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Thursday, August 27, 2020

How to Deep Clean Laundry With Laundry Stripping

 Are your clothes dingy and rough?  Your clothes might have mineral deposits or laundry soap residue on them.  Learn how to deep clean laundry with laundry stripping for softer, brighter clothes.

We live on a farm.  That means we have well water, and it also means that we get dirty.

Our water isn't horrible.  I've definitely seen worse well water.  We have a whole house sediment filter and some iron.

Our iron isn't terrible, but it's enough to make our clothes dingy.  We also have extra minerals in our water that cling to the fabric.

I've also noticed that some our clothes are clean.  Because we get dirty working outside, new clothes get demoted to work clothes.  Unlike in our previous lives, we might have the same shirt for several years as a work shirt. 

That's a lot of washing, and a lot of time for detergent and minerals to build up on the fabric.

I learned how to deep clean laundry with laundry stripping.  I tried it on some clothes, and it really made a big difference.  

How to Deep Clean Laundry With Laundry Stripping

I always had a top loading washer, so I would soak clothes often.  When my washer died after 17 years of faithful service, I opted for a front load.

I went with a front load because they are supposed to be gentler on clothes.  They also use less water.  

We have a well, so conserving water is important to me.  I may not have a water bill, but I still pay electricity to pump the water.

I also have to worry about the well going dry.  We have four wells on the property, but running a new line to the house will be costly.

One drawback to the front load is that I can't soak clothes in it.  The longest that I can soak clothes is about 3 hours on a long cycle.  

In my experience, there's a huge difference between 3 hours and 8 or 12 hours for soaking laundry.

I started soaking clothes in my bathtub or in a storage bin.  That works better for me.  If you have a top load washer, you can also do laundry stripping in your washer to make live a little bit easier for you.

I was using laundry detergent or Oxyclean, but now I make my own special concoction for laundry stripping.

Why Use Laundry Stripping

I use my own homemade powdered laundry detergent.  I've been using it for something like 15 years with Fels Naptha soap.  

It saves me a lot of money, and it doesn't take long to make every 6 months or so.

I've been happy with the results, even with small kids and now teens.  It works great on our work clothes and gets them clean.

In the last few years, however, I've noticed that some of our older clothes have a buildup on them.  It seems like oils and minerals are trapped in the fabric, making them rough and giving them a funky smell.

That's when I discovered how to deep clean laundry with laundry stripping.  Now I can do this on clothes and they are finally clean again.


What is Laundry Stripping?

Over time, minerals, detergent, and dirt can build up on your clothes.  Laundry stripping is a method to soak your clothes to deep clean them.  

It uses Borax, washing soda, and detergent to remove minerals from hard water, body oils from sweating, and fabric softener (if you use it).  

You'll need to soak your clothes in hot water with a special mixture for several hours, preferably overnight.  

When it's done, you'll be shocked at the water!  It will turn brown or gray with all of the gunk that was on your clothes.  

Does Stripping Your Laundry Work?

Yes!  I've found that it really does work.  It makes the fabric softer and brighter.  Our whites didn't get completely white, but they are whiter.  

I've even been able to pull out old stains.  Not all stains disappear, but it does help.


Is Laundry Stripping a Chemical Reaction?

Yes, it is a chemical reaction.  It's important to use the ingredients listed for best results because they each perform a different job.  


Most laundry stripping recipes don't use Calgon, but I get better results with it.  Calgon is a laundry additive that helps prevent lime and other minerals.

Calgon can be hard to find.  You can do laundry stripping without it, but I highly recommend it.  It's available in both a powder and a liquid.  I use the powder.

Unlike the other two ingredients for minerals, Calgon is non-precipitating, which means that the minerals it dissolves remain dissolved.  It helps remove more minerals from your clothes.  

Calgon can be hard to find, but I highly recommend it if you have hard water.  If you don't use it, the washing soda and borax will remove minerals, which will float around in the water and get trapped in the fabric again. 

Calgon stops them from getting trapped in your clothes again.  

Arm and Hammer also makes a product called Rain Drops.  It's not easy to find, but it works similar to Calgon and has good reviews.  It's also cheaper.



