Give Laundry Stripping a Try | Your Clothes & Towels are Dirtier Than You Think!

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This easy 3 ingredient laundry stripping solution and washing method is more powerful than bleach.

laundry stripping in the tub

Ever heard of laundry stripping?

I really hadn’t either until I started seeing murky water videos and pics trending on TikTok and Instagram back in 2020.

People were soaking their towels in bathtubs filled with hot water and a laundry stripping solution, and then showing how the water would turn dark. It’s sort of gross yet satisfying at the same time!  😂

holding detergent for laundry stripping

The more I researched laundry stripping, I actually started to see lots of savvy cleaning sites have content surrounding the concept. So it isn’t a new topic, but I had never tried it myself and wanted to give it a shot!

Honestly, laundry is NOT one of my favorite chores. In fact, it may just be my least favorite household activity, but seeing intriguing videos of laundry stripping suddenly perked my interest and motivated me to try it!

Are you a visual learner? I was so excited to give this a try that I even created a video showing the laundry stripping process:

laundry stripping towels

What is laundry stripping? 

It’s all about getting the stink and funk out of fabric! The idea is to soak and deep-clean workout clothes, sheets, and/or towels in water for a long time using a powerful mix of Borax, washing soda, and powdered laundry detergent. Bacteria, body oils, dirt, and fabric softener build-up, get released along with the hard-to-remove stinky smells.

It’s crazy how even CLEAN white sheets and towels can have such a build-up and create dark water when soaked! 

Below is a photo of my clean towels after 5 hours of soaking! Eww! 🙈

murkey water from stripping towels

How do you strip laundry? 

The process involves filling a bathtub or a top-loading washer with hot water and then adding in the Borax, washing soda, and powdered detergent mixture. Then you can add in your sheets, towels, or workout clothing and let everything soak for 4-6 hours. Lastly, wash and dry like normal.

According to, this 3 ingredient soaking system is more powerful than using bleach!

3 ingredient laundry stripping method

For laundry stripping, you’ll need 1/4 cup Borax + 1/4 cup washing soda + 1/2 cup powdered detergent:

  • Borax is a popular laundry booster for lifting acidic stains, making fabrics whiter, and dissolves great for this soaking technique.
  • Washing soda or sodium carbonate is also great for soaking hard-to-remove stains due to its high alkalinity and helps to remove hard water build-up in the laundry. In case you have a hard time finding it, I found my Arm & Hammer washing soda at Walmart, and it seems readily available there.
  • It’s recommended to pick a powdered laundry detergent as it will dissolve easier than a concentrated liquid one. I am using powdered Tide, and if you need an allergy-friendly option then consider Tide Free & Gentle (or your favorite brand) instead.

Hip Tip: Mixing hot water and a small amount of powdered laundry detergent is actually another popular hack for cleaning up carpet and upholstery stains. As always, you’ll want to test a small area first. 

woman holding white towels

filling a bathtub with water

stripping towels in the bathtub

mixing laundry with end of broom

putting towels in the washer

Laundry Stripping Solution




Place towels or clothing in a bathtub or top-loader washer and cover with HOT water.


Mix Borax, washing soda, and powdered detergent together. Sprinkle the mixture over the contents in the water.


Mix the apparel, bedding, and/or towels around in the solution and let soak for 4-6 hours, making sure to mix once every hour for as long as they soak. I actually used the end of a broomstick because my water was too hot to touch!


Drain the water and transfer the contents to the washer. Wash and dry laundry like normal, except now you don’t have to add more detergent.


