The joys of doing laundry—or how to properly strip pillows

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Fluff the pillow to restore its original shape. —RUTH NAVARRA
Fluff the pillow to restore its original shape. —RUTH NAVARRA

There are so many stories that my husband’s 85-year-old yaya keeps within her. She’s a World War II survivor, a Nora Aunor fangirl, a Kapamilya loyalist and she likes chicken wings and thighs. She has taken care of three generations of his family and has outlived my husband’s grandparents and all their children, including my father-in-law.

Before we got married, my husband only asked one favor from me: that I allow Yaya Sidra to live with us. I didn’t even consider opposing because she’s a spinster and someone had to look after her.

Yaya Sidra has a family. Her younger sister, Lourdes, worked alongside her as the family cook since they were teens. They only separated after retirement because Yaya chose to live with us rather than join her sister and her family in the province.

Lourdes died three years ago. She was an amazing cook who made the best potato salad, mechado and caldereta. It’s also the reason Yaya Sidra never learned how to cook. But there was one chore that Yaya took pride in that went with her duty of caring after the kids: the laundry.

Our automatic washing machine has been in disrepair because water pressure ruined it. Hanging clothes to dry, folding and pressing take a lot of time so we use a neighborhood laundry service. They collect our dirty clothes in the morning, and return it in the afternoon, dry, pressed, folded and smelling nice. It’s more cost-effective than doing the task ourselves.

But Yaya Sidra likes to be in charge of something. We tell her to sit down, but she chooses to go through our laundry basket before it gets collected. She separates my daughter’s clothes, especially her school uniform, our underwear and my husband’s collection of black socks. I’ve explained to her that it’s more economical if we just send out all our clothes rather than buy detergent, bleach and fabric softener. But she will not hear it.

“Let me be. I feel that I will get sick if I don’t do it myself,” she said.


So I learned to leave her with her hobby. She would lovingly hand wash my daughter’s clothes, press them neatly and tell me about the time she used starch on the collars of my husband’s school uniform. The outdated process is called almirol, which made clothes stiff and has collectively traumatized children growing up before and in the ’90s.

But there are times when I could relate to her obsession. My favorite part of using the washing machine is releasing the hose and watching brown water flow with detergent. When I was using cloth diapers for my daughter, I took charge of washing them. I planned my schedule around it. Prewash and soak them on Tuesdays and wash them on Wednesdays. I perfected the art of hanging them without ruining their garters.

READ: How to safely do your laundry

I learned how to adjust my laundry based on our water supply. Hard water causes dullness in colored clothes and it makes white clothes yellowish or gray despite best efforts. I learned when to use borax, baking soda, bleach and vinegar on clothes.

Learning how to strip fabric was something I discovered because of cloth diapers. Stripping is a process that takes away buildups from the fabric caused by detergent, fabric softeners, body oil and minerals from hard water. It’s a way to remove stink, recover its absorbency and make it fluffy again.

I used to strip cloth diapers once every three months, four if I lost track of time, because I enjoyed doing it and not because it was required. I had a good system that kept the diapers smelling good. Laundry stripping can also be applied on pillows and towels.

Maximize pillows’ life

Pillows have an expiration date. Some websites say it can be used for up to three years. Realistically, however, not all households practice this. In a Home Buddies post, I remember one person jokingly say that they still use their grandparents’ pillows. In ours, we combine old stuffings together to make a new pillow to maximize their life.

But we do try to maintain their cleanliness. Pillows need to be washed at least once every quarter but need to be fluffed daily. We take advantage of the sun and hang them outside regularly. I strip them once a year.

To strip, you need four things: borax, baking soda, detergent and hot water. I allow the item to soak overnight, turning it every hour. I rinse everything off the next day, but I make sure that the last wash has vinegar to make the fabric fluffy. I skip fabric conditioners because they are the cause of buildups in the first place. I dry them under the sun until they’re completely dry.

Pillows come out fluffy, smelling fresh and feeling as good as new. Stripping helps with the yellowing of fabric, returning it to its pristine white glory worthy of its own TV ad, but it does not completely remove stains. That’s not what it’s for. You can spot remove pesky stains with bleach and detergent.

Not all pillows can be stripped. Memory foam or feather pillows are a no-no. Cotton and polyester are a go. It’s really easy to do if you set aside time for it. It will leave your pillows feeling hygienic, giving you restful sleep. INQ

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