box of borax, arm and hammer washing soda, powdered tide, and calgon
How To's, Lifestyle

Laundry Stripping 101 – How to Strip Your Laundry

73 comments

This simple method of how to strip your laundry will literally change your life and rock your world! Powdered Tide, Borax, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, and Calgon for laundry stripping 101!

Ok. This is a super random but not so random non-food related post. Laundry Stripping 101. All about how to strip your laundry – everything and anything you need to know about it.

If you follow me on Instagram then a couple of weeks ago you saw me sitting in my bathroom stirring a tub full of black absolutely filthy water with clothes in it.

You can watch my full story highlights how to strip your laundry here!

pictures of a bath tub filled with dirty water from stripping our laundry

Lets back up to give you the context.

I had seen someone I follow on Instagram “strip their laundry” on their stories. I thought she was crazy. I had never ever heard of this before. But I was intrigued so I watched everything.

She was stripping her running clothes, which I know she runs a lot, so I was even more intrigued. At the end of the 2-minute long story, I was running out to my car to go find everything I needed to start stripping everything in our home. ?#truth

You see, for the past 4 years, I have STRUGGLED to figure out how to get the horrid smell out of our workout clothes.

Our running pants, shorts, shirts, tanks, and sports bras get LOTS OF LOVE! Working in a gym and coaching track and field for the past 10 years, plus being an avid runner and lifter myself, I live in my workout clothes. It’s what I wear 90% of the time.

There is also no one on this planet who sweats more than Justin Bilyeu, so his clothes get equally as much love.

I will also preface this by saying all of our workout gear is Lululemon. I use to work for them a couple of years ago (it was such a fun job and I miss it sometimes) and I swear up and down by their products. They are in investment – trust me I know. From someone who doesn’t love to spend money on herself, take it from me this is all I wear and for good reason.

Since I do live in these clothes, pre-Lululemon I would have to replace pants, shorts, etc. on a yearly basis. I have my Fast & Free Tights which is the ONLY thing I will run in for 4 years and they still look brand new still.

That comes from not only the quality of their products but I take such good care of them.

This goes for any workout gear you have. You should NEVER I repeat NEVER dry your Lululemon or any workout clothes you have. You are basically pouring money down the drain by doing that.

Always wash them

  • on cold
  • delicate cycle
  • no fabric softener
  • no drying

That is the key to washing and taking care of your workout clothes, Luluemon clothes, and how to get them to last for a very long time.

Now back to the whole stripping your laundry deal.

Since you know understand how much our clothes get used, worn, and how obsessive I am about taking care of them. For 5+ years now I have been in an ongoing battle to figure out how to get the nasty smell out of them.

After a while, you literally can’t get the funk out of your gym clothes. If you know you know. I have tried everything from

  • hanging the worn clothes up to let the sweat completely dry before washing
  • to hand washing
  • to every single kind of laundry detergent, laundry beads, and everything in between

Nothing worked!

And I am sorry. “Natural and Clean” laundry detergent is THE WORST of them all!

I tried switching our laundry detergent over to more natural, cleaner, dye-free, and getting rid of anything that would give you cancer through your clothes, blah blah blah and nope. No thank you. Not for me.

Using natural laundry detergent on your workout clothes is like taking your soaked, sweaty, nasty a** clothes, putting them in water, swishing around, hanging to dry, and calling them washed and clean.

Where you ever a kid who hated getting baths at one point in your life so you would “pretend to bathe” by just sitting in the tub full of water, splashing around so your parents “could hear the water moving to know you were washing yourself” like you where suppose to, and then being dumb enough not to bother getting the bar of soap wet so you were totally busted and had to go back and bathe for real after?

Yeah, I did that. And that’s also what using natural laundry detergent on your stinky workout clothes is like. Just don’t do it.

So without making the background of my never-ending laundry endeavor any longer – let’s get back to how stripping your laundry will solve all your stinky laundry woes.

Also, I did not come up with this method. After seeing my friend do this and digging around, I found out that @gocleanco is the master genius behind this all. This is her recipe and instructions. I just followed to a T and give her all the glorious laundry credit. Bless you @gocleanco! Bless you! YOU MUST FOLLOW HER NOW!

