After a long cycle on the hottest setting, with a fine detergent and mild bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide, you’d think your towels are hotel-grade clean, to say the least. But as it turns out, sometimes you need to clean your towel from the laundry itself. You see, all the detergent buildup and hard water residue can affect your towels’ soaking properties and shorten their life.
Enter laundry stripping – a method that promises to remove residue and buildup from all of your laundry, including towels, but also linens and certain garments. You won’t need any special chemicals, only the ones you already have in your cleaning cabinet. Here’s how it's done.
What to know before you begin
Laundry stripping, in a nutshell, is filling up a tub with hot water, borax, washing soda, and laundry detergent, throwing all your towels or linens in, and removing them once the water has cooled down – after about four or five hours. But here’s the catch – it works best on white fabrics, light fabrics, or high-quality dyed towels and linens that can withstand extremely hot water. So, if the tag on your T-shirt says "wash cold," it’s not the right candidate for laundry stripping.
Anything with a high content of wool or spandex, usually found in workout clothes, shouldn’t go through laundry stripping. In our opinion, the perfect candidates for laundry stripping would be bed sheets, towels of all kinds, and washcloths or reusable dishcloths. Your rule of thumb is - if the fabric can stand high temperatures, it’s fit for laundry stripping. Delicate, hand wash-only items shouldn’t be in your laundry stripping tub.
The Internet is full of images of dark murky water left in the bathtub after laundry stripping. Many people mistake this for dirt and grime, but we are here to warn you - this is dye running out of clothes. If you insert your dark garments into the bathtub and the water instantly turns gray, brown, or black, remove your clothes from the hot water. Stick to light-colored bed sheets and towels.
How to strip laundry
Now that we've gone over all the details, let’s get strippin'. Some tips for your first time:
- Make sure you have enough borax, laundry detergent, and washing soda before you begin.
- Pay attention: washing soda is not the same thing as baking soda. Washing soda is also known as sodium carbonate while baking soda is known as sodium bicarbonate. Pay close attention when you're at the grocery store.
- One last note before we jump in - laundry stripping should be done only with clean, freshly washed items. They can be either wet or dry.
Now, for the recipe:
1. The ratio of borax – washing soda – laundry detergent is 1-1-2. That would be 1/4 cup of borax, 1/4 cup of washing soda, and 1/2 cup of liquid laundry detergent (or a full cup of powdered laundry detergent) for a full bathtub.
2. Fill your tub with hot water and pour your cleaners in. Stir until dissolved and submerge your towels or sheets. Let them sit until the water cools down, stirring occasionally.
3. Once done and the water is cloudy, drain the tub, wring out your items, and run them through either a rinse and spin cycle or a full wash cycle in the washing machine, using no detergent and no fabric softener. Tumble dry without dryer sheets.
If this sounds like a lot of hassle, worry not. This is not a periodic ritual, and we would only recommend doing it once or twice a year. In general, if you do your laundry right, you don’t need to strip it more than once a year.
- If your clothes often feel sticky after the wash, stiff when dry, or you feel like you would need a laundry strip more than twice a year, our tip would be to go lighter on the detergent and add another rinse cycle.
- You can also skip the fabric softener altogether or use very little on towel loads.
- For hard water, adding white vinegar to the softener compartment should do the job.
- If all of this doesn't help, you might need to wash your washing machine. Click here for a guide.
Source: 1, 2.