The Easy Laundry Stripping Recipe (get the gross out of your laundry)

Today I’m sharing the recipe that I used for laundry stripping, how well it worked, what products I used and what you should try it on!

I’ve been reading about laundry stripping for awhile now but I just recently decided to try it. I’ve got a front load washing machine and we have hard water so I’ve been wanting to try it on my white sheets that are starting to look not-as-white anymore.

I decided to try it on my kitchen towels and some socks first since smaller items sounded a whole lot easier to handle than a mass of wet sheets.

Turns out it’s pretty easy to do and it could be a little addictive. This is one of those items that could get your OCD fired up pretty quickly. Luckily I don’t think any of us have enough time to keep laundry soaking in the tub or sink indefinitely so it’s a safe activity!

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What Is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is the process of removing built up residue from your clothes and linens. Over time your fabrics can get a residue left on them from a combination of the detergent that you use to clean them (go figure), fabric softener, your natural body oils, hard water deposits or some combination of all these things.

I have to say that I wasn’t totally surprised by the amount of ick that came off or towels, but it was still a pretty gross experiment. Even when I expected the outcome.

My husband went in to stir the laundry each time he had a break and he asked me if they were clean. Yes, these were clean linens that I put into the mixture and still got that much residue off them. He walks out shaking his head, and I’m sure wondering if I’m actually doing laundry.

I’m sharing the recipe that I used below along with some photo’s and of course you always get my opinions.

Is it okay to strip wash my laundry?

Most store bought detergents do a pretty good job of cleaning your laundry. That being said, there are several factors that can cause your laundry to have build up on them.

If you use too much detergent or too much fabric softener it will build up in your laundry and cause your towels to be less absorbent and can even cause your laundry to have a bit of a sticky feel to them. Residue on your linens actually makes your clothes pick up more dirt and dust.

Skipping fabric softener sheets or liquid can really help keep your clothes from getting build up on them since it actually adds a layer of residue on your clothes to make them smell good, wrinkle less and reduces static cling. Those are all good things but fabric softener also can cause allergies and skin reactions and some people have sensitivities to them.

I have a front loading washing machine and I think it does a great job most of the time. I do feel like my white sheets are starting to look a little dingy so they’re next on my laundry stripping parade, but otherwise I’m happy with how my machines perform.

We have extremely hard well water here so I know that having a little softening in our water will help the detergent do a better job, and I know that mineral build up can be a real problem. I can tell you this because you can see the water droplets on our faucets and showers.

If you’ve got some time to experiment or you’ve got some whites you want to get whiter then I definitely recommend trying the laundry stripping method.

Avoid these items:

  • Spandex work out clothing – extremely hot water will break down the spandex so if you want to strip your workout clothing use warm water and spend more time dissolving your ingredients
  • Delicate or precious items – if you’re afraid of damaging it I’d have it professionally cleaned
  • Anything that can’t be washed on hot – be sure to check the care label
  • Of course – silk, wool, leather (I’m not sure I even need to mention these)

Is this okay if I have a Septic System?

Yep! This is a major concern for us since we are, surprise, on a septic system. Many products are okay to use with a septic system but I do like to double check and be cautious about what we put in ours. And really we should be cautious about anything we wash down our drains, septic or not. (that’s all I’ve got for that soapbox).

Can I use this in a front loading washing machine?

If your washing machine has a soak cycle you sure can add all this to it and save yourself carrying a bunch of wet linens through your house. You won’t get the satisfaction of seeing all that yucky water though, so keep that in mind.

Incidentally, did you know that you can use powder detergent in front loaders? Well, most front loaders you can. For some reason I thought you could only use liquid. When I actually checked it out, my machine has an insert for liquid and you just remove it to use powder.

Powder detergent is best for grass and dirt stains so if you’ve got kids in sports you’ll definitely want to use powder detergent. Liquid detergent works best on oily or greasy stains like if you spill food down the front of your blouse.

Anyway – a fun fact for you.

Now onto the actual laundry stripping!

The solution for laundry stripping is pretty simple - it's a 1:1:3 ratio of powdered products.

Laundry Stripping Recipe

The recipe for laundry strip is a simple one – use a 1 to 1 to 2 ratio of Borax, washing soda and powdered laundry detergent.

