Have you ever had articles of clothing (or perhaps a set of bed sheets) that just seem to become more drab with every washing? Whether you make your own laundry soap or use a natural brand, build-up often occurs in fabrics, thanks to body oils, detergents and even dryer sheets can contribute to the issue.
In order to keep your laundry soft, clean and fresh, you need to learn how to strip your laundry of build up. Here’s a step-by-step guide for you to follow!
What Is Laundry Stripping?
Stripping laundry is a process that releases dirt and oils from the fibers of your bedding, towels and clothing. Much like the traditional method of washing laundry, items are submerged in hot water and a special, homemade detergent is added to the mix.
After soaking for several hours, fabrics are removed from their water bath and sent through the washing machine. And they always come through the other side brighter, softer and fresher than before!
When Should You Strip Laundry?
Women who use grated, homemade laundry soap bars in their washing machines will likely experience buildup faster than most. I learned this the hard way! You can read about my frustrations and story here.
Here’s a list of 4 things you can look for that indicate you may need to strip your laundry.
- When fabrics start losing color and take on a dull gray or brown undertone.
- If you can’t seem to get a particular item clean in the washing machine.
- When fabric starts to feel slightly moist, even after it has been fully dried.
- Should your clothing or bedding feel stiff, this is a sure sign of build up.
Also take note that any clothing worn during workouts or while doing outdoors chores are more likely to develop buildup, due to the sweat and oils our bodies release at these times.
DIY Laundry Stripping Solution
Stripping laundry calls for special laundry solution. I can’t take credit for coming up with this exact powdered detergent. I’ve been looking for a quality, natural laundry soap option I could mix up at home, and this one came highly recommend.
And I have to say…I’m loving it! I’ve been using it ever since I gave up on washing laundry with my homemade soap bar. It contains natural ingredients and gets the job done unlike any other laundry soap I’ve tried!
You can grab the ingredients online via the links below and use this mixture both for everyday washing and for stripping your laundry, when needed.
- 3 lb Super Washing Soda
- 4 lb Baking Soda-(you can probably get it cheapest at your local grocery store)
- Kirk’s Coco Castile Soap (package has 6)
- 3 lbs Oxiclean Baby
- 2 gallon vintage glass canister for keeping your homemade detergent
These ratios don’t have to be exact to make a quality, natural laundry soap detergent. For example, the original recipe called for four soap bars instead of 3. But my detergent has been cleaning things beautifully with only 3 bars of grated soap.
Suppose you can only find baking soda in a 3 lb box? Don’t let it hold you back. This recipe is tough enough, it’ll still clean things beautifully!
How to Create a Laundry Stripping Solution
Once you’ve got the above ingredients on hand, it’s time to mix things up! I found that combining everything in a large bowl was easiest. And afterward, I poured the powder into a storage container and set it on the shelf above my washing machine.
Here’s how you create a laundry stripping solution (aka powdered laundry detergent!).
- Grate up 3 of Kirk’s Castile Soap bars.
- In a large pail or bowl, dump in 3 lbs washing soda, 4 lbs baking soda, 3 lbs oxi-clean and also, your grated soap bar.
- Stir everything together, being sure you don’t breathe in the dust (you may want to do this outside).
- Pour into your storage container of choice and cover with a lid.
- Store near your washing machine.
- Laundry: use 1 tablespoon of this powdered detergent per laundry load (it’s very strong).
- Stripping Laundry: use 2-3 tablespoons for approx every 5 gallons of water, and also add 2-3 extra tablespoons of baking soda.
How to Strip Your Laundry of Buildup
Stripping laundry isn’t difficult. It just takes time, hot water and the above, home mixed, powdered laundry detergent. Here are directions both stripping fabric in a pail and also, in a top loading washing machine.
Also let me point out that I do believe you need a top loader for this technique to work in a washer!
