Columns

Experts sound off on laundry and hangers 2016.02.17

By RICH FOLEY

I wrote recently of having a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, mentioning some of the offbeat articles it now publishes. I wasn’t ever expecting advice on how to deal with my laundry, but a pair of recent stories have me wondering how dumb they think some of us are.

One article, citing an “epic change” in American homes, says that detergent and washing machine makers are changing their products to appeal to a growing market, namely males who refuse to sort the laundry. A recent survey says 67 percent of men age 18 to 34 claim they are “mainly responsible for the laundry,” up from just 44 percent two years before.

 I have to wonder how females in those households would answer the same question, but the laundry industry is embracing what a Proctor & Gamble executive calls a “fundamental shift in how we approach the business.”

The folks at P&G decided against the idea of producing a Tide for Men detergent, but have added fragrances such as “Victory Fresh” to the Tide product line. Online ads for Tide pods are now featuring athletes, including several NFL players. Since those pods resemble nothing so much as a golf ball, maybe P&G should add a golfer or two to their endorser lineup.

Sun Products, maker of All detergent and Snuggle fabric softener, is now including men in their research projects. They say men have fewer laundry complaints than women except for one huge one: “Sorting is a big problem for them, a significantly higher one than for women.”

Men are supposedly much more likely to always use the normal cycle on their washer than women, and also more likely to always use the same cycle every time on their dryer. According to the Whirlpool Corporation, women “tend to prefer intricate sorting, careful selection of specialized settings and precise folding routines.” Whirlpool calls this process “art.” I could think of a few other words, but perhaps I should keep them to myself.

Not surprisingly, Whirlpool has figured out a way to profit from this research, recently adding a “ColorLast” cycle to its washing machines to “better accommodate men who don’t sort.” The ColorLast option “uses a combination of water temperature, time and movement to keep colors from fading.”

Marketing executive Mike Eaton started Hero Clean, a company that makes detergent for men. His product is formulated to target stains Eaton says “are common to men, including sweat, ketchup, mustard, beer, gasoline, grass, wine and axle grease.” He also claims the product is good at removing glitter and lipstick. I didn’t know glitter was such a problem. He might have a niche market there to serve.

Another new product called Frey detergent has a fragrance consisting of oak, musk, leather, bergamot, sandalwood and frankincense. I had to look bergamot up in the dictionary. None of these ingredients sound like anything I’d want my clothes smelling like.

Nor do I feel like investing in super-premium hangers, another product I didn’t know I needed until I read another article. After finishing it, I’m still not convinced.

One store mentioned in the article sells over 200 different sizes and colors of hangers. Seriously? The article mentions wealthy people who “have had their closets expanded into lounges where wire hangers from the dry cleaners look a little out of place.”

Lounges? For clothes? I still have an old-fashioned thing called a “closet” where wire coat hangers look just fine, whether the late Joan Crawford likes it or not. I also have a supply of plastic hangers, though I doubt that would make “Mommie Dearest” feel any better. I’ll pass on the dozen “fancier hangers” for $122 cited in the article, not to mention the “Luxury Wooden Suit” hanger for $29.95. That’s $29.95, each. 

I don’t see much sense in paying for premium hangers without a “lounge” to display them in. And I’m not impressed by any of these masculine detergents, either. I think I’ll just stick with my old standby, Tide with Febreze. And no fabric softener, please, unless the folks at Sun Products do some updating to their Snuggle brand. Maybe add another bear to the kid-friendly Snuggle lineup. How about a new scent called “Rabid Grizzly?”