Stripping Laundry: Your Guide to Extra Clean Clothes

Stripping laundry is a process that involves hot water and cleaning additives to rid fabric of dirt, sweat, oil, hard water deposits, and other residues.

What Kind of Laundry Can You Strip?

The gross build-up you see after stripping a dirty load of clothes is oddly satisfying. But, before you start, there are some general guidelines to follow.

What Kind of Laundry Can You Strip?

You can strip most fabrics that are hot water safe. Avoid stripping lace, silk, spandex, or wool. Look at the care label of your item first. If it requires hand washing, washing in cold water, using the gentle cycle, or dry cleaning – don’t try to laundry strip it.

Stripping laundry is suitable for bed sheets, comforters, towels, and gym clothes. It works best on light colors since it can cause darker colors to bleed.

The Best Laundry Stripping Recipe

There are many laundry-stripping recipes, but all follow a similar structure. Here’s what you need:

  • ¼ cup of borax
  • ¼ cup of washing soda
  • ½ cup of powdered Tide (or a similar powdered detergent)

Step 1: Fill Your Bathtub with Hot Water and Add the Ingredients

Fill your bathtub halfway with the hottest water possible. Dump in your borax, washing soda, and powdered detergent. Swirl with a large spoon to combine.

Step 2: Soak Your Clothes

Add your clothes. Use your wooden spoon to swirl them and make sure they’re submerged. 

Allow the clothes to soak for four hours, swirling them every 30-40 minutes.

Step 3: Drain the Tub and Transfer Clothes to the Washer

After the water is cool, drain your tub. Squeeze excess water out of the clothes and put them in the washing machine. Wash on hot or warm water with NO detergent. The clothes are still full of detergent from the stripping process.

After putting clothes in the washer, rinse your bathtub.

Step 4: Dry Your Clothes

After running your laundry through the washing machine, dry everything as usual. You’ll be surprised at how much cleaner your laundry looks.

How to Strip Laundry without Borax 

You can strip laundry without borax – use the above recipe but leave the borax out. Borax is a laundry booster and helps detergent work better, but you’ll still see results without it.

Another way to strip laundry without borax and washing soda is to use Oxiclean. (Check the label and container of Oxiclean you’re using to ensure it’s safe for your fabric.) Then fill your tub with hot water, add 3-5 scoops of Oxiclean and submerge the clothing.

Allow the clothes to soak for 4-5 hours, swirling with a large spoon every 30-40 minutes. Once finished, drain the bathtub, wring out excess water, and launder the items in the washing machine using water only. Dry as normal.

When to Strip Your Laundry

While laundry stripping is an effective way to deep clean fabrics, doing it too much can cause the materials to break down. Instead, try stripping your bed sheets, towels, and comforter no more than four times per year.

You can strip work and workout clothes as needed or when they smell bad or feel stiff.

Laundry stripping is most effective for those who use homemade laundry detergent, bargain detergent, only wash on cold water, and have hard water in their homes.

Tips for Laundry Stripping

  • Use powdered laundry detergent, not liquid. Since liquid detergents come in different concentrations, it’s hard to get the correct cleaning ratio.
  • Do not mix colors. Only laundry strip whites with whites.
  • Rinse your bathtub well after stripping, so it doesn’t become stained with laundry grime. If a dirt ring is left behind, clean it off with a Magic Eraser.
  • It’s best to strip clean fabrics – they can be wet or dry when you add them to the tub.