What is laundry stripping anyway?
Laundry stripping and spring cleaning have something in common. They’re both a deep cleansing event that really only needs to happen occasionally. While spring cleaning is obviously specific about when it should happen, laundry stripping is way more ambiguous. In order to know when to strip, it’s helpful to understand what the process actually does.
Basically laundry stripping removes a variety of build ups, including odors and body oils. Odors are a byproduct of sweat, which, although odorless in itself, interacts with bacterias on the skin. Skin bacterias break down the proteins that exist within sweat. Those smells transfer into sheets and clothes, and as many of you may have noticed, even clean laundry may not pass the good ole “sniff test”. Ew, right?... But heh, you’re not alone. Everyone has to contend with odors, as well as sebum, which is the oily business that gets secreted from our sebaceous glands. Sebum is waxy and oily and its main goal is to protect and moisturize skin. This is a good thing, but again, it can transfer to the textiles that we hold most dear.
Other build ups actually accumulate through regular washing, like soap residues and minerals from hard water. Say what?
Consider the soap scum that builds up on the edge of your bathtub. Have you ever wondered how it gets there? Well, when soap and hard water collide, the fatty acids within soap actually react with the minerals inside the water, causing scum to cling to surfaces. While this is easy to see on the walls of the tub, it’s harder to discern on fabrics….that is, until the fabrics (particularly whites) begin to look mysteriously dingy. Unavoidable, and a tidy trade-off, because the benefits of washing with soap and water far outweigh the minimal excess that will slowly amass.
So what can we do? Well, in this case, stripping might just be the answer...ah, what? (Stripping isn’t usually the answer, but, okay!)
Laundry stripping is a bit like Vegas: What goes into the tub, stays in the tub…
For at least 4 hours. And kind of like what washes out in Vegas, you may or may not want to tell your peeps about the dirt you accumulate...it might just go viral (Kind of like what Lauren Elms did with her laundry stripping TikTok video. So far she has over 800,000 likes).
But really, what goes in the tub stays in the tub, for a hella long time. Laundry stripping is a time consuming process and is best done on a day when you want to stay in your jammies and power clean. It’s a bit like cooking a turkey, it’s mostly a “get it in there and wait” situation. And if you’re someone who enjoys transformations, laundry stripping will be just as satisfying as watching a pallid bird turn golden! Can I get a hell yeah?...Heh, I heard you! Let’s get to it!
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Laundry stripping essentials:
Effective laundry stripping requires a specific process to be effective. You will need:
- A large tub
- Lots of hot water
- ¼ cup of washing soda, such as Arm and Hammer
- ¼ cup Borax
- ¼ cup of water softener, such as Calgon
- 1 overfull scoop of a detergent, such as Tide
- A broom handle (for swishing)
And swish you will, every hour or so. But first, let’s consider process:
How do I strip laundry?
Believe it or not, for laundry stripping you start with clean laundry. It seems counterintuitive to pull clean laundry out of drawers and off shelves, but trust me, you’re going to be surprised at how much cleaner and softer your laundry is after you strip it, rinse it out, and dry it again.
- Fill up your tub with hot water
- Add soda, borax,softener, and detergent
- Toss in your clean laundry (color batch when possible)
- Swish laundry every hour or so
- After 4-6 hours, drain tub
- Wring out all textiles
- Toss them in the washing machine
- Run a rinse cycle (don’t use soap)
- Toss everything in the dryer
- Pull dried textiles out of the dryer
- Fold, and inhale the freshness!
But wait, is it hard on fabrics?
Good question! Before you drop everything to strip your laundry, it is good to ask yourself if this cleansing technique is appropriate for all of your wash. Be careful to observe laundering instructions on your items. Anything that needs to be washed in cold water should not go into a tub filled with hot water. Think about shrinkage.
Also, consider seepage. If you are stripping dark fabrics, chances are good that your water will be way dirtier looking. This dark color is largely from fabric dyes being pulled into the hot water. Keep in mind that if you toss whites in with darks, your whites may absorb some of the dye and may emerge from the tub looking a little worse for wear. (Insert theatrical cringe.)
Laundry stripping is also not a great match for delicates like lace, silk, and woolens. Woolens have naturally occurring lanolin that we actually want to keep, rather than strip. (A vinegar soak can be a safe way to remove odors from delicates prior to washing them on a gentle cycle.)
Once you’ve ascertained what is, and is not, a good candidate for laundry stripping, you should be good to go! Start with your white sheets and towels, particularly those that are yellowed, graying, or tired looking. In this day and age, many of us are looking for ways to keep our household goods in the game for the long haul. How cool is it to have a method for keeping our fabrics fresher longer!
Personally, I love tactics that can extend the service of my household wares. And let’s face it, replacing sheets and towels is a big expense. The idea of buying these items less frequently is pretty dreamy. Not only does it save our pocket books, but it also feels good to embrace clever techniques. If spring cleaning turns your crank, laundry stripping is sure to get you revved up. Add laundry stripping to your list of spring projects. I’m wagering that your inner domestic celestial being will be greatly satisfied.