What Does Laundry Stripping Mean?

picture of a bath tib with dirty water and towels in it and text explaning what laundry stripping does to your clothes.
This is a picture posted by @gocleanco on her Insta Stories

Depending on where you live and how hard your water is, there is hard water build-up on your clothes over time. Who knew!

Also, there is soap build-up, and if you use fabric softener (which you shouldn’t be on your workout clothes) that gets built up along with other random dirt and odors.

I honestly asked myself after all of this – what job does my washing machine actually do?!

Just kidding. But it doesn’t make you wonder.

But over time, with wear and tear, these gross things get built upon our clothes making it hard to actually get them clean.

Which actually makes sense.

This process of laundry stripping helps remove all that junk so that your clothes are actually clean.

What a concept!

screen shot of why laundry stripping works from Instagram
From @gocleanco Instagram Story Highlights

Laundry Stripping 101: How Do You Strip Your Laundry?

recipe for laundry stripping in text form
This photo is also from @gocleanco Instagram Highlights

How to Strip Your LaundryIngredients & Supplies Needed:

  1. 1/4 Cup Borax
  2. 1/4 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  3. 1/4 Cup Calgon
  4. 1 Heaping Scoop of Powdered Tide
All links above are Amazon affiliate links. These products can be found at Walmart or other stores for cheaper if need be.
boxes of borax, arm and hammer washing soda, powdered tide, and calgon

Process of How to Strip Your Laundry:

  1. Fill your bathtub up with HOT HOT water. I like to run my facet for a couple of minutes to make sure it is super hot before shutting the drain.
  2. Dump your clean clothes inside. Yes clean. Grab them straight from the drawer and put them in the tub.
  3. Mix together the ingredients above and dump them into the tub filled with hot water and clothes.
  4. Using a sturdy spoon (a thick wooden spoon works but not on towels, think thick heavy-duty metal kitchen spoon) stir the clothes and laundry mixture together.
  5. Let soak for 4-6 hours, stirring every hour.
  6. After the time is up, wring each item out and place it in the washing machine. Run a load of laundry just like you normally would. ** Run a full cycle – not a quick wash AND you DO NOT have to add any SOAP since these have been sitting in the soap for hours.**
  7. Air dry as normal.

How Do I Separate My Workout Clothes For Stripping?

One of the biggest questions I got is how I separated everything when I did this and if anything bled.

The answer is both yes and no. This is how I did it.

  1. A load of all our running pants, shorts, & my tennis skirts.
  2. A load of my sports bras, our running tanks, and shirts.
  3. Separate small load in the sink of my white tops.
  4. Separate small load in the sink of my Lulumeon tanks that are Nulu, Pima Cotton, or a soft fabric in pinks, reds, and purples.
tub of dirty bath water
This was by far the worst load I did, which was our running shirts, tank tops, and sports bras

Did my clothes bleed?

Our first 2 loads of pants, shorts, tanks, and shirts – NO.

These fabrics are all sweat-wicking (or the breathable slick material) and do not bleed. Our pants and shorts are mostly dark colors anyways – but not our tops. I did not have any problems with this but this fabric does not bleed.

However, my loads of pinks/red/purples did. But they are a different softer material. So I figured they would and that’s why I did them in the sink.

sink full of white shirts soaking and being stripped
Sink of my white Lululemon Love Tee’s and White Swifty’s

My whites I wanted to do separately because they are whites. And honestly, I was skeptical this would work and I have the hardest time keeping my whites, specifically Lululemon whites, looking bright and not dingy.

dirty sink water after I stripped my white tees
Sink post laundry stripping my white shirts

I have 3 white love tees, and 2 white swiftly’s that looked horrible. Yellow pits, dirt all over my long sleeve thumbhole swiftly. And nothing I did would ever get the gray grime off of it or the tees not looking dingy. So this was a test to see if it would really work and OMG IT DID!

