Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ken Cowdery's Laundry Tips (No Bourbon Content)

For 40 years, my father -- Joseph Kendrick 'Ken' Cowdery -- was an engineer for a major laundry equipment manufacturer. For most of that time he ran their testing laboratories. Here is what he taught me about laundry.

1.  Detergent Amount: Use the amount of detergent recommended by the detergent manufacturer, no more, no less. The correct amount of detergent is a function of the amount of water being used, so if your machine has different water level settings, adjust accordingly. Adding more detergent won’t do any good if you can’t also add more water.

2.  Too Much Detergent: Using too much detergent won’t get your clothes any cleaner. It may cause excess suds, which can make a mess in your laundry room and damage your equipment. It also may leave a residue on your clothes.

3.  Washer Type: Top loaders use a lot more water than front loaders, and consequently call for more detergent. The makers of both the equipment and the detergent will tell you this. Believe them. Front loaders need less detergent because they need less water. (Dad loved front loaders. He helped develop them. They use less energy, less water, less detergent, and clean better.)

4.  Washer Load Size: If your clothes aren’t getting clean enough, or are heavily soiled, wash smaller loads. This is simple and is just about the only way to improve washer performance. Use the same amount of water and detergent, but put in fewer clothes. (Pre-soaking also helps.)

5.  Dryer Load Size: This is counter-intuitive, but the dryer performs best with a full load. It is the hot air trapped within the clothes that dries them. Too few and a lot of the hot air goes straight out the vent. That’s the simplest summation of Dad’s advice: under-load the washer, over-load the dryer.

6.  Water Temperature: Some detergents advertise that they clean just as well in cold water as hot. It’s not true. Use the hottest water whatever you are washing can stand. Dad preferred hot water for everything. Mom didn’t necessarily agree.

7.  Fabric Softener: Dad opposed the use of fabric softener. Mom disagreed. Despite Dad’s standing in the industry, Mom’s vote mattered because she actually did the laundry, and because she was Mom. Dad’s position was that fabric softeners work by damaging (i.e., weakening) the clothing. Mom’s position was that he was the only family member who wore things until they fell apart.


Crash said...

I've read where cold water doesn't "activate" the detergent, hence a certain emphasis on proper water temperature. These are great tips, most useful!

Richnimrod said...

HA! Nothing whatsoever to do with Bourbon, yet a concise collection of worthwhile information, well and completely presented, about a nearly universal issue to American households...
How do you do it, Chuck?
Chuck Cowdery: Expert on Everything! HA!
Good stuff, sir. Thanx.

Crown Point Marc said...

Good stuff Chuck. Me being the cheapskate that I am, I wash everything in cold and cram as much clothes in as I can; I've got good whisk(e)y to buy.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

Excellent stuff, Chuck. I'm certainly no laundry expert. But as a lifelong bachelor, who does his own laundry (and whose parents owned a laundromat for several years), I have my share of laundry experience. One small tip, for those sensitive to laundry detergent (as I am): do an extra rinse. This can be particularly helpful if you really do use as much detergent as recommended. I use "free and clear" detergent, but still find it helps if I rinse twice.

One more question. Not to be insensitive, but how long ago did your father retire from detergent testing? The only reason I ask is, I think some of the newer detergents work pretty well in cold water (well, way better than they used to), barring any serious dirt/stains, of course. And since I only wear my clothes once between washes, I find they come very clean, and fresh using cold water. I also use slightly less detergent than recommended, but add an oxygen-based additive (generic OxiClean). I also avoid fabric softener, but use ONE dryer sheet, to help with static cling.

But more importantly, I almost always drink (usually bourbon) while doing laundry. This all started back when I was in college. We'd always find a laundromat next/close to a bar. Even in graduate school, I'd read, write papers, even grad papers, at a bar while doing laundry (add watching a game and having a bit to eat to the list). We were the kings and queens of multitasking.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Fair point. Dad retired in 1990. Although he seemed to believe it was impossible in principle.

Tommy said...

Classic stuff right there. I actually enjoyed reading about laundry.

Harry in Wash DC said...

I read this a couple days ago and forgot to say "Thanks". I am the laundry person in our family and have been for 40+ years. Occasionally, my wife takes exception to "how" I do the laundry. She is familiar with your writings on bourbon (if only because I've read passages from your books to her from time to time) so I showed her your advice. She liked it and even said, "See?" I believe I will be OK if I follow your advice closely in the future (smile). AND, your post is bourbon-related. One of my bourbon bunkers is in the workroom adjoining the laundry room in the basement.

Anonymous said...

In the 90's, laundry detergents still relied heavily on phosphates. They are generally banned today. Much has changed in these more than two decades in both the detergents as well as the washing machines it is used in.

As Mr. Ken Cowdery generally recommended paying attention to what the manufacturers were saying in their instructions and user manuals, I think that is probably the best lesson to take away from this post.