Did you know that early sea voyagers used to wash their clothes by placing them in a cloth bag and throwing them overboard? The ship dragged the clothes for hours until they were considered clean.
As you can see, washing clothes was never a simple task, not even nowadays with the help of high tech washing machines that can be turned on via Wi-Fi. We like clean, fresh bed linen, towels, clothes and nappies. But after several washes, the clothes don’t look the same as before. The white is no longer white and even the textile texture can be different.
Hard water and even fabric softener contribute to making the nappies, clothes and beddings less white and rougher to the touch. Fortunately, there is a way to get rid of the buildup and have softer, cleaner, fresher clothes and nappied. It’s called laundry stripping. Many swear by this method and the truth is that it gained quite some audience on social media. So, it’s definitely worth a try, especially if you’re not particularly happy with how your towels and sheets look.
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What is a strip wash?
Laundry stripping is a DIY soaking method to deep clean the nappies, clothes, bath towels and bedclothes. People do a strip wash to get rid of the buildup that can accumulate at the level of the textile fibres over time. But this is more than a cleaning hack, it’s a whole new cleaning trend, with fan groups all over the Internet.
If you take a look at TikTok or on any other social media and search for that type of washing, you might be appalled by the results. The grime present in the murky brown water can make dirty nappies look like a joke. No, you don’t need to wear a face mask when doing laundry stripping, but it’s good for your mental health to be prepared to see things you might have never seen before.
It’s hard to believe that clean towels and sheets can actually be rather dirty, but it can somehow be explained by people using too much detergent and softener nowadays.
You don’t need much to try this soaking method at home. To have a successful strip washing experience, all you need is water (hot), borax, washing soda, your favourite laundry detergent and you are ready to go!
How to strip your laundry
We’ve been taught that washing in cold water is preferable to hot or warm water, and there are obvious benefits to this. More than this, it’s easy to throw things in the washer, add some washing powder and hope for the best.
However, laundry stripping is a more elaborate process. You need to give it some time and also prepare certain things for this cleaning expert hack to work. And forget about using cool water or bleach, for that matter.
Usually, we tend to say “no” to any time-consuming activity, especially around the house. But maybe now that we spend some time in our homes with all the chores we’ve ignored for years, it’s not a bad idea to give the soaking method a try.
Even if it takes some time, you don’t actually have to be there the whole time. Just gather the ingredients, go through the 10 easy steps and you’re all done. The good news is that you can do it and watch the TV, work or even go out to run some errands.
What you need for a strip wash:
- A large bucket or an empty bathtub
- Borax(or else sodium borate)
- Washing soda
- Washing powder
- A big wooden spatula (or something you can use to stir)
- Hot water
10 easy steps to prepare the strip wash:
- Fill the bathtub or the big bucket with very hot water
Depending on the number of textiles you want to soak, you can choose between a big bucket or a bathtub. The water needs to be really hot. You can let it run for a bit until it gets to the right temperature, and only then block the bathtub drain with a plug.
- Add sodium borate, sodium carbonate and laundry detergent in 1:1:2 proportions
Borax is a powder that is produced from sodium borate – a natural mineral. We also know it as boric acid. This powder is a great disinfectant for the whole house, and it’s also a deodorizer with antiseptic properties. Unlike other detergents and fabric conditioners, it doesn’t cause allergies, rashes or irritations. You can add 1/4 cup of boric acid 1/4 of sodium carbonate and 1/2 detergent to the bathtub.
- Stir until everything is dissolved completely in the water
Use the wooden spatula or any other tool or device that can do the job and stir the ingredients in the water until they are dissolved. It’s important to prepare the water before adding the textiles.
- Add the nappies, clothes, bath towels or bedsheets
This step is pretty much self-explanatory – when the water is ready, add the clothes one by one or in bulk and soak them in water. Make sure they are completely submerged.
- Stir some more
You want to start the deep cleaning process as soon as possible, and this means stirring the clothes to remove the grime.
- Let them soak in the water for a minimum of 4 to 5 hours
Now it’s a good time to forget about that washing method and check out what’s new on Netflix. Have you checked the new series yet? There’s quite the hype nowadays! And bingeing your favourite TV series will keep you occupied while the clothes are soaking. It’s not a problem if you completely forget about them for a while, you can leave them to soak overnight if this works for you.
- Stir occasionally to get rid of the detergent residue and buildup
This is an important step in the process, so grab the wooden spatula and stir, stir, stir!
- Drain the cold water
After the water gets cold, it’s time to get the clothes out of the bathtub. But first, drain the water.
- Throw the clothes, towels or sheets in the washing machine for a rinse-only cycle
After soaking the clothes for several hours, there is no need for a full cycle in the washer. All your clothes, towels or sheets need now is a good rinsing.
- Dry as usual
Either you prefer air drying or using a tumble dryer, it makes no difference. Just make sure that they are completely dry before storing them in your closet.
Is strip washing actually effective?
Some swear on the efficacy of this washing type, while others claim it might actually damage your clothes. But just one good look at the murky water left behind after this procedure might be enough to make you try it, at least once. If you get similar results, the chances are you’ll want to do it again and again and again.
Experts claim we don’t actually need to strip wash if we’re doing the washing properly. This often means using just the right amount of detergent and little to no fabric conditioner. To preserve the colour of the clothes, it’s also important to wash them by the colour – avoiding mixing white with black or coloured items. However, living in a hard water area can be a good enough reason to try laundry stripping.
Strip washing can be an efficient method to deep clean the clothes and nappies, especially if you notice changes in terms of the texture of the textile fibres that occurs with time. Also, if you’re using a harsh chemical such as bleach to get good results when washing your clothes, this soaking method might be just as efficient, without the negative side effects.
If you want to get rid of bleaching clothes for good, you should definitely try laundry stripping! This method can even help you eliminate blood, food or grass stains from the white clothes. You can now say “goodbye” to those stains on your white towels or bed linens that wouldn’t go away no matter what products you tried. And all you have to do is leave the clothes and nappies to soak in hot water with a cup of Boric acid and other stuff that is easy to find or you already have in your home. Keep in mind that the effect is even more impressive if the stains are fresh.
What you shouldn’t strip wash?
You might have noticed already that this soaking method is mostly dedicated to towels and sheets. These items lose their brightness and freshness after a while and it’s hard (close to impossible) to bring them back after washing them in cool water. And that greyish or yellowish colour doesn’t look too inviting.
You can even soak some clothes; however, you always need to read the labels, to make sure you’re on the right path. Here are some clothes you should never wash tath way:
- Silk and wool items
- Mixed coloured clothes (the dies can migrate from one item to the other because of the hetaed water)
- Clothes with “dry cleaning only” are mentioned on the label