Stripping Your Laundry: Is it Necessary?
I’ve been reading about “stripping” your laundry for a year or two now. I’m sure you’ve seen it somewhere. If not, just Google it. It involves putting towels, sheets, and other clothes that just don’t seem to get clean in the bathtub and soaking them in a variety of cleaning agents: washing soda, borax, etc.
I Wondered Why
I wondered why anyone would this. But after some thought, and especially after buying some washing machine cleaning tablets that did nothing, I realized my old-school habits keep my clothes and washer clean.
Old-School Laundry Techniques
I grew up in an era where my grandma still had a wringer washer where you hand-fed each piece of clothing through the rollers, being careful not to catch your fingers or they would be crushed. I remember going to my grandma’s house to use that washer for a while. Then we got a new-fangled Maytag “automatic” washer at home. It did it all.
Something Else That I Do
After every laundry day, while the washer is still wet, I run a rag around the inside to gather any grease, dirt, cat hair, or anything else that is in there. I just think it’s gross to have it sit in there. And once it dries, it’s very difficult to clean. Then you’d be scrubbing, not just wiping. It takes under 2 minutes and it’s done. Make it a practice in your routine.
What We Did “Back Then”
One thing that both washers I grew up with had in common was that they had a soak option. We often used the soak option. We also regularly used the ingredients that are now in the “new” stripping method: washing soda and borax. They were normal additives in our house – and I still use them today.
I will not buy a front loading washer because I still soak my laundry on a regular basis – and I’m not about to soak my laundry in the bathtub, agitating it during the soak, wringing it by hand, carry it down 2 flights of stairs to put it in the washer – which now has to be filled with more water. Then the bathtub has to be scrubbed because it will be dirty and have a dirty, greasy ring to be cleaned. No. No. No.
Why Soak the Laundry?
I soak the laundry with borax and/or washing soda because it gives the detergents time to work. And while they say that you can wash in cold water, cold water will NOT lift grease and oils – including body oils – from your laundry. Some detergents have harsh chemicals to do this, but they also damage your clothing, washer and the environment. So I use the warmest temperature safe for my laundry.
Does Soaking Work?
Let me say it this way. I have put laundry in and forgotten to stop the machine. If I knew I wanted to soak the laundry, I will do it again. And the second time, after the soak, the water is dirty. I would say that qualifies as a yes.
What About the Additives?
Yes they work!! I had someone ask if they could use my washer last winter. They had used my washer before and I had soaked their laundry. They asked that I not do that as their clothes felt smaller after the last time (which is actually gunk that was on the fibers adding weight and size to the fabric) and they weren’t that dirty. So…I just added washing soda to the wash. As soon as the washer began to agitate the water became murky brown. So… those clothes had embedded soil, even though they said they weren’t that dirty. I did a double wash, even though it caused that person to stay later than they planned.
Cleaning the Washing Machine
Another thing that I’ve seen online is people saying that they are using washing machine cleaning products and the wastewater is murky brown (some people’s videos have shown really gross water) and has clumps of mold in it. So I bought a reputable cleaner that had good reviews. I followed the instructions, making sure the water in the water heater was really hot. And…the water was basically clean. There were a few very small clumps of dark stuff – what I assume might have been mold from under the agitator or maybe even in the outflow tubing.
Why Didn’t It Work for Me?
I wondered, too. Then I researched the ingredients: borax, washing soda, oxygen cleaner (think Oxy-Clean), and another ingredient. I use all those regularly. My washer was already clean. I don’t need to add another routine to my washer or another expense to my household budget.
Do I Recommend “Stripping” Your Laundry
If you have a front loading machine, yes. If you use a laundry soap that leaves a residue, then absolutely! If you have a top-loading machine that you can actually turn off and allow the laundry to soak on a regular basis and use a detergent that doesn’t leave a residue, then no.
I hear that some of the new “electronic” top-loading machines do not allow you to soak your clothes for hours. It’s on my list of things to watch for when/if I need to replace my washer. Right now my repair guy tells me my machine is totally repairable and never get rid of it. He said the new ones aren’t so repairable.
Bottom line: if you can’t soak your clothes in your washer, then stripping may be necessary. Meanwhile, try using washing soda and/or borax on your laundry on a regular basis. It will help.
Do I Recommend Washer Cleaning Products?
If you don’t/can’t soak clothes in your washer, you will need to use a cleaning product. And even if you can soak your laundry, if your detergent has fillers and leaves a residue, you’ll still need to clean your machine. How often depends on your laundry detergent, your washer, and how you wash your clothes. After hours of research, this is the brand I settled on:
What’s Your Thoughts? Your Experience?
I’d love to hear the experiences of my readers. Please add your comments below.
Have a great weekend. It’s cool and dry here today: baking weather!! Yay!! Making bread and pre-making foods for next week when it’s too hot to cook.
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