PRO TIP: if you own Lululemon Swiftys or any of their products with Anti-stink Silverescent® technology, then you CANNOT use Oxiclean on them. It had a weird reaction and causes stains that cannot be removed (without stripping them – which this removed all of that! ?? )

I WISH I had a before and after picture so bad. This was the true test knowing laundry stripping is gold and works! My white love tees look brand new and I got every gray dirty grimy dingy thing off my Swifty!

What Else Besides My Workout Clothes Did I Strip?

  • White bed sheets and blanket
  • White towels and wash cloths
  • Kitchen towels and hot pads
  • All of our underwear and my workout headbands
tub full of water and white towels for stripping laundry
This is our white towels and wash cloths mid soak

I want to do our dog’s bed and toys next, pillows, beach towels, and socks next.

Can I Strip Anything?

As far as I know, any clothes that you wash can be stripped. @gocleanco even stripped her feather pillows which were wild!

Laundry Stripping Without Borax

bar of Fels-Naptha

Now. When I first did this I completely forgot to get Borax AANNNNDDD I was too lazy to go back to the store to get it.

So I used Fels-Naptha * instead.

Which if you have never heard of this or used it, go get yourself some now! It’s 0.97 cents and is a must-have laundry ingredient for tackling stains! if you’re a Fels-Naptha fan then you know!

I just took my lemon zester and shaved 1/4 cup into the tub with the Arm & Hammer, Powdered Tide, and Calgon and it worked like a dream!

Can I Use Liquid Tide Instead of Powdered Tide?

This was the second most asked question I got and the answer is NO.

You need to use powdered Tide for this only.

Some people are allergic to Tide. If you are using another powdered laundry detergent. Tide is best and powder is a must.

Where Did You Find All the Ingredients You Need To Strip Laundry?

I found everything at Walmart!

Powdered Tide strangely was the hardest to find. I had to go to 2 Walmarts to find everything.

Kroger didn’t have most of the stuff. Just go to Walmart.

Some people had a hard time finding Calgon. They sell this on Amazon too if you just want to order for there (affiliate link).

How Often Should I Strip My Laundry?

Every 3 months for your workout clothes that are worn all the time.

Every 6-9 months for things like towels, blankets, etc.

How Do You Strip & Wash Bed Sheets?

Just follow the recipe above. Ours actually wasn’t that bad. Which is a good thing I guess lol.

What If I am Allergic to Tide? What Else Can I Use?

I have seen several people tell me that they are allergic to powdered Tide. If that is the case try using Tide Free and Gentle * (still the powdered kind).

If that still doesn’t work for you, try using any other hypoallergenic powdered laundry detergent. I have not done this so I am not sure if others will work the same or not. If you do use Tide Free and Gentle or another kind please let me know how it works!

Show Me Your Pics of How You Are Stripping Your Laundry!

Make sure to check out @gocleanco Instagram page for more info on laundry stripping AND if you’re a clean freak like me you will be sucked into a 45-minute binge-watching of all of her highlights!

Also, check out my sweet friend Carrian of Oh Sweet Basil about her laundry stripping experience. She has before and after pictures that are INSANE!

Send me all your dirty water pics because I have been LOVING seeing them and connecting through how gross and dirty all of our clothes are! ?

New here?! Here are some of the most POPULAR recipes on Fueling a Southern Soul!

Disclosure. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you click on a product link, I may receive compensation. This compensation comes at no additional cost to you, and as always I only recommend products I trust!  Heather Bilyeu is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
 

73 Comments

  1. I did this and the photos I took are crazy! I followed your directions perfectly. I wore one of my workout shirts today that I just did this to and it smelled again when I started to wipe sweat off of my body. Any ideas? I don’t have BO and don’t rewear my workout clothes without washing them first.

    Thank you!

     
    • Isn’t the water crazy?! That is strange! You soaked for 4-6 hours and then ran through a was cycle in your washer (with no soap) after? I haven’t had that problem before but would love to help figure it out!

       
  2. You put the clothes in hot hot hot water even though it says to wash on cold? The water gets cold over the day anyways. Would it work just mixing the ingredients in super hot water and then mixing in cold water with the clothes?

