How to Strip Laundry: Top Methods for the Ultimate Deep Clean

Published April 1, 2022
woman smelling clean towels in laundry

Laundry stripping might sound scary if you're a newbie, but it's not. Laundry stripping is where you take and remove any build-up grime, body oils, detergent residue, and hard water stains from your laundry. Who doesn't like the sound of that? Learn a few simple methods for how to strip your laundry with easy-to-find ingredients.

What to Use to Strip Laundry

Laundry stripping isn't hard. It's pretty easy and only takes three ingredients. That's right, only three.

  • Borax
  • Washing soda
  • Heavy-duty powdered detergent without dyes and fragrances

If you aren't a fan of borax, you can substitute it with an oxygen whitener safe for colors or hydrogen peroxide. Just be aware that hydrogen peroxide does have bleaching properties.

How to Strip Laundry in Tub

The basic and most straightforward way to strip laundry is in a tub. In addition to the laundry stripping ingredients, you'll want to use a broom handle or spatula to stir up the mixture in your tub.

Step 1: Gather Items

Clothes In Basket Against Wall At Home

Before creating your stripping concoction, you need to gather the clothes, towels, or other items you want to strip. This will be an average load of laundry you would put in your washer. So, you'll have to do multiple loads to cover everything you want to be stripped. Before you start chucking everything in the tub, there are a few things you shouldn't strip.

  • Clothes that can't handle hot water (check the label)
  • Clothes with unstable or delicate dyes
  • Delicate materials like wool, spandex, silk, etc. (if you'd hand wash it, don't strip it)
  • Dry clean only materials

Step 2: Create Your Mixture

Detergent and washing powder by laundry basket

Before starting, make sure your bathtub is clean. You don't want soap scum from your tub mixing with your clothes. Then, you can follow these steps.

  1. Fill the tub with hot water. You want the water to be as hot as it gets.
  2. Add ¼ cup of washing soda, ¼ cup of borax, and ½ cup of powdered laundry detergent.
  3. Use the broom handle or spatula to mix everything well.

Step 3: Add Your Clean Laundry

Clean folded cotton denim clothing

It might seem odd, but you're going to add laundry that has already been washed and dried, so it should be "clean." You don't want to add dirty laundry.

  1. Add the laundry one item at a time.
  2. Make sure each item is fully submerged in the mixture using your spatula or broom handle.

Step 4: Wait, Stir, and Drain

Person Washing Laundry In Bucket

Laundry stripping isn't for the faint of heart. Not only will the water for your "clean" clothes look disgusting, but there's a lot of waiting.

  1. Let the clothes sit in the laundry stripper for about 4-6 hours.
  2. Use a spatula and stir all your laundry in the tub with a spatula.
  3. Drain out the water. (Again, don't be shocked that it's nasty.)
  4. Hand wring out your clothes as best you can.

Step 5: Wash and Dry Clothes Normally

woman doing laundry

With your clothing freshly stripped, you need to transfer them to the washer. You will run a normal cycle with cold water. You are not going to add detergent or cleaners. Once washed, dry the clothes as usual.

How to Strip Laundry in Washing Machine

Clothes in the washng machine

If you have a top-loading washer, you can also strip your clothing in the washing machine. This makes things a bit easier since you don't have to transfer anything to the washer. For using the washer, just follow these simple steps.

  1. After gathering clothes, fill the washer with hot water.
  2. Add ¼ cup of borax, ¼ cup of washing soda, and ½ cup of powdered laundry detergent.
  3. Use a broom handle to stir.
  4. Add clothing to the washer, using the broom handle to submerge them.
  5. Allow them to sit for 4-6 hours.
  6. Put the washer on the final spin cycle and let the clothing spin out.
  7. Change the water to cold and wash on a regular cycle.
  8. DO NOT add detergent.
  9. Dry as normal.

How Often to Strip Laundry

Laundry stripping can be a little harsh on your fabrics, so you don't want to do it often. You typically only need to strip your laundry 2-3 times a year. This makes sure everything gets fresh but doesn't damage the fibers of your laundry.

How to Know if You Need to Strip Your Laundry

Not everyone needs to strip their laundry. However, if you have hard water or are lax in your washer cleaning schedule, you might need to try stripping laundry. A few other telltale signs include:

  • Stiff laundry
  • Musty smell even after washed
  • Dingy looking

Tips to Successfully Stripping Your Laundry

Laundry stripping isn't science. Well, it might be. But it's not hard science. However, you can do a few things to make your laundry stripping adventure more fruitful.

  • Don't overload the tub. Only put a regular load of laundry in the stripping recipe.
  • Don't add baking soda rather than washing soda. Washing soda is what you need for stripping.
  • Always keep likes with likes. Separate your lights and darks when stripping. This includes keeping towels and sheets separate.
  • Use a detergent without dyes and fragrances for the best results.
  • Pay attention to your laundry tags.

Does Laundry Stripping Work?

The jury is still out on whether laundry stripping works. If you look at your tub after six hours, you can make your own conclusion. You'll notice your clothes feel cleaner, especially towels and sheets. However, many do point out that stripping can be hard on clothing. So, while it does pull out the residue, it can weaken fibers.

How to Successfully Strip Laundry

Washing your laundry doesn't always get it the cleanest it can be. Therefore, you might try stripping your laundry to pull out any build-up or residue. Laundry stripping works great for towels, gym clothes, and sheets, but it's not ideal for delicates. For those, you might want to try a laundry detergent substitute that's a little greener for the environment.

How to Strip Laundry: Top Methods for the Ultimate Deep Clean