If you want to see JUST how dirty your clothes, sheets and towels are, try laundry stripping. This is an alarmingly gross but oh-so-satisfying cleaning trend that’s gone viral and merits discussion. The process takes a LONG time, but since we seem to have more time than normal on our hands right now, we decided to give laundry stripping a shot. Let’s start with the basics.

Laundry stripping is all about getting the built-up gunk and funk out of your everyday fabrics. The idea is to soak and really deep clean everything from towels and sheets to white undershirts and workout clothes in water for a long period of time using a powerful mix of Borax, washing soda (not baking soda) and powdered laundry detergent. This combination releases detergent residue (“natural” and homemade are the worst culprits of all), fabric softener, minerals from hard water, bacteria, body oils and dirt that have collected on your laundry over time. It’s also said to release tough-to-tackle stinky smells, too.

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To get a medical perspective on laundry stripping, we turned to Houston-based Dr. Elizabeth Mullans to weigh in on this cleaning method. “[Laundry stripping] should not damage your skin if you use a detergent designed for sensitive skin,” she tells us, suggesting the use of a fragrance-free detergent for sensitive skin, like Arm & Hammer Free and Clear. “It is seen as ‘satisfying’ because the water may turn brown or gray from all the gunk being stripped away.”

Here’s how to try this cleaning trend for yourself.

Laundry Stripping 101

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup washing soda (if you only have baking soda, you can turn your baking soda into washing soda by baking a thin layer of it on a pan in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes)
  • 1/2 a cup of powdered detergent
  • a bathtub full of hot water (a top-loader washing machine will work, too)
  • a couple of hours at home to intermittently stir
Laundry stripping ingredients

“Follow a 1 to 1 to 2 ratio (the 2 being the detergent), adjusting the amounts based on how much water you’re using,” Dr. Mullans suggests. SB TIP: Use washing soda, not regular baking soda. If you only have baking soda, though, you can turn it into washing soda by baking a thin layer of it on a pan in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1: Mix together the Borax, washing soda and powdered detergent.
STEP 2: Add your garments, sheets, towels, etc., to your tub or washer.
STEP 3: Fill with HOT water — as hot as you can get it!
STEP 4: Sprinkle your magic mixture into the water and mix well.
NOTE: Dr. Mullans puts the powdered mixture in the hot water BEFORE the clothes go in, but we have seen it done both ways.
STEP 5: Stir every hour for four to six hours with something like a wooden spoon or the end of the broom.
STEP 6: Drain the water and wring out your stuff as best as you can.
STEP 7: Wash the stuff in a water-only cycle. Dry normally.
STEP 8: Bask in your fresh linens and clothes!

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VIDEO TUTORIAL

 

TIPS & FYIs

  • This is meant as a once-in-a-while deep clean for frequently used bedding, linens, and certain clothing. Many people recommend once a month.
  • Be careful with colors as sometimes they run. “Laundry stripping is not always ideal for clothing as it can cause dyes to run. You may want to stick to white bath towels and bedsheets,” says Dr. Mullans. “If you do try the method on colorful clothing, avoid mixing a red shirt with white socks or else you could end up with accidentally dyed clothing.
  • This method requires hot water, so check each item’s care label first.
  • Save it for well-used items you regularly wash, NOT delicates.
  • Regular laundry detergents and fabric softeners are designed to leave behind a residue on your clothes, believe it or not. They contain optical brighteners and conditioners that actually coat fabrics to make them “whiter than white” or “snuggly soft” … ew! So even if your laundry has been washed exclusively with conventional detergents and fabric softeners, it would most likely still benefit from a good laundry stripping every so often.

Once you try this for yourself, we are pretty sure the murky water that remains will be oh-so-satisfying and your stripped laundry will feel and smell fresher than ever. Give it a try and tell us how it goes! Thanks for the expert tips, Dr. Mullans.

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