There is a whole tribe of “natural mamas” out there today who have made the switch to cloth diapers. Some prefer cloth because of the cost savings – but for others, it’s the health of their baby that comes first. There’s also the fact that many are environmentally conscious individuals too.
Whatever the reason, they are all bound to encounter similar problems with their cloth diapers – STINK that will not wash out and reduced absorbency.
The solution to these problems is to strip your diapers. If your little one has been using these diapers for a while and you’re frequently having these problems, keep reading.
In the following paragraphs, we will explain what cloth diaper stripping is, and when and why you should do it. Then we will go through the exact steps to make your first diaper stripping a success! Lastly, we will give you some tips for preventing or prolonging build-up in the future.
What is Cloth Diaper Stripping?
Stripping cloth diapers is a method of washing them in order to remove residue that accumulates in the fabric over time.
The residue is thought to be from build-up caused by either hard water, detergent, fabric softener, urine, or diaper rash cream.
When and Why Should I Strip My Cloth Diapers?
There are several signs you should keep an eye out for, ones that will let you know that it’s time to strip your cloth diapers.
First off, if you have been washing your baby’s diapers in untreated hard water for more than a month, then they should probably be stripped.
Another sign they need to be stripped is if they have an odor that does not go away after washing.
Yet another sign is that the diapers are no longer absorbing urine like they used to. If there’s urine build-up, some babies will develop a nasty rash or chemical-like burn from the ammonia in urine.
You only need to strip your diapers when you’re having these issues. Stripping is a process that is extreme and can be hard on the fabric if done too often.
If you find that you’re needing to strip your baby’s diapers very frequently, then you will need to evaluate your normal washing routine. We’ll later walk you through how to troubleshoot your normal cleaning process.
If you’re experiencing the problems stated above then you will want to strip your baby’s diapers immediately. If you don’t, then they will become virtually useless to you.
A diaper that stinks before you put it on your little one, doesn’t hold any urine and gives your baby a rash is no diaper at all.
How to Strip Your Cloth Diapers
There are several different methods to stripping cloth diapers. We’re going to walk you through several of them.
No matter which method you use, you always want to start with clean diapers. Also, pocket diapers and diaper covers typically do not need to be stripped. It’s usually only the absorbent parts that require stripping.
1) The Most Common Method
For this method, you will need the original (blue) liquid Dawn dish detergent and bleach.
Wash your CLEAN diapers in hot water with Dawn dish soap and ½ cup bleach. Use one teaspoon of Dawn if you have a high-efficiency washer and one tablespoon if you have a regular washing machine.
After the wash completes, you will need to wash your diapers in hot water only a few times.
You will want to continue washing them this way until you see little to no suds during the rinse cycle.
Dry as you normally would and voila – you now have fresh, clean, and fully functioning diapers!
2) The Bleach Alternative Method
If you’re more of a natural mama who isn’t comfortable using bleach but would like a similar effect as above, then this method is for you.
To make your own natural bleach, mix 12 cups water, ¼ c lemon juice, and 1 cup hydrogen peroxide in a bowl.
You can store your natural bleach in a gallon container for later uses.
Use 1 cup of this mixture in your wash with either the same amounts of Dawn dish soap listed above or the appropriate amount of your favorite natural laundry detergent.
Finish the stripping process with hot-water-only washes as stated above. Continue washing them in only water until the rinse cycle is sud-free.
3) Boil Them
This method is cheap (cost wise) and uses no chemicals. However, it can only be used with certain types of fabrics and diaper parts.
You can only boil cotton or microfiber inserts – nothing made with waterproof materials and no fasteners, snaps or elastic. The intense heat will destroy these materials.
To strip your diapers using this method, boil enough water to completely cover the diapers first. Once it starts boiling, put the diapers in and let them boil for 5-10 minutes. Make sure they stay covered with water the entire time. If they’re sticking out of the water, then they aren’t getting stripped.
4) Give Them A Good Soak
This method is simple and pretty hands off.
Toss the diapers in the washing machine filled with hot water and a cleaning solution of choice (we list the different cleaners below). Let them soak like this overnight.
If you only have a front loader, then you will have to soak them in the bathtub instead.
Any of the following cleaning solutions can be used in your overnight soak:
1) 1 scoop of Oxygen Bleach – this one works great and is tough on stains yet not as harsh as regular bleach.
