Over time even the plushest bath towels and most pristine bed sheets can start to look dingy or have an icky buildup — no matter how many times you run them through the wash! To the rescue: Laundry stripping — also known as strip washing. This wacky yet thorough washing method has taken the internet by storm with more than 170 million views on Tiktok and thousands of posts on Instagram. So, we spoke with various cleaning experts and asked them the most common questions related to this cleaning craze. Plus, they shared an easy laundry stripping recipe you can make using stuff from around the house. Continue reading for all the must-know info and other surprising laundry tips.
What is laundry stripping exactly?
Laundry stripping is the process of removing buildup—like dirt, sweat, fabric softener and more—from your textiles by soaking them in hot water and cleaning solutions. “Essentially, laundry stripping is a method of soaking garments and linens in hot water with around-the-house cleaning agents like borax, detergent, and washing soda (sodium carbonate — not baking soda),” says textiles expert Barbara Stern, who works for Ottoman Textiles. “The idea is to literally strip away detergent residue, fabric softener, minerals from hard water, dirt and body oils that might have built up over time.” (Click through for savvy ways to spot-clean garments using a household staple.)
What types of garments can you strip wash?
“While it might sound appealing, laundry stripping isn’t suitable for all fabrics,” notes Stern. “It can be harsh, and regular machine washing should be enough for most items. Stripping should be used for heavily soiled items or those with stubborn residue.” You can strip wash towels, bed sheets and linens, clothing made of cotton, denim, workout clothes and reusable cloth diapers. Items to avoid? Do not strip wash delicates or fragile clothing, leather, suede, satin or items with special coatings, decorations or embellishments. Also smart: Strip wash clothing and fabric items in batches just like you would with regular laundry. For example, wash white clothing separate from, say, denim to avoid any blue dye seeping onto whites.
Is laundry stripping easy?
In a word, yes! It’s simple but it does require a few hours of time. All you need to start the process of laundry stripping are a few items: the clothes or textiles you want to wash, a bathtub or freestanding washing basin or tub, hot water and your cleaning solution. “This is a supremely satisfying yet gross experience — you’re gonna love it,” shares DIY pro Jennifer Tryon, founder of HomeMade. (What makes this trend so popular on Instagram and Tiktok is the staggering before and after photos that show the clear water turning dark brown after only a few minutes of soaking.) Keep reading for a laundry stripping recipe made with under-the-cabinet finds and a video from Tryon that shows the jaw-dropping before and after!
What is the best laundry stripping recipe?
“The easiest laundry stripping recipe includes ingredients you likely already have at home,” says cleaning professional Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids. Start by filling your bathtub up with very hot water (you can also use a large laundry basin or rubber tub but if you do, be sure to adjust your recipe to smaller proportions). Then combine the following in the water-filled bathtub:
- Easiest Laundry Stripping Recipe:
- ¼ cup of your favorite laundry detergent
- ¼ cup Borax
- ¼ cup washing soda
How to strip laundry:
- 1. Once you’ve added the aforementioned recipe to your water-filled bath tub and it dissolves, add your dirty linens, clothes or towels into the tub.
- 2. Let your clothing or fabrics soak until the water has cooled, up to 4 hours, stirring with a wooden spoon or broom handle occasionally. (Now, you’ll see the water turn a darker shade and fill with dirt and grime as you stir the clothes!)
- 3. After about 4 hours, wring out the fabric as much as you can. Then transfer the wet fabrics and clothing to the washing machine on a water rinse cycle — no detergent needed!
- 4. Finish by popping fabrics in the dryer or hang drying as directed and voila! You’ll have fluffier, softer fabrics that literally feel and smell cleaner.
For a visual step-by-step tutorial on laundry stripping (and the shocking before and after of her tub!), check out Tryon’s video from her YouTube channel, below.
Cohoon adds: “The results that you get from laundry stripping are visibly dramatic. I think most people assume when clothes become dull and lose their original vibrancy, it’s just time to get rid of them, so I think seeing dramatic results is exciting. It’s also intriguing to witness the transformation of the water color and see just how much built-up residue is actually in our clothing!”
How often do you need to strip wash?
We asked all of our experts this question and they all generally agreed this process should only be done on an “as needed” basis — or 2 to 3 times a year. “You don’t want to overdue this process because it could wear out your fabrics more quickly if done too often,” advises Cohoon. Also smart: Making your regular laundry routine more effective will make clothing, linens and fabrics less prone to this sort of buildup. To optimize each wash, steer clear of overloading your washing machine (this doesn’t leave enough space for thorough rinses), use a little less detergent than you’d typically use and consider swapping dryer sheets for dryer balls or tennis balls (detergent, fabric softener and fabric sheets can all leave behind a soapy residue if used too much).
For more helpful laundry hacks check out:
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