I use Borax in my homemade laundry detergent.   It binds to minerals to take them away from your clothes.  

It turns the minerals into solids that can be rinsed away.  That's why it's important to rinse well after laundry stripping.

Washing Soda

Washing soda is sodium carbonate, and it is different than baking soda.  Like borax, it also binds to minerals. 

The difference between these two ingredients it that borax uses boron and washing soda uses carbon.   Borax reacts quicker than washing soda does.  

Hot Water

It's important to use the hottest water that you can for laundry stripping.  Hot water helps dissolve dirt and soap residue.  

Heat helps the fibers in your clothes open up to release dirt and oil.  This also helps the ingredients penetrate deeper into the fabric.


Even though I'm battling detergent buildup, I'm still using a detergent in my laundry stripping.  Detergents work by using surfactants that strip out dirt and oil.

These surfactants bind to dirt and oil on one end and bind to water on the other end.  This lets them pull dirt and oils from the clothes and into the water.  

Powdered laundry detergent is better than liquid.  Powdered has more water softeners in it to remove minerals.

TL;DR  This is how laundry stripping works without geeking out.

  1. Hot alkaline water opens the pores of the fabric and loosens dirt.
  2. The ingredients in laundry stripping get into the fibers and remove trapped minerals and oils.
  3. Laundry detergent helps break down minerals and oils, lifts them, and moves them away from the fabric.
  4. Stirring helps the detergent move away more minerals and dirt.
  5. Washing in plain water helps get all of the minerals and dirt off of your clothes.

Science is pretty cool, huh?


Laundry Stripping Tips and Notes

You don't have to do laundry stripping all the time.  When we get find a shirt in the laundry that isn't soft or feels like it has some dirt or minerals stuck in it, we set it aside for laundry stripping.

You do not have to do this often.  I do this maybe once a year, except for my kids' karate gis.  I do strip those about every 6 to 12 months.

Laundry stripping also doesn't sanitize or kill germs.  If we are sick, I add some bleach or Lysol laundry sanitizer to a regular load.

I find that my homemade laundry detergent plus our hard water is the likely culprit for not so soft clothing.  For that reason, I do not recommend using a homemade laundry soap for laundry stripping.

I find that a powder detergent works better than liquid.

If you do not have borax, washing soda, or Calgon, you can make it without one of them.  I find that they really do work together to give the best results.

Laundry Stripping Supplies


Step #1

Start with clean laundry.  They can be wet, but they should have been laundered.

Step #2

Fill you bath tub, a plastic bin, or top load washer half full with very hot water.

Step #3

Add the mixture to the water and stir.  Do not use your hand to stir because it will be hot!  I use a long spoon.

Step #4

Add the clothes and stir well.

Step #5

Let the clothes soak at least 4 hours.  I try to let mine go for 8 hours.  Stir them every hour to move the water around.

The water will start to get gray or brown and may smell.  This is normal.  Keep soaking.

Step #6

When you're done, drain the water and rinse well.  Wash in the washing machine with water only on a quick cycle.

I make my own mixture because I keep borax and washing soda for cleaning and making my own detergent.  

You can also buy RLR Natural Powder Laundry Detergent.  This helps remove minerals and oils from clothes.  

Use the same method, but use one pack instead of the DIY laundry stripping recipe.  I have not used it, so I don't know how well it works.

For naturally clean clothes, learn how to make soap nuts liquid laundry detergent.

Looking for more cleaning tips?  

And now you know how to deep clean laundry with laundry stripping!

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1 comment:

  1. I recommend that you try using citric acid in your rinse cycles. It works amazingly well to remove extra detergent and minerals after the wash and even without a normal softener during the rinse or laundry sheet during drying, towels are still very soft and much more than without it. It's essentially all that those occasional washing machine and dishwasher 'cleaners' are. I bought a big bag of it about a year ago and I still have 3/4 left while also using it as an incredible rust remover that can even get the rust off tools you find outside that are half buried in sediment from sitting so long.(of course the steel by that point will be pretty corroded, but with many hand tools etc that doesnt matter much)