Enjoy your soft and clean laundry!

laundry stripping

Here are a few tips to consider when laundry stripping:

  • This is a pretty powerful deep-cleaning method that shouldn’t be used on delicates or anything needed to be washed gently. Reserve this for ultra-stinky gym clothes, sports shirts, towels, and sheets. Also, if you do this on colored items, keep like colors together to avoid bleeding. That said, depending on your tub, this solution could stain the surface. This treat is better reserved for whites and light colors.
  • Reserve this method of stripping laundry every few months so it won’t damage your fabrics. This isn’t meant as an everyday laundry routine. Also keep in mind that I have affordable white towels from Costco, so if you have some expensive fancy ones, proceed at your own risk.
  • I did use this method to strip my husband’s often stinky white undershirts with success. They aren’t perfectly white, but do smell and feel clean now!
  • You don’t have to use a bathtub! I used mine because I don’t have a top-loading washing machine. You could also use a large bucket or do this in a sink using the same ratio but smaller amounts of the recommended cleaning powders.

clean towels on the dryer

Now I’m searching for more things to wash with this laundry stripping method!

This is going to be helpful as I’d like to tackle some of my son’s funky-smelling football and baseball clothes next. My sister-in-law recently told me she used this same method in the sink to soak some of her husband’s hats that had a funky smell, which I think sounds smart, too!

sports apparel for laundry stripping

Share with us in the comments if you’ve tried laundry stripping! 

Here’s another way to wash sheets without bleach.

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 254

  1. Janice

    I just add Borax to the wash – most of the buildup on clothes is from to much soap when washing – sometimes I rinse twice because the rinse water if not clear – makes a difference in smell also.

  2. Tina

    Does anyone have a used & proven way to effectively clean white baseball pants to remove the red clay dirt????

      • Snicholet84

        Iron out!

    • Mark Berryman

      Try power washing them at your local self serve car wash by hanging them on the clips made for washing floormats. Worked on my oldest’s college uniform.

      • Ms. Frizzle

        We tried power washing a shirt before and it put holes in it! CAUTION

    • Carrie

      I use Dawn dish soap.

    • Mothball

      Fels Naptha soap for baseball ⚾️ pants!

      • Ann

        Yep – Fels Naptha works the best for baseball pants, soccer shorts, etc !

      • Yvonne


    • Kelly

      I would soak my daughters in white rite for hours and scrub by hand before putting in the washing machine

    • MJ

      I’ve literally seen someone wash them with high pressure water at those drive in car washes where you wash your car yourself, and all the stains came out! Maybe try soaking in oxyclean first or spray with shout and let sit for a bit before “pressure washing”.

    • Joann

      We use to use a pressure washer in the drive way the spray with LA totally Awesome from the dollar tree and wash on heavy

    • Tawny

      I use soilove & it’s amazing. I find it at my 99c store. I spray it on & let it sit then wash. It’s colorsafe too

    • Michele Eubanks

      I remember my mom soaking my brothers in Biz. I don’t even know if it’s still around?

      • Alana

        I just saw Biz at my Target!

    • Sherry

      When my twins played baseball I used purple cleaner for car engines. You can get it at Walmart or auto supply stores. I put it in a spray bottle and and sprayed the bad spots, let it soak in and then washed as normal. My boys white pants were always red when they got home. Sometimes you may have to treat them a second time before you dry them.

    • Riki Fiebel

      I soak whites in a combination of powdered Oxyclean and bleach. Sometimes I have to use a brush. Seems to do the trick.

      • Anne

        You are not supposed to mix bleach with Oxyclean. So you notice any rust spots on the clothes that you soaked like that?

        • Ms. Frizzle

          Really? I’ve always done that

    • Colleen

      Yes try dawn in the spray bottle lightly spray all over and let sit overnight. Wash the next day! Then wash in cold water with no laundry soap and vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser ☺️

    • Colleen

      Power waSher. Nothing beats it

    • Tanya Archer

      For softball/baseball pants use Murphy’s Oil Soap and White Bright, soak overnight. Wash as normal next day. They come really white!

    • Amy

      Fels Naptha is all I use for sports uniforms now. If it’s a hat do it with a toothbrush in the sink!!! It’s the best

    • Akamper

      Soak in iron out.

      • LH

        Yes! Iron out is the best. Would soak both daughter’s softball uniforms in a bucket for a couple of hours or overnight. Nothing else would get the dirt and GA red clay out!

