Rick Duchaine talks about chemistry – a lot.
But he’s not employed at some biotech company in South Lake Union, he’s speaking from the Seattle Seahawks’ Renton headquarters. And what he really means is detergent.
Duchaine is known as The Jersey Whisperer, a nickname he takes as a compliment.
We first learned about him after Sara of North Seattle asked KUOW’s Local Wonder about how the Seahawks’ jerseys get clean.
Duchaine’s job title may be assistant with the equipment staff, but he’s more than that. He’s the one person responsible for the team’s uniforms, making sure all the jerseys, pants, gloves, hand warmers and cleats are clean.
You watch a game to see big defensive stands, imaginative passing routes, clutch plays. For Duchaine, Sunday isn’t about the players.
“I see a very different game. I see the uniforms, I see the paint, I see the grass, I see the dyes,” he said.
As soon as a game is over, the jerseys go immediately to Duchaine and his team. No matter how late a game ends, home or away, the crew works through the night.
“We evaluate first: Look at how bad they are, field paint, if the field hasn’t been painted that’s a little bit different process chemically, and if there’s a lot of paint on the uniforms, we will modify the chemistry to make that happen,” Duchaine said.
Duchaine assesses the stains on the jerseys and determine his detergent mix, or chemistry. Then the jerseys go into the washing machine. All jerseys are cleaned within hours after a game ends.
Any athlete or parent with active kids can guess why.
“We’re getting uniforms sometimes with the sweat, could be blood on the uniforms. They sit for a day, they get ripe,” Duchaine explained.
It’s important the jerseys get cleaned as soon as possible so the stains don’t set. Because here’s a fact that surprised us: in a lot of cases the team is trying to use the same jersey the entire season, whether it be their blue, gray white or green variety.
“Do players get new jerseys for every game? Absolutely not,” Duchaine said. “Which is difficult to do when you play on grass.”
The Seahawks had seven games this season on grass fields. The problem isn’t really pesky grass stains – it’s the green paint. It's used for special events or if there's lousy weather and green grass can't grow.
Duchaine spent 10 years tweaking the Seahawks detergent just for field paint. He worked with chemists, industrial laundries, and other teams across the NFL.
“We actually went through a process here to determine what paint manufacturers supplied each team. So we know when we play in Arizona, San Francisco, Tampa, we know what manufacturer they use for their field paints,” he said.
There’s also red dye on the football itself. When a player is making a massive run down the field, clutching the ball in his breadbasket, it leaves dye on the jersey.
“For instance, Shaun Alexander, he had more of an issue with ball dye on his jersey than a lot of players,” Duchaine said.
Duchaine factors this all in and adjusts his chemistry.
For the rest of us, his tips are simple: Follow the directions on the tag, use warm not hot water.
“Get some detergent on it if you want to pre-treat it, but get it in the wheel as soon as possible. I believe that’s the best chance that you have,” he said.
Also, any store-bought detergent will work. Because Duchaine’s not giving away his secret formulas.
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