year in review

The Best Thing I Bought This Year Is This No-Rinse Laundry Soap

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Writers

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Dominique Pariso on the no-rinse laundry soap that keeps her sweater collection looking pristine.

I prefer to spend my winter swaddled in cashmere and wool. There is, however, a small problem with building a large cashmere- and wool-sweater collection: the annual dry-cleaning bill. Once a year, I take all of my sweaters in for dry cleaning that can easily run me over $200. Not only is this extremely expensive, but dry cleaning can actually damage more delicate fibers, particularly cashmere. Tossing my sweaters in the washer is, obviously, out of the question. That leaves hand washing, which is labor intensive. Plus trying to ring out all of the detergent by hand can damage knits.

In the beginning of November, I was complaining about my impending dry-cleaning bill to a friend of mine — who just so happened to have spent an entire summer working in a cashmere shop selling shawls to tourists — who told me that I should try Soak’s laundry soap. The key is that it’s a no-rinse formula. It couldn’t be simpler: I add one teaspoon to a gallon of cool water, soak my sweater for 15 minutes, gently squeeze out the excess water, and lay it flat to dry on a white towel. According to the brand, the dirt and detergent comes out in the water, and whatever is left in the item evaporates. Soak not only removed the dirt from my sweaters but also got out the lingering smell of cigarette smoke from a few sweaters I had worn on nights out. And, while this might be a little TMI, each sweater passed the armpit check with flying colors. So far, the ten sweaters that have gotten the Soak treatment — from Uniqlo cashmere to Everlane alpaca — have come out feeling soft and smelling fresh with no color bleeding or pilling. (If you’re feeling nervous, Soak does recommend rubbing a bit of the soap on an inconspicuous part of your sweater and rinsing after two minutes to check for bleeding).

Based in Canada, Soak is made using plant-derived ingredients and is biodegradable. While I opted for their fig soap, which leaves a very light, clean scent behind, they have six other fragrances to choose from and a completely scentless option as well. And after the recent scandal with an ecofriendly laundry-detergent brand that shall not be named, I’m glad to have found a new brand I can trust. And apparently I am in good company: Strategist audience-development senior manager (and resident knitter) Mia Leimkuhler told me that Soak is “the ‘It’ soap in the knitting world right now,” explaining that “because knitters need to block their sweaters after they’re finished knitting them, to even out the stitches and relax the wool, all the knitters I know rely on no-rinse washes because you don’t want to agitate the wool any further by rinsing and wringing.”

And at $18, Soap is a steal. I’ve laundered nearly my entire sweater collection and I’ve used just a fraction of the bottle, which says I should get 75 washes in before I run out. By my estimation, a single bottle of Soak should last me through the next five winters.

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The Best Thing I Bought This Year Is This Laundry Soap