 201 reviews
What They're Saying: "I use this with the stain solution for my baby's spills and stains. I'm now properly armed for each and every stain with these two items! I've removed poo stains from every fabric and spit up from the carpet and sofa. Just by looking at them, you'd never know!" —Carmen, The Laundress reviewer
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