Option 1: Stripping Laundry in a Container
You can strip your laundry in a bucket, a large pot or in your bathtub. This allows you to easily see whether or not your fabrics releases extra dirt and oils.
Here are directions for the container method.
- Place your container in the tub or shower.
- Add hot water to your container, until the water is deep enough to submerge the laundry you’re working with.
- Measure out the stripping solution and extra baking soda (2-3 tablespoons for every 5 gallons of water).
- Dump in hot water and use a wooden spoon to stir the powders, until dissolved.
- Add your laundry and push it under the surface.
- Agitate the water with your wood spoon to test the fabric: if it turns brown within 30 seconds of stirring, your laundry definitely needs stripping!
- Let it sit for 4-6 hours, stirring 1-2x during the process.
- Lift your laundry and pour dirty water down the bathtub drain.
- Squeeze out your fabric and then place it in the washing machine.
- Give it a normal cycle in the washing machine and dry.
Option 2: Stripping Laundry in Your Washing Machine
If you have a top loading washing machine, it’ll prevent you from having to move your wet laundry over after it has been stripped.
Here’s how to strip laundry in a top loader.
- Set your water supply to “HOT.”
- Set the water level as per your volume of laundry (remember: fabric needs to be submerged).
- Place your items in the washer.
- Add in 2-3 tablespoons of your mixed laundry detergent and 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda.
- Close the machine’s lid and let it fill up with hot water.
- Stop the cycle and let things soak for 4-6 hours.
- Turn the machine back on and let it finish the cycle.
- Remove laundry and dry.
How to Prepare Yourself for the Nastiness
When I first started stripping laundry, I wasn’t prepared for all the filth that came off of my bed sheets and specifically, my man’s work shirts.
As a homemaker, I see these articles of laundry nearly every day, and it was easy to miss the fact that buildup was occurring. But now as I look back, I feel a bit embarrassed at my lack of observation.
And to further my embarrassment (and also prepare you for what you might see in stripping your own laundry), I thought I’d share some before and after images of the laundry stripping process!
Before and After Images of Stripping Laundry
Let’s start with a pair of pillowcases I’ve had for years. They belong to a used set of sheets we got when we were first married. They’ve always been a favorite of mine. But over the years they became so grubby looking, I was embarrassed to have them in my home and planned to throw them out.
When I changed over to the home mixed laundry detergent recipe above, strange things started happening. My pillow cases started turning blotchy (in pic 1). At first I felt dreadfully confused by this! But then I realize it was due to build up coming out of my fabric.
So I stripped them. Here are some images from the process.
Pretty amazing, huh?
When I realized the grubby look that was overtaking my man’s clothes was likely due to buildup as well, I had to try stripping one of his old shirts.
And need I say his work shirts were far worse than our bed sheets? Here are few before, during and after shots of the process.
While the shirt is definitely still old and faded, it looks so much better than it did before!
And the sludge in the bottom of the pail? It just about grossed me out (and trust me, that’s not easy to do!).
Have I embarrassed myself enough yet?
How Often Should You Strip Laundry?
Before you lose your mind and start stripping everything in your home, I just want to point out that the above items have had years to build up, as I played with homemade soaps and laundry detergents in my quest for one that really worked.
Now that I’m using this amazing, powdered detergent recipe, I don’t think buildup is going to be an issue in the near future! I expect I’ll still have to strip things from time to time. But certainly not more than 1x per year!
In fact, if you do a bit of online research, some sources state that stripping your laundry too often can weaken the fabric fibers, which then causes breakdown much, much faster.
Go by the look and feel of things. Keep an eye on your bedding, towels and work clothes (they’re more prone to build up). And you’ll be just fine!
That’s How You Strip Laundry Naturally
If you’ve been battling grubby-looking laundry, I highly recommend giving this cleansing technique a try!
Learning how to strip laundry of build up isn’t difficult. And as a homemaker, it’ll leave you feel so good to see the bright colors return and the faded grays literally disappear down the drain!