    • Christine H

      My mom swore by powdered dishwasher soap. She used this for all my brothers baseball pants.

    • susan

      I use to live in Oklahoma and dirt was red. I soaked my boys white baseball pants in Cascade granular overnight, worked well.

    • Gina

      Try Fels Naptha

    • Christina

      Car wash….I attach pants to the clips on the wall and then spray with high pressure water and viola. It’s magic!!

    • Kimberlie Newman

      Do not use chlorine bleach. It will turn them yellow. Use powder dishwasher detergent. Use toothbrush to scrub soiled areas. That works for clay and grass stains. Not positive it will work on red clay.

    • Hailey

      You can also lay them out in the sun after using one of these methods to get rid of that last stubborn tinge , you will be surprised how efficient the sun can be. It’s natures bleach! Also I am sure you know not to dry them in the dryer as that sets in stains.

    • Momof2

      Add about a cup of Murphy’s Oil and about a tablespoon or so of Dawn dish soap to a sink/bucket; I use my laundry room sink. Fill it up over the pants with hot water. Stir it around. Let it soak and stir whenever you think about it. I like to let them soak a day or more, but sometimes I only have a few hours. Very minimal scrubbing on tough spots, but I usually don’t have to scrub at all. Wash as usual afterwards. This has been my go-to for white baseball pants for about 5-6 years and it’s still doing it’s magic and my son is 16, so he’s a slider. 😝 I hope you find that it works just as good for you as it does for me!! Good Luck!! 🤩

  3. Dakota Helmer

    Hi. I did this method and I also have a front loading machine. The soap is not all rinse out. I’ve officially done a normal cycle, rinse cycle, and I’m running them through another normal cycle bc there is A LOT of soap left. Any advice??

  4. Evie

    This looks like more work I will not be doing. Humm, in the old days they cleaned clothes with stones at the riverside. My relatives used to use winter washers too!

  5. lina is the best

    lina is probably the best hip2saver. she puts out well-researched, well-thought of posts, unlike some here who like to post catchy titles only to find out it was just a click and bait.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Well thanks so much for your compliment and for reading my posts! I am just one small part to this fantastic team of writers and lucky to be part of it. I can assure you no one means to be click bait-y. 😃

  6. Seana m

    Thanks so much! Tried it today on my husbands running shirts we were going to throw out (pit stains-yuck). We were pleasantly surprised it took out the majority. Going to modify it slightly to soak in a bucket. Talk about dirty water. E gads!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh good I’m glad you had some nice results!

  7. Barbara Karr

    Thank you a gazillion times!!! I recently moved to a state with VERY hard water. My kitchen towels feel greasy after washing. It has been driving me crazy. These towels don’t absorb the water. It makes doing dishes a royal pain (no dishwasher). I’m off to Walmart for the ingredients to trip and clean these towels. Thanks Again!!

    • Jodi P

      Make sure you’re not using fabric softener in your towels, too.

  8. Erin K Lyle

    Wow is all my husband and I can say. His whites have never looked so white.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      That’s awesome! Thanks for sharing Erin!

  9. Debbie

    I have a UPS worker in the house and would like to strip his shirts. They are dry fit material and can’t be replaced so I’m a little nervous. Anyone tried it?

    • Miranda

      Try a deep soak with Rockin’ Green Activewear Platinum. There are directions on the packaging. It works amazingly well for synthetics like leggings, funky smelling workout clothes, etc. It’s a little pricey, but I have had such good results that I always keep it on hand now. Plus, a little goes a long way!

  10. patricialavenz-goff

    I have started putting less soap in the washer for clothes that are not really dirty. Going to use the washer to do this. My brother would be upset if I took over his tub (my bathroom has a shower and his has a tub) for that many hours.

  11. Meghan

    Hello, I was wondering how much detergent to use for a he washer. I have norwex ultra power plus, its just a small little bag and I dont want to use a lot of it. Thanks!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Hmm honestly I would just use what you would normally do for a load.

