Laundry Stripping

You just THOUGHT your items were clean!

My dear friend and ASE reader Linda B. asked me if I knew what laundry stripping was.  I had no idea and tried to figure out what the name could possibly be about?  When she told me I was shocked, and when I watched a video of it I was thoroughly grossed out.  The ‘ewww’ factor is pretty high here.  At the end of the day, however, I’m happy to know about the grime that might be lurking in my sheets and towels.

Laundry stripping is an intense soaking method to deep clean your laundry.  The soak uses a Borax solution to remove built-up residue from body oils, minerals in hard water, dryer sheets, detergent and fabric softener.  The soaking water turns a grey-brown color from all the ‘stuff’ that has been stripped from your laundry.

Laundry stripping is particularly great for sheets and towels which are frequently used and can collect body oils and detergents.  If your towels and sheets are looking dingy, and the towels have lost absorbency, try laundry stripping.  Be cautious with colorful linens as this procedure can cause dyes to run.  Do not try it on delicate linens (care of vintage linens is a different procedure).  Most clothing is also not suitable for stripping.  Hot water is required, so make sure you read your laundry care tags before you start.

The process:

  1. The soaking bath should be in a large enough container to hold all the linens you want to strip and enough liquid surrounding them for a good soak. A bathtub should handle the largest load, and a large bucket or sink will handle small amounts. Fill the tub or bucket with hot water.  Add one part Borax, one part washing soda and two parts laundry detergent.  If you are using a bathtub, the recipe is 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup laundry detergent.  Gently stir the powders and water until the powders are all dissolved. All products are available on Amazon.
  2. To soak the linens, add your clean laundry to the water, making sure it gets completely wet and can be submerged in the bath. Let it soak about 4-5 hours or until the water is cool. Stir the water and swish the laundry around occasionally which will help the dirt be removed from the fabric.
  3. To rinse, remove the laundry from the tub or sink and drain the water. Run the laundry through the washing machine, using the rinse cycle, without detergent. Dry the laundry as you normally would.  Your laundry should be clean and crisp.

There are many videos on the internet that show really yucky murky water after linens have been soaking. This can be caused by dirt and grime being released.  Further research shows, however,  that sometimes the dyes in the fabric run because of the water’s heat which can also change the color of the water.  Colorful textiles can be stripped only if they are colorfast, or if you do not mix bright colors with whites.

Good Housekeeping recommends the following “smart laundry practices” whenever you do laundry.  If you do follow these you should not need to strip your laundry unless you live in a hard water area with no water softener in your home, use dryer sheets frequently or wash with homemade detergent.

Smart Laundry Practices:

Use deep-cleaning detergent like Tide.

Do not overload your washing machine.

Do not use too much detergent or fabric softener.

Properly sort laundry to avoid residue build-up.

Add borax or washing soda to your regular loads to prevent build-up.

Kathy A. just sent in this tip – press the ‘extra rinse’ option on your washing machine to prevent any residue build up on regular loads or help with the laundry stripping process.

Bottom line:

Laundry stripping is a good thing once in a great while to brighten your linens but should not be necessary more often than that if you are following good laundering practices.

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