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Does Laundry Stripping Work?

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I have seen plenty of videos of people trying laundry stripping online, and after wondering, “does laundry stripping work?” I decided to try this simple technique for the first time. Here are laundry stripping instructions, along with before and after photos!

What Is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is a method for deep cleaning laundry. Usually, people start the laundry stripping process with items that have been cleaned in the washing machine but that don’t seem 100% clean.

This latest cleaning method can improve the smell and appearance of clothing and linens.

What To Laundry Strip

Not everything needs a super deep clean. Most people save strip washing for items like bed sheets, towels, and gym clothing that have received a lot of use. If something doesn’t smell fresh after coming out of the wash or doesn’t look clean, you might want to try laundry stripping.

After seeing laundry stripping videos on social media, I did some research to make sure that this method was safe to use for Lululemon athletic wear and fabrics that have some stretch. Based on positive results shared online, I used this laundry stripping process to deep clean all of my husband’s Lululemon workout shirts and shorts. Nothing faded, lost its shape, or lost its stretchiness.

What Not To Laundry Strip

I wouldn’t use this method for any delicate items or anything with colors that might bleed. Laundry stripping requires very hot water, so make items aren’t cold water wash only items. Check the care labels on clothing and linens first.

Laundry Stripping Recipe

1/4 cup – 1/2 cup Borax
1/4 cup – 1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup of Laundry Detergent * (or 2 pods)

*You can use powdered detergent or liquid detergent.

The general rule is to use one part Borax, one part Washing Soda, and two parts Laundry Detergent. I use an equal ratio of Borax, Washing Soda, and Detergent for very dirty clothing.

There is no need to premix the stripping mixture. Add the hottest water possible to your bathtub and then add each of the ingredients and stir until they dissolve.

What is Washing Soda?

Washing soda is sodium carbonate. It is a natural cleaner and water softener that is non-toxic. It isn’t the same as baking soda, but you can turn baking soda into washing soda.

How to make Washing Soda

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle baking soda on a baking sheet and bake for at least 30 minutes. Baking soda is powdery and will clump up. Washing soda is grainier and less clumpy. This change should occur after 30 minutes of baking the baking soda. At this point the washing soda is ready to use.

Laundry Stripping Instructions

  1. Start by filling a bathtub halfway with very hot water. You want the water to be as hot as you can get it. If you don’t have a bathtub, you could use a large container or storage tub.
  2. Add the Borax, Washing Soda, and laundry detergent. For workout clothing, I use 1/2 cup of Borax and Washing Soda; otherwise, I just use 1/4 cup.
  3. Stir (some people use broom handles for this).
  4. Add clean clothes or clean linens (like towels or sheets). Pro tip: for best results, laundry strip whites separately from colors.
  5. Stir gently and submerge everything in the water. Add more water if necessary.
  6. Let the items soak for a few hours. Stir every hour or so. Four hours should do the trick.
  7. Drain the tub and the excess water out of the items. For exceptionally dirty items, you might want to repeat the process. Use a large bucket to carry the wet items from the tub to the washing machine.
  8. Run the items through the washing machine. I used a warm water cycle. Some people run an extra rinse cycle, but I didn’t think this was necessary.
  9. Dry the items as usual.

Where To Buy Laundry Stripping Ingredients

Amazon sells the washing soda and Borox in a two-pack. While you can find Borax in grocery stores and Target, I could not find the washing soda in-store. You can use your go-to laundry detergent.

Complete Laundry Stripping Guide with before and after photos.

My Laundry Stripping Experience

I decided to try laundry stripping because my husband’s workout clothing wasn’t quite smelling fresh after coming out of the washing machine. My goal was to get rid of that residual musty sweaty smell.

Laundry Stripping Gym Clothes:

I gathered up his workout clothing. It was all freshly washed, with the exception of the workout clothes that he had worn that morning. I threw it into the tub along with 1/2 cup of Borax, 1/2 cup of Washing Soda, and two laundry pods because this seemed like a more extreme situation.

Within a minute, the water was looking muddy.

This was the bathtub water after the gym clothes soaked for 4 hours.

I let the clothing soak for 4 hours, stirring it every hour-ish. At the end of four hours, the murky water had turned dark brown. It was so gross that I decided to do a second round of stripping on this load.

Does Laundry Stripping Work? This is the water after two rounds of laundry stripping gym clothes.
Water after soaking the gym clothes for an additional 2 hours.

I squeezed out the gym clothing and put them in another borax, washing soda, and laundry detergent soak for two more hours. I was surprised that although these items are washed on a regular basis, the soaking water was still so dirty. At this point, I decided that 6 hours of laundry stripping was a sufficient period of time.

I put the gym clothes into the washing machine and put them through a standard wash cycle and then dried them.

Laundry Stripping Towels

I was so impressed with how clean the gym clothes were getting that I decided to try and work some magic on clean towels. Specifically, we have some white towels that were given to us when we got married ten years ago. They were no longer white. Instead, they were a dingey beige color.

At first, I put a mix of navy and white towels into the tub together. Again, cue the dirty water! After a few hours, I realized I should have separated out the whites. Once the gym clothes were in the washing machine, and I had an available tub, I moved the whites into a separate tub to soak in a fresh stripping mixture.

Does Laundry Stripping Work?

The dirty water is evidence that obviously dirt is being removed from your laundry. But does it actually look and smell any different after laundry stripping?

In my experience, the cleaning method had a bigger impact on the smell of the clothing than their appearance. The gym clothes finally smelled clean again. But, the towels didn’t look any cleaner.

Does Laundry Stripping Remove Stains?

Encouraged by how much dirt was removed from the gym clothing and towels, I decided to tackle a stubborn stain. My two-year-old got paint on this dress, and two rounds of stain remover and washing only faded the stain.


Unfortunately, the stain didn’t even fade after hours of laundry stripping.


Based on this example, I wouldn’t say that this laundry technique is a good option for stubborn stains.

Laundry Stripping Before And After Photo

I thought that the best laundry stripping example would be a white towel. It was clear that lots of dirt was removed from the gym clothing, but since they are all dark colors, the before and after photos aren’t as compelling. The goal of cleaning the gym clothing was more about the smell.

Here is the white towel before laundry stripping:

Laundry Stripping Before

After laundry stripping, the towel wasn’t noticeably whiter.

Laundry Stripping After

Final Thoughts:

The laundry stripping process has given new life to Charles’s workout clothing. This dark clothing didn’t look dirty, but it had an unpleasant odor, which has now vanished!

Laundry stripping definitely removes excess detergent, hard water deposits, residual fabric softener, dirt, and unpleasant smells from fabrics. I was shocked by the murky brown water that was left after trying this aggressive cleaning method – especially since we do not use dryer sheets or fabric softener. I didn’t think our fabrics would contain so much built-up residue. It is possible that I have been using too much detergent, and that detergent residue built up over time.

I think laundry stripping is a good thing to add to our regular laundry routine. I plan to try it on white sheets next. I also want to try laundry boosters to try and get my whites whiter.

The bottom line is that I found laundry stripping to improve the scent but not the appearance of fabrics.

Does Laundry Stripping Work? A complete guide to laundry stripping with before and after photos.

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