All of us at Helen Jon find inspiration from great women who blaze trails, find success, and help others along the way. The Laundress is an amazing eco-friendly line of detergent, fabric care and home cleaning products. We are so thrilled to be able to sit down with its founders, Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, and get the dirt on their amazing product line, hear their story, and, of course, learn from the experts how to best care for swimwear and active wear!
Let’s get right to it… we love your story, we LOVE your products, and we love that you have brought some glamour and fun to the “chore” of doing laundry. You took a quotidian fact of life: laundry and cleaning — and turned it into a kind of art form, helping people take care of the things they love.
Q: Tell us a little bit about how you built your company. What strategies did you find most successful as you shaped the idea for your company into a thriving business that seems to just keep growing?
A: We produce a curated collection of eco-friendly laundry detergent, fabric care, and home cleaning products. Each product was created from our own personal needs and frustrations with what was available in the market place – from dry cleaning to grocery products. As important as having an idea, is having a plan. We spent two years researching and developing our business and brand. Twelve years later, we have the same bones and beliefs from when we started.
Q: Were you friends first, or did that piece evolve and develop as The Laundress did? Share with us any tips you might have on how to successfully manage and balance the relationship of business partner and friend?
A: We met in college and instantly became friends through a mutual friend. We had so many things in common – interests, motivations, and entrepreneurism. What makes us a good pair for business is that we have complementary skill sets: product development and sales.
Q: We love that you do not test on animals or use any animal-based ingredients. Tell us a little bit more about your philosophy and how you come up with your specific product lines.
A: We set out to create a superior product that would enable us to take care of our items at home vs. sending them to the dry cleaner. What happened was, we ended up with an eco-friendly product because we learned that the best ingredients were all plant-derived vs. the cheaper and more common petroleum-derived ingredients. Fourteen years ago, green products were seen as neither sexy nor effective. We were a bit ahead of our time.
Q: What is your proudest Laundry Victory?
A: Oh…we are lucky to have small victories every day when clients send us their laundry and cleaning questions and share successful Laundress experiences! Additionally, early on, we both had new white sofas and were tasked to stand behind our product and our word when, separately, we each had friends spill red wine on them!
Q: Is it true that 90% of items labeled “dry clean only” are actually washable? What other myths about laundry vs. dry cleaning need to be debunked?
A: Basically, don’t read the tag for the instructions first. Read the tag for the fabric content, and then go from there. A dry clean claim on a tag is an easy way out for a manufacturer to not stand behind their item.
Q: The “Can I Be Washed?” cheat sheet you have on your website is so useful! (And, by the way, we absolutely love your website. Its design is beautiful - and, very clean! — and there is so much terrific information, excellent promotions, and other fun stuff on there too.) Tell us, do you have a favorite new “laundry hack” or technique?
A: Just wait for the launch of our new website! You will have to come back in November to see all of our tricks published. In the meantime, enjoy the depth and scope of "Ask The Laundress."
Q: Important question…. especially for all of us at Helen Jon: How should we best care for our swimwear? Summer is here and taking good care of our swimwear is key, especially since it is always, by its very nature, so exposed to the “elements.” Sun, sand, salt, chlorine, sunscreen, you name it. Which Laundress product or products would you recommend?
A: Follow our how to instructions here! It’s most important to rinse and wash at the end of the day. If you are an avid sunscreen user (as you should be), it needs to be removed, because it loves to stain!
Q: We are obsessed with your Scented Vinegar product. You transformed the nose-pinching scent of straight vinegar and infused it with something lovely. Tell us a few of your favorite uses for this twist on a revamped household workhorse.
A: Oh my, you can do everything with the Scented Vinegar! Check out our list. It’s great for everything, from deodorizing stinky workout clothes, to unclogging a drain.
Q: We love certain scents, and freshly laundered clothes is among our favorites. Do you have a favorite scent or perfume?
A: We are complete scent junkies. From a pharmacy in Europe to a baby isle in South America, we find intrigue in it all. In fact, we love Le Labo so much that we collaborated with the French perfumery to make a detergent with two of their cult favorite fragrances.
Q: We know what might be in your laundry bag… but what is in your beach bag?
Gwen: Sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen. Naturally, our beach bags are Laundress Shoppers!
Lindsey: A caftan or beach coverup is always in my bag, as well as a straw hat (Bianca Rancher by Eugenia Kim), a beach read (The Weekenders by May Kay Andrews) and, of course, my favorite water bottle, Coola Suncare organic sunscreen spray (SPF 50), and a Mustela Sun Stick with a high SPF are my other beach bag must-haves.
We want to thank the founders of The Laundress for taking the time to sit down and talk with us! We loved getting the scoop from these two great women on how they built their business, how they continue to grow it, and, of course, the tips on how to keep the inevitable messy parts of life clean and fresh. Happy cleaning and happy living!