She can’t solve your case of the missing socks. But she still knows more about laundry than almost anyone.
With more than 12 years experience as a senior scientist with The Clorox Company, Mary Gagliardi, aka Dr. Laundry, has seen her share of laundry-related horrors. But the wife and mother of two says there’s definitely one thing she’s never seen in her own households, and that’s a husband who wears his underwear more than once between washings.
“That does not happen in my house,” Dr. Laundry says.
In other words, her husband is not among the 12 percent of men that a Clorox survey says wear their skivvies two or three times before cleaning. Her husband’s habits undoubtedly benefit from living with someone named Dr. Laundry, but they also benefit from something much simpler—being married.
Men in relationships tend to pay closer attention to the cleanliness of their clothes and bed sheets, a direct reflection of not wanting to disgust or disappoint their partners. But getting men to progress from knowing their clothes are dirty to actually do the laundry themselves (and over the long term) takes some finesse.
“A lot of it has to do with how encouraging their partner is. Take skiing, if someone takes you up to the top of the mountain, and wants you to ski at their level, and just sends you down the mountain without any experience, you’re gonna hate skiing and give it up,” Dr. Laundry says. “And so guys who are rookies at laundry, same thing, they’ll stay at that level because someone who is more proficient, who can do it better, will always do it for them. It’s better if someone who is more proficient at it can give them encouragement and let them make some mistakes and not beat them up over it so that they can become veterans and eventually pros.”
The progression from a rookie to a veteran is marked by an appreciation for separating clothes into colors and whites.
“Poor sorting habits is the first big hurdle for guys,” Dr. Laundry says.
The next hurdle is using laundry additives.
“A lot guys just want to stick some detergent and be done; it’s sort of like a black box. So when they step up and use bleach or add stain remover, that’s the next step.”
Over the years it’s become more acceptable for men to do laundry, which used to be the sole province of women. Nowadays men are expected to do their share. If the washer and dryer loom as intimidating, potentially damaging tools (capable of turning a white shirt pink), some men might feel insecure about asking their wives or girlfriends about what they’re doing wrong. In those instances, men can turn to the Internet, surfing for answers themselves or sending in questions to experts like Dr. Laundry, who maintains a blog and answers queries online.
“The biggest thing in men’s favor, in their evolution in laundry, is the Internet, which presents information and resources for men,” Dr. Laundry says. “You don’t have to feel like you bungled it. It helps you be in control and guys like to be in control. We all do.”
Clorox has sponsored our special “Men At Home” section—which has stories of Dads who take on all sorts of roles around the house (yes, including laundry). And click here to read about how you can submit a “laundry horror story” for an upcoming article and video.