What Does Laundry Stripping Do?
Over time your laundry – especially fluffy items like sheets, towels and bathrobes – accumulates residue from detergent, fabric softener, minerals in hard water and body oils. Laundry stripping uses three powdered ingredients and hot water to penetrate the textile fibers, bond to this build up, and pull it from the fabric.
During the laundry stripping process, the water often turns dark or murky, revealing what had been lurking in your linens and other “clean” items. Although the method has been around for a while, laundry stripping has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram. Why? It’s both a little gross and oddly satisfying. It’s also easy to do. Here’s how.
Get the laundry stripping recipe and get started.
What Laundry Items Need Stripping? Try Sheets & Towels First
Thicker, denser fabrics and natural fibers such as cotton absorb more residue than thinner or synthetic fabrics. Items with longer fibers also accumulate more buildup and more quickly.
These items are likely to get the most benefit from laundry stripping:
- Bath towels
- Hand towels
- Bath mats
- Beach towels
- Blankets and duvet covers
- Mattress pads
- Sheets & pillow cases
- Pillows (check the care label)
- Workout clothes
- Cloth diapers
It’s important to remember that laundry stripping does not remove stains. The purpose of stripping is to remove residue from oils, detergent, minerals, and softeners, not stain removal. Use a stain-removing laundry detergent as part of your regular laundry routine and get stains out before stripping.
Reasons to Need to Strip Your Laundry
If you’re a human who sweats, sleeps, takes baths, and wears clothes (that’s you, yes?) then you might want to strip your laundry, especially towels and sheets. Here are some indications laundry stripping can help.
- If you have hard water (85% of US households do) then your towels, sheets, and laundry tend to get a build up of minerals from the water and detergent residue. Stripping can remove them.
- If your towels are less absorbent than they once were, they may have a film from dryer sheets and fabric softeners. Stripping will help remove the residue and improve absorbency.
- If your towels feel stiff or sticky, it’s time to strip the residues to return their soft feel.
- If your sheets look dingy, stripping will help remove buildup and restore brightness. Note: the stripping recipe of Borax, washing soda, and detergent is not a bleach.
- If your sheets or towels smell musty even after washing, stripping will help remove trapped odors and freshen them.
Use this Laundry Stripping Recipe to Remove Buildup
To strip your laundry, you need:
- Sodium borate (also known as Borax)
- Sodium carbonate (aka ARM & HAMMER Super Washing Soda)
- Powdered laundry detergent (scented or unscented)
- Hot water
- A bathtub or bucket to hold the soaking laundry
- A measuring scoop
- A few hours to let it soak
The amount of these ingredients depends on how large your tub is and how many items you will strip. The general ratio for the laundry stripping recipe is 2 parts powdered detergent, 1 part Borax and 1 part washing soda.
For most laundry stripping in standard size tubs, follow this recipe:
- ¼ cup ARM & HAMMER Super Washing Soda
- ¼ cup Borax
- ½ cup ARM & HAMMER™ Plus OxiClean™ Powder Laundry Detergent
Note: do not use a powdered detergent containing bleach when stripping your laundry.
Steps for How to Strip Your Laundry of Buildup
Here are the simple steps for stripping your laundry:
- Gather items to strip. Check laundry care labels to make sure they are safe for hot water. Strip light and dark items separately.
- Fill your bathtub ½ to ¾ full of the hottest water that’s safe for your fabrics.
- Add the powders: Borax, ARM & HAMMER™ washing soda, and laundry detergent according to the recipe above.
- Gently stir the water to dissolve the powders. Try using a pole, broom or brush handle, ladle, spatula. Remember: the water is hot!
- Add the laundry items you wish to strip. They should be clean (already laundered) but may be wet or dry.
- Submerge the laundry into the water and swish around. You may notice some foaming and the water beginning to change color already as the stripping process begins!
Now you wait. Go ahead and binge a show, go for a run, get a glass of wine, play a game, take a nap, or whatever you want to do to pass the time. You don’t have to stare at the laundry while it’s being stripped. The action happens without you having to do anything.
- Let the items sit in the tub for 4-5 hours, until the water cools. If possible, check back once an hour to push the items down and stir them around. This helps the washing soda and detergent get into the fibers and strip the residues.
- Remove items from the tub after 4-5 hours, wring out excess water, and place them directly in the washer. Do not add more detergent or fabric softener.
- Run a rinse cycle in your washer. If your machine has a double-rinse setting, use that. You want the residues pulled from the items to rinse away and not be redeposited on your laundry.
- Tumble dry the items as you normally would. Do not add any dryer sheets.
- Rinse or wipe out your tub.
- Optional: take a reaction video for TikTok or picture of your results and post on Instagram, Snapchat or another social media.
Enjoy the fluffier, more absorbent, and fresher-smelling laundry after stripping!
Other Tips for Successful Laundry Stripping
- Don’t overload your tub. Just as you wouldn’t overload your washer, don’t overcrowd your tub with too many items when you’re stripping laundry. Leave some space for the water to move around the items. Do two (or more) batches rather than overloading.
- Separate the dark items from the white items. Since laundry stripping does not contain bleach, the method can be used on items of any color. It’s best to separate the batches by color, though.
- Strip towels and sheets separately. Sheets and towels have a different texture, so they are best kept like with like for laundry stripping.