What is Laundry Stripping? How it Works

Laundry Stripping is an intense method of laundry that started gaining popularity in recent years on social media. People on TikTok and Instagram excitedly share their laundry stripping videos. Part of the allure of this trend is watching how dirt and grime come out of supposedly clean laundry.

It is the latest social media trend, but laundry stripping is far from a fad. Cleaning experts approve of the method and even give ways to improve it.

Regardless of how it may seem, laundry stripping is effortless to achieve.

What is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is an intense and thorough method of cleaning clothes.

As the name suggests, laundry stripping goes beyond the surface of the clothing into the inner crevices of the fabric. It strips off any residue left over a long period.

Some of the items residue comes from are:

  • Detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Dryer sheets
  • Body oils
  • Hard water minerals
  • Dust mites
  • Microbes.

Functions of Laundry Stripping

Clean laundry might not be as clean as you hope, especially if a lot of the leftover residue comes from the laundry process.

The build-up of residue in clothing doesn’t just affect its cleanliness; it affects the feel and function. Over time, clothes lose the unique properties that initially made them desirable: their smoothness, softness, coziness, absorbency, and insulation, among other properties.

This loss of properties is due to age, but sometimes, it is due to leftover residue.

How does Residue Build Up?

  1. Too Much Laundry Detergent

The advice is always to use the least amount of laundry detergent to clean clothes. But due to human nature or unforeseen circumstances, we end up with more detergent in our laundry than is necessary.

Too much laundry detergent doesn’t leave clothing during the rinse cycle; instead, tiny amounts of detergent remain, which builds up over time.

  1. Too Much Time Between Washes

Some dirt will remain when you let too much time pass before washing your clothing, especially sheets and towels. The washer might not get every residue, which will build up over time.

  1. Your Washer is Not Clean

Washers are magical items capable of cleaning clothes with minimal input from a person. However, that person might not realize the need to clean their washer.

Cleaning your washer removes the grime that sticks to the walls and crevices. When you don’t clean your washer, the dirt transfers to the clothing during subsequent washes, causing residue build-up.

  1. Ineffective Homemade Detergent

DIYers love making homemade detergent because it is fun and it doesn’t contain some of the harmful ingredients found in regular laundry detergent. However, some of the items you may be running away from are there to effectively remove stains and clean the clothing without leaving behind residue.

  1. Hard Water

This reason for residue build-up is out of your control. When the mineral content in your water supply is high, it is known as hard water.

Using hard water to wash your clothes will leave deposits of excessive mineral content on your clothing, causing build-up over time.

  1. Fabric Softener

A fabric softener is a chemical that coats the surface of your clothes with a film layer to induce softness on the clothing. This film layer will build up and potentially damage your clothes over time.

It is advisable to use little amounts of fabric softener or skip it totally when washing. If you love fabric softener, laundry stripping will help you eat your cake and have it.

  1. Overloading Your Washer

Do not put more than the required weight of the load in the washer. Overloading the washer makes it hard for the clothes to move due to lack of space. This lack of space prevents some of the clothes from washing. Even if all the clothes wash, they might not rinse properly.

This terrible laundry experience leaves dirt or detergent residue on the clothes.

How Laundry Stripping Helps with This Problem

When you carry out the deep cleaning process of laundry stripping, your clothing becomes free of residue. It is rewarding to see the evidence of leftover residue leaving the clothes.

You are sure the laundry stripping process is successful when the following takes place:

  • Clothing becomes squeaky clean
  • The absorbency and softness of clothing like towels, sheets, and blankets, returns.
  • Clothing essentially feels brand new.

Laundry Stripping Recipes

The chemicals used for laundry stripping have to be strong enough to fulfill their aim but not too strong that it damages the clothing. These chemicals have to be safe for human beings and not cause sickness.

Note that the amount of ingredients in this recipe is proportional to the measurement of a bathtub full of water, so the quantity pales in comparison.

Safety Practices During Laundry Stripping

Before any laundry stripping process, especially for those with sensitive skin and allergies, make sure the materials used are safe for your consumption.

Clothes are very intimate parts of our daily lives. You don’t want to introduce something that will affect your health in the long run.

Another thing to consider before moving forward is the safety of the clothing you want to strip. Check that the fabric can withstand the intense procedure by performing a patch test on a small, unseen area. The patch test is successful if the clothing doesn’t react to the chemicals.

The Main Laundry Stripping Recipe

So, what are the ingredients and materials needed for such an intense procedure?

  • Borax
  • Washing soda (not to be confused or substituted with baking soda)
  • Laundry Detergent


Borax is a white, powdery natural substance mainly used as a cleaning agent. It is stronger and more effective than ordinary detergent. However, over-exposure to Borax can cause varying health risks, from headaches and nausea to organ failure in more severe cases.

 Another chemical substance that is closely related but vastly different from Borax is Boric acid. Do not mix up or substitute Borax for Boric acid because Boric acid is a pesticide.

With the potential danger of Borax, it is advisable to use it in tiny amounts and be cautious of inhalation.

Soda Crystals

Before the advent of modern laundry detergents, soda crystals were how we cleaned clothes. You may know soda crystals by their more popular alias, washing soda.

