Laundry Stripping 101: Does It Actually Work? We Put It to the Test

You’ve probably heard about laundry stripping, the once viral cleaning trend that took over social media.

But maybe you’re still unsure about how to do it right, or what exactly the benefits really are.

laundry stripping

You’re in luck! In this post, I’ll provide you with a complete guide to laundry stripping, the science behind it, a step-by-step process if you are trying it for the first time, and some tips for success.

By the end of this post, you’ll be ready to tackle strip washing with confidence.

Excited to try laundry stripping for yourself? Check out my video where I demonstrate the process step-by-step.

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Why laundry stripping works

So, does laundry stripping actually work? Yes it does but it is a corrective measure that can be extremely harsh on clothes. Let me explain.

After trying it myself, I have to admit that I wasn’t wowed by the results. While my husband noticed that our sheets felt softer, I didn’t see the murky water or the whitening effect that I had hoped for.

This led me down the rabbit hole of research. I couldn’t let this experience go without finding out more about the science behind laundry stripping and why we should even do it in the first place.

As I’m not a scientist myself, I did some digging and came across an article on the science of stripping. It explains the reason for each ingredient used in the process.

To save you the trouble, here’s a quick summary:

1. Water Softener 

The article I found explains that the mixture of borax and washing soda used in laundry stripping reacts to form “precipitated calcium and magnesium,” which can potentially become trapped in the fibers of the fabric. That’s where the water softener comes in – it helps remove those trapped minerals from the fabric.

2. Washing soda and Borax

Another interesting tidbit from the article is that washing soda has a pH of around 11, while borax has a pH of around 9.5. When combined, this creates a more caustic or alkaline solution that helps to loosen or dissolve waste and soap scum from fabrics.

3. Washing Detergent

It turns out that the surfactants in soap play a key role in the laundry stripping process as well. According to the same article, these surfactants “bind to soils with one end and to water with the other, allowing them to lift away the icky things trapped in our clothes.”

The article goes on to explain in further detail how the laundry stripping process works:

  • First, the hot, alkaline water opens up the fibres of the fabric and loosens any soil or scum.
  • Then, the water penetrates deep into the fabric, where the water softeners can react with minerals that have become trapped.
  • The surfactants and enzymes in the detergent help break down, bind, and lift away soils.
  • When you stir or agitate the clothes, the movement helps the surfactants lift away soils and allows new “pockets” of buildup to become exposed so they can be thoroughly cleaned.

So, next time you try laundry stripping, remember that it’s not just a chemical reaction – there’s actual science behind it!

However, laundry stripping simply corrects layers of poor laundering habits like too much dtergent softener and overloading our machines.

Laundry Stripping Recipe

If you are curious to try it out yourself, here’s a recipe you can try.

Whilst the tub is the most convenient place to strip wash, I understand that not everyone has one so I have provided quantities for both a tub and a bucket.

You may also use a top-loading washing machine if you have one.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For a bathtub

¼ cup Washing soda (sodium carbonate) Buy Here 

¼ Borax/Borax substitute Buy Here 

½ cup Laundry detergent Buy Here 

¼ cup Calgon gel water softener (optional) Buy Here 

For a 10 lt bucket

2 tsp Washing soda (sodium carbonate)

2 tsp Borax/Borax substitute

½ cup Laundry detergent

½  cup Calgon gel water softener (optional)

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Step 1

Fill your bucket or tub with the hottest water that comes out of your tap and mix the three ingredients in the water until they dissolve completely.

Step 2

Immerse the items you want to strip in the water making sure to cover everything. In some cases, the water turns brown instantly. In my case, I didn’t see any dramatic change.

Step 3

Wait for a minimum of 4 hours and if you can, stir every few hours. I got tired and left it overnight.

Step 4

Take the clothes out, squeeze out as much water as possible and do a rinse cycle (no detergent) in your washing machine.

You will have cleaner, fresher-looking clothes. I had clean clothes, my husband said the towels were notably whiter and softer but to me, I didn’t see much of a difference even though I know based on my research that the clothes were certainly stripped.

Do and Don’ts of Laundry Stripping

  • Don’t strip wash delicate clothes
  • Do check the labels to be sure that the clothing can withstand high temperatures
  • Don’t mix light and coloured clothes when stripping. Some dyes might run
  • Do strip your gym clothes once in 5-6 months
  • Don’t expect laundry stripping to bleach your clothes or remove tough stains. It may or may not remove stains.
  • Do use Calgon if you can get your hands on it, if not it’s okay to skip
  • Don’t strip dirty laundry. Make sure you are stripping clean, freshly laundered clothes

FAQs about Laundry Stripping

What exactly is laundry stripping?

Laundry Stripping, popularised on TikTok by Lauren Elms, has actually been around for years.
People have been experimenting with everything from cloth diapers to sofa covers.

It’s a deep cleaning method that strips your laundry of residue from hard water, fabric softeners, bodily fluids, oils from your skin, and detergents.

This begs the question, are our clothes actually clean? That’s a topic for another day!

Laundry stripping doesn’t just remove buildup and residue from fabrics.

It can also help your clothes smell better and restore them to their factory settings, improving their absorbency and overall quality.

From my extensive research, I’ve discovered that laundry stripping can be done on both coloured and clean clothes.

The process is simple but time-consuming, and it’s important to note that stripping can be intense on delicate fabrics.

It’s generally suggested to strip just your towels, sheets, and gym clothes.

How often should you strip laundry?

While laundry stripping can be satisfying, it’s best to wait 6-9 months before doing it again to avoid risking the quality of your items. Instead of relying on stripping as a cure-all, let’s try tweaking our laundry habits to prevent buildup in the first place.

Laundry stripping is a powerful cure for poor laundering habits and hard water deposits, but let’s not make it a habit. Instead, consider using less soap and fabric softener, cleaning your machine’s gasket regularly, and avoiding overloading your machines to keep your clothes in top condition.

Is laundry stripping necessary?

Let me be honest here: I’m not excited about the prospect of doing laundry stripping again.

However, if you’re dealing with the effects of hard water – or if you’re using a lot of fabric softener – it might be worth considering to revive your towels and sheets to their maximum absorbency. 

Personally, I don’t have the patience for laundry stripping, so I’d rather prevent buildup in the first place.

But if you’re looking to restore your clothes to their ‘factory setting,’ go for it! Just don’t expect brilliant white sheets as a result.”

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of why and how laundry stripping works.

While it’s backed by science and can be great for restoring absorbency, remember that it’s not a silver bullet. Consider tweaking your laundry habits for long-term success.

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Hey you, I’m Torera

Hey there! I am Torera, a home care and cleaning enthusiast with a mission to make cleaning as fun and easy as possible for women like you. As someone who had to learn everything from scratch, I have the mindset of a beginner and know exactly how to take you from A to Z. Let us ditch the overwhelm and create a space that is clean, cozy, and totally you!