Try Laundry Stripping — Your Clothes & Towels are Dirtier than You’d Think!

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

person laundry stripping towels

Today I’m sharing the best laundry & household cleaning tip I’ve tried!

Ever heard of laundry stripping? I really hadn’t either until I started seeing murky water videos and pics trending on TikTok and Instagram during quarantine last year. 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! LOL!

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 had 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 really deep-clean workout clothes, sheets, and/or towels in water for a long period of time using a powerful mix of Borax, washing soda, and powdered laundry detergent. Bacteria, body oils, dirt, 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 DailyMail.com, 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.

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. 

stripping white undershirts

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.
  • 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.

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

Print

Directions

1

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

2

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

3

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!

4

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

5

Enjoy your soft and clean laundry!


clean towels on the dryer

sports apparel for laundry stripping

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!

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


See why so many Hip2Save team members have these cotton Amazon sheets!


Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 10 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in Today.com, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.


Join The Discussion

Comments 218

  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????

    • 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.

    • Carrie

      I use Dawn dish soap.

    • Mothball

      Fels Naptha soap for baseball ⚾️ pants!

    • 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.

    • 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.

  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!!

  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?

  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.

  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.

  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.

      https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/how-to-remove-yellow-armpit-stains/

  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?

  20. Michael

    The towels look no different in your “after” footage…What a gimmick!

  21. 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!

  22. 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 🤗

  23. 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…..

  24. willowcat

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

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