Give Me Gain Laundry Detergent & I’ll Stay Home As Long As You Want

The era of unscented is over.

Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

This post is not sponsored by any laundry detergent manufacturer of any kind.


I used to be different. Washing my clothes in hippie shit similar to spilling baking soda in the machine by accident. And it was fine. My clothes were clean, stains eliminated, somehow that little sachet of scentless white powder knew what it was doing. But it was always anticlimactic. I always missed the scent of fresh laundry, because when those pods say unscented, they mean it. I thought I was doing something “good” for myself and perhaps the environment by forgoing that most coveted of household smells. But at what cost? I remember knowing it was laundry day at Mom’s house just by waking up in the morning. There was an emotional attachment that I was denying myself, week after week. You might prefer to wake to the scent of coffee and bacon, but give me Gain, any day.

There’s more time for chores now, I’ve noticed that. Homes (without children perhaps) are cleaner than they’ve ever been, maybe because we’re in them perpetually and find a certain sadness in considering dust bunnies house guests, but the sense of satisfaction I used to take in my chores is gone. Was it that I did them so seldom that selflessly devoting an entire sunny Saturday to housework had the ability to make me feel like a hero? Or is it just that I do chores every day now to pass the damn time, and accomplishment has lost its luster? At any rate, in these locked-down days, my laundry had been disappointing me more than usual.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing better than the smell of fresh laundry. It’s not just that it’s clean, it’s optimistic, you know? The effervescence of laundry scent delights me in a way no Cloroxed bathroom ever can. There’s comfort in it, as if that scent suggests to us we’re not too far away from a blanket fort. I’ve learned over time that you can’t mess about with just any laundry detergent. It’s not unlike breakfast cereal. Generic brand gets the job done, but how much did you enjoy the process? Coronavirus is no time to hate our day-to-day processes, as they’re contributing to keeping us happy, and home. What I’m saying is, get the good stuff. In my opinion, Gain laundry detergent is the Cadillac of laundry detergents, and honestly, I think they know it.

Do they even need advertising? Or do they just fan the scent across town on occasion? I’m sure there’s a black market going in disinfecting wipes and toilet paper but I’ve got a line on the best laundry pods money can buy. I was raised to sniff out a bargain no matter what, but I will set my money aflame if it means I can bury my face in a fresh-from-the-dryer pile of Gain-blessed sheets.

Now that I can’t go anywhere, ever, I’m far more aware of or perhaps sensitive to smells. This apartment has literally no ventilation system, I assume my landlord doesn’t care if I can breathe once I have rent set up on autopay, and during these times of COVID I’ve retaken to life’s simplest joys. One day, as I was doing my laundry with my pathetic, scent-free excuse for clothes soap, I’d had enough. I wanted my laundry to work harder for me, to earn its keep. I wanted it to do more than we ask of clothing and towels. To put me in a good mood, to cover my world in fresh linen loveliness. I decided not to dick around any longer. I got Gain.

Ma’am. Ma’am. My world is new. Nothing but sweet, sweet Gain freshness from now on. I’ll have none of your all-natural, unscented, has-no-effect-on-my-mental-state-whatsoever bullshit! In this house, in this quarantine, I use Gain Ultra Flings for Large Loads. Believe it. It contains Febreeze Odor Remover, Oxi Boost whatever the hell that is, and the comforting, familiar, glorious scent of classic Gain. It has been some time since I’ve known this happiness.

To tell the full story, I’d been using Gain fabric softener sheets for years, thinking that was enough. Ah, the ways we kid ourselves. Knowing what I know now, this action was comical. There’s barely a waft of scent flowing out of the dryer and it lingers about as long as a smoke ring. The full experience comes from the soap, my darlings, the soap. Laundry detergent is what makes your linens smell fresh even when you folded them and sat them on a shelf a week ago. Dryer sheets should feel grateful they’re even invited to the party.

The first time I made the switch, I was electrified. Opening the container (it kills me that it’s a single-use plastic btw, I’m already looking into refills that use less packaging and if not you have my word that it will be recycled if not just reused around my house as an air freshener) was not unlike opening a present on my birthday. Better than that, even, I imagine it was like opening a present on your birthday if you were born on Leap Day and only had occasion to rejoice every fourth year. The container sits next to me now as I write this, which I find nice.

The scent was intoxicating, delicately distributed into fragile little pods that, to be fair, look way more inviting than they should. These companies really need to find a way to not make chemicals look like candy, is all I’m saying. The pods contain three different solutions, I do not care what they are, I assume once water has dissolved their filmy membrane they all work together in perfect harmony to make my loungewear smell like spa clothes.

Dropping the pod into the machine and covering it with soiled items made me feel like a I had a secret. I took the elevator back up to my apartment, and for 33 minutes, I waited.

There’s never been a woman so happy to switch her clothing from one machine to another. When I opened the door, just the door to the laundry room itself, I knew something was different, something had changed. Something was better. The entire cavernous room dedicated to eight laundry machines for a building of ten times that many people was filled with the most joyous scent! Gain had lifted my laundry and I back up where we belonged.

I didn’t even put everything in the dryer, taking far more clothing than necessary back upstairs to “hang dry,” in the hopes that my entire home would smell of this freshness. And goddammit, it worked.

I do laundry twice weekly. A load of clothing on Mondays, and a load of linens on Thursdays. Each load has likely been completed by no later than 7:30 am, as I have a propensity for waking at dawn and also I don’t want to deal with any of my neighbors down in the laundry room. In fact if someone else is doing laundry when I am, I assume that they’re having difficulty sleeping. Also there’s this one chick in the building that uses all the machines at the same time and I’m afraid if I see her again I’ll go to jail for my actions.

So twice a week, I return to the land of Gain, a land where chores equal aromatherapy, where everything smells amazing, and as a bonus my comfy pants are clean. My socks and skivvies seem new. Even the dishrags appear more upbeat. And I’m telling you, even if something so simple as laundry detergent shouldn’t have to shoulder this responsibility, I think if we all had a little more Gain, we’d all have a little less stress, resentment, and anxiety about staying home.

I’ve been locked down in my Brooklyn apartment since March 13th. I haven’t seen a friend or touched a human being in over 60 days. It’s the first time I’ve known sensory deprivation like this and if I have to let my sense of smell do the heavy lifting for my sense of touch during these surreal times, so be it. I will take my simple pleasures where I can, because they’re what’s helping me keep it together at home. I will replace the joys of normal life with the small tokens of comfort I can take in household activities. Because they’re all I have. Because they’re all that’s allowed. Because everything else, is a wash.

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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