Learn how to strip your laundry to remove soap and mineral buildup – especially important if you’ve been using homemade laundry soap!
If you’ve been using homemade laundry “detergent” to wash your clothes for any amount of time, I need you to listen up.
Your laundry is NOT getting cleaned.
It might look like it’s clean, and it might smell like it’s clean. But there’s a big problem lurking deep down inside the fibers of your clothing, towels, and linens.
It’s very likely that your laundry is accumulating buildup from the minerals in your water, the soap from your homemade detergent recipe, and other dirt, oil, and bacteria.
Too hard to believe? I don’t blame you! I felt the same exact way when I heard this for the first time. And I’ll tell you something else – I didn’t like it one bit. I was in complete denial about the whole thing.
And honestly, the whole thing just confused the heck out of me. That’s why I’ve spent hours and hours since then researching, testing, and trying to get to the bottom of this issue.
But if you need some time to come to terms with the ugly truth about your homemade laundry soap, go ahead and click that link to read about all of the soap fun facts I’ve learned along the way. Seriously, go ahead – I’ll wait…
Alright, now that you’re up to speed, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start stripping…your laundry, that is! Haha, I crack myself up. 🙂
Ok, so you want to start over with truly clean laundry, right? Right!
For help with stripping laundry, I’m looking to our cloth-diapering mom friends because they know a thing or two about laundry buildup.
Laundry Stripping: The Condensed Version
For full, detailed instructions, including the how and why of each and every ingredient, I recommend you check out the helpful information here and here. Otherwise, you can follow along with me below for a condensed version of how to strip your laundry:
Step 1: Choose a Stripping Solution
First, you’ll either make or buy a stripping solution.
Note: I also recommend stripping your laundry if you’ve been using conventional laundry detergents and want to switch to a safer, natural detergent. Strip your laundry before making the switch, otherwise, all the leftover buildup (yes, even conventional detergents and fabric softeners leave buildup!) will begin to rear its ugly head once you start using the natural detergent.
If you’re just stripping to remove conventional detergent or fabric softener buildup, I recommend you use the DIY solution below, instead of the GroVia pods. It’s easier, cheaper, and you can use the same ingredients later on for boosting your detergent and softening your water if needed.
The DIY Stripping Solution:
In place of the natural laundry detergent, you can instead use 1-2 Tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds.
Follow the instructions below, but instead of the GroVia pods, substitute your DIY solution.
I used the GroVia Mighty Bubbles solution as opposed to the DIY solution because I’d been using the homemade laundry soap for years; and the GroVia pods have a higher concentration of enzymes, so they’re better for non-mineral buildup.
Again, if you’re just stripping laundry to remove buildup from regular detergents and fabric softeners, the DIY solution is more than enough.
Step 2: Soak Your Laundry
Fill up your bathtub or a large container about half way with very hot water – the hottest you can get from your faucet. Drop 2-3 Grovia pods into the tub (depending on amount of water), and watch as they start fizzing. Then give the water a good stir to help the pods dissolve completely.
If using the DIY solution, you can do this right in your washing machine. Add the solution to the bottom of the washer, then set it for a hot water wash. As the water fills the drum, stir the water a bit to dissolve the powders.
Add your laundry to the water, and use a long stick or pole to push everything under the water, making sure every item is completely soaked.
Let it soak for about 4 hours, or until the water has cooled down. Make sure to go back every hour or so to give it all a good stir to help work the solution deep into the fabrics.
In your washing machine, you’ll just leave the lid open for those 4 hours. If your washer won’t allow you to do this (ie: if it will automatically drain the water after some time if the lid isn’t closed), then you’ll have to do this in the bathtub instead.
Step 3: Rinse Your Laundry
Once the water has cooled, remove your items from the water – wringing them out very well – before moving them to your washer. I just put them into a large bucket, which I then carried down to the laundry room once I was done.
Finally, run your washer on a water only cycle (no detergents!) to rinse out any leftover residue from the stripping solution. If you stripped a fairly large load of laundry, you might need to split it into two rinse loads so you don’t overload your washer.
Of course, if you did your soak right in the washer, you can skip this step and just close the lid to let the machine do its thing.
Then, dry your laundry like normal.
Congratulations – you now have a fresh load of laundry that’s been stripped of soap residue, hard water minerals, and any dirt or grime that has built up over the years.
Going forward, you should only wash with a proper detergent so you don’t have to resort to stripping your laundry again in the future (stripping with a strong solution like the GrowVia pods can be very harsh on fabrics, and should NOT be done regularly.)
The “After” Photos
I’d read about and seen pictures of what the end result might look like, but none of that prepared me for what I found in my bath tub after removing all those towels and sheets, and wringing out all the water…
Look at that… Just look at it! That brown, murky, funky water is what was stripped from just the light colored towels and linens. These are sheets and pillow cases that we’d been sleeping on for years. Towels that we’d been using to dry our hands, faces, and bodies. All of that nastiness was stuck in there, and I had no idea!
Well, I had some idea, but I was just in complete denial about it.
Then I stripped a load of dark colored towels and linens. That leftover water was even darker, but I suspect that might have to do with the very hot water stripping some of the color out of those fabrics. Either way, it still looked pretty funky.
Finally, I stripped a load of just my and my husband’s light colored laundry – shirts, pants, undergarments, etc. I think this is the load that grossed me out the most. When I put my hand under the water to pull out the drain plug, I couldn’t even see my hand through all that murkiness…nasty!
Thank goodness I didn’t experience any foul odor coming from the water, though some people have reported a funky smell – yikes!
I actually decided against stripping the kids’ clothes, because right now they’re not holding on to them for longer than a year before they’ve outgrown them anyways.
The “After” Effects
Pictures of murky water are good for shock value, but they mean nothing if we don’t also talk about how the newly stripped laundry actually feels, right? This was the best part, as it was icing on the cake.
Our towels now feel noticeably softer than they were, and they are definitely more absorbent. The bed linens feel softer and smell fresher (no more stale smell). And the clothes, especially undershirts, feel and smell much better – and as an added bonus, the stripping actually removed some old sweat stains!
Are you ready to strip your laundry?
If you’ve only been using a homemade laundry soap for a few months, or even a year, you may not necessarily notice a buildup issue yet. If seeing my stripping water has scared you straight, you can probably get away with just switching to a non-toxic laundry detergent, and moving on with your life.
But if you suspect even the tiniest issue, I suggest you get on this laundry stripping business as soon as possible, and start looking for a replacement laundry detergent from now.