Laundry stripping, a current popular fad in household care, has become a hot topic in videos posted recently on TikTok. But, what exactly is it? It’s not as risqué as it sounds! It is a simple method of soaking linens to remove extra body oils, residues, laundry detergent, fabric softener, and hard water buildup that can remain in fabrics even after a standard cycle in the washing machine. Essentially it is a deep cleansing of fabrics. And, because this method soaks deep into the fabric and causes grime to release as well as dye, the water in the bathtub becomes brown or grey. This dirty look in the water is a visual storyteller that grabs people’s attention. This phenomenon has gained popularity through these videos and stories of “unclean” laundry. But, does it work?
THE STRIPPING PROCESS
To strip laundry, fill a large bucket or bathtub with hot water. Prepare a mixture of 1⁄4 cup Borax, 1⁄4 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate) and 1⁄2 cup laundry detergent. Stir mixture in water until it dissolves completely.
Allow laundry to soak until water has cooled, approximately four to six hours. Rotate gently periodically to ensure all surfaces are exposed to the solution.
At the end of the soaking cycle, add laundry to the washing machine without adding detergent and run through a rinse cycle. The laundry is now “stripped” of the buildup.
WHAT ITEMS CAN BE STRIPPED?
Towels and bed linens are the best candidates for laundry stripping. They come in close contact with body oils and are washed frequently, thus causing detergent, fabric softener and hard water to build up on the fabric. They also tend to be more durable than clothing.
These practices can also be done with clothing but take caution in which fabrics are included. Delicate items are not good candidates for laundry stripping.
Because this deep cleaning method causes dyes to run, only soak similar colors together in the same load to avoid staining lighter items.
WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
Stripping sheets and towels occasionally can be helpful, particularly if you notice dullness or residue on the fabric. In general, stripping these items once and continuing with quality laundry practices on a regular basis can help avoid future residue buildup. Smart practices include not overdoing it with detergent and fabric softener, not overloading the washing machine and using a deep cleaning detergent. Borax or washing soda (sodium carbonate) can also be added directly to a regular laundry load to help prevent or remove buildup. If you want to strip laundry, go for it! If it sounds like too much work, don’t sweat it. Your laundry is still cleaned routinely through standard laundry practices.