     
    • Yes. I know. It is weird and I was worried at first but it does totally fine. The water does cool down completely over the 4-6 hours. I think the hot water is needed to not only dissolve everything but to dissolve the oils and build up out of the clothes that the cold water can’t. I separated the clothes like I normally do (especially keeping whites and the red/pinks in their own loads) and nothing bleed or did anything weird. I think the hot water is needed for the whole process, but if you separate out like normal everything should turn out just fine! And then run them through a normal cycle (no detergent) after and dry as you normally would. It’s worked wonders on wor out clothes, towels, sheets, regular clothes etc. All done with hot hot water. Hope this helps!

       
  3. Can you do this in nomex ? They are a fire retardant material

     
    • I have no idea. I have never washed nomex before. Do you wash it the same as regular clothes? I would say if so and as long as those detergents and soaps don’t have a weird reaction to it then it should be fine. But again, I haven’t ever tried it before. I am ging to look into it though and do some digging! Great question!

       
  4. Tried this on my whites! It worked amazing! But I did have a few on my white tees/tanks actually come out dingier than they went in. Did I do something wrong?! Help!

     
    • Oh weird! Were the ones that it worked on and the ones that it didn’t in the same load? Maybe try doing those dingier ones again just by themselves and see if it works?? My whites looked brand new after, I couldn’t believe it! They are actually starting to look gross again so I will be doing this for them again soon!

       
  5. I am allergic to Tide can I use another powder laundry soap? Like, Arm and Hammer?

     
    • I have seen this question a lot. Powdered Tide is the best for this. Have you tried free and gentle? If that one still is a no go, any other powdered laundry detergent will work. Let me know how it works with others. I will be curious to see how it does!

       
  6. Sandey Perline

    Will this work on whites that have printing on them (iron-on or otherwise)? I have several shirts my almost 8 year olds have “loved” quite often and quite well. I would love to restore them.

     
    • Awh! I love that! Yes! I will say I only have 1 white shirt with some printing on it that I did but it turned out great! It looks brand new again and not dingy! I don’t see why they wouldn’t work so definitely go ahead and do it! 🙂 Let me know how they turn out too!

       
  7. Alissa Mayfield

    When you do the smaller load on the sink, do you reduce the amounts of borax, washing soda, etc, because it’s less water?
    And you said the Calgon is not actually necessary, so what does it do?

     
    • Yes I do. I will do about a half a scoop of Tide and about a tablespoon of everything else. Calgon is a water softener. Sometimes it’s hard to find so you can do it without Calgon, but if you can get your hands on some I would use it. I can always find it at Walmart and Amazon. Hopefully, that helps!

       
  8. I’ve been washing my clothes for years using homemade laundry soap. Ingredients include washing soda, borax and Fels Naptha. I always use regular white vinegar in my rinse cycle. I don’t get build up on even my boys (I have 5 of them!) athletic wear. And I save hundreds a year.

     
    • OMG this is amazing! I have actually been hearing this more and more that people have used a homemade laundry detergent made of these ingredients or similar and have been doing it forever too with no problems that other detergents give you. Would you share your recipe? I would love to try it! Does the vinegar make your clothes smell like vinegar? I am so impressed – 5 boys is no joke in the laundry department I bet!

       
      • 1 cup borax
        1 cup washing soda
        1/3 cup shredded Zote laundry soap
        Then only white vinegar as your fabric softener
        Your towels will prove there is no residue buildup.

         
      • Growing up I use to help my grandma with laundry and back then everything got hung on the clothes line outside. And if you know anything about drying on those things then you know the towels and especially jeans would be extremely”stiff’ and hard! Grandma would add vinegar to the rinse cycle and it solved the problem of the stiffness and harness! It’s like a natural fabric softener! Also a 1/4 cup of ammonia added to your laundry cycle ( just laundry detergent) not only deep cleans and deodorizes but brightens colors and whitens whites! And OMG it’s amazing say getting that greasy smell and feel out of clothes especially if you work great food or in a kitchen! Anyways… Happy cleaning ?

