Zero Waste Laundry

Sometimes when people talk about laundry in the context of "minimalist" or capsule wardrobes, it sounds awfully nihilistic. There is a fear of imaginary situations like- what if you get something dirty and need it the next day? Won't you be stuck doing laundry all the time? Don't worry, that doesn't happen. I always own enough so there's something else to wear. I do laundry once a week at most, and only for things that really need it, like underwear, sheets, and towels. Most clothes stay fresh enough for multiple wears before laundering. Less stuff = less time and money spent on maintenance.

Paris Laundry vs. America 

Our front-loading machine is much smaller than an American one (max capacity 7 kg), and a single cycle takes hours. Like everyone I know in Paris, I wash everything on the "quick" setting, which takes forever. French washers spin clothes vigorously, but the dryer itself doesn't do anything- it sort of just cooks the clothes. There's no lint trap, either, necessitating yearly maintenance. My only option is to hang dry. This is better for the garments, the environment, and cuts down on ironing. Many neighbors have drying racks and clotheslines; I use every radiator, doorknob, chair, and hook in our apartment (I clean them so often anyway). Seasonally, I wash big stuff, like comforters and pillows, at the laundromat, using my own soap.

This is the first place I've lived in with laundry, but my routine hasn't changed much from when I didn't have space for a washer / dryer. I still only do full loads. Back then, I handwashed what I could and air-dried everything to save money. To handwash delicate items, immerse in a basin, sink, or bucket with a few inches of sudsy water or pat / dip until wet (doesn't matter if you use bar or liquid soap, but bar soap is more alkaline, and liquid soap is more concentrated, so you'll need less. Liquid soap doesn't loosen as many microfibers either). Squeeze gently, forcing water through the fabric. If the garment is less delicate (for instance, a wool dress), rub the fabric against itself or a washing board to remove soil. Rinse and roll in a colorfast towel to remove excess water. Hang or lay flat to dry.

Laundry science

Washing clothes in cold water will, to some degree, sanitize kinetically while reducing microplastic fiber release. Most machines don't heat water hot enough to kill all germs and pathogens anyway. Further, many French machines won't let you change water temperature. Store-bought detergents merely inactivate microorganisms, not remove them. Judicious use of a hot iron, steamer, sunlight, and vinegar (in the rinse cycle) is germicidal and eliminates dust mites. Vinegar has the added benefit of reducing dye loss, softening water, and maintaining garment shape. Whereas traditional detergents leave residue behind, a mild antiseptic soap like Alep or palm oil free castile soap (mine is Meow Meow Tweet from Package Free Shop) rinses cleanly without irritating additives. Baking or washing soda are effective water softeners and brighteners that haven't left buildup in our washing machine (2018 UPDATE: I don't really use baking soda anymore because it's a non renewable resource). Experts often recommend soaking items such as handkerchiefs in salty water or lemon juice for a better clean. 

My routine 

Every week I do four loads, in order of what takes the most time to dry (2018 UPDATE: The below principles mostly apply, but I now wash underwear, sheets, towels etc. once a week. Most clothing needs washing once a month, dresses, coats, and my wool skirt about once a season. I've washed with liquid castile soap in HE washer for over a year now with no problems). I sort so as to keep germy materials separate:

  1. Sheets and handkerchiefs
  2. Bath towels, hand towels, and bathmats
  3. Clothes, socks, stockings, underwear 
  4. Flour sack towels, cloth napkins, and dishcloths

Our clothes can generally be combined in one load, partly because of the soap we use, partly because of the quality, fabric, and palette we choose. From what I've seen, a mild antiseptic soap is high efficiency washer-compatible (control study of one) and will not fade or bleed colors, provided the material is dyed properly. I never dry clean, and wash coats at the beginning and end of every season. I'm not sure how often I wash my dresses; a few times a season, but the t-shirts and leggings I wear underneath get washed once a week or biweekly, depending on my spot-clean vigilance. I brush and air things often, so rest assured, they stay fresh. Thus far, my wooly sweaters have been hand-washed once, when I got them.

