A cleaning tip our great-grandmothers shared is trending across the internet: laundry stripping. This technique effectively removes detergent and fabric softener residue, body oils, minerals from hard water, and grime from clothing that accumulate over time. Even regularly washed laundry can be packed full of these pesky residuals. With just a few cleaning staples, a bathtub, and some time, you can return your clothes to their original state. Here’s how laundry stripping works and why you should try it.
How Laundry Stripping Works
The ingredients are simple: borax, washing soda, and powdered laundry detergent. (These items can be found at most grocery stores and purchased online.) When mixed, borax and washing soda form an alkaline solution that helps to loosen and dissolve waste and soap scum from fabrics. After the alkaline solution has loosened grime from the fabric fibers, the formerly trapped filth will need something to hold onto. Enter detergent powder, which contains molecules called surfactants that bind to the residue, allowing it to be easily washed away.
How to Strip Your Laundry
Although some top-loading washing machines will hold a soak cycle, most laundry stripping is done in a bathtub. Here’s how to do it.
Fill the bathtub with hot water
1. Combine 1/2 cup of borax, 1/2 cup of washing soda, and 1 cup of detergent powder in a bowl
2. Add your laundry to the tub, followed by the cleaning mixture, and stir
3. Stir the items in the tub every 30 minutes for at least four hours
4. After draining the water, run the clothes through the washing machine using cold water and without added detergent
5. Dry as normal
Which Fabrics Can Be Stripped?
Laundry stripping is best suited to light-colored cotton, like sheets and towels. And although some swear by it for removing the funk for workout clothes, it’s not recommended for spandex. You shouldn’t use this cleaning method on wool, as it will destroy the natural lanolin coating. Also, only strip your clothes twice a year, as doing it too much will weaken fabrics over time.
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