Disgusting, Yet Satisfying: How to Strip Your Laundry

Disgusting, Yet Satisfying:  How to Strip Your Laundry

I recently came across a new cleaning technique — Laundry Stripping. And I am in awe! As someone who loves cleaning and organizing, as well as instant results, I was intrigued to learn more.

So, I teamed up with Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, a Board-Certified Dermatologist out of Houston, Texas, to find out more about laundry stripping. And, after giving it a try on our towels at home, I have to say I am hooked!

Our towels feel so much more fresh and absorbent than before. This was a great way to bring life back to old towels on a small budget.

What is laundry stripping and how does it work?

yellow, gray, blue towels soaking in a tub

“Laundry stripping is a soaking method designed to deep-clean your laundry, with the intent to remove built-up residue from detergent, hard water, body oils, and fabric softener,” reports Dr. Mullans.

Laundry stripping helps to bring life back to laundry, allowing textiles to feel fresh again. Even as someone who avoids fabric softener and uses a gentle, scent-free, dye-free laundry detergent regularly, laundry stripping was the extra boost I needed to get my linens feeling really clean and pure.

What supplies do I need for laundry stripping?

A box of borax, a box of tide, a box of laundry booster, and a bottle of calgon water softener.
  • A clean bathtub, large bucket, or washing machine for soaking laundry
  • HOT water – as hot as you can get
  • Stripping ingredients
  • Clean laundry
  • Mixing tool – you can use your hand, but I found a broom handle was the easiest way to stir laundry

What’s the best method for laundry stripping?

  1. Fill the bathtub, bucket, or washing machine with the hottest water possible. I like to let the water run until the water gets really hot, then I plug the tub.
  2. Add each of the following products to the hot water:
  3. Once the mixture has dissolved in hot water, add your just-washed laundry, wet or dry.
  4. Let the laundry soak until the water has cooled, which will typically take 4-6 hours.
  5. Stir your laundry once every hour. I always set a timer because it’s easy for me to forget about it.
  6. After the water has cooled, drain the tub/bucket/washing machine, and squeeze out excess water from your laundry. I recommend using rubber gloves to avoid drying out your skin.
  7. Transport laundry back to the washing machine, using a basket or bucket, and wash the laundry on a full, but water-only cycle.
  8. Dry your laundry as you usually would, either in the dryer or hang to dry.
  9. Enjoy your fresh laundry!

What should I avoid with laundry stripping?

Basket of laundry with white linens and a red article of clothing

“If you do try the method on colorful clothing, avoid mixing a red shirt with white socks—or else you could end up with accidentally dyed clothing,” recommends Dr. Mullans. Sorting items beforehand, based on color, is a great way to avoid mixing dyes and ruining laundry.

Why does the water turn a different color?

Three photo progressions of laundry stripping after 1 hour, after 4 hours, and after 6 hours.

The water may turn brown or gray from all the grime removed from your laundry. All of the minerals from hard water, residue from detergents and other cleaning products, and body oils transfer from your laundry to the water. I found it super satisfying that the water got darker each hour that my laundry soaked.

Will laundry stripping irritate sensitive skin?

One box of Arm & Hammer Free of Perfume & Dyes; One box of Tide Detergent

Dr. Mullans recommends sticking to a laundry detergent you are used to if you have sensitive skin. Arm & Hammer Powder laundry detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes is great for sensitive skin. I prefer Tide because it has worked well for us. Also, try to avoid laundry stripping on delicate items as it may compromise the material, making them irritable against your skin.

Will laundry stripping damage my clothing?

Pink lace fabric with a care tag with details

You want to be picky with the items you put through the stripping process. Sometimes, dyes can run, which may ruin clothing. Remember, you are soaking things in hot water, so you don’t want to put in any items that may get ruined by the high temperature. Check each item’s care label first to avoid damaging an article of clothing.

It’s ideal to stick with linens and bedsheets. But I’ve seen examples of people stripping their workout clothes, which seems like it would be quite satisfying too.

How Often Should I Strip My Laundry?

Annual calendar with dates circles every 3 months and every 6 months

Clothing, worn regularly, should be stripped every three months.

Towels, blankets, and linens should be stripped every six months.

So, what do you think? Does it gross you out? Does it seem satisfying? Want to try it out? Ready to join me in this residue removing, deep cleaning, satisfying activity? I’d love to hear about your laundry stripping experience, share it with me below!

Not wanting to invest in boxes of laundry stripping supplies? I put together a single-use package of laundry stripping powder that I can ship to your home. Check out my homemade laundry stripping powder, in my Etsy shop here! Or click on the photo below.

4 Ingredients for laundry stripping, the words "Disgusting, yet satisfying, how to strip your laundry, and on bottom is two pictures of tub with dirty water after stripping
three bags of laundry stripping powder

102 thoughts on “Disgusting, Yet Satisfying: How to Strip Your Laundry”

  • I’m saving this post and totally doing this! I’ve heard of it for cloth diapers but never laundry. It’s brilliant!

  • Coolpost! Definitely something to try out with my towels, I’d be more weary of doing this with clothes, but defiintely something to try out for those heavy and dirty fabrics. Thanks for this!

