How To Strip Laundry (8 Simple Steps)

Get rid of disgusting product and bacteria build-up with this step-by-step guide.

You might think your washing machine is doing a good job of cleaning your clothes. But it might not be.

It might 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.

How To Strip Laundry

  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 as a result of your laundry stripping.

What Does It Mean To Strip Laundry?

A laundry strip is a great (and kind of crazy) technique used 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 comes 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. It’s a good idea to counteract this by stripping laundry.
  • If you live in a hard water area: Hard water isn’t ideal for cleaning clothes. If you live in a hard water area, you could try this method to get a deep clean of 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, then you should try laundry stripping. This method can help bring life back to your clothes.
  • Your clothes have sweat stains: Stripping laundry could help get out 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.

What You Need

To strip laundry, you will need some supplies for the best results.

  • 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.

How Do You Strip Laundry?

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

1. Start With Clean Laundry

Woman washing laundry exposed to bedbugs

You need to start with clean laundry. Do a regular cycle in your washing machine and take them out.

They don’t need to be dry, just make sure they’re clean.

2. Fill Your Bathtub With Hot Water

Bathtub full of hot water

Now, fill your bathtub or large tub half full with hot water. The hotter, the better — but make sure it’s from the tap. Don’t start using kettles and boiling water to fill your tub.

Also, make sure to have enough water to cover the load of laundry you’re about to do.

3. Add Your Solution And Mix Well

Laundry powsder

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 fully 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.

Pro Tip

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

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.

5. Stir

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

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

6. Let It Cool

Hand washing laundry

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

You can use rubber gloves to avoid getting dry skin from this step.

7. Rinse

Getting mold out of clothes

Time to go back to the laundry room. 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

Clothes hanging out to dry

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.

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.

Headshot of Beth McCallum

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something 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!