The Devotion of the Laundry Evangelist

Patric Richardson helps people learn to love doing laundry—and in some cases, that involves a disco ball

 

Patric Richardson

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

According to Patric Richardson of St. Paul, also known as the Laundry Evangelist, doing laundry shouldn’t be considered a chore—but rather something to appreciate.

Richardson is the master of laundry. He knows all—from removing stains to freshening colors to restoring vintage items. His passion doesn’t end with perfecting his own skills, either; he also teaches others his cultivated and beloved techniques. Richardson has a long resume of accomplishments: He owns the Mona Williams store at the Mall of America, runs sold-out laundry camps at the store and other locations, starred in the Discovery+ and HGTV show “The Laundry Guy,” and has co-authored the popular book “Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore.” He has also made headlines with his tips and tricks for laundry care.

In fact, Richardson met his co-author, Karin B. Miller, through his laundry camps. “I’d already done laundry for a couple of decades when I signed up for my first laundry camp with Patric,” Miller says. “I came home with new earth-friendly supplies and transformed my laundry routine.”

Richardson traces his affection for laundry and clothing to his childhood in northeastern Kentucky. At age 2 1/2 years old, he was already discovering how doing laundry can be an act of love as he watched his meticulous mother make sure clothing was always being washed and hung. He describes that experience as his first time “associating laundry with being taken care of.” He continues that care in his own home. The task of ironing is a slow and dangerous one, and like many of us, Richardson’s partner, Ross Raihala, doesn’t like to do it. But for Richardson, “I like the process of it, [and] I also like doing something for [Raihala].”

Richardson also recalls a memorable moment when he realized that “it’s a real privilege that we have lots of clothes and they get clean.” He says his mother had hired one of his high school classmates to do small odd jobs, who then divulged his dream of owning his own washing machine so he would never again run out of clean clothes. “When you think about [doing laundry] for somebody that you love, even if that’s you, it just kind of changes your mindset,” he says.

Richardson’s love for laundry and others got him thinking about expanding his reach. “Eventually, I reached out to Patric and pitched the idea of writing a book together,” Miller says. “He’d already been thinking about writing a book, so it was serendipity.”

Essential Tips

One technique Richardson suggests to help others embrace the act of doing laundry is to establish a routine and set aside a specific day or days so “it’s not this sort of never-ending cycle.” He compares it with other household tasks: “You put the kids to bed, and that should be the time to spend with your spouse.” A “laundry day” is a great way to tackle all the dirty clothes so that you don’t have to worry about doing a load the night before a big day or wonder if a piece of clothing is clean or dirty.

Learning how to do laundry correctly also helps minimize environmental impact. “Most apparel can’t be recycled, which is tragic,” Richardson says. “You don’t want to, you know, put a pair of blue jeans in the landfill because you’re just going to replace [them] with a pair of blue jeans.” Mindfulness when caring for clothing will extend the life of pieces and prevent unnecessary additions to landfills.

But that doesn’t mean mindfulness can’t be fun; in fact, Richardson’s method encourages fun. “I hope that [people] do put up a disco ball in their laundry room and they crank up the tunes,” he says.

Patric Richardson

Photo by Darin Kamnetz

One thing Richardson swears by when doing laundry is vodka, which he says removes any smell from any item. “Vodka, when it dries, is odorless and colorless,” he says, so you can pour it in a spray bottle and aim at a rug, sneakers, or a gym bag. He says the theater community has known this tip for a long time, and often between daily performances—when there’s no time to wash each costume—actors and staff will spray vodka on the clothing to take away the strong smell of sweat.

Another tip is to ditch the cold cycle and wash all your clothes with warm water on the quick wash mode. “What the industry thinks is cold is not what we think cold is,” he says. “What the industry thinks is cold is 58 to 63 degrees. Our water [in our home water systems] is about 53 degrees, so it isn’t warm enough to activate the detergent.” If you want to make sure your clothes are getting thoroughly clean, put your load on warm. As for the quick wash setting, Richardson says, “The No. 1 problem with laundry is the abrasion. It’s your clothes tumbling in that machine over and over and over.” Washing on a short cycle will help limit the damage to your clothes.

Ever since attending Richardson’s laundry camps, “My clothes and textiles are cleaner and softer, and my process is faster, cheaper, and way more fun,” says Miller. “And yes, I have a disco ball in my laundry room—just like Patric.”

Next Cycle

In “The Laundry Guy,” which ran on Discovery+ and HGTV in 2021, Richardson restored vintage clothing, removed stains from beloved items, and taught guests his process and tricks.

“I think what made me anxious and nervous was this was somebody’s story,” Richardson explains. Every item in the show had some sentimental value, from a wedding dress covered in soot to a high school letter jacket to a baby blanket. Richardson successfully fixed or restored all the items in the six-episode series. “Fortunately, I’m very confident that I will never do anything that causes harm. It’s a big deal to me that I don’t use products or methods or anything that could be damaging,” he says.

Richardson will always be experimenting with his methods, trying to find the greenest version for them all. “I keep experimenting and, you know, technology keeps changing and new products are coming out,” he says. “I mean, now there’s a huge movement toward reducing microplastics, so I love testing products that are supposed to get away from the plastics.”

“He’s a joy to work with—kind, generous, lots of fun—just as you see in interviews and on TV,” Miller says.

When asked about his current project and future plans, Richardson smiles coyly. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see another book,” he says.

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Zoe is an editorial intern at Greenspring Media. She is entering her third year at Boston University and is earning her bachelor’s degree in both English and Journalism. Raised in northern Minnesota, Zoe is committed to exploring the culture and community of the Midwest.