2) 1 teaspoon Bac-Out – this will work at removing any bacteria trapped in the fibers that are causing them to smell. Depending on how sensitive your baby’s skin is, you may not be able to use it. It has been known to cause skin irritation for some babies.
3) ½ cup of white vinegar – If you have hard water, you won’t want to use vinegar as it has been known to react with hard water minerals, causing more stink and yellowing of fabrics to occur.
4) 1-2 tablespoons washing soda – Again, if you have hard water you may not want to use this method either. Using washing soda in hard water has been known to produce build-up on cloth diapers. Otherwise, this is a good option for those that wish to wash their diapers using a more natural detergent.
5) A water softener, like Calgon – Use the recommended amount for a load. If you have hard water, the problems you’re experiencing with your diapers are likely due to mineral build-up. A good water softener, like Calgon, will remove the mineral build-up from the hard water and reduce future mineral build-up.
6) 3 pods of Grovia Mighty Bubbles – Soak the diaper in hot water with the dissolved pods overnight. This additive is known for being very effective at ridding diapers of mineral build-up.
In the morning, you can go ahead and finish washing the diapers in the water they have been soaking in. Continue with hot-water-only washes until there are minimal suds in the rinse cycle.
If your diapers were soaking in the bathtub, then simply drain the bath and transfer the diapers to the washer using a large tub or bin. You can continue with the HOT water washes until the suds are nearly gone from the rinse cycle.
Tips for Preventing Future Build-up
If you’re still having troubles with stink and absorbency, or find that you need to strip your diapers more often than once every 3 months, then you need to evaluate your washing routine.
The way you wash your diapers will affect how clean they’re able to get during each routine wash.
In order to get those diapers clean and prevent bacteria from building up, make sure and do a pre-wash before every regular wash. Be sure that your washer has a pre-wash that agitates, spins, and drains.
If yours does not agitate (as some don’t) then you will need to find the shortest cycle that agitates and use that as your pre-wash instead.
If you don’t include pre-washing in your washing routine, it will be very difficult to get them clean as you will likely be washing them in poo and pee water.
Type And Amount Of Detergent
There are many detergents made specifically for washing cloth diapers.
If the price turns you off, don’t worry – you don’t have to use these. In order to get your diapers clean enough to keep them from smelling, you will need to find a detergent that has enzymes and a high amount of surfactants.
You want to stay away from detergents that are soap-based, have coconut oil surfactants, bleach or fabric softener added to them.
The amount of detergent needed for a wash varies and is a delicate balance. It is best to start with the amount you would use to wash a very dirty load of clothes.
You may have to troubleshoot this a bit because using too much detergent and not enough water can cause detergent build-up. On the other hand, too little detergent simply will not remove all of the bacteria needed to keep your diapers smelling good.
Type Of Wash Cycle
For maximum cleaning, you want the HOTTEST and LONGEST cycle available on your machine.
You might see wash options for heavily soiled or heavy duty – if you do, use those. They will agitate your clothes for a much longer time and bring out all of the nasty stuff stuck in the fibers of your cloth diapers.
Amount Of Water
Like the amount of detergent, the amount of water used is also a delicate balance. You may have to play around with this a bit, especially if you have a high-efficiency machine.
You don’t want too much water because fabrics won’t agitate against one another enough to clean them.
On the other hand, if you have too little water then they won’t get clean enough either because they won’t be able to move around enough to shake out all of the yucky stuff.
If you have extremely hard water, you may need to treat each load with a water softener such as Calgon in order to keep mineral build-up at a minimum.
Not all homes with hard water will need this treatment, just the ones with very hard water.
Wrapping It Up
Now that you’re armed with all of the information you need to get the stench out of your baby’s diapers, it’s time to get to work!
If this is all new to you, you might be overwhelmed. However, all you need to do is choose the method that’s best for you and your diapers will be back in shape in no time.
Don’t forget to start the stripping process with CLEAN diapers.
And remember that stripping is not a part of the normal cleaning process. It should not be done too frequently or you will wear down your diapers in no time.
If you continue to have issues with stink in your diapers, then you need to troubleshoot your regular washing routine to be sure you aren’t doing anything to cause the build-up.