I try to hand-wash my underwear every night- you're supposed to wash immediately after use- but realistically sometimes just throw them in with the regular load weekly (regardless of how many pairs you have, all underwear should be washed no more than one week after wear). According to housekeeping manuals, if you loosely group underwear, socks, and clothes together, they come cleaner because articles of dissimilar sizes produce the best washing results. Of course, if you have kids, diapers need to be washed separately from everything else.

You can grate soap directly into the machine, or dissolve in hot water first. I use lemon juice and sunshine instead of bleach. Our whites are sparkling, and when the Darty man came to look at our three year old machine, he complimented how clean and well-maintained it was. In Paris, irons need monthly vinegar baths to prevent them from breaking down or spewing brown water and mineral deposits everywhere. 

Reducing laundry and ironing

  1. Hang towels to dry instead of using a fresh one every day. Korean grandmothers are big on this one
  2. Skip the dryer. Shake and smooth the wrinkles out of cloth while damp, folding handkerchiefs and cloth napkins before hanging to dry.
  3. Choose fibers carefully. I no longer iron any of my stuff. Quality fabrics, I've found, generally wrinkle less and can be steamed during the shower if necessary. Wools are particularly low-wrinkling.
  4. Change out of street clothes as soon as you get home. Protect garments by wearing t-shirts, camis, dress shields, slips, and stockings underneath (wash these items weekly), or tying an apron on while cooking and cleaning. 
  5. Don't eat in bed, and wash face and feet before getting under the covers.
  6. Air, brush, and spot clean clothing instead of throwing barely worn items in the laundry (depends on the fiber). If they're not smelly or gross, avoid overwashing. Freshen with vodka or essential oils in a spray bottle instead. Steam garments by hanging them up while you're in the shower. Spot cleaning is simple- just rub soap directly on the affected area and rinse or wipe off with a damp cloth.
  7. Fold items as soon as possible. Leaving them in a basket causes wrinkling, and cats find clean laundry irresistible.
  8. Allow for space between garments in closets and drawers. Clothes stored too close together wrinkle terribly. 

I know a lot of people prefer doing laundry less frequently. Practically speaking, that might be all they can manage, and I'm not one to judge, since I never wash my hair. Scientifically speaking, everyone needs to do some laundry once a week. Dust, dirt, and sweat weaken fabrics and mildew, odor, and pathogens can permanently damage fibers when left too long. Contrary to popular opinion, weekly washings won't wear stuff out faster, but can help preserve and extend life span, depending on the garment. If you need to dryclean, most places in Paris let you use your own garment bag and hanger- Sequoia is perchloroethylene free. The harsh chemicals and plasticizers used in drycleaning cause much faster wearing, discoloration, and fading. Plus they use the same fluids over and over again, on everybody's garments...

So, I hope this makes sense and answers everybody's questions. I only do laundry once a week, I never dryclean, iron, or use the dryer. Everything smells good, stays colorfast and, provided they are quality garments, lasts despite repeated use. Only common sense and personal preference can determine how often you wash garments, how you sort them, and what you use to clean them, but this works for me.  It's been my experience that owning less and keeping up with laundry makes it less of a burden. For zero-waste stain removal, click here. For tips on extending the life of your wardrobe, click here. For linen questions, click here.  Finally, zero-waste cleaning, natural soap, and everything I own.