Although they are closely related, soda crystals are different from the baking ingredient, baking soda. Washing soda is a powerful cleaning agent found in most laundry detergents, especially homemade detergents and oxygen bleach. It is tough on stains, particularly grease stains, and effective in softening water.

Like Borax, soda crystals should be used in small quantities to prevent injury from overexposure.

The Recipe

The ingredients used for laundry stripping are intense to achieve the correct effects on the clothing. A good combination of these cleaning agents will make your laundry stripping process seamless.

There are many other laundry stripping recipes, but this combination is the most popular:

Other Laundry Stripping Ingredients and Additives

There are some other additives used for laundry stripping.


Calgon is a widely-accepted optional additive during laundry stripping.

The precise use for Calgon is as a chemical water softener, especially in bath products. Its name means calcium gone.

The minerals in hard water contribute to the residue build-up that leaves during the laundry stripping process. As a result, Calgon is a suitable addition to the recipe.

However, some people feel adding Calgon will make the recipe stronger than necessary, potentially causing harm to the clothes or the person.

Here is the recipe with the extra option of adding Calgon:

  • ¼ cup borax
  • ¼ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup detergent
  • ¼ cup Calgon


On its own, Oxi-clean is a powerful non-chlorine brightening agent. It is not strong enough to replace the laundry stripping ingredients. Too much of this ingredient will contribute to the residue build-up we are trying to strip away.

Paired with borax and washing soda, Oxi-clean will add to the renewed brightness of clothing post stripping. This additive is especially useful in white clothing.

Recipe with Oxi-clean

  • ¼ cup borax
  • ¼ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup Oxi-clean

Sodium Citrate

Sodium Citrate is a powerful stain removal agent. It achieves its stain-removing goal by destabilizing the stains in clothes, separating them from the fabric, and making them easy to wash away.

Add sodium citrate, also known as citric acid, to your laundry stripping recipe. It will give you better results.

Recipe with Sodium Citrate

Laundry Stripping Without Borax

As previously stated, Borax is heavy-duty and very tough. There are many safety precautions to take while using it.

Some countries have banned Borax for commercial purchases due to its reported harmfulness.

In the absence of Borax, how do you perform effective laundry stripping?

Washing Soda

The most straightforward substitute for Borax in laundry stripping recipes is to double the quantity of washing soda.

Washing soda has almost all the same properties as Borax, except it is milder. So, when you remove Borax from the recipe, you should double the washing soda, and your laundry stripping will go on without a hitch.

Recipe with Washing Soda:

  • ½ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup of laundry detergent

Sodium Sesquicarbonate

Sodium sesquicarbonate is known as “borax substitute.” It is a patented mineral compound made by mixing sodium bicarbonate and sodium carbonate, popularly known by their names baking soda and washing soda.

Borax substitute is a non-toxic alternative to Borax in laundry stripping because they have similar pH levels.

Borax substitute is also known as alkali washing soda.

Recipe with Sodium sesquicarbonate:

  • ½ cup Sodium sesquicarbonate
  • ½ cup of laundry detergent


Vinegar is a popular laundry additive because of its deodorizing and stain removal properties. Vinegar is also applicable in cleaning washers, so it stands to reason that vinegar will work well in laundry stripping recipes.

The good thing about vinegar is that it is an eco-friendly alternative to the potentially harmful Borax.

Recipe with Vinegar:

  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup of laundry detergent

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide brightens clothes on its own or as an ingredient in laundry agents. Replacing Borax with hydrogen peroxide will brighten the clothes and remove stains. However, you won’t get that deep laundry stripping effect with hydrogen peroxide on its own; you have to pair it with soda crystals or sodium sesquicarbonate.

Recipe with Hydrogen Peroxide

  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • ¼ cup washing soda or sodium sesquicarbonate
  • ½ cup of laundry detergent

The Laundry Stripping Process

At this stage, you know what laundry stripping is and what ingredients to use for laundry stripping.

You can strip different clothing, loungewear, bedding, pillows, and even shoes. You can even use a washer or a tub based on your preference. As long as your laundry is clean, probably freshly washed, the process will be successful.

Whatever clothing you are laundry stripping and with whatever medium you use, always remember to adjust for size and quantity when making the recipe for better results and a more efficient process.

Laundry Stripping Clothes

It can be hard to tell when your clothes are ready for laundry stripping or if there is any need for this deep cleaning. With regular clothes, especially the ones you wear more often, you can eyeball them. After a few months of consistent washing, you can try laundry stripping.

Gym clothes and loungewear, on the other hand, are easier to assess. There is a lot of sweating involved when wearing these items, which can sometimes lead to stubborn odors that will not go away. Laundry stripping will be effective in these instances to refresh them.

Another way to tell when your clothes need laundry stripping is when the color starts to fade, especially with white ones. This deep cleaning returns the vibrancy of the clothes.

Laundry Stripping Towels

High-quality towels are soft, cozy, comfortable, and absorbent. Unfortunately, over time and due to lack of proper care, the towels can lose their unique properties.

If this happens, don’t be quick to write the towel off as worn out before trying laundry stripping.

