Here's how to strip wash bed sheets and bath towels so they feel brand new.

You may have noticed certain things around your house—like, exactly how dingy your bath towels have become or the fact that your bedsheets aren't as fresh and crisp as they used to be. Even when washed regularly with detergent, these linens never seem to get fully clean. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in laundry stripping, also known as strip washing, a growing cleaning trend that some swear by to revive laundry.

What is Laundry Stripping?

Essentially, laundry stripping is a method of washing that aims to remove detergent residue (especially from homemade laundry soap), fabric softener, minerals from hard water, and body oils that have collected on your laundry over time. By soaking the laundry in hot water with a borax solution, the fabric is stripped of residue.

Some bloggers and Redditors swear by strip washing, even posting images of how their supposedly "clean" sheets turned clear water murky brown once all of the soap scum and oil was removed. Basically, strip washing your laundry falls under the "grossly satisfying" category of cleaning tasks. So, should you try it? Here are some reasons you might want to, adjustments you can make to your laundry routine instead, plus a step-by-step guide.

Should You Strip Wash Your Laundry?

One big reason many cleaning bloggers have started strip washing their laundry is that they use homemade laundry soap. Mixing up your own laundry detergent can help you avoid chemicals, plastic packaging, and potentially save money, but on the flip side, these formulas often don't wash off of fabric as well as store-bought detergents. If your sheets or towels come out of the wash a little sticky or feel less and less absorbent—no matter if you use homemade or store-bought detergent—you might want to try lessening the amount of detergent you use. It sounds counterintuitive, but more detergent does not make your laundry cleaner. In fact, soap residue that doesn't wash away will collect dust and dirt.

If you're feeling like your laundry needs to be strip washed because of buildup, start by modifying your laundry routine. Try less detergent (follow the recommended amount), a different detergent, and skip the fabric softener. Laundry stripping is an easy but time-consuming task, so try these methods to avoid it.

But, hey, if you're currently quarantined at home, have some time on your hands, and are feeling curious to see just how much residue has collected on your household linens, go ahead and give laundry stripping a try, following the steps below.

Things You Should Avoid Strip Washing

Those who strip wash their clothing often warn that the process can cause dyes to run. For that reason, you might want to stick to white bath towels and bed sheets. 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.

Don't try this technique on delicate or fragile items. This method requires hot water, so check each item's care label first.

How to Strip Wash Your Laundry

Gather Your Supplies: 

  • Borax
  • Washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  • Laundry detergent

Follow These Steps:

1. Start with just-washed laundry, either wet or dry. You can strip wash the laundry either in a clean bathtub, a large bucket, or a top-loading washing machine.

2. Start by filling the tub with very hot water. Then, add a mixture of borax, washing soda, and laundry detergent, following a 1 to 1 to 2 ratio, adjusting the amounts based on how much water you're using. For a full washing machine, try about 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup washing soda, and 1/2 cup detergent.

3. Once the mixture has dissolved, add your laundry. Let soak until the water has cooled, about 4 hours, stirring occasionally. (This is the fun part, where you'll see the dirt and residue come off into the water.)

4. Follow up by washing the items once more in the washing machine, on a water-only cycle. Ta-da! Enjoy your ultra-clean bed sheets and bath towels.