How to strip laundry using Tide, Borax, Arm & Hammer, and Calgon. It’s a simple method used to remove all of the grime, dirt, pollutants, etc. from your laundry leaving everything cleaner and brighter!

Alright, if you’ve been following Cade and I on Instagram you know the poor guy has been slaving away with me to strip our laundry. Don’t let him fool you, ps because he totally got sucked in as much as I did. 

Years and years ago I used to strip our whites and towels, and I loved it. Once I was battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum and a high risk pregnancy again I couldn’t do it and add on a preemie baby, yeah my brain cells totally went out the door. 

My darling friend (who has some of my fave recipes right now), Heather from, Fueling a Southern Soul reintroduced me to “Laundry Stripping” and I’ve been loving it! 

I had no idea you could do all of your laundry and back then I never called it laundry stripping, I just called it, brightening your whites.

how to strip laundry

What is Laundry Stripping?

Laundry stripping is basically when you remove detergent residue (especially from homemade laundry soap), fabric softener, dryer sheets, minerals from hard water (yes, even if you have a water softener), and body oils that have collected on your clothing and linens over time.

Think about your whites and your towels… oh my goodness and your workout clothes! Which ps, do you really call it, Active Wear? I don’t but everything online as well as stores always call it that. 

Anyway, the point is to strip your clothes of the nasty and leave the freshest, cleanest, brightest clothes you’ve had in a long time. 

Does it Really Work?


I mean, listen, if you’ve got whites that have gone that nasty, dingy, brownish-gray you’re probably not going to see them be crazy bright white again, but they will be a little better and certainly cleaner. 


Did I yell that loud enough? If your whites are just that dingy thing, especially around the armpits and neck then this will be life-changing for you. If you wear garments, I’m looking at you. LIFE-CHANGING, friend. 


a bathtub full of murky water from stripping laundry

Before AND After Pictures of Stripping Laundry

Everyone is always asking me for before and after pictures of stripping laundry, but the truth is, I absolutely never think to take any because I know I’m taking on extra work that day, so I’m just trying to power through it.


The other day I did remember to take a picture of my hot pads and yes, I wash them all the time, and yes, I know I destroy them. 🙂 I’m a food blogger, it happens.

before and after of laundry stripping

before and after of laundry stripping

Ingredients for Stripping Laundry

What to buy for laundry stripping:

Recipe for Stripping Laundry

  1. Separate your laundry by colors, darks, workout clothing, whites, towels, bedsheets etc. 
  2. Add all ingredients to a bathtub of hot water. 
  3. Add one pile of laundry and stir to combine. 
  4. Every hour for 4-6 hours stir the laundry. 
  5. Drain the tub and wring out the clothes. 
  6. Place in a washing machine and wash everything as normal.
  7. Dry and you’re done!

ingredients and directions for stripping laundry

Frequently Asked Questions About Laundry Stripping

The Ingredients

Can You Skip the Calgon?

Yes, if you cannot find the Calgon it’s ok to skip it. 

Why Use Calgon After You Say NOT to Use Fabric Softener?

If I don’t have it I don’t use it, but Calgon is a water softener not a true fabric softener that has all the same chemicals. Plus I’m not doing it very often.

What Can You Use Instead of Tide?

If you’re allergic to Tide, which my goodness a lot of you are, you can use another powdered detergent, but Tide is the preferred. 

Why Not Just Use Arm and Hammer Baking Soda?

The chemical make up is different, but you can just go ahead and use that one it it’s easier to find. 

Is the Soap Mixture Safe?

It is completely safe to use and we have been doing so for many years.

Why Strip with More Chemicals?

Unfortunately there’s a lot of build up from most homemade soaps. The combination of these items is to specifically lift chemicals and carry them away. You can try more organic options if you prefer. 


The Preparation

Do You Wash the Clothes First?

You should wash the clothing first, but I’ll be honest, sometimes I don’t. Because I’m a mom surviving.

Can You Do This on a Deep Soak Cycle?