Plastic-free laundry tools

Guppy Bag or washing machine lint filter (my grandma has a stainless steel thing in her utility sink to catch microfibers, I think it's from Korea)
Natural soap, soap nuts (if you can grow and not import them), or DIY detergent (such as homemade washing soda), according to local availability
Baking soda, lemons, and vinegar
Lingerie bag to keep delicates from snagging
Skip dryer sheets, or, if you must, use DIY wool dryer balls

Paris to Go

Volez, Voguez, Voyagez - Louis Vuitton - Grand Palais


After Cop21 I headed to Square Jean Perrin for the new Louis Vuitton exhibition Volez, Voguez, Voyagez. Amidst Callot Soeurs dresses, Stradivarius violins, and purchase orders from Matisse and Dior, there are Louis Vuitton automobile parts, picnic sets, and hairbrushes- stuff I didn't even know they made, all non-disposable and perfectly useable today. Knit bonnets by Sonia Delaunay and Robert Piguet gingham gowns still look timeless next to coats by Marc Jacobs and dresses by Nicolas Ghesquière. Best of all, the exhibition features a glittering replica train car and Wes Anderson's famous luggage from The Darjeeling Limited, in all their hand-painted palm tree and giraffe-festooned glory.

The visit begins with classic Louis Vuitton designs from 1854 onward, followed by several travel sections and a collection of lithographs, fine papers, and books. One section features walls padded in monogram plush, not unlike Daria Morgendorffer's bedroom. Vintage luggage tags, ledgers, and leather bound wooden trunks are exhibited beautifully with period-appropriate loans from Palais Galliera. I would wear most of the vintage clothing displayed, which comes as no surprise, since I have the fashion sense of a 107-year-old woman. 

By the way, Louis Vuitton was a stone cold fox, judging from his portrait by Yan Pei-ming. Born in the Franche-Comté forest, he traveled from Jura to Paris on foot at age 14. There he parlayed woodworking skills into box-making, assembling sweetly scented, ergonomically designed trunks for European royalty. An early proponent of minimalism, he focused on creating increasingly lightweight, ingenious containers to protect and store his clients' entire wardrobes. Fun fact: Vuitton's grandsons, twins Jean and Pierre, invented helicopter prototypes.

"Volez, Voguez, Voyagez" runs until February 21, 2016. General tour tickets are sold out, but you can still reserve an entree simple or go without, which means you just enter through a separate line. I also highly recommend visiting the Vuitton family home, workshop, and gallery in Asnières-sur-Seine. Vuitton himself built the home in 1859 because Paris was dirty, smelly, and overrun with slums, and he wanted his family out of there. The gardens are beautiful and the house is full of richly handcrafted furniture. The backyard accommodates a workshop with over 200 artisans. Today you can take a tour and visit the small museum there, by appointment only.
Paris to Go

Foucade Paris


Yesterday we tried newly opened Foucade, Paris' first "pâtisserie positive." Steps away from Madeleine, behind a pretty violet storefront and matching Vespa, Foucade Paris offers gluten-and-lactose-free, reduced sugar and reduced fat patisserie sans pork or fish-based gelatins. It's the kind of place you'd read about in Goop.  

Foucade Paris is part of a new class of tea rooms that take the stuffing out of traditional French patisserie, along with Acide Macaron, Gâté, and Lily of the Valley, among others. Philippe Starck ghost chairs sit opposite plush recliners resembling those in Nick Grimshaw's X-Factor house. The founder, Marjorie Foucade, eats wheat-and-lactose-free and said, "I was eating a lot of refined sugars. It wasn't healthy, because I was doing a lot of sport." Two years of research with dietitians, nutritionists, and noted pastry chefs (the in-house chef's resumé includes Angelina and Fauçhon) culminated in "six recipes, so I hope you like them," she laughed. 

I ordered fresh juice with citronette, a yuzu-tinged tart topped with basil. To get a better idea of Foucade's offerings, I also got an eclair: choux pastry filled with light, lactose-free clove chantilly over spicy apples, chia seeds, and praline. Finally I polished off an operette, rich chocolate mousse on a bed of buckwheat and chia seeds. The other customers gave me major side-eye, as if I'd missed the point of positive patisserie. Everything was delicious and beautifully presented and the service was very nice though. We walked to Bio'c'Bon after and found purple sweet potatoes, so all the mental blog post composition I did up until that point fell apart under a torrent of transgenic dicotyledonous delight. I feel like I'm the girl writing that Sassy article about Tiffani-Amber Thiessen saying this, but it is quite expensive as far as gluten-free goes: 39.50 euro for two juices and three pastries. I understand that it's a high-quality, creative product and for a special occasion treat, it's warranted.