         
    • Melody Smith

      Oh my god, your comment is AWESOME, I am so intrigued, do you set a timer? How do you know exactly how long it takes for your rinse cycle. Sorry if the questions sound dumb but I just want the magic process. I just got all the ingriendnts to make my own Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce, I’ll paste the link below for anyone reading this comment. The only negatives that I can find using this soap is about build up, but your comment might of just solved it. Of course being on this site, I’m going to do the laundry stripping purpose before I make the switch to my DIY laundry.
      Thanks so much, stay good!
      https://www.budget101.com/do-it-yourself/3993-original-moms-super-laundry-sauce-laundry-soap-recipe/

       
  9. Hi there! When using the sink, do you use a different ratio of all the ingredients? How much of each washing soda, borax and Tide?

     
  10. Hi! I’m just wondering why I can’t do this directly in the washer? Does it ruin the washer?

     
  11. Hi! I’m just wondering why I can’t do this directly in the washer? Does it ruin the washer?

     
    • No, it doesn’t. It is because it needs to soak so long. If you can let it soak in hot water in your washer for 4-6 hours you can try it. Let me know how it goes! I would drain the water after and then run it through a rinse and spin cycle after. A top-loading washing machine works best for this too.

       
  12. Dawn dishsoap does the exact same thing 😉 use a couple swirls in the machine. I have never ‘soaked’ the clothes, though.

    I am going to try this method for a comparison! I love this idea, and discovered the dawn dishsoap method a couple months ago, and am addicted!

    I have a basic machine, and think I can just keep the lid open and soak the clothes in there, rather than the tub.

    Thank you for this! I am excited to try it!

     
  13. I have used Dawn on greasy work and farm clothes for years. It gets the grease out! I love it for farm clothes since you can pick up fleas (yuk!) in the barn from some animals and Dawn kills them. Gets the grease out of clothes from car/truck/farm equipment repairs the guys do.

     
  14. Will this work without the arm and hammer booster? Is there something else that can be used?

     
    • It is needed and I have never not used it. I have replaced Borax with Fels Naptha before when my store was out of Borax but I have never replaced the Arm and Hammer washing soda.

       
    • I’m assuming you are using the Calgon Liquid Water Softner as that’s what the bottle looks like in your picture? Does it matter if you use liquid or powdered Calgon Water Softner?

       
  15. We have a water softener at our house, so would I still need to use the Calgon?

     
  16. Did putting your lululemon clothes in hot water cause them to shrink?

     
  17. I’ve been using vinegar in my rinse cycle forever. Top load and now front load. My clothes don’t smell like vinegar.

     
  18. If I have an old, top loading washer and wash with powdered detergent and borax all the time, would I even need to strip my laundry? For my workout clothes, and work clothes from the cement plant, I would add vinegar. That vinegar removed the funky smell from my workout clothes, and also gets the cement dust out of your work clothes. Thanks for the info on stripping, I’d not heard of it before. It seems similar to a pin I found for whitening your pillows. That’s super hot water, borax, bleach and dish detergent powder. That really works. Take care and happy holidays!

     
    • Do you have hard water? There could still be hard water build-up and if you use fabric softener. But your clothes are probably getting really clean because of your detergent and washer. I have heard that about vinegar too from a lot of people. Wouldnt hurt to try I suppose. Let me know if you do!

       
  19. Can you use Oxy Clean instead of Tide?

     
    • Nope, has to be powdered Tide.

       
      • Kathy in Maryland

        I tried this on all of my night gowns. I clean when I get up, and in my pj’s because I don’t want to get dirt, or bleach on my clothes. I wear a new gown each night, and I shower after cleaning, but they were a bit dingy, and a bit mildew type of smell. I was blown away by the water after just an hour, and again after 3 hours. I only used 2 scoops of arm and hammer super washing soda, and 2 scoops of oxiclean. Absolutely unbelievable.

         
  20. Doula and Mom of four

    I’d be curious if a different water softener would work? Calgon doesn’t seem to be readily available, and is costly if and when it is available.

     
  21. Shelby Thedford

    If you have a soak option on your washing machine could you do it in the machine instead of the tub.

     
  22. I have used homemade soap for years. The same recipe as in above comments. Once a month I wash my towels in hot water using baking soda in pre wash section, and white vinegar in bleach and softener sections. The towels are brighter and no funky smells.

