Laundry is a dirty job and somebody has to do it — but maybe not as often as you think.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the average family washes nearly 400 loads of laundry each year (more than a load a day), and that Americans spend more than $3 billion annually on detergent
We also spend nearly $7.8 billion on dry cleaning each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But here’s a dirty little secret — experts say many of us clean our clothes more than necessary — not because we’re obsessed with cleanliness, but because of well, wardrobe malfunctions.
Somewhere between the laundry room, the dry cleaners, our closets and our lives, clean gets mixed up with dirty and suddenly, we’re depending on the sniff test to determine just how fresh an item might be. Faced with the decision, most of us give up and toss the item into the hamper.
That very dilemma provided an aha moment for Ellington resident Michael Aiezza.
“One night, I was staring into my closet at a bunch of flannel shirts, trying to decide what to wear,” says Aiezza. “I was fairly sure that the first two were freshly cleaned, but I had no clue about the rest. I realized that I would often throw clothes in the laundry, just to be safe, even if I wasn’t sure if they were dirty.”
He mentioned his observation to his wife.
“She noted that if you multiplied my experience by millions of households, it equaled a lot of over-washing, as well as huge waste of money and natural resources,” says Aiezza.
Aiezza’s mind went on spin cycle. Could he come up with a way to save time and money by better managing his wardrobe?
He decided to give it a try. While still working his day job as a restorer of historical buildings, he did some undercover research and started asking friends and friends of friends and, eventually, total strangers to air their dirty laundry.
“We asked people how many times they wear their clothes and how they kept track,” says Aiezza. “It’s rather personal information.”
Turns out there’s a million closet stories in the naked city. Some people button clean shirts up to the neck, then leave a button undone for each time its worn. Some turn hangers one way if the item is clean and the other way if its been worn. Others put not-yet-worn clothing on one side of the closet and already-worn on the other. Those are the uber-organized. The rest of us toss things into a pile and then just guess the second or third time around.
“Everyone has a system,” says Aiezza. “Some work better than others.”
Based on his research, he came up with an idea for a product that helps users track how many times an item has been worn. MyClothingHelper, which launched in January, is a card threaded with a printed ribbon. You loop the cards on hangers and hang up your clothes. If a garment is clean, the letter “C” printed on the ribbon shows through a window in the card. Each time the garment is worn, the card is pulled down to a reveal a different number on the ribbon. Wear your item once, pull the ribbon down to the number one; twice, down to the “two” and so on.
Response, he says, has been positive.
“No one wants to be stumped by their clothes and everyone wants to save money,” says Aiezza. “Unless you’ve got total wardrobe recall, you just can’t keep it all straight. This really helps.”
Each MyClothingHelper package comes with seven trackers, sells for $9.99 and is available online at myclothinghelper.com and at Highland Park Market stores, Fitzgerald’s Foods, Pfau’s Hardware and several other local businesses
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