Most of the laundry stripping videos circulating over social media have towels as the laundry of choice. Towels get their softness and absorbency back after laundry stripping.

How Long Should Soaking Last When Laundry Stripping?

Other than the recipe you are using; the amount of time you soak the clothes when laundry stripping is crucial.

You want to soak the clothes long enough for the stripping to occur, but not too long that you damage the clothes.

Soak the clothes for four hours, on average, before continuing the process. This time will enable the ingredients to penetrate the fabric well enough to remove every last residue, leaving the clothes fresh and clean.

Laundry Stripping in a Tub

A tub is the best option for laundry stripping. You will be able to monitor and control the process better. Alternatively, you can use an adequately-sized bowl or basin. You can carry out the same procedure for the three.

The steps:

  1. Gather the Load

Always start with clean clothes. It doesn’t matter if the clothes are wet or dry; as long as they are clean, you’re good to go. If the clothes are dirty, wash them before you start laundry stripping.

When you have a clean load, separate them according to color, clothing, and fabric type.

Like regular laundry, separate the white clothes from the colored clothes. This warning is even more severe with laundry stripping because this process will reach into the deep parts of the fabric to the residue. During this process, color bleeding can occur, and if you mix the colors, your white clothes will stain afterward.

Separate bulky and light-weight clothing. Therefore, distinguish towels, regular clothes, gym clothes, loungewear, etc. Consider the weight of pillows and beddings also when you are laundry stripping.

  1. Fill the Tub with Water

Laundry stripping requires hot water to be successful. Consider this when filling the tub (or bucket or basin) with water.

Put enough water to submerge the clothing, about two-thirds of its size. This amount of water will make the process effective, prevent water spillage, and keep you safe from the heat, chemicals, and dirt.

If you want to be extra cautious, wash the tub to ensure it is free of soap suds before filling it with hot water.

  1. Pour in the Cleaning Agents.

After filling the tub with hot water, pour the cleaning ingredients inside. The ingredients are powdery, so be careful when putting them inside the tub. You don’t want to inhale them or get them inside your eyes.

Make sure you use powdery heavy-duty laundry detergent, not the liquid form.

The above recipe is for the amount of water in a standard-sized tub. A standard-sized tub holds, on average, 50 gallons of water. However, if you are not using a tub, adjust the recipe for container size and water quantity.

Note that the ratio of ingredients in the recipe is 1:1:2, that is, 1-part borax, 1-part washing soda, and 2-parts laundry detergent.

When you pour in the cleaning agents, use a wooden spoon to gently stir the water, so the agents can dissolve in the water, forming a homogeneous solution.

  1. Submerge Your Laundry

After forming and dissolving the mixture, carefully submerge the laundry inside the tub. Use the wooden spoon to stir until the laundry is wet.

Leave the clothes to soak in the solution for at least four hours when the water cools. Stir the clothes occasionally with the wooden spoon to ensure every crevice gets the proper treatment.

Don’t be alarmed when you notice the water looking dark and grimy. It’s the residue coming out of the clothing.

  1. Drain the Water

Squeeze the clothes and drain the water from the tub.

  1. Rinse

Transfer the clothes to the washer. Put the washer on a “normal” wash cycle and “cold” water setting. Run the washer normally without adding detergent or any other additive.

Alternatively, you can rinse the clothes, by hand, under cold running water until the water runs clear.

  1. Dry

Hang the clothes on a drying rack or clothesline to air-dry, or tumble dry without dryer sheets.

Laundry Stripping in a Washer

You should only use a top-loading washer so that you can soak for hours.

Laundry stripping in the washer is complicated. It’s hard to tell the long-term effect of this intense procedure on your washer.

Before moving forward with the procedure, try soaking your clothes for a long time in the washer with hot water and regular laundry detergent, followed by a rinse cycle.

However, if you want to move forward with laundry stripping, these are the steps to follow:

  1. Like the tub process, ensure you have clean clothes and separate them by color and type.
  2. Fill the washer with enough hot water to adequately submerge the clothes. Be careful so you can avoid water spillage.
  3. Carefully pour the cleaning agents, with the correct recipe, inside. Gently stir to dissolve the ingredients in the water.
  4. Submerge your clothes into the washer and leave them to soak for four hours. Use a wooden spoon to stir during the soak, releasing the residue.
  5. After the time elapses, drain the grimy water from the washer.
  6. Fill the washer with clean cold water, and run a normal wash cycle without detergent so the clothes will rinse.
  7. Remove the clothes from the washer and air-dry on a clothesline or drying rack, or tumble dry without drying sheets.

When Not to Do Laundry Stripping

There are instances when laundry stripping is not necessary.

  1. Color Bleeding

Laundry stripping can cause severe color bleeding, so it will be better to stick to white clothes, sheets, towels, or colorfast clothing.

  1. Delicate Clothing

This process is very intense. The ingredients used are heavy-duty, and the water is hot. Check the care label of the clothing you want to strip before you proceed to be sure they can handle the process.

  1. Frequent Stripping

Laundry stripping should occur a few times a year, more precisely, every four months. Do not strip wash more frequently; it can damage your clothing.

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