Is stripping laundry as good as it looks?
Laundry day leaves your home feeling fresh and clean. But maybe not as clean as you think.
Laundry stripping is a deep cleaning trend that has been sweeping the internet for several months. The process claims to clean accumulated residues from textile fibers.
The trendy TikTok user soaked his freshly laundered towels in lukewarm water with regular laundry detergent, baking soda, and borax – and the water turned dark brown.
The video made many of us wonder if we have unwittingly huddled in dirty sheets our entire lives. Home cleaning enthusiasts have since tried the technique on everything from clothes to used rugs and sofa covers.
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Laundry stripping absorbs the remnants of detergent, fabric softener, minerals and natural body oils that have built up on the fabric over time. But some cleaning experts say it’s not necessary and brings out more dye than dirt.
So I decided to test it on a white duvet cover.
I clean my sheets once a week and my duvet cover once every two months. As a rule of thumb, someone who sleeps in makeup and eats in bed as often as I do shouldn’t have white linens. But as a basic white woman in her twenties, fashion dictates my duty.
Before the linen strip, my duvet cover appeared quite white:
The strip wash recipe called for a 1: 1: 2 ratio mixture of borax, lye (sodium carbonate), and laundry detergent.
Borax is available at hardware stores and drugstores, along with other ingredients you can find in the supermarket.
What i used
Greenwoods Washing Soda Crystals: ($ 4.99 countdown)
Fab Frangipani Liquid Laundry Detergent 1L ($ 6.00 countdown)
Borax ($ 10.99 from Bunnings)
Fill your tub, sink or large bucket with hot water.
Add borax, baking soda (sodium carbonate) and laundry detergent in a 1: 1: 2 ratio. For a bathtub, add 1/4 cup of borax, 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 / 2 cups of laundry detergent. Stir until it dissolves completely.
Immerse the laundry in the mixture and let it soak until the water has cooled (at least four hours). Stir occasionally.
Drain cloudy water and run fabrics through a rinse-only cycle in the washing machine.
Borax is already present in many washing detergents, mainly dry powders (and this since the 19th century), according to Dr David Warren, coordinator of the chemistry awareness program at the University of Otago.
It is an active oxygen producing ingredient that can bleach and discolor many stains, but is not strong enough to bleach the dye in the fabric. This also gives it antibacterial properties.
“It has a high (alkaline) pH so it’s good for working on stains like tomato juice.
“It acts as a water softener in areas where there is a lot of calcium and / or magnesium dissolved in the water that can interfere with the detergent or soap in the laundry liquid,” says Warren.
There are large parts of the US and UK with hard water, mostly in areas of limestone made from the minerals calcium and magnesium. “These minerals create a scum when they react with the soap, which can contribute to some of that ‘dirty’ water in the videos.”
Sodium carbonate is also primarily in the wash for its water-softening qualities, removing this calcium and magnesium, Warren continues.
“Detergents and soaps work best in soft water, so again, most dry laundry powders already contain lye powder.
“The alkaline pH of borax and baking soda will also help break down fats, oils, and grease on the fabric which can then be removed by the detergents in the laundry liquid.”
Within two minutes of soaking, the water in my sparkling blue tub had turned a grinding gray.
The four to five hour process was long, but required minimal effort. I left to watch Netflix, and other than stirring every now and then with the end of a broom, that was it.
Once that was all over, the duvet cover became softer and a much sharper shade of white. The light marks and stains of makeup were all gone.
Do you have to remove your laundry?
At the time of writing, the hashtag #laundrystripping has 70 million views on TikTok.
Warren says the technique may sound dramatic, but it’s basically “giving the sheets or towels a really good wash.”
“Most people don’t know how much dirt actually comes out of a washing machine, so there’s a good chance that dirt is normal.”
You can wash just about any fabric. The chemicals shouldn’t do any damage because they are already present in many washing products, he adds.
But it’s probably always best to avoid stripping delicate items due to the high temperature, or mixing colors with white, in case dyes do leak out.
While watching the videos can be satisfying, you don’t need to make laundry stripping part of your regular routine.
“Laundry stripping is just a long, old-fashioned soak in good cleaning products, each of which has a specific job, and already widely used in commercial products,” said Warren, who thinks a lot of fabrics in popular videos are deliberately dirty to make it more effective.
So if you have sheets or towels that are really struggling and you’re trying to revive them, a strip wash makes sense. But if you regularly use an effective laundry detergent and use the right amount of it, you shouldn’t need to strip your laundry.
“I guess you’d get the same result if you used a good quality dry laundry powder and left it in hot water for the same time,” Warren said.