If your workout clothes seem smelly or your bath towels have gotten flatter, scratchier and less absorbent, you might wonder if your washing machine is working as well as it should. The good news is that your washer is likely OK. But the unpleasant truth is that your just-washed laundry might not be as clean as you think.
In the same way that soap scum, fabric softener or other residue can accumulate in your washing machine, your towels and clothing can be subject to buildup over time. You can strip away this gunk and grime with one of two methods. Laundry “stripping” is a simple technique using easy-to-find products that you might already have on hand.
Although this laundry hack has gone viral on TikTok, people have used a similar method to clean cloth diapers for years.
Laundry Stripping In The Washer
If you have relatively new towels or sheets that could use refreshing, you can try this method first. All you need is white vinegar and baking soda, but don’t use them together unless you want a volcano science project in your laundry room.
You’ll need to run the washer twice. The first time, use hot water and one cup of white vinegar in place of detergent. On the second go-round, replace the soap with a half-cup of baking soda and wash in hot water again. Dry thoroughly on the warmest setting or hang them out on a sunny day.
The laundry should be softer and smell fresher than before.
Laundry Stripping In The Tub
If the washer method didn’t work for you, or you just really want to make sure all of the gook and gunk is gone from your clothes, sheets and blankets, this procedure will likely thrill and repulse you at the same time — which is probably why some laundry-stripping TikTok videos from @mrslaurenelms started making the rounds on social media.
First, she did workout clothes. This one got nearly 2 million views.
@mrslaurenelms“Stripped” me and my hubby’s workout clothes! Towels are up next! ##diycleaning ##laundry ##cleanfreak ##tide ##borax ##armandhammer ##lululemon♬ original sound – mrslaurenelms
Then, she did her bath towels — this one brought in 6.8 million views.
@mrslaurenelmsWho’s here for the towel stripping? 🙋♀️ ##laundry ##cleanfreak ##laundrymagic ##laundrystripping ##tide ##borax ##armandhammer ##diycleaning♬ original sound – mrslaurenelms
She followed some common instructions for laundry stripping in the bathtub.
Real Simple says to use the following ingredients in a 1-1-2 ratio: Borax, washing soda (sodium carbonate) and laundry detergent. Fill your bathtub with the hottest water possible. Stir in the cleaning agents until they dissolve. Better Homes & Gardens recommends 1/4 cup Borax, 1/4 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup detergent in a standard-size tub.
Add a small load of laundered items, such as towels, sports bras or gym shorts. Real Simple warns that many people who use this method say the process can make dyes run, so keep that in mind when you choose items to strip.
Then, just wait. You’ll need to soak the laundry for about four to five hours, but you’ll want to mix it around every hour or so to aid the process.
Be prepared to be grossed out, because others are having this experience as well — you can almost guarantee the water will be nasty. Check out some examples from Facebook, such as these photos by user Olivia Kate Bozsoki.
“I did the TikTok towel stripping thing today on my sheets and some random laundry and OH MY GOD EW,” she posted. “I’m stripping everything!”
Kristin Guynn was equally appalled.
“None of these blankets were super dirty and all of them are washed regularly” she posted. “I’M SO GROSSED OUT! Someone sedate me.”
After they have finished soaking, wring out each piece of laundry and toss them in the washer. Run a full cycle — water only, no detergent or softener — and dry as usual.
Are you ready to give stripping a try?