  12. Jeanne

    I think the front loaders are great at saving money on water, but to get clothes really clean, you need a lot of water. We are moving soon and I am going back to a top load washer.

    • smoresto

      Don’t buy whirlpool. Mine uses such low water my clothes come out awful. It’s not even a year old. I run this one twice with an extra rinse cycle because it doesn’t clean well with one cycle. I use the heavy duty cycle which takes 58 min. I miss the machine that we had when I was a kid 15 min. It beat the dirt out of the clothes so fast. I was thinking when I need another machine I’m getting a front loader at least the clothes will get pulled through the water at the bottom of the drum.

      • Jodi P

        All top loaders use less water, now, not just Whirlpool. I was less than a full load, but put the wash size setting on LARGE. That works really well. Before getting a front loader, though, be sure to research what people think of them, because a lot of people are really unhappy with them.

    • Jodi P

      All top loaders use less water, now, too. And they make more noise that old machines, because they have to agitate harder to move the clothes through less water. What works best, for me, is to wash less than a full load, but put the wash size on “large”.

  13. Hip hop

    Anyone know how to go about this process using a washing machine to soak. I don’t have a tub and I’d like to strip my towels. Any help is appreciated. I have a non agitator Whirlpool. I plan on using a broom to mix periodically.

    • Hip hop

      What I meant by asking for help is – how to drain the water after soaking before I run a wash cycle. I don’t know if my washer has that function without going through a wash cycle.

      • Rosie

        Hip hop, my washer will drain if I put it on spin. Hth.

  14. Mary

    Can I do this with black cotton or cotton blend t-shirts without fading? My husbands shirts don’t seem to ever get completely clean of deodorant and slight sweat smell.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      YES, there’s lots of folks who do this with dark workout clothing and it releases the bacteria and gunk.

    • Nu

      The miracle for me with armpit stains (and the yellow/whiteish residue left from antiperspirant) (and overall sweat) has been Ammonia. I spray diluted regular household ammonia (maybe 30-40% ammonia:70-60% water) and detergent (laundry or dish detergent!) and scrub that in a bit. After letting that soak, I will pour boiling water (from a kettle) through the area (eg with the shirt stretched over a bucket). Also sometimes I will then soak them in a bucket with Resolve powder over night and then put in the usual laundry. You might be able to skip the boiling water part but I’ve never tried. I like super hot water in my washing!

      But if you have a high amount of buildup, this method (from the link below) is truly remarkable. Then my method above for maintenance.

  15. Mary

    Be aware that laundry discoloration, particularly white, has a lot to do with the chemicals naturally in one’s water. If your water is high in manganese and you add bleach to anything you put in the machine a chemical reaction occurs that gradually turns your whites more and more orangey brown over time. They will never come out until you get a filtration system that removes the manganese completely. I have lived through this. Our best technique for getting our laundry white again with this high manganese content—–Move—-and we did. It was so nice to finally have great water and clean laundry needing not special filtration or treatment. Good luck out there.

  16. Stephanie

    I would like to strip my towels, but I’m concerned about washing them afterwards in my high efficiency washer. I ruined a previous HE washer because I used a fabric softener that wasn’t HE. Won’t there be a lot of the washing powder left in the towels? I really don’t want to tear up another washing machine.

  17. michquagruss

    Those are some dirty towels… I’ve never had a problem washing my towels and linens in Clorox (double rinse)- they come out smelling fresh and are crisp white…

  18. Melissa

    I was just thinking I really need to come up with an extra household chore- this is PERFECT! ; )

  19. Kevin

    Wilk this get rid of food stains like grease?

    • Rosie

      Kevin, I have good luck removing food/grease stains by rubbing in some Dawn dish detergent. If you’ve already put the item through the dryer, it may take a couple tries.

  20. Carrie

    I am using my bathtub to soak my clothes. Should I occasionally add more hot water to the mix or just leave it as is for the next several hours?

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      I just leave it as it is! Just make sure to stir occasionally!

