Now that most of us are homebound, trying our best to social distance and do our part to ease the spread of COVID-19, household chores have taken on a new meaning. Gone are the days of leisurely hanging around a laundromat waiting for your sheets to finally dry, not to mention hiring a handyman or casually swinging by a tailor. For now, it's all in our hands—literally.
In order to tackle the clothing care, ELLE.com turned to Corinna and Theresa Williams, the co-founders of Celsious, a sustainable laundromat in Brooklyn. Currently, Celsious is only open for drop-offs and collections, but they're offering priority booking for anyone on the front lines, workers in essential services, the immunocompromised, those 65 years or older, and families with small children. Below, we caught up with the two sisters in-between washes to get their expert advice on how to properly take care of clothes at home, especially as more and more people have limited access to laundromats.
What are your tips for hand-washing clothes at home?
Sonett Liquid Laundry Detergent myshopify.com $22.50 SHOP NOW
Instead of waiting for a pile to amass, the way you might if you’re trying to fill a machine, it’s best to hand wash as you go, little by little. When you spend most of your time at home, it’s likely you’re choosing to wear pieces that are easy to wash anyway—comfortable cotton, for example—so it’ll be easy to hand wash those in a sink or bucket with a little liquid detergent.
Make sure not to overdo it with the detergent (excess detergent leads to buildup on fabric, which can trap odor-causing bacteria). Check the bottle label for proper dosage; bonus points if your detergent is eco-friendly and 100% biodegradable. We have one online from eco-laundry pioneer Sonett, if you like a natural lavender scent.
What if you're washing clothes at home but don’t have a drying rack?
If you wash as you go, it's likely you won’t have enough to fill a rack anyway. You can drape your shirts over a shower curtain rod (place a towel under your clothes if you’re worried about the condition of the rod) and hang your undergarments from clothes hangers. If you have pieces that might stretch if hung, lay them flat to dry on a clean towel.
Are there any good home remedies for stains?
Supersalt myshopify.com $21.00 SHOP NOW
The moment you get an acidic stain like coffee, tea, or fruit juice, pour some household white vinegar on it, rinse it out with water, and hand wash immediately. If you get a grease stain, try not to reach for conventional dishwashing soap because it might have optical brighteners, which could leave you with a patch that looks lighter or bleached. It’s better to use natural bar soap, like the ones you use to bathe.
You won’t get the same level of agitation from a hand wash that you would from a machine wash, so it’s important to treat stains as soon as you get them. We launched our first three in-house products earlier this year, and two are stain treaters: Our Wunderbar is a vegetable soap stick that works wonders for oil stains from food or makeup, and Supersalt fights tough stains like red wine, grass, or blood. You can also use Supersalt to brighten up whites by pre-soaking overnight.
Any advice on caring for more delicate pieces, including silks and sweaters?
We advise people to avoid dry cleaning, as it’s a chemical process, so hand-washing silks and wool sweaters is better. Do not machine wash unless your washer has specialty settings for wool or delicates as machine agitation can damage delicate pieces and cause wool pieces to shrink.
Make sure to handle the garment gently (less agitation is better). Submerge in water and lightly massage your garment; avoid rubbing or scrubbing. If you don’t have wool detergent on hand, you can use a natural shampoo and conditioner (wool is, after all, the hair of sheep!). Dry your pieces by laying them flat on a clean towel. If you’re interested, we have an Instagram highlight called “Wool” that includes a step-by-step guide to washing wool, as well as tips.
What should people do if they're worried about keeping their clothes extra clean after going outside or going to the grocery store?
You can do what our friends in health care do, which is put your “outside clothes” in a bag that is separate from your other laundry when you get home. Let the clothes rest for at least 24 hours before washing it. After that, you can wash as you normally would. Don’t forget to use the highest water temperature that is safe for the fabrics you’re washing. Dry everything thoroughly before folding it.
You both are still going to work every day. How are you doing, and how are you keeping your spirits up?
Corinna:Personally, as well as from a business perspective, there’s a lot of uncertainty, which—for me—manifests in bouts of anxiety. My daily meditation practice has helped me cope with that. Apart from that, I’ve been trying more than ever to practice gratitude, gratitude for the Celsious community, which has been amazing, sending us kind and supportive messages since early March; for everyone in our family being healthy; for still being able to come to work, albeit under very different circumstances. Plus, something that always lifts my spirits is good food! Having an Italian husband who grew up in a pastry shop and is currently working from home definitely helps in that department.
Theresa: Like Corinna, I feel so fortunate to still be able to work and run our business, but I’m definitely starting to feel the physical strain of processing thousands of pounds of laundry every day (these loads would have been self-service, if not for social distancing). We’ve had to adjust our operations almost on a daily basis, based on new information and guidance that’s released. There isn’t much time for your spirits to be down when you have a team that is relying on you to keep them employed and find a way back to financial sustainability.
A Way to Support Your Neighbors Right Now
Corinna and Theresa have set up a Laundry Love fund at Celsious for New York neighbors who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Here's how it works: You can donate a suggested $8 (the price of a small wash and dry) via Venmo to @Celsious-Laundry with the description "Laundry Love." You can also nominate individuals and organizations to be recipients of the Laundry Love fund by sending the laundromat a DM on Instagram (@celsious_social) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You could recommend a friend who's out of work, shelters, or organizations prepping meals for hospitals.
Madison Feller Madison is a staff writer at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture.