It's only been a few years since dry shampoo disrupted the hair-washing game and became an everyday household item. I don't think it would be overly dramatic to say that, today, many of us couldn't imagine our lives without it. Could a similar disruption now be happening to laundry?
More and more brands are coming out with spray-on products that Steph has already adeptly described as "dry shampoo for clothes." You can also think of them as Febreze for clothes (in fact, Febreze now makes one). These products promise to push off laundry day for as long as possible with freshening, deodorizing and wrinkle-smoothing powers that purportedly increase the amount of times you can rewear your favorite items.
For those of us who live in apartments without in-unit washers and dryers, the Covid-19 pandemic has made doing laundry a bit of a predicament: Venturing out to laundromats and shared laundry rooms is risky, if yours are even open right now. And handwashing and drying a full load is quite time-consuming and labor-intensive. If you must do laundry the old-fashioned way, we have a helpful guide here. If not, and you still care what you smell like or how your blouse looks in Zoom meetings, one of these sprays (which, it's important to note, will not actually sanitize your clothes) might be of interest.
As someone who hates doing laundry and ironing even under normal circumstances, I've been curious whether these products actually work, so I called in or purchased 9 of them to test.
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My testing process was far from scientific: At the risk of providing TMI, I'm not a naturally very sweaty person; the only thing that really gets me perspiring is hot yoga and I obviously haven't been doing any of that recently. But I was able to drum up a few slightly smelly shirts through methods I won't disclose, as well as a couple of sweaters from my dry cleaning pile, and some wrinkled button-downs. I tested each product on a different item. Read on for my thoughts on each one, which I scored on a scale of one to five.
Love Home and Planet Re-Wear Dry Wash Spray in Lavender & Argan Oil, $6.99, available here.
This vegan, dermatologist-tested product promises planet-friendly ingredients along with "fragrant, crease-less clothes." I initially heard about it from Steph, who's a fan. The spray comes out as a fine, consistent mist, but it's a little hard to tell where you're spraying and how much. I may have sprayed a little too much on the T-shirt I tested it on because it took forever to dry, much longer than any other products I tested. Once the product did dry about an hour later, the odor and wrinkles had truly disappeared and a nice, subtle scent was left behind.
Real Simple No-Iron Wrinkle Release Treatment in Lavender, $11.99, available here.
This plant-based product also boasts claims of being planet-friendly, free of dyes, synthetic fragrances, parabens and more. With 16 ounces, it's also pretty huge. The spray format is more akin to a cleaning product: It casts a wide, strong splatter so it doesn't seem to require too many sprays to cover a garment. This also took a while to dry, about 45 minutes. Once dry, my very-wrinkled item was about 90% wrinkle-free, but it was not quite as effective at odor removal. A plus, though: It didn't leave behind much of a scent as compared to other products, and there's even an unscented version if you're sensitive to fragrance.
The Laundress Fabric Fresh in Classic, $16, available here.
If you're familiar with The Laundress products, you know they smell lovely and the brand definitely gets the highest score for packaging on this list. This products boasts a nontoxic formula with antibacterial properties that adds scent while also removing odor. Physically, this is more like a standard spray bottle that might be used for a hair product and the cast is more narrow so it requires more pumps to get the whole garment. It dried very quickly, in less than 15 minutes. The odor was gone and the product left a nice scent that was strong but not overpowering. It also helped a bit with wrinkle removal even though that's not one of its claims.
(I also tried the brand's special sprays for delicates and for wool & cashmere, and didn't find either of them to be as effective as the original at odor removal, though they did leave nice, subtle scents.)
The Laundress Crease Release, $16, available here.
The Laundress offers a separate product for de-wrinkling. Not great in terms of value, but good for clean items that are simply wrinkled and don't need any help in the odor department (though it still contains the brand's "Classic" scent). Similarly to the Fabric Refresh, this bottle requires numerous sprays but dries quickly. I found that the (albeit very wrinkled) cotton button-down I tested this on was still pretty wrinkled once dry, so I sprayed some more on. It helped, but left a stronger scent, which is something to consider.
The Laundress Sport Spray, $10, available here.
If you're really trying to eliminate a serious odor, like that which results from an intensely sweaty workout (or two), there are products specifically for that as well. I tested out The Laundress's solution on one strap of my boyfriend's absolutely vile bike helmet that I assumed was hopeless, but it actually made a big difference without adding too strong of a scent. It is a small bottle with small sprays, so it would be a bit of a pain to use all over a large garment, but it would be great for traveling or throwing in a gym bag when that's something we can all do.
Way of Will Clothing Refresh Spray, $19.50, available here.
While it can be used on all clothing, Way of Will suggests trying this on gym clothes, so I used it on the other strap of my boyfriend's nasty helmet. I'd say it was equally as effective as The Laundress's Sport Spray, but left a very different, slightly stronger scent. If grapefruit and lavender sounds nice to you, you'll love it. It's also vegan and cruelty-free and free of parabens and other bad things. Though, it is a bit pricy for only 4.4 ounces.
DFNS Apparel Launder, $15, available here.
DFNS is also all about its planet-friendly qualities. Its production facility abides by the European AISE charter and this product made from a biodegradable, water-based formula. The Ikea-esque visual instructions on the bottle are a bit confusing, but I pretty much did what I did with every other product: Smooth out, spray all over, wait. I really liked the bottle design on this one; the spray is nice and continuous. It dried very quickly, under 10 minutes and while it neutralized the odor pretty effectively, I was less impressed with the wrinkle-smoothing effects. There were definitely a couple of creases left. The resulting smell was very subtle and fresh, but it's a bit overwhelming while you're actually spraying it.
Febreze Clothing Odor Eliminator with Gain Original Scent, $4.99, available here.
At $5 for 15 ounces, this product is easily the best bang for your buck. It comes in the classic Febreze slow-spray bottle which makes it easy to spray the full garment. It took about 25 minutes to dry making it neither the fastest nor the slowest. Once dry, the garment was wrinkle-free and smelled like it had been freshly laundered thanks to the pretty-strong Gain scent, but I could still detect a slide odor if I really got my nose right into the armpit area.
This certainly isn't the chicest or most planet-friendly option but if you're looking for a deal and like the smell of laundry, this could be for you.
Downy Wrinkle Release Fabric Spray, $4.99, available here.
This bottle's continuous spray makes it easy to quickly cover a whole garment. It dries quickly — in about 10 minutes — and leaves behind a fresh, not-overpowering Downy scent. In terms of smoothing wrinkles, I'd say it's about as effective as The Laundress's Crease Release: The shirt wasn't as perfect as if I'd ironed it, but the process was a lot easier than ironing. At $4.99, it's a good price for almost 10 ounces of product.