  21. Pam

    I have noticed that my towels start to have a sour smell and musty smell after 2 or three days I wash them. I decided to buy the arm and hammer laundry booster I put that in with my towels and I also use a little liquid gain laundry soap. Should I switch from gain and buy a powder laundry soap or can I do oxiclean and arm and hammer laundry booster? I live in am apartment complex so there’s 12 apartments in each building and that’s alot of people using the same washers and dryers so it’s hard to get them clean when other people use bleach and other smelly stuff.

    • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Pam! Whenever that happens to my towels, I wash them with some vinegar along with a bit less detergent. I swear you won’t smell the vinegar after either! I also skip using fabric softeners on towels as that can cause some of the building up creating the smells. I hope that helps 🤗

  22. Patricia Lavenz

    I love top loaders. We had the front loaders in the 70s and how I hated them. I vowed never to own one. I love having a top loader so I can add an item at the last minute…..

  23. willowcat

    Will this get that awful musty smell out of older sheets? Thanks.

  24. Ariavenew

    I tried this method for my towels that are pretty old and clearly have some build up, and I don’t think this worked any better than a normal wash, tbh. The water was a little cloudy but not dirty. But I have a top loader which really does a pretty good job normally. The laundry miracle I do want to share… I used a stripping recipe labeled *for whites only * to wash our pillows. It is this recipe with borax, washing soda, detergent, and several hours of soaking, but with a *bottle of regular hydrogen peroxide added as well* and it specified drying in the sun. THAT worked like magic!!! But I assume it would bleach colors, so beware.

  25. Megan

    This is great! Grovia Mighty Bubbles is a fantastic product in pod form that accomplishes the same thing without soaking and is front loader friendly and gentle on fabrics. It was originally made to deep clean cloth diaper laundry buildup, but it works amazingly on tons of things. Just wash according to package directions. My favorite is using it on stinky old towels with tons of hard water buildup. Seriously makes them smell and feel amazing again!

  26. Rose

    Has anyone did this with pillows? And or a pillow topper for your bed?

  27. 3boys

    There is absolutely NO need to “strip” your laundry!

    USE LESS DETERGENT! That’s all there is to it.

    Detergent does not actually clean your clothes, it is a surfactant that makes it easier for the water to move through the material. It’s the movement in the washing machine that actually cleans your laundry.

    If you have stains, you need to treat them *before* you wash them. A bar of Fels Naptha soap does wonders for stains. Spritz arm pit stains with 50/50 water/vinegar before washing (as well as light stains).
    Use the smallest amount of detergent suggested for your washing machine – just think of all the $$ you save by getting 2x or 3x the amount of loads from your container.

    Use vinegar for the rinse cycle to soften, as well as help remove any excess detergent that is lingering.
    Use a 24″ sheet of aluminum foil crinkled into a ball, to reduce static in the dryer.
    Do NOT, any under circumstances use laundry softener, it plugs up the material and creates that “greasy” feeling and reduces absorbency.

    Refer to ‘The Laundry Guy’ Patric Richardson if you need proof of these suggestions.

    • Sally

      These are good tips. Thanks!

  28. Csandst1

    I’m not going to bother with this again. This may have been a result of using a broom handle to stir, but two sets of sheets tore. The sheets were white and definitely cleaner. I couldn’t tell a difference in colored items. White towels had barely any dirt come out. I tried this on grungy white socks and there was no change.

  29. Emily

    Will this work in cold water?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Emily! It seems the hot water is recommended for this method to get a deeper clean. Hoping this helps!

  30. K

    Help!!! I did this with all my dark clothing and I have stained my tub!! What do I do???

    • K

      Scrubby bubbles didn’t even touch it!!! Going to attempt bleach and let it sit. Omg! Don’t try this in your tub with colored fabrics!!!!!

      • Emily (Hip Sidekick)

        Oh no!!! So sorry to hear that, K! After doing a quick search for dye stains in a bathtub, it sounds like Dawn dish soap is one product that can help lift stains. If you need something more heavy-duty, Bar Keeper’s Friend or Ajax are some other more potent cleaning agents. That said, you’ll want to spot-test in an inconspicuous area first to make sure the scouring solutions don’t damage the finish on your tub. I hope that helps!

