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Laundry Stripping
Laundry Room | Stains and Fabric Care | Tools / Recipes / Products

How to Strip (Your Laundry)

March 16, 2022

While your clothes are mostly clean after a wash, they are still pretty gross at fiber level. Fabrics collect oils, dirt, bacteria, and mineral build-up that are not removed by a regular wash cycle, leaving your towels crunchy and gym clothes stinky! And get this – laundry detergent and fabric softener are also culprits. They continuously build up with every wash. 

So, what can we do to deep clean our clothes and fabrics? Strip them of all their nastiness the @gocleanco way!

Please note that some of these products are affiliate links. Consider these brands our friends with benefits. When you buy from these links, we make a small commission at no extra cost to you. We use this commission to pay our staff, produce content, and of course, buy our cleaning supplies. Pretty neat, huh?

What is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is best described as an aggressive form of cleaning your laundry that removes built-up soil, body oils, sweat, and grime from the individual, tightly-woven fibers of your clothing. 

The process, which is oddly satisfying and incredibly repulsing at the same time, pulls minerals from your clothes using a specific concoction of household cleaning supplies and hot water. Here’s our stripping recipe:

*Use this recipe for bathtubs and top load washing machines. Adjust the recipe for larger or smaller capacity loads.

The borax mixture combines with the hot water to remove built-up residue that isn’t removed through a typical load of laundry. This includes residue left behind from detergent and fabric softeners. The overall process typically takes between 4 to 6 hours.

  • Hot water opens up and loosens fibers and helps remove any non-mineral build-up, such as soap scum. 
  • Borax detergent and Arm & Hammer washing soda (or baking soda) bind to minerals and pull them out as solid particles to be rinsed down the drain. 
  • While powdered Tide and Calgon Liquid water softener work with Borax and washing soda by dissolving minerals, so they don’t stay stuck in your clothes. 

Stripping should be done every several months along with your regular laundry routine. 

Trust me, after your clothes soak for a few hours in this mixture, you will be shocked at how dirty the water gets! (And maybe how raunchy it smells, too.) But it’s worth it!

You can strip almost everything – everyday clothing and intimates, workout clothes, sports equipment, bedding, towels, rugs, and more. Everything is fair game. Just make sure you have similar colors together as dyes can run. 

Pro Tip: Do not strip anything with a silkscreen logo as they will come off. Also, check your tags! Don’t strip anything that can’t be washed in hot water such as wool or leathers. 

Tub Stripping

You will need a bathtub, wash basin or container large enough for the load you want to strip. The water should be deep enough to submerge your items in.

  1. Sort your clothes by color (you do NOT want to strip your grandma’s white tablecloths with red pants) and place them in a tub with hot water until submerged.
  1. Add the stripping recipe, stir until it dissolves (use a long mixing spoon), and let soak for at least 4 hours. Stir the water every hour. 
  1. Drain the tub, wring everything out and place them in your washing machine.
  1. Run a complete cycle with no laundry soap or fabric softener and dry as you normally would.

Top Loader Stripping

If you own a top loader, you can also use it to strip! Some models have a safety feature that will drain the water once it reaches a certain level or after a period of time. If it drains, then refer back to tub stripping instead. 

  1. Throw your CLEAN, color-sorted clothes into the machine, fill with water so your fabric is submerged and add the stripping recipe. Give it a bit of a stir and let sit for 4 hours with the lid open.
  1. Stir every hour. If you have an old-school machine, close the lid for 30 seconds every hour to stir it up a bit. Otherwise just use your hands (with gloves).
  1. After 4 hours, close the lid and complete the washing cycle.
  1. Run a second cycle with no soap to rinse everything well. Dry as usual.

Other Tips for Keeping Clothes Fresher Longer

Laundry stripping is effective, but it’s also a PROCESS. I totally get that (and nobody expects you to strip your laundry every week). Having said that, there are a number of things you can do to keep your clothes fresher longer (in addition to stripping). Here are some helpful tips:

  • Clean your washer from time to time. Front loading washers are especially difficult to keep clean, but it’s something that has to be done. Otherwise, you’re just tossing dirty clothes into a dirty drum and expecting them to magically appear clean.
  • STOP using liquid detergent!! (Especially if you’re using a front loader – it gunks it up.) The liquid stuff creates a lot more buildup than the powder. In the #CleaningArmy, we’re all about Powdered Tide®.
  • If you’re committed to liquid detergent for whatever reason, STOP using so much! This stuff is super concentrated and you don’t need nearly as much as you think.
  • Every two or three months, add in some vinegar and ½ cup of borax (in place of detergent) to your rinse cycle.

Join the #CleaningArmy

Who knew watching clean water turn dirty could be so satisfying?! It won’t make a locker room smell any better, but your kids will be fresher! Be sure to keep our laundry handbook handy when doing all your laundry. It includes many tips and tricks for keeping your clothes spiffy. 

Also, for a full breakdown on how to clean every room in your home – including the laundry room – check out our brand new Basic Training interactive course

You’ll get step-by-step walkthroughs, downloadable checklists, and a comprehensive breakdown of all of the products and supplies we use!

– Denise @gocleanco 

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