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How To Clean Clothes Naturally, From The Owners Of NYC's Trendiest Laundromat

Emma Loewe
July 7, 2019
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
CeIsious laundromat
Image by Francesca Rao / CeIsious
July 7, 2019

When you walk by Celsious' storefront on a stylish block in Williamsburg, it's easy to mistake it for just another hot new restaurant or designer clothing store. The space—awash in natural light, soothing colors, and rows of plants—doesn't exactly scream "laundromat." And that's the point. Co-founders and sisters Corinna and Theresa Williams want to take the notion that doing laundry is a chore and hang it out to dry.

Why the laundromat could use a wellness rebrand.

The New Age laundromat's name, and much of its ethos, is borrowed from European washing culture. Corinna and Theresa were raised in an eco-conscious household in Germany and taught to do laundry on machines that dispensed water at temps like 30, 40, or 60 degrees Celsius. When the duo came to America a few years back—to pursue careers in fashion journalism and product design, respectively—they found the laundry machines stateside left something to be desired.

"When I moved to New York in 2012 and saw cold, warm, and hot at laundromats, I didn't know what that meant," Corinna told me over coffee at Celsious' on-site café one drizzly summer afternoon. "It felt vague and imprecise. We wanted to bring back the science of washing."

Looking over at the laundromat's main floor, it certainly seemed more high-tech than most. Walls full of smart washers dispensed water based on how heavy a load was, and the dryers sensed the remaining moisture on clothes so as to never over-dry.  

Traditional, chemical-laden cleaners have no place in green machines like these. Instead, Celsious offers all its customers complimentary three-ingredient detergent (a blend of washing soda, baking soda, and Castile soap) and sells a curated selection of other natural laundry care accessories for purchase. Think: Cora Balls to suck up microplastics and biodegradable stain remover spray.

"The way we all approach cleaning products should be similar to the way we choose food," Corinna said. "The fewer ingredients, the better." After all, a handful of chemicals found in traditional cleaners may prove irritating to the skin and respiratory system after continued use. 1,4-Dioxane, sodium borate, and sodium hypochlorite are a few that the Environmental Working Group has flagged. 

The issue isn’t that people don’t want to do laundry. They just don’t want to do it in a horrible place.

Two things you'll never see sold at Celsious? Traditional fabric softener and dryer sheets—both of which are typically packed with harmful chemicals and largely unnecessary. Soon, Corinna and Theresa will prohibit dryer sheets from the laundromat altogether in order to protect employees from exposure to their harsh ingredients. 

Cultivating a community of laundry-day lovers.

Beyond just making laundry day safer, the sisters hope to make it more enjoyable. When I visited Celsious, its lofted café area was alive with people eating vegan treats and sipping organic kombucha while their wash was on. Like the detergent on the main floor, everything in the café came in reusable containers to avoid single-use plastics.

It was easy to see why regulars have been known to hop on the Wi-Fi and host work meetings in the space, or outside on the patio when it's warm out. "People bring their parents when they're in town," Theresa said. "We do get 'laundry tourists'—people just stopping in even if they don't have laundry," adds Corinna. 

In the year and a half that Celsious has been around, thousands of guests have visited from all walks of life, coming from neighborhoods near and far. "The issue isn't that people don't want to do laundry," Theresa said of the early success. "They just don't want to do it in a horrible place."

Guests are invited to come for the washing machines and good vibes and stay for weekly programming like yoga on the back patio, morning meditations, and tarot card readings on Sundays. These community events challenge the idea that laundry is something to always do in furrow-browed, strict silence and isolation. When I asked the sisters if this was always part of the plan, they answered with a resounding yes.

"Garment care and home care—" began Theresa.

"It's self-care!" Corinna piggybacked.

"Yeah," Theresa smiled. "It's self-care, and it's part of your wellness routine."

How to do your laundry the Celsious way.

Here are Theresa and Corinna's top tips for making any laundry routine easier on the planet and your health:

1. Ditch the dryer sheets and fabric softener. 

Swap the sheets out for reusable wool dryer balls scented with your favorite essentials and trade in your fabric softener for some plain-old white vinegar. "You can just throw it in the fabric softener compartment, and it will do the same thing," Corinna says of the wonder ingredient. "It's also a powerful odor control agent. I use it for all my hot yoga clothes."

2. Make sure your detergent doesn't have any nasty ingredients. 

Learn more about how to identify those here. A few brands that the Celsious duo vouches for: Sonett, Tangent GC, and Meliora.

3. Do the planet a solid and wash your clothes at the lowest temp possible.

After all, heating water accounts for the majority of your machine's energy use—up to 90% of it!

4. Pretreat stains to help your clothes last longer. 

"Don't let anything sit and then throw it in the wash at a high temperature hoping that a certain stain will come out," Theresa cautions. "Pretreat stains as soon as they happen, and then wash the entire load on cold." As far as spot treatments go, she recommends this nontoxic Oxygen Brightener for more acidic stains and this Stain Stick for oil-based ones.

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.