  31. Sara

    Will this ruin fabric? It seems like most fabric these days is made poorly and doesn’t last long.

  32. becca

    I have found that if you use a smaller amount of detergents for a load, the clothes seem cleaner to me. We also only use unscented detergent (I am very smell sensitive and find any of the detergents such as tide, ALL, etc with a scent are just too strong, no matter if I use a small amount). The other thing I find is that people often put way too many clothes in a cycle at a time and the clothes do not get as clean because there is restricted movement. For stains, a bar of fels naphtha soap is my mom’s secret stain remover. My mom uses it and since we lived down the street when my kids were little (they were only 19 months apart and my son had extensive medical issues) she would always offer to wash any of their clothes with stains. it saved me so much time and something I still think about and am appreciative that she did that. Sometimes what seems like a little thing is a huge help to someone else who Is overwhelmed with life. Not one of their baby clothes ever had a lasting stain, even their bibs. My mom would get them so clean they looked brand new when we passed them on to family members to then use. As my kids grew and life got easier with our son, I found that anytime my kids would spill on their clothes, if I immediately used a baby wipe on the stain, it removed it. To this day, I still use the baby wipe trick. I especially find it helpful after a dinner of pasta with red sauce. My husband always seems to splatter on his shirt and always seems to wear a white shirt on those dinner nights -LOL. One last trick of the trade for baby wipes – I use them if there is every a stain on a piece of furniture or carpeting. Once many years ago, my husband spilled a can of orange Fanta soda on our oatmeal color carpet that was only a year old. For some reason, I grabbed the wipes because they were closest by. Lo and behold, they did the trick. You could never see that orange pop had ever spilled on that carpet!

  33. kadysiga

    I am so glad to see this post again! A load of my towels accidentally had fabric softener added to them, and even though I have washed them several times and rinsed with vinegar, they are still not as absorbent as they were before. I will commence stripping – just not the way my husband wanted me to 20 some years ago😜 Thanks to you all, always!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      LOL! You’re very welcome! Hoping you love how this method works for your towels! 🥰

  34. Hasina

    Wow, thanks for this tip. My husband and I just took apart our washing machine to repair and was appalled at the grime and dirt build-up. Will definitely be using this stripping method to soak his work clothes before I get it laundered. Just ordered the recommended supplies.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Yay! You’re very welcome! Glad you could grab the items needed to give it a try! 💞

  35. siena95

    No thanks. I do a soak once in while in washing machine…and I use borax as an additive sometimes to load. My regimen is laundry detg sheets + scoop of oxi clean every wash. Clothes are fine.

  36. Dooger

    Did a different, yet similar test and was shocked but results(used carbona packet) were favorable. The prepackaged packets only required a 2 hr soak. Is your recommended 4-6 hr soak needed with the recipe presented. Just curious. Can’t wait the try your formula.

  37. Hannah

    Does anyone know how to get odor out of sports bras? I bought some expensive True and Co ones for post shoulder surgery and despite soaking and washing, I can still smell odor trapped in them. The fabric is delicate so I’m afraid to try stripping. I also sprayed with Clorox laundry sanitizer to no avail.

  38. Ame

    Late to comment but had to add my exp.
    I used cloth diapers with my 3 kids and when the diapers started being stinky right after they were wet I was told to strip them. It basically removes the excess/buildup laundry soap and softener (which you should NEVER use with cloth diapers!) The method I used was plain blue Dawn dish detergent and sometimes borax and HOT water. After, seeing (err smelling) the results I started periodically striping my regular laundry this way. It also works to get the funk out of towels that I had forgotten in the washer before going out of town, once!

    • Jessica (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment with your laundry stripping experience, Ame! Great to hear what worked well for you for stripping cloth diapers – and even towels! 🙌 I’ve definitely left laundry/towels in for much longer than anticipated too! 😬

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