Laundry Stripping 101 Guide and Recipe

Nov 12, 2021 | Cleaning Organizing, Housekeeping

Laundry is a pain in the butt. 

It’s not just that you have to do it, but also how long it takes and what kind of chemicals are involved.

We’ve got your back with this guide to using natural laundry stripping agents at home. You’ll save time, money, and reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals by making these DIY solutions at home. We’ve even included instructions for both small loads and large washing machines so that everyone can benefit from our tips. Happy Stripping.

Laundry Stripping Recipe


  • 1/2 cup powdered laundry detergent
  • 1/4 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 cup borax
  • 1/4 cup calgon (optional)


  1. Wash in a hot cycle with powdered detergent and dry naturally without drying the clothes.
  2. Fill the bathtub with hot water.
  3. Stir in the mixture until it is completely dissolved.
  4. Add in the laundry (keeping like colors together)
  5. While the water cools, soak for 4-5 hours, stirring every hour or so.
  6. Drain the water and wash the clothes in the washer using powdered detergent.
  7. Dry without dryer sheets.

Does laundry stripping work?

Let’s start with the basics, does stripping your laundry work? In a word: Yes.

Stripping is actually a fairly common practice in families who have dealt with heavy build-ups of oils and grime on their clothes from being outside working or spending time with dirt-loving kids. For those who don’t want to use a lot of harsh chemicals on their clothes, this technique can be a lifesaver.

What causes clothes to smell after washing but not drying fully? When you wash new items there may still be residue from the manufacturing process left behind on them, this will cause the smells. It is always recommended that you rinse your new clothes before putting them in the dryer as well as wash them first before wearing them to minimize any smells.

How to strip laundry, a step-by-step process

Step 1: Wash clothes like normal

Start by doing your standard wash routine with your usual detergent and dryer sheets in the washer. Make sure you’re washing in hot water with the proper amount of soap or about one tablespoon for medium loads, or two tablespoons if it’s bulky items like towels. If you choose to use HE (High Efficiency) instead of conventional washers check out this article from Tide on how to maximize HE efficiency without sacrificing cleanliness. Also, make sure that there is a rinse cycle at the end of this process as well as an extra spin cycle if you have a front-load machine. The extra rinses will help flush any extra detergent from your clothes and reduce the chances of white residue showing upon them.

Step 2: Start the soaking process

After a regular wash, you will then need to start your soak process. Fill a large bucket with hot water and add in 1 cup of borax, 1 cup washing soda, and two scoops of powdered laundry detergent. From here it is an open field as far as what types of powdered laundry detergents you can use, but we recommend adding at least one 5-weight or higher laundry soap because these products are made for tough stains and grime that builds up over time. If you don’t have access to laundy soap just yet, just add about one tablespoon (20g) in for each load of laundry you’ll be doing. If your machine is large enough to handle two small loads at the same time, split this mixture in half and add it to different washers so that you can get twice as many loads done.

Step 3: Add in items

Once the water gets cloudy (it will look like a grayish color), then it’s time to add your clothes. Keep in mind, this is where you’re going to want to use any new items that you’ve gotten since dropping them off at the cleaners or even new clothing like socks or underwear. It helps reduce smells by using fresh things first instead of waiting until they smell bad before stripping them back down with detergent. Why? Because if left untreated for too long some smells can actually get into the fibers of the clothes and be difficult to remove.

Step 4: Soak

After you add your new items, let them soak for about 30 minutes. This will allow the ingredients we added in to really absorb and break-down any grime so that it washes away during our next two cycles. If you have a front load machine or more than one small load going at once, just leave it so that both machines get 30 minutes of soaking time. When finished feel free to drain this mixture out of your washing machine by opening up the lid on top and letting it out. However if you still want use these substances for another cycle (it’s recommended that you do), feel free to store them in a large sealed container so they don’t go to waste.

Step 5: Drain and rewash

Once finished soaking, simply drain the water out by opening up your lid on top of the washing machine just like you would with any regular load. Then, redo another regular cycle with hot water this time for both washers or just one if it’s more convenient for you. Make sure that you have added in some sort of detergent yet again so that your clothes can get clean. We recommend using about 1/2 tablespoon (7g) per small load or 1 tablespoon (20g) per medium sized load. You’ll know your clothes are completely finished when they’re no longer wet after the spin cycle. If this is not the case, then just redo a regular wash with hot water and set it to an extra long spin cycle so that your clothes don’t have any moisture left in them.

Why bother stripping clothes?

A few things can happen when you use too much detergent for too many loads of laundry or if certain clothing become worn down or start to smell bad from being used over time. When these types of substances build up within your clothes, they lose their efficacy as cleanliness agents and instead work more like extra dirt magnets. This means that your clothes will no longer get clean during a regular wash cycle since there’s literally too much grime built up in them to be removed by detergents alone.

Laundry stripping is a great solution to this problem and works by removing excess soap and grime so that cleanliness agents can do their job more effectively. It’s especially helpful when you want to keep clothes feeling fresh or use new items without having the rest of your wardrobe smell funny.

When should I strip my laundry?

There are certain instances where it’s absolutely necessary to strip down your clothing, such as when you get them back from the cleaners and they get stained with chemicals during processing. Since most laundromats only allow detergents in their machines, not very many people know about laundry stripping or how easy it is to make your own at home instead. Other times like mentioned before, if clothes start to smell funky after being worn a little too much or used for a while then it’s time to strip them down and start fresh.

What can be done to keep clothes fresher longer?

Stain removal is a key factor when you’re trying to keep your clothes clean. This means that if you notice any stains like dirt, grass, blood, sweat or other nasty substances, the best thing you can do is try and remove these items as soon as possible by pretreating or spot cleaning them with rubbing alcohol. You may also want to add in some baking soda (about 1/2 cup (100g)) during laundry processing in order to absorb odors surrounding your clothing and prevent potential smells from getting into the fibers of the fabric over time.

Can I use liquid detergent for laundry stripping?

Using your regular dishwashing liquid soap is a great way to strip your clothes of any of the built-up substances that regular detergents may have left behind. You can also use either of these two ingredients by themselves, but you might need to use more than what’s recommended on the package depending on how much buildup has occurred over time. If you’re still not sure on how much to add in, just start with small amounts and go upwards until you see that the water becomes murky or cloudy looking.

Can I use baking soda to strip my laundry?

Baking soda is an amazing stain remover as well as an odor absorber if used properly. Feel free to add this wonderful white powder directly into the hot water before starting your wash cycle, but make sure that you don’t add too much because doing so will most likely stop the soap from getting into your clothes. A good rule of thumb is to use a maximum of 1/2 cup (100g) for small loads or around 1-1/2 cups (300g) for larger ones. If baking soda doesn’t work as well as you’d like, try adding some vinegar directly to the load during processing instead since it’s also a great odor remover.

Certain stains may require more specific treatments or products that can be found at home or in stores if you’re using one of the recommended recipes above. In this case, just be sure to spot-check test any homemade remedies before laundering to see how they work and if any special instructions need to be followed.


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