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How To Strip Laundry: 8 Simple Steps

Remove disgusting bacteria and product build-up on your clothes.

You might think your washing machine is doing a good job cleaning your clothes. But it doesn’t always.

Your clothes look clean, smell clean, and feel clean. However, there’s a good chance that your clothes, sheets, and fabrics have a disgusting amount of build-up on them. Whether this is from dirt, your detergent, soap, oil, or bacteria, your clothes are probably not 100 percent clean.

If you want to get your clothes back to being pure, totally clean, and feeling brand new, then you’ve got to learn how to strip laundry.

Key Takeaways

  1. Combine washing powder, Borax, Calgon, and enzyme laundry detergent together.
  2. In a large tub or bathtub filled with hot water, dissolve your mix.
  3. Add your laundry and let soak for four hours.
  4. Rinse the clothes as normal, dry, and enjoy totally clean clothes due to your laundry stripping.

What Does It Mean To Strip Laundry?

Laundry stripping is a great (and kind of crazy) technique to cleanse your clothes of dirt, bacteria, and build-up. Essentially, you use the hottest water possible and a homemade cocktail of ingredients to clean the heck out of your fabrics.

With any homemade DIY laundry project, there come pros and cons.


  • Your clothes will be truly clean.
  • You’ll remove build-up.
  • Your clothes will be softer.
  • You’ll remove bad odors.


  • It could wear down the fabric.
  • It’s a long process.
  • It’s pretty gross.

When Does Strip Washing Need to be Done?

Because laundry stripping can wear down the fabrics, it’s important to only do this occasionally. But when exactly is the best time to strip laundry?

  • If you’ve just started using homemade detergent: If you’ve just jumped on the homemade laundry detergent bandwagon, there’s a chance the ingredients might be building up on your clothes. This is due to soap flakes in homemade detergent.
  • If you live in a hard water area: Hard water isn’t ideal for cleaning clothes. This method can deep clean your clothes and fabrics.
  • Your clothes are dingy, smelly, and not absorbent: If you notice a bad odor, a lack of absorbency in your towels and dish clothes, or an overall dinginess, try laundry stripping. This method can help bring life back to your clothes.
  • Your clothes have sweat stains: Stripping laundry could help remove stubborn sweat stains. If you notice yellowing or grayness to your lighter-colored clothes, this method could be good for you.
  • Every few months or so: Stripping laundry is a long process and isn’t necessary on a regular basis. But every few months or so, you could take a weekend out to strip some laundry. This is especially recommended for cloth diapers when you notice the diapers aren’t absorbing anymore.

How to Strip Laundry

Let’s get down to business. Just a warning, this is about to get gross.

  • Time:
  • Difficulty:

What You’ll Need

  • Washing soda.
  • Borax.
  • Calgon.
  • Detergent with enzymes.
  • Bathtub or large tub.
  • Clean laundry.

You can opt to buy a washing solution instead of making your own if you want something slightly stronger.

1. Start With Clean Laundry

Start with clean laundry straight from the washing machine.

2. Fill Your Bathtub With Hot Water

Now, fill your bathtub or large tub half full with enough hot water to submerge the load of laundry you’re about to do.

3. Add Your Solution And Mix Well

Now it’s time to add your solution. If you’ve bought one, add the recommended amount for the amount of laundry you have. If you’re making your own, follow these instructions.

  1. Combine ¼ cup of washing soda, ¼ cup of Borax, and ¼ cup of Calgon.
  2. Add ½ cup of laundry detergent with enzymes.
  3. Mix together, then add to the tub.
  4. Dissolve in the water and mix until thoroughly combined.

4. Add Your Laundry

It’s time to add your clean laundry to the tub. Carefully insert it into the tub without burning yourself. Once it’s fully immersed in the water, let it soak for four hours.

You might notice the water turning a murky gray color. Or worse, it could turn black. This is totally normal.

So are the bad smells that might radiate from the bathtub. This means it’s working. All the bad stuff is being stripped from your fabrics.

Pro Tip

This method works for clothes, towels, bedsheets, and diapers.

5. Stir

It’s recommended to stir your clothes frequently. Every hour or so, give the clothes a good stir to break even more minerals from your clothes.

Use a long-handled item to do this — not your hands! The handle end of a broom or a mop works well.

6. Let It Cool

Once the water has cooled down, you can move on to the next step. But first, drain the tub and squeeze excess water out of each item.

Wear rubber gloves to avoid getting dry skin from this step.

7. Rinse the Clothes

Put your stripped laundry back into the washing machine and use a rinse cycle to give the clothes an extra clean.

Don’t use any more detergent during this step. This will help to remove any lingering minerals, build-up, or bacteria.

8. Dry the Clothes

You can now dry your clothes as normal. You’ll notice you have totally fresh laundry that feels as good, if not better, as it did when you purchased it.


How Often Should You Strip Your Laundry?

How often you should strip your laundry depends on the garment. Work-out clothes should be stripped every three months, and for towels and blankets, every six to nine months. Other items can be stripped every 12 months.

Should You Strip Your Bras?

You should strip your bras, but only soak them in luke-warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. This helps to preserve delicate materials and stops the underwire from mishaping.

Does Stripping Laundry Get Rid of Smells?

Stripping laundry does get rid of smells. It also removes stubborn stains, body odor, greasy marks, and body oil.

Can You Strip Laundry In a Washing Machine?

You can strip laundry in a washing machine, as well as in a bathtub and a bucket. If you use a washing machine, choose a toploader because it gives easier access for the garments.

Can You Strip Laundry Without Borax?

You can strip laundry without Borax. You can use baking soda crystals, white vinegar, and laundry detergent. You can also use hydrogen peroxide on white garments.

Can You Strip Laundry With Baking Soda and Vinegar?

You can strip your laundry using baking soda and vinegar. However, for the best results, use a dedicated laundry detergent. Baking soda and vinegar also disinfect and clean the inside of your washing machine.

Try A Laundry Strip Today

If you live in a hard water area, use homemade laundry detergent, use cloth diapers, or just want to experiment, try stripping laundry. Now that you know exactly how to do it, you’ll nail this method of cleansing your laundry.

It’s great for achieving soft, clean, and absorbent fabrics again. Pop into your local store and pick up the ingredients. Don’t forget to wear protective gloves to avoid dry skin and irritation.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!