We tried the latest viral cleaning trend—but does it actually work?
It's about to get gross.
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As what can only be described as coping strategies for living during a pandemic, we’ve seen several viral trends come and go since March. From tie-dying all of our clothes to making that delicious whipped coffee, we’ve been able to fill up our time in quarantine with some fun DIY projects.
The latest project we’re trying? Laundry stripping—seen on TikTok and other social platforms—is a deep clean that involves soaking your laundry for a few hours in a large tub with a unique cleaning mixture. It supposedly provides a much more intensive clean than your typical washer and dryer.
“[Laundry stripping] removes built-up residue from detergent, hard water, body oils, and fabric softener,” says Dr. Elizabeth Mullans, a board-certified dermatologist based in Houston, Texas.
We heard it results in gross, yet ultra-satisfying, gray water swirling in your tub, revealing the residue that has been living on your towels and sheets.
But does it really work? Here’s all you need to know before trying it yourself.
What is laundry stripping?
While your washer and dryer give your dirty laundry a fresh wash, a deeper clean can get your laundry looking almost good as new. Deeper cleans are most beneficial for older sheets or towels that have gone through countless wash and dry cycles.
As Mullans explains, laundry stripping takes away any residual build-up that may have accumulated on your garments from your laundry routine over time, leaving them less than fresh. Several factors contribute to this build-up, including ones in and out of your control as a homeowner.
If your home has hard water, or water with minerals like calcium and magnesium, your towels and cloths can become brittle, losing their soft and fluffy texture over time. Laundry stripping can help combat this inevitable aging due to hard water.
Detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, and other additional cleaning or freshening agents can linger on the fibers of towels and cloths. Ditch dryer sheets and go for something without chemicals or synthetics like wool dryer balls (which also happen to be more sustainable in the long run).
How to strip your laundry
To try laundry stripping, here’s what you’ll need:
First, fill up your bin, bucket, or bathtub with hot water.
Then, combine the correct ratio of Borax, washing soda, and laundry detergent—we used a 2:1:1 ratio, with 1/2 cup of laundry detergent, 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1/4 cup Borax.
Let this begin to dissolve, then use a large stick or stirrer to mix the solution thoroughly.
Now the fun part: Add bath towels, bedsheets, kitchen towels and cloths. Be careful not to add anything that may be too delicate for stripping—this includes your favorite button-down blouse or delicate undies.
Also, be wary of clothes and linens that contain dyes.
“You may want to stick to white bath towels and bedsheets,” says Mullans. “If you do try the method on colorful clothing, avoid mixing a red shirt with white socks—or else you could end up with accidentally dyed clothing.”
We used a lightweight white towel, a dark heavier-weight towel, and a small washcloth.
After adding your towels and garments to the water solution, give it a stir and make sure your items are completely submerged. Check on it every hour or so, gently mixing your towels around.
Let the items soak until the water has cooled. We left ours in for about four hours, as Mullans recommended. Once your tub or bucket is filled with the gross murky brown or gray remnants from your laundry, drain the water and wring out your towels and garments.
After this, toss your garments into the washing machine for a water-only wash cycle.
Dry as normal without any dryer sheets or additional softeners. We used high heat on the dryer cycle.
Now, you should have fresh smelling and feeling towels that are ready to use.
Does laundry stripping actually work?
We did notice a small difference in the texture of the towels, as it gave more of a fluffier and soft-to-the-touch feel. One of the towels used in our stripping test was on the newer side, so it didn’t seem to have as drastic of a change as the older white one did. The smell was lovely and crisp, but, honestly, it smelled just like any other piece of clean laundry from a washer and dryer cycle.
While we wouldn’t say the towels felt “good as new,” the towels did have a slightly fresher look and feel than before—I suppose we could chalk that down to the four hours of soaking.
Overall, we think laundry stripping is a decent way to get an intensive clean of any towels you feel have built up some grime over the past few years. This is not something that should be done regularly, as the stripping process can be harsh and abrasive to most materials, and it simply isn’t necessary after just a few washes.
It is definitely nice to have peace of mind that the towels and garments are completely clean of any sort of remaining residue that collected over time.
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