What is laundry stripping?

Woman handles laundry from basket
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You may have heard of laundry stripping and wondered if this is something you need to do for your own laundry. This viral soaking method for your clothes, towels, and bedding seems to be really popular right now, so you may have heard all about it on social media or from your friends. But what is laundry stripping, and do you need to include it as one of your everyday chores? 

You might already have been researching the best washing machines to make sure you are cleaning your clothes effectively, but do you need to include laundry stripping as well as using your machine?

Most of us want time-saving solutions for our household chores, so spending more time on the laundry might seem to be a step too far. What is it about this popular form of long soaking for laundry that has made it popular enough to go viral on social media? 

What is laundry stripping?

Is laundry stripping necessary?

Many of us use oils, lotions, and creams on our bodies that can transfer onto our bedding, towels, and clothes. We also expose our clothes to dirt and grime on the streets and on public transport. Even our cleaning product can leave a residue on fabric, as can hard water. That’s why some people decide to deep clean their laundry on occasion, to eliminate dirt and odors. 

This type of cleaning can be incredibly satisfying, as it gets all the dirt and gunk out of your laundry – think of yourself as the Dr Pimple Popper of towels!

Videos online show people putting their clean towels and linens into a bath full of cleaning products and seeing grime coming out of the fabric and into the water. Many people wonder if their washing machine is doing as effective a job as it should be and worry that there is deep-seated dirt in their clothes and household linen. 

Laundry stripping seems to work especially well for towels, which can become rougher, harder, and less absorbent over time. Once stripped, they can have new life and seem cleaner and more fluffy again. 

How often should you strip laundry?

This deep cleaning method seems to bring some items back to their like-new condition. Because of this, some recommend that you strip towels once a month. It is also great for bed linen, especially if you love the feel of fresh, crisp bed sheets, but it’s probably not worth applying this method to all your items on a regular basis. 

What products do I use for laundry stripping?

You might wonder what the perfect laundry stripping technique is. The most popular laundry stripping recipe is for clothes and linens to be soaked in hot water that contains borax, washing soda (also known as sodium carbonate), and the best laundry detergent

The quantities of laundry cleaning products for a bathtub full of water should be:

Borax: a quarter of a cup
Washing soda: a quarter of a cup
Detergent: half a cup

The idea is that you fill the bathtub or another large receptacle with hot water, add the cleaning products, and then add your fabrics. Stir it a few times and leave for several hours (four or five) until the water has gone cold. Then, you can remove the fabric from the tub and put it on a rinse cycle, as normal, in your machine. 

Many social media users, such as @morganized_living, have used laundry stripping to help erase bacteria, sweat, and stains.  

What items are perfect for laundry stripping?

While many people think that laundry stripping should just be used for towels and bed sheets, you might wonder if you can use it for other clothing items. Generally speaking, this laundry hack is best used for white linens, sheets, towels, or items that you are sure are color-fast and that will not lose their dye. 

It may be an effective cleaning method for your sheets and towels, but it can also be great for items made from denim and cotton. Heavy-duty and natural fabrics are more suitable for stripping than synthetic ones. 

What items should I avoid using laundry stripping on?

Because you are soaking your fabrics in hot water and chemicals for several hours, it can cause the dye to run and leach out of clothing and linens. It’s, therefore, best to avoid laundry stripping on delicate items like underwear and colored items. Don’t mix colors together, as you may find that the dye from one item stains another. 

Is laundry stripping necessary?

If you are washing your clothes and linens properly, you shouldn’t need laundry stripping. 

Just follow the basic guidelines for your washing machine:

• Don’t overload it
• Don’t use too much detergent or softener
• Wash similar colors together
• Choose your cleaning products with care

Why not try switching to an eco-friendly detergent and softener and cut out the softener sheets, which can leave a fine film on laundry and are usually not biodegradable? You could also try using Eco Eggs instead of detergent, which uses natural mineral pellets to lift dirt from clothes. 

Is laundry stripping effective?

In conclusion, if you are washing your items of clothing regularly, you should not need to use laundry stripping as a cleaning method. However, if you have some items with heavy stains, have been stored for a long time in a dusty area, or are white items starting to lose their clean look, it may be a good choice. It can also help if you live in a hard water area, where detergent and softener may build up on fabric.  

Sally J. Hall

Sally J. Hall is an editor and journalist who has written for many newspapers, magazines and websites on a wide range of subjects within the medical, parenting, and consumer product markets; she is also the author of three books.