Foucade Paris

17 Rue Duphot
Metro: Madeleine

Paris to Go

Water Only


Here's the natural texture of my hair and skin when I wake up now, before washing, styling, brushing, or makeup (en fait, I got three hours of sleep before taking these photos, so I hope I normally look better). My daily routine:

10 minute AM routine

  1. Brush teeth
  2. Massage scalp with fingers, then brush hair and scalp with plastic-free wooden bristle brush in rubber base. Wrap in towel.
  3. Shower or bathe with olive oil soap, shave with safety razor if necessary (adds five minutes). Like many French girls I know, I don't wash my face in the morning, not even with water- it's too drying. Wash hair with water weekly.
  4. Apply Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation (recyclable, cruelty free but owned by a company that allows animal testing), blush, eyeliner, and mascara. I discovered Kjaer Weis on a photo shoot and loved it, but after researching their formulations further, decided not to invest (Ellis Faas also has refillable products). The silicone in this current foundation keeps my skin from breaking out, and I don't need any more containers.

Evening routine 

  1. Remove makeup with water and a hemp washcloth. Brush teeth.
  2. Repeat scalp massage and brush hair. I have two pillows I switch around. The object is keeping the pillowcases as clean as possible, laundering weekly and wrapping hair with a towel or scarf.
The severity and frequency of my acne reduced drastically. It was hard for people to look at me, and I couldn't scratch my face because it was so painful. I didn't want to leave the house with skin so bumpy and bloody. Now I hardly ever get a zit. If I do, it's much smaller than before and doesn't scar, plus my pores seem less noticeable and existing scars are finally starting to fade. When I go outside without makeup or keep the windows open too long, I get a pimple almost immediately after. Apparently a breakout takes two weeks to develop- I'm not sure what's happening there.

I'll always have a bit of frizz, and my hair is still coarse, but the texture improved dramatically. My hair started growing again- it hadn't for two years- the curls sprang up and relaxed, and it doesn't fall out as much. Recently, my grandma sent me the Arirangion; Korean readers, do you know about this? In my great-aunt's community in Seoul, ionized water is all they have, so everyone washes their hair without shampoo, and their laundry without soap (everyone except Imo, who still uses soap and detergents faithfully). Things come out white and fresh-smelling. Hair is left healthy and strong. I tried the water out on some laundry (with soap), and it was incredible how soft and beautiful clothes came out. I forgot how nice fabric could feel in the absence of Paris' hard water. Can't wait to see what it does to my hair and skin!

When transitioning to water only in a corporate environment, you need to massage your scalp and brush your hair at every opportunity. My hair is thick and wiry, so I'm sort of useless to people with silkier, finer hair, but what really helped me was keeping dry shampoo out of my hair as much as possible. Try and stave off the cocoa powder, arrowroot, or cornstarch until at least the third day, allowing hair to adjust sebum production properly. Lemon or lime juice is a great freshener / hairspray alternative that adds shine. If you can't wear headbands or headscarves at your office (although I thought the ones Karen Gillan wore in Selfie were totally appropriate!), part your hair on the opposite side when you first wash it, then keep moving your part over as the week goes on. The day before your next wash, slick it back in a ponytail- I hear this is what Kim Kardashian, rich Londoners, et al. do between weekly blowouts.

Now that I have ionized water, I may switch to soap or rhassoul eventually. At the moment, my hair feels bouncy, and complete strangers ask the name of my salon or stylist. They could very well be asking to avoid going to the same place, but I like to think it means the shampoo detox is healing my beleaguered strands. P.S. Don't worry, this will be the end of unwanted ugly pictures of me for awhile.
Paris to Go