Beginner, Troubleshooting, Washing Issues

How to Strip Cloth Diapers – Getting Your Diapers to Work Like New

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Today I’m going to discuss a topic related to cloth diapers that gets a lot of people confused or worried. Stripping cloth diapers is the term used for deep cleaning your diapers to do one of two things: remove any lingering detergent residue or fix hard water build-up. Depending on which of those issues you are facing, you will want to strip your diapers in different ways.

The idea of removing built-up detergent residue is something that is controversial. Some believe detergent build-up is impossible, and others swear they have had it happen to them following cloth diaper washing advice that was heavy-handed with the detergent.

Although detergent build-up is rare, it can happen if your wash routine isn’t including enough water or rinses. It makes sense that using too much detergent combined with an inadequate amount of water, especially with really soft water (due to how much more detergent can sud in soft water), could cause build-up.

While stripping may sometimes be needed, most of the time there are some tweaks you can do to your wash routine to eliminate the need for stripping. In the article below, I will discuss the steps for how to strip cloth diapers and discuss when you might consider doing that.

Stripping Diapers – Is it really necessary?

how-to-strip-cloth-diapersI want to start by saying that some people that go about stripping their cloth diapers are doing so unnecessarily.

I have been cloth diapering for ove 5 years in in both hard and soft water and I have never had to do a true strip of my diapers.

A good wash routine would make stripping your diapers unnecessary. If you are dealing with lingering odors, such as ammonia, or if your diapers aren’t absorbing as they should, it’s likely your wash routine is the problem.

Consider the following before deciding to strip your diapers:

  1. Reevaluate your wash routine. What do you currently do, and where might you need to do some tweaking?
    • Are you doing a rinse before your wash? If not, you should definitely do that. Getting all of the crud washed away before you do the actually wash will help make sure your diapers are actually getting clean.
    • Do you add any detergent to your pre-wash/rinse cycle? If not, you may want to consider adding a small amount of detergent and doing an express wash instead of a rinse. You wouldn’t use a full load’s worth of detergent, but maybe about half the amount. This will help the main wash to really be able to do its job.
    • Are you using the correct amount of detergent with your diapers? There were a lot of myths floating around for a while that you needed to use a special detergent made special for cloth diapers, and that you only needed a tablespoon or two of detergent. All I have to say about this is….if it sounds like bad advice, it probably is. 🙂 This is SOILED LAUNDRY. Two tablespoons are not going to cut it! Use a regular amount of detergent on your diapers. Follow directions for your load size.
    • Are you doing an extra rinse at the end? This might be something you want to try if you’re worried about detergent residue build-up. Your wash cycle will have a rinse built-in, but you may need to set it to add an additional rinse. This will help make sure that all the detergent is getting washed away, leaving diapers fresh and as absorbent as possible.
    • Are you washing every 2-3 days? Waiting longer could cause issues with lingering odors.
  2. Are you using a detergent with fabric softener, or adding fabric softener to your loads? DON’T! Fabric softener will make your diapers less absorbent.
  3. Is your water softener filled with salt? If you do not have a water softener, evaluate how hard your water is. You may have to get a water softening agent to add to your loads of laundry, such as Calgon.
  4. Have you been using the wrong kind of rash cream on your diapers? Some creams don’t wash off well, which can cause repelling.

Yes, I Need to Strip My Diapers – Now What?

Okay, so now you have evaluated your wash routine and solved any issues. If your diapers are still coming out of the washing machine smelling dirty, or if they smell bad immediately when they get wet, or if they are repelling and not absorbing as well, here is what you do:

  1. Evaluate your water hardness. Most stripping methods are designed to remove hard water minerals from your diapers. If hard water is not the issue, see number 2.
  2. If you have verified that your water is indeed soft and you think it might be a detergent issue, I would recommend doing 3-4 HOT washes with NO detergent before pursuing any other stripping protocols unless you know for a fact hard water is the culprit (extra rinses will exacerbate hard water issues, so do not do this if your water is hard). It’s amazing what several hot washes can do to fix your diapers.

Stripping with RLR – Step by Step

RLR is a great product to help with stripping diapers with hard water mineral build-up. Follow the directions below:

stripping-cloth-diapers

  1. Fill your washing machine basin with hot water.
  2. Add one packet of RLR (can be found on Amazon) to the water. You may also choose to add a small amount of detergent.
  3. Add your diapers. Just add your absorbent parts, not the covers or shells.
  4. Agitate or let the cycle run for a few minutes, then stop your washer.
  5. Let your diapers soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  6. Let your cycle finish, then do a HOT wash or rinse.
  7. If you still see soap bubbles in that rinse, you may need to do another rinse.

If your washer cannot be stopped to allow soaking (like most front loaders), you can do this in your bathtub, too!

Stripping Summarized

Stripping is not something most people would ever need to do. The need to strip is the result of a neglectful wash routine or extremely hard water.

Remember that people used to cloth diaper before disposables took over, and stripping was never something that people worried about. And if we think our water is suddenly harder now than it was then…. no. 😉

Stripping has gained more popularity in recent years due to cloth diaper washing myths that are floating around.

Most diaper issues can be fixed with a good wash routine, some extra rinses, and maybe some extra hot washes if needed. If you do need to strip, you can purchase some RLR and get the job done in a few hours. If hard water was your reason you needed to strip, check out this post for how to tweak your wash routine.

I hope you found this helpful in deciding whether or not you need to strip your diapers.

Have you ever needed to strip your diapers before? Share any tips in the comments!

how-to-strip-cloth-diapers

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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4 Comments

  1. You know this is really amazing. I really really really wanted to use cloth diapers for my babies. It just seemed like the most economical thing to do.

    Disposable diapers are so expensive and you have to buy them every week. I just wasn’t confident that I could wash them properly.

    I wish I had found this article back when mine were itty-bitties.

    Maybe my sister will use the cloth ones!

    Very detailed and informative post. Thank you!

    1. Thanks! There definitely is a lot of myths and overwhelming information out there about cloth diapers, so that’s why I wanted to start this blog! 🙂 Help make it more approachable for the average family.

  2. Garen says:

    Cloth diapers can get expensive. I think a lot of people will just buy disposable ones. The thing about detergent to clean them during the rinse cycle is you want to use something that isn’t going to cause diaper rash. Have you ever considered to use castile soap as a detergent though?

    1. Hi Garen! As long as you rinse the diapers well, the detergent shouldn’t be a rash issue. Generally speaking, soaps are frowned upon for diaper cleaning because they can leave a residue that negatively impacts absorbency.

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