Laundry stripping can help remove any built-up residue from clothes and bedding and restore their original softness. Stripping laundry is particularly useful for items that have been exposed to hard water, excess detergent, or fabric softeners. In this blog, we will explore the benefits of stripping laundry, the different methods you can use, and some tips for achieving the best results.

What is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is a soaking method for your clothes that removes any residual detergent, fabric softener, natural body oils, and minerals from hard water that collect over time. The laundry stripping process usually involves towels and sheets sitting in a clean tub full of hot water, borax, sodium carbonate, and laundry detergent until the water cools off naturally. Laundry stripping can take up to five hours, as the hot water can take a while to cool down. While laundry stripping can be helpful in certain situations, it typically is not necessary if you do your laundry correctly.

Is Laundry Stripping Safe?

Laundry stripping is safe for your clothing and fabrics, but over time the heat of the water during the stripping process can make dyes in colored fabrics run, meaning some darks may turn dark brown or gray. For this reason, laundry stripping is best for fabrics like whites, lights, colorfast bath towels, and sheets.

When stripping your laundry, avoid mixing dyed materials with whites to avoid accidentally tinting your fabrics. During the stripping process, it is critical that you separate your laundry the right way and always avoid stripping delicate items. You should only strip clothing and bedding that can withstand high temperatures.

How Do You Strip Laundry?

modern laundry room

If you notice a buildup of grime, dirt, or detergent on your clothing and bedding, it may be time to consider stripping your laundry. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to strip laundry:

1. Sort Your Laundry

The first step is to gather the laundry items you need to strip and sort them accordingly. The laundry can be wet or dry as long as it is clean. You can strip an average size load of laundry (roughly 12 to 15 pounds) in one round. Do not mix colors, as mixing colors can lead to dye bleeding and discoloring your fabrics. Remember that stripping can help remove the residue embedded in fibers over time, not old stains.

2. Clean and Fill Your Sink or Bathtub

Before you do anything, clean your bathtub, sink, or container you wish to use during the laundry stripping process. Soap scum and other lingering residue can rub off on clothing and fabrics and defeat the purpose of laundry stripping. Next, fill the container with piping hot water.

If soaking your clothes in a bathtub, add one-fourth of a cup of borax, one-fourth of a cup of washing soda, and one-half cup of heavy-duty laundry detergent. Please note that washing soda is different from baking soda. For this task, you will want to use washing soda. If you plan to use another container to soak your laundry, use a ratio of one part borax, one part washing soda, to two parts laundry detergent. Mix the ingredients thoroughly with a wooden spoon and ensure that everything fully dissolves and disperses before adding your laundry.

3. Soak Your Laundry

Add the laundry you want to strip to the container full of solution. Ensure that the fabrics are submerged and evenly soaked. After ensuring that everything is evenly wet, allow your laundry to soak until the water is completely cool, or about four to five hours. Be sure to stir the fabrics every hour throughout the process to ensure that nothing settles. Once your laundry completely cools off, drain the tub or container and squeeze out as much water as possible from the fabrics before transferring it to your washing machine.

4. Transfer the Laundry to Your Washer

Finally, it’s time to transfer your freshly stripped laundry to your washing machine, but before you do that, make sure your washing machine is clean first. Residue from detergent and fabric softener can build up over time in your washing machine, so it is a good idea to clean it regularly to keep it off your clothing and bedding.

Set the water temperature to cold and run the machine on a standard or normal cycle without adding detergent. This wash cycle will ensure that all the soil and cleaning chemicals rinse out of the fabrics. After washing your laundry in the machine, dry your clothes and bedding using your dryer or an indoor drying rack.

Hang dry laundry

How Often Should You Strip Your Laundry?

The laundry stripping process requires you to leave your fabrics in a cleaning solution for an extended time. The products in the stripping solution are potent, meaning that if you overdo it, you can damage your fabrics over time. For this reason, you should only strip your laundry periodically throughout the year. We recommend laundry stripping once every four months or when it starts to stiffen and feel dull.

How to Avoid Buildup in the Future

The best way to fight residual buildup on your clothing and bedding is to take steps to avoid it altogether. To combat residue from excess detergent or fabric softener, refer to the bottles for suggestions on how much to use or check your washing machine for a feature that automatically dispenses the correct amount of each. If you feel that detergent and fabric softener is adequately rinsing off, try adding an extra rinse cycle to every load of laundry.

When adding detergent and fabric softener manually, avoid adding them simultaneously. Many newer washers have features that automatically dispense the fabric softener at the appropriate time. For older models, always add a fabric softener during the final rinse cycle to prevent buildup. Do not pack the washing machine more than ¾ full to get the most out of each rinse cycle. Never use fabric softener on loads with towels or gym clothes.

Let the Pros Take Care of It

Mother and daughter at ZIPS

Stripping laundry can help you refresh and revitalize your clothes and bedding. Laundry stripping can remove the built-up residue from fabric fibers and restore their softness, absorbency, and overall quality. Whether you prefer to use your own DIY solution or a store-bought product, the key is to follow the instructions carefully, use the right amount of ingredients, and give your clothes and bedding ample time to soak and rinse thoroughly. With a little bit of effort and patience, you can extend the life of your favorite items.

At ZIPS, we treat your garments with the utmost care to maximize their longevity and keep you looking your best every day of the week. Our professionals can help you prevent any residual buildup from using excess products and other laundry mishaps. Find a location near you, and let us take care of it today!