If you’ve got a standard bathtub you want to fill it about 1/2 full of hot water and add the powders:

  • 1/4 Cup Borax (any brand)
  • 1/4 cup Washing Soda (not the same as baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup of laundry detergent (oxygenated is best)

There are tons of recipes out there so check around online if you’re missing an ingredient and see if there’s another recipe to try.

Some recipes call for Calgon to be used. It is basically a water softener, and the benefit of this is that it helps your detergents to work better by removing the hard minerals in the water. If you’ve got soft water then there’s really no reason to add Calgon. I also think that Calgon is repetitive is you’re using washing soda.

Washing soda contains ingredients to soften water so in my opinion you don’t need it and Calgon in your recipe. Some people claim that it works better and since I didn’t try it I can’t claim otherwise. Either washing soda or Calgon. Washing soda does contain some other ingredients (hence the name washing soda vs. baking soda) that make your laundry whiter. Washing soda and baking soda are not the same.

Borax is an alkaline cleaner and it helps to whiten your clothes. It basically works against any of the acids that are in your linens and neutralizes them so that your linens will brighten. If you’re concerned about the safety of borax there’s a great scientific article {here} that has great information and resources.

Step by Step Laundry Stripping

Gather The Linens You want to Strip

It’s easiest if you gather up all the items you want to strip before you start the process. Get out those towels, sheets, yard clothes and that smelly blanket and get them ready to go. Be sure that the items you’re stripping are clean and you’re ready to go.

I started with my dish towels and a load of socks because I wanted something fairly easy to try. Next up is our king size sheet set and I’ve got a couple of blankets that aren’t as fresh as I’d like them to be. Again, if you’re an obsessive cleaner this may be an addicting process for you.

Now that I’ve had success with my smaller items I feel confident in tackling wet sheets. Wet sheets are so much bigger and heavier than they should be!

If you’re doing anything other than white items you’ll want to sort them by color so that the dye doesn’t ruin anything else you’re planning to strip.

Towels and sheets are the most popular items to try laundry stripping on.

Add Water to Your Bathtub

It doesn’t have to be a bathtub, you can use a sink or a big bucket or whatever else you generally use for soaking items. You do need to be able to get your items fully submerged so a bathtub is easiest. You can also get a better view of what’s actually happening when you go in to “stir” you laundry.

Note that whatever you use will have items soaking from several hours to overnight so take that into consideration when you’re deciding.

I used our bathtub and filled it between 1/3 and 1/2 full with very hot water.

Add Your Powders

Add in your laundry stripping ingredients while you're filling your tub and be sure to mix them thoroughly before adding your linens.

I like to add my powder in while I’m filling the tub so that it has a good chance to dissolve before I add any of my linens. You may need to stir your mixture around to get it to fully dissolve.

Add Your Laundry

Now you put the laundry in your mixture and let it do its job. Be sure that everything is fully submerged (yes some of it will float to the top) and let the soaking begin. You’ll want to come and stir our items around every once in awhile. More than once okay.

I suggest planning to let your items soak for at least 3 hours but even longer than that is better. Stir it every hour if you can to get those items that floated up back into the mix.

Now I’m not saying get up in the middle of the night to stir your laundry, but it does need a tiny bit of attention while it’s soaking.

This is the water after a couple of hours of soaking our towels,  Yuck yuck
After an hour of soaking….

Remove, Wring and Wash

The last thing you do is squeeze all the water out of your items and throw them in the washing machine. You can drain the tub first – I left the water in mine so I can show you how icky it is when I took everything out of it.

You don’t need to actually wash your laundry again but you’ll want to run it through a rinse cycle to remove anything that might still be clinging to the fabric. I just ran mine through a rinse and spin and called it good.

The dry them as usual.

Did Laundry Stripping Work?

My towels and socks were much whiter and brighter after I tried this method.

Well judging from the color of the water we had some pretty icky stuff on our towels and socks. There were a few stains that didn’t come completely out but overall I would say that everything looked noticeably brighter than it did before I tried stripping. It also took any lingering smells away which is a huge plus in my book.

For some reason my dish towels can smell great one day and the next day not so much. I really do try to change them frequently and I think this method will really help with that.

I’m now ready to tackle the sheets and I’m excited to see how much whiter they’ll look.

So have you tried laundry stripping yet? Were you happy with the results? Did you use this recipe or another?

I’d really love to hear about your results!

Traci Signature | My Simpatico Life Blog

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