     
  23. Hi! What do you mean by a scoop of tide? Any approx in tbsp or cup equivalent?

     
  24. Rebecca Milano

    I so want to try this but I am so afraid of doing this to my workout clothes. Are you saying that you really take your Lulemon and put it in HOT water? Sorry, I hope you answer this so I can try it with mine. I have the funk!!!

     
    • Yes I do. I know. It sounds crazy. I use to work there and I am CRAZY about how I wash and care for them. But it helps and works so well for this – the hot water is needed to break up and dissolve all the build-up/dirt/grossness on it. I have no experienced any fading or negative wear on them since doing this twice now. I wash as normal in-between but I do use hot water for this. I also separate out by colors – so I do all my darks together, whites, and then my pinks/purples/reds together. Especially if you have any nulu, luxtreme, pima cotton, or softer material. I hope this helps!

       
  25. Rebecca Milano

    I so want to try this but I am so afraid of doing this to my workout clothes. Are you saying that you really take your Lulemon and put it in HOT water? Sorry, I hope you answer this so I can try it with mine. I have the funk!!!

     
  26. I use vinegar only in my rinse cycle due to allergies. I’m wondering if I even need to strip my laundry because of this. If I decide to give this a try anyway can I use liquid Tide which I already have on hand?

     
    • That is a good question – I am not sure about the vinegar. But it does have to be the powdered Tide and not the liquid kind. The liquid is too concentrated and will leave a film and residue on everything – which defeats the purpose :/ Hope this helps!

       
    • Connie Mar

      White vinegar doesn’t leave any residue.

       
  27. I’m trying this today BUT I got Arm and Hammer Baking Soda by mistake ?. Just wondering if you’ve ever done this. I hope I’m not wasting my time for MY mistake!!

     
  28. I’m wondering if it’s the new efficient washing machines that are the culprit. I’ve soaked some clean workout clothes in the laundry tub using Norwex detergent and the water is FILTHY! I think the washing machines are efficient at using less energy and water but NOT efficient at actually getting the clothes clean!

     
  29. Connie Mar

    Tide is one of the worst laundry detergents for leaving a smelly, chemical, sticky residue in clothes/linens. I’m looking at stripping a full load of clothes that had one garment we got second hand that left the entire load smelling like Tide. Everything felt sticky when removed from the machine, compared to the clean and odor-free we were used to with our regular “natural/environmentally safe” laundry detergent. We only use unscented, non-residue laundry detergents due to all our allergies and sensitive skin.
    I can’t believe you’re using Tide to remove residue, when it leaves residue and is so full of chemicals!

     
    • I have not had any problems with Tide before. I haven’t much luck with natural detergents either :/ I tried a lot of them for several years and I felt they never got my clothes clean and left a dirty smell on the clothes. Oh well. Thanks for reading the post and sharing what works for you though!

       
    • I’m curious if you’ve found something to strip with that *is* natural? That works? I have had such big problems with tide, skin issues and headaches, that I’m uncomfortable trying even the “free and clear” tide because I can’t be stuck with clothes that smell like tide!
      Thanks for feedback if you see this and have some!

       
      • I haven’t used anything else or more natural to strip. I have had terrible luck with natural laundry detergents and don’t prefer them. :/ There have been some comments in this post about others who make their own laundry detergent and how it has worked for them – maybe see if some of those are helpful! You are definitely not the only one who struggles and/or is allergic to Tide. I am sorry and hope that is helpful!

         
  30. I have some Lululemon pants that stink of fabric softener. I tried everything to get the smell out, vinegar soaking, dish soap, baking soda, nothing worked. Does anyone have any ideas?

     
    • Do this laundry stripping to all my Lululemon and it works so well to get out all the stink too! I also use to work at Lululemon and it is recommended not to use fabric softener on any of their clothing. Hope that helps!

       
  31. Out of curiosity, what do you use to transfer the load from the tub to the washing machine? Just like a plastic bin or something? Thanks!

     
    • Just an empty laundry basket. I try and twist and squeeze out as much water as possible, put it in a laundry basket, and take it straight to the washer. It isn’t easy for sure – wringing out the clothes is hard – especially towels! lol – But that has worked for me. Great question!

       

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