    • I agree, linens would work best. I have heard of others doing workout clothes, that would be interesting to see. But I am afraid it might fade those items.

  • I have never heard about Laundry stripping. This is a perfect solution to get rid of dirty cloths. The best part is it does need any special product, I can do it with normal detergents that I use generally. Thank you, you have explained things in such a nice way.

    • Yes, I agree, it such a simple process. The idea is far more daunting than the actual task of laundry stripping.

  • This is interesting. I use to do this with baby clothes. I thought it would help get those stains out. It worked pretty well. I never thought of doing it for normal clothes.

    • Oh, that’s a good idea too! I will have to try this for the stubborn stains on my little guy’s clothing.

  • Very interesting! I used to make my own detergent using borax but I’ve never heard of this technique before. Now I have to try it!

  • Is there a substitute for Borax? I would love to do this for our towels as they always seem to smell musty.

    • Great question, Bonnie, I have heard of some folks using vinegar, but I can’t personally attest if that works as well.

  • Interesting! I’ve never tried this before–actually never even thought of it. I’m sure the water would look pretty grimy after stripping ours.

  • Huh… completely New concept to me, but it makes sense! So, if it was done in a washing machine, you could still stir every hour by agitating it, right? And then spin it all out instead of hand wringing. Thanks!

    • I think that is how it would work in the washing machine. It was a bit tiring to manually wring the linens, so a washing machine would be great.

  • I can’t believe I’ve never heard of laundry stripping. I’m glad you defined it. It sounds like something I need to do for sure!! Thanks for the tips!

  • Oh this is a cool idea. Most if my towels could probably use this treatment right about now!

    • Haha, this was a fun weekend project. But I here you on lucky to get laundry done each week…it takes me FOREVER to fold anything.

  • I’m kinda scared to try this- never heard of it before but I can imagine how much buildup there might be especially with 4 dogs on the bed as well as two humans!!

    • It was pretty shocking, Tiffany…but so worth it! Our towels are so much more absorbant and soft now.

  • Makes sense. Most everything needs a deep cleaning once in a while. Thank you for the guide as to how to do it!

  • I love this idea! As soon as I get in my new apartment I’m going to try this. I’m too busy packing and stuff. Pinned.

  • I started stripping my laundry a few year ago and it makes a huge difference, especially in our towels. I haven’t been consistent about it though. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve never heard of this but I’m so interested! I don’t use fabric softners and use a plant based laundry soap, however I’m curious what would come out of my towels!

    • It’s so interesting, Cindy. We use very natural detergent and avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, or anything else with chemicals. I am wondering if a lot of our “gunk” was body oils and just build up over time.

  • Thank you for this post. I saw something regarding stripping but wasn’t exactly sure what that was. I will add this to my laundry schedule for November.

    • You’re welcome, Cathey. It’s always nice to see results too… which makes it so satisfying.

  • I’ve heard of this but have never tried it. I think its an interesting process and would love to try it one day.

  • I would want to try this! I never knew about stripping down your laundry. I’m actually very fascinated. I would try with my towels and bedsheets

  • Wow, I did not know that you could do this with laundry! I knew you could do it with like bigger items but not regular laundry.

  • Your title totally sums it up! It is amazing how much gunk ends up on fabrics.. fabrics that seem clean! Such a good thing to do every so often.

  • I am definitely going to try this. We recently moved to SC and the water is horrible here. We invested in a whole house water filter but our clothes still look dingy after a few months. I am going to try this before I invest in new towels and tee shirts. I am going to make a purchase today and try this. I hope it helps. I am invested too much in replacing these items. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • I found this to be very satisfying, not grossed out at all! I haven’t heard of the laundry stripping before but after reading this post it all makes sense and you did a great job breaking it down. I probably would use this on towels and linens only as well versus my more delicate items. Thanks for this post and what a great thing you have the product to sell if one wants to take the easier route lol

    • Thanks for your kind words, Kelly. I stick to my linens and towels also as they seem to have more build-up than other fabrics in our home.

  • I actually make my own laundry detergent (recipe on blog) with some of these ingredients and I no longer have to strip clothes that often! I used to also do this for cloth diapers, but did it right in the washer (assuming I could go the day without having to do other laundry). I’ve also cleaned a fold up pack and play pad by putting it in the tub and soaking it with this method (although not as long).

    • Oh, making your own detergent is such a great idea!! And I like the idea of stripping laundry in the washing machine. Never thought to do this with non-clothing items… a great idea! Thanks for this tip!

  • I have not heard of this. I am intrigued but not too excited about doing away with fabric softener. I like my fabrics to be soft and to smell good. Downy is one of my favorite laundry products!

    • Soft, good-smelling fabrics are so great, Robyn. I think you can still use fabric softener, I know this just takes away the build-up left behind from many washes.

  • I did my sofa cushion covers and wow! It only took less than a minute for the water to turn dark brown.. 🤢
    I can’t imagine it getting any darker in the coming hours..
    Can’t wait to strip curtains, towels , sheets everything! Thank you for the tip!!

    • Wow, that’s incredible that it started stripping them so quickly. Glad I was able to share this post with you, Luna.

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