Our washing machine drains after it has been sitting there so we can’t, but be my guest if you want to. Just take this little warning, washing machines are known to hold onto dirt, grime, and smells. I prefer to use a bathtub I can easily scrub down after stripping the laundry. 

The Process

Do the Darks Just Release Some Dye?

I mean, some but not enough that you will think your clothing looks different.

Do the Colors Fade?

All clothing fades a little as it is washed. You will not find this to be any different than a regular wash.

Do the Clothes Shrink?

We’ve never had a single item shrink. I believe this is because they do not stay in constantly hot water and have so much time just sitting there isn’t a threat. 

Does this Get out Lasting Odors?

I’ll be honest, we don’t have any clothing with odors but some of our wash rags do and they are perfect! I turned to our readers on this one and yes, it removed odors from stinky boy and husband clothes, haha.

Do You Combine Loads and Colors?

No, I prefer to always keep my loads separated- whites, colors, darks. 

Do the Measurements Change Depending on How Many Clothes?

If you’re using a small tub to wash a small amount of clothes in versus a whole load you could half the amount, but that would be if you’re only washing a few items. 

When You Drain It, Doesn’t It All Sit Back into the Clothes?

When you drain the tub, a lot goes down the drain but then you’re going to run them through a wash and you can add or skip the soap. Anything left is washed away. 

After Stripping do you Wash with Detergent?

I don’t always as you don’t need to, but most of the time I do because it grosses me out to see all of that nastiness.

How Often Do You Do It?

I only strip laundry 1-3 times a year as needed. I worry about doing it too much. Especially since you are washing in hot water. 

laundry stripping with whites

Types of Clothes

Can you do This with Garments and Whites?

Yes!! It’s perfectly safe for garments, towels and whites and you will love the results!

It’s ok that it’s hot water this one time, but generally you should only wash your garments in cold water to help avoid graying and fabric breakdown.

What about Sweaters?

I don’t ever wash my sweaters this way. I only use the more delicate cycle and lay flat to dry. 

What About Dry Clean Only Clothes?

I would not recommend doing this to dry clean only clothing as a precaution to anything being damaged. 

More Laundry FAQs

Why Don’t you use Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets?

I let our readers know that I do not believe in fabric softener or dryer sheets. It’s based on my own research and a smarty pants sister who got her master’s degree in textiles. 

Fabric softener and dryer sheets coat your clothing in lots of terrible chemicals and ruin your clothes.

Think about it this way, if you’re trying to soften something don’t you break it down? That’s what you’re doing to your clothes, you’re breaking up those fibers and they won’t last as long, take on more dirt and oils etc and you’ll notice that your clothing wears out faster. 

What do you Use Instead of Fabric Softener or Dryer Sheets?

I do not like wool dryer balls. They seem to add more static and get more yucky stuff stuck to them. 

Instead, I use 4 of these dryer balls in my dryer and I NEVER over-dry my clothes which leads to lots of static. 

Do Dryer Balls Help with Static?

By putting 2-4 balls in the dryer they will bounce around and keep the clothes from static cling developing, however it’s more important that you not over-dry your clothes. If you’re always just using “normal” or “cotton” as your setting there’s a good chance you’re over-drying your clothes and static will form. 

What Do You Use Dryer Sheets For?

Dryer sheets work on baseboards! Wipe them along your baseboard if you have any just lying around that need to be used. This creates a barrier to help keep away dust! 

dryer balls

Do you Use Bleach?

I pretty much never use bleach. I don’t like that it breaks down the clothing and it’s such a harsh chemical. 

Do You Use a Front or Top Loader?


Laundry Stripping

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  • Separate your laundry by colors, darks, workout clothing, whites, towels, bed sheets etc. 
  • Add all ingredients to a bathtub of hot water. 
  • Add one pile of laundry and stir to combine.
  • Every hour for 4-6 hours stir the laundry. 
  • Drain the tub and wring out the clothes. 
  • Place in a washing machine and wash everything as normal.
  • Dry and you're done!