Does Laundry Stripping Actually Work? Here’s A Free Guide to Doing It Right

I saw this girl on my Instagram dip her clean sheets in a bathtub and the water turned brown almost instantly in a process she called laundry stripping. 5 hours later her tub was completely brown- I was so intrigued.

For a girl like me who watches pimple-popping videos to relax (don’t judge), seeing a tub of clean water turn murky was grossly satisfying. I had to try it for myself but I still had a few questions. 

Why is this necessary? Will it ruin my clothes? Does laundry stripping really work? I went down a rabbit hole of researching the life out of it, so here I am writing a post about my findings and trying it out for you to see.

If you have always wanted to know more about this trend that is taking over the internet, you have come to the right place.

In this post, I’ll share all you need to know about laundry stripping or strip washing as some call it.

What exactly is laundry stripping?

Although popularised on TikTok by Lauren Elms a lot of people have been laundry stripping for years and years, experimenting with everything from cloth diapers to sofa covers.

It’s basically a deep cleaning method that strips your laundry of residue from hard water, fabric softeners, bodily fluids, and oils from your skin as well as detergents. This begs the question, are our clothes actually clean? That’s a topic for another day!

It also helps your clothes to smell better, absorb better and pretty much restore them to their factory settings.

From my extensive Youtube and Tiktok research (lol) I discovered laundry stripping can be done on both coloured and clean clothes and the process is unbelievably simple but time-consuming. I also discovered that stripping can be quite intense on your delicate fabrics so the general suggestion is to do it on just your towels and sheets and maybe gym clothes.

Can’t wait to see my results? Here’s a video where I demonstrate laundry stripping for the first time. 

Does laundry stripping work?

As you can see from the video laundry stripping didn’t work. Okay, let me rephrase that. It kind of worked, but not for the reasons I wanted.

My husband said the sheets felt softer but I wanted to see the gross murky water I see on TikTok and I had none of that. It didn’t even make my sheets whiter. So I ask you the same question I asked myself. What’s the point?

I had to know if there was some science to the whole laundry stripping concept.

As this girl is no scientist, I did some digging into the science behind it and I found this article. It explains the reason for each ingredient which I will summarise for you:

1. Water Softener 

The mixture of borax and washing soda react to form “precipitated calcium and magnesium” which have the potential of being trapped in the fibers of the fabric. “The water softener acts to remove those trapped minerals from the fabric”

2. Washing soda and Borax

“Washing soda’s pH is around 11; borax’s pH is around 9.5.” According to the article, this  “creates a more caustic or alkaline solution” that helps loosen or dissolve waste or soap scum

3. Washing Detergent

The surfactants in soap “bind to soils with one end and to water with the other, allowing them to lift away the icky things trapped”

I hope that wasn’t too boring? The article went into further detail explaining how the stripping process happens:

  • The hot, alkaline water opens up the fibers of the fabric and looses any soil or scum.
  • The water penetrates deep into the fabric of the diapers, 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.

Now that we know laundry stripping isn’t just a chemical reaction and there is an actual science to it, let’s strip! *wink*

Laundry Stripping Recipe

Although the tub is the most convenient place to do the stripping, 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

As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases

½  cup Calgon gel water softener (optional)laundry strippinglaundry stripping

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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. lol

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 (should) 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.

Is laundry stripping necessary?

Can I speak very frankly? I am not jumping at another chance to do this again but if you live in a hard water area as I do and your towels/sheets feel less absorbent or you use a lot of fabric softener, laundry stripping might get them functioning at an optimum level again. 

How often should you strip laundry?

I know it’s tempting for you to want to try this as often as possible especially if you found it satisfying, 6-9 months is the perfect amount of time to wait before doing it again so you don’t risk the quality of your items.

May I speak frankly? Stripping in itself is a cure for years of poor laundering habits and hard water deposits. Plain and simple. 

So instead of planning the next opportunity to strip wash, why don’t we try to tweak our laundry habits?

Can we use less soap, less fabric softener, clean the gasket of our front-loading machines and maybe try to stop overloading our machines? I genuinely don’t think I have the patience for laundry stripping so I would much rather prevent than cure. I’m sure you’ll agree with me!

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

I hope reading this has left you feeling more confident and informed about why and how laundry stripping works? Laundry stripping is backed by science and is excellent if your clothes have been less absorbent, you use a lot of fabric softners or you just love the idea of restoring your clothes to their ‘factory setting’.

I say, go for it! But if you are hoping for brilliant white sheets from this process, don’t waste your time.

So… will you be doing it anytime soon? Honestly, I am not really looking forward to going through that stress again! Lol!

Other Posts You May Like:

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Self-Cleaning Toilet Bombs

How To Make Your Home Smell Good



Hey you, I’m Torera

I am super intentional about elevating my life and home. The question I always ask is, how can we do this better? I bet you are just the same! Here’s hoping this blog becomes your go to place for relatable, fuss- free home, cleaning and entertaining ideas.