Laundry. The bane of my existence. In a former life (6 months ago?) I dreamed of working from home, imagining all the laundry that I could quickly get done during the day, and have everything neatly folded in drawers by the weekend. Oh, how naive I was!

When I heard about a new viral TikTok trend called laundry stripping, my curiosity was piqued. Yet the thought of adding more work to my already overwhelming laundry mountain wasn’t very appealing. That is until I saw the pictures.

What is Laundry Stripping?

The idea behind laundry stripping is not new. The process involves soaking dingy or stained linens in laundry detergent and laundry boosters–– used to aid in stain removal or odor elimination. The soaking solution used is ¼ cup of Borax, ¼ cup of washing soda, and 1 scoop of powdered laundry detergent. You can also use ¼ cup of Calgon, though it is not necessary for the process to work.

The soaking process can take place in a bathtub, a top-loading washing machine, or anything large enough to submerge the items in water. Laundry is left soaking for 4 hours, with the intention of removing “dirt” left behind on fabrics even after they’ve been washed.

When Should You Do It?

Laundry stripping involves very hot water and powerful cleaning products, so the process is definitely not something you should be doing every wash. This process can actually damage or prematurely age clothes. Check labels on clothing to make sure they can be washed in hot water, and don’t use this technique on any delicate items. It is also not recommended to mix colors, as they may bleed and stain lighter colored items.

Laundry stripping is best used for items such as bed sheets or towels but could be a good option if you notice an odor on some fabrics that won’t go away after repeated washing. How often you strip your laundry depends on the fabric, but typically can be done every 3-6 months.

How Do You Do It?

laundry detergent next to laundry a clothespin and an iron

Before laundry stripping, items should be freshly cleaned but can be either wet or dry.

  1. Fill your bathtub, washing machine, or bucket with hot water, enough to fully submerge the items.
  2. Add washing mixture which should be a ratio of ½ part Borax, ½ part washing soda, and 1 part detergent– depending on how big your bucket or bathtub is. I used ¼ cup of Borax, ¼ cup of washing soda, and 1 scoop of detergent in my top-loading washing machine. Stir until the mixture has dissolved.
  3. Place your laundry into the tub, and let it soak for about 4 hours– stirring occasionally. The dirt and residue will release into the water.
  4. Once completed, drain the water, wring out excess from items. Put the items though a wash only cycle in the washing machine. Make sure to scrub out the ring of grime if you washed clothes in the bathtub.

Can You Use Liquid Detergent?

powdered laundry detergent

Powdered detergent is needed for this process. According to @gocleanco powdered tide is recommended because it contains surfactants "which break up gross stains and disperse dirt that otherwise wouldn't dissolve in water. Tide powder also contains enzymes. Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that break down stains into smaller pieces to make them easier to remove. Each enzyme works to break down and remove a specific type of stain, from grass to chocolate pudding to blood."

I had a surprisingly difficult time finding powdered tide at my local grocery stores but was able to order online from Walmart.

Results

towels in a washing machine

After seeing pictures of bathtubs and washing machines filled with filthy looking wash water, I was more than inspired to try this cleaning method myself.

I decided to try this on a load of dark-colored towels that were already washed and dried. (They may or may not have been sitting in a laundry hamper for 2 weeks waiting to be folded.) I filled my top-loading washing machine with hot water, added my cleaning ingredients, giving them a stir, and added the towels.

Towels in washing machine
Nicole McCulloch

After that I went about my day, checking on them every so often, and stirring them with an old wooden spoon we had in the basement. It was hard to tell if anything was happening, so when the 4 hours were finally up I was excited to see some dirty water.

When I took the towels out I was shocked to see the murky brown water that came from my freshly cleaned towels. It was hard to believe they could be that dirty! According to @gocleanco's Instagram stories, "when stripping laundry you remove any residue from soap, laundry detergent, and fabric softener. You also remove mineral build-up from hard water, as well as any general disgusting body oils, dirt, bacteria that has built up in the fabric over time."

After I drained the water from the washing machine, I set the towels back inside and let them run on a rinse cycle. Once dried, they were noticeably brighter and cleaner looking.

dirty wash water
Nicole McCulloch

As much as I despise doing laundry, I am definitely doing this again! It's a surprisingly gross and satisfying process. Bed linens are next on my list, but I've seen people do workout clothes and even @gocleanco stripped feather pillows (!!)––I highly recommend checking out her Instagram stories. Happy washing #oolababes!

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