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Buildup. It’s an ugly word in the cloth diapering community. And if you have any experience with cloth diapers you know why. Leakage, stink, stains, are all par for the course when you have detergent build-up on your diapers. Now here is the million-dollar question; how do I keep my diapers clean and build-up free? Well first off, always make sure that your washing routine is a good one!
A typical washing routine is as follows: A cold pre-rinse to get rid of all of the yuck. A hot wash with cloth diaper recommended detergent. An additional cold rinse. (a total of two final rinses). The type of cloth diapers you own will determine the kind of detergent you use.
It is always important to use the recommended detergent for your diapers. Not only because it will help them last longer, but it will also allow you to send the diaper back to the manufacturer in case of a faulty elastic, bad snap, or any other manufacturer defect due to normal wear. When you purchase new diapers from an authorized retailer, most cloth diaper companies will repair your diapers for free with proof of purchase.
With that said, the following instructions for stripping cloth diapers are intended for those diapers that are not under warranty.
Stop Over Complicating it!!
Here I go again, keeping it real! Blue Dawn is all the rave among Cloth Diaper Mommas’. While yes I’ll admit it has it’s own merits; you do not “have” to use Blue Dawn.
Honestly, I find it ridiculous when I read someone post… “You HAVE to strip your cloth diapers with Blue Dawn!”
Also, you know what I hate hearing? The term “stripping cloth diapers.” It puts thought of paint stripping in my head. It sounds like some harsh act. It also confuses a lot of new cloth diaper mommas! They think “Of great! Something else to learn”.
Stripping Is Just Another Way of Saying Deep Clean!
I’m here to tell you straight up (as a cloth diaper momma of many years!) Blue Dawn hysteria is bullshit!
Blue Dawn is fantastic for cutting grease, so if you need to remove greasy diaper rash creams and such, then yes you can use blue dawn, but you don’t have to!
“Stripping” is just a newfangled way of saying “deep cleaning.” If you want to deep clean your diapers, wash them with a good cloth diaper detergent (like Tide or Foca). I mean really lay it on and use a proper amount of detergent and add some oxygen bleach for the rinse cycle. Your diapers will get really clean, then just do another full wash with no detergent for a really good rinse. Bam, deep cleaned diapers! No confusing terms.. just deep clean them!
Although I don’t really like the term “stripping cloth diapers“, it is a well known and a widely used term so I will continue to use it in this post for reference and clarity sake. One less thing to be confused about!
Other Than Deep Cleaning What Else Can You Do?
These are general instructions only.
Stripping cloth diapers is something most cloth diapering mommas will have to do from time to time. There are many reasons why you would need to do this. Such as when….
- cloth diapers that have developed bad smells
- cloth diapers you have bought second hand
- cloth diapers that are suddenly leaking
It’s not something you will need to do very often. And with the careful care of your cloth diapers, some people never need to strip wash ever!
Following our washing instructions and using a good detergent like Rock’n’Green can help you not need to strip your cloth diapers.
The most common culprit for stinky cloth diapers is detergent buildup. This buildup will cause stinkiness, water repelling and diaper rash. Using too much detergent can make it difficult to get your diapers fully rinsed out. What happens, wash after wash, is a nice little build up forms on the diapers. You really only need to use about 1/4 to 1/2 of what the manufacturers recommend.
Diaper rash creams, especially those with zinc oxide are very difficult to get out of cloth diapers and can cause water to repel. Also, diaper rash creams that have fish oil in them can make your diapers stink like fish… Ewww!! A definite good reason for stripping cloth diapers!
When To Strip (Deep Clean)
- Sometimes, your cloth diapers may need a strip wash as the build up in the soakers and shell fabrics can cause cloth diapers to become quite smelly immediately after being wee’d in. They will smell lovely and fresh post-wash, but after urine contact, they smell very strong and you can smell them from a distance.
- Secondhand cloth diapers may also do better with a strip wash if you have bought them from someone unknown. As not everyone looks after their cloth diapers as well as you will. Some use detergents that build up, some may simply not have stripped their cloth diapers ever.
- Also, a sign that cloth diapers may need stripping, is if a cloth diaper that was previously fine, suddenly starts to lose absorbency and leak. This can be a sign of build up and stripping them back will remove that build up and restore them back to how they were.
Limit Stripping Cloth Diapers
Strip washing should only ever be done a maximum of twice a year, really, as each time you do this it reduces the life of your cloth diapers slightly.
So, when is it time to strip your diapers?
- If they are really stinky, even after washing.
- If they are repelling instead of absorbing water (this happens a lot with pocket diapers when they get detergent buildup).
- After using diaper cream with zinc oxide, oils, or waxes.
- If your diapers start to leak and not absorb as well as they used to.
Just like all things cloth diaper related, stripping cloth diapers varies from family to family. Everyone’s washing machine and water quality vary. You may find you need to experiment to find what works best for you. How do you know it worked?? Your diapers will be clean, odor free and working great! Trust your nose. If your diapers smell stinky, they are not clean.
To Soak or Not Soak
There are two methods of stripping cloth diapers. One is a soak method and one isn’t.
I recommend the soak method particularly if you have a front loader.
Soak Stripping Cloth Diapers
- Put your cloth diapers through a normal wash cycle
- Add 4 tablespoons of Rock’n’Green to your machine
- Set the machine to a hot wash cycle, allow the machine to fill and then press pause
If you are nervous of shells and hot water, you can wait for the water to cool slightly before putting them in or reduce the temperature to 60 degrees to protect the integrity of the pul and the elastics.
- You can leave the soaking cloth diapers for as long as needed: 2-3 hours for smelly, overnight for extra smelly and 24 hours for extra smelly
- Resume the cycle
- Double rinse the cloth diapers and if you wish, you can add Canesten to the final rinse cycle
- Dry the cloth diapers in the sun
** If your cloth diapers are still smelly after this method, you can repeat this with Rock’n’Green’s Funk Rock which is designed for stinkies.
No-Soak Strip (aka the Dish Washing Liquid Method)
Here are some basic instructions for stripping your diapers, which can be adjusted to better suit your personal laundry needs.
Step 1: Start with clean diapers. Wash and rinse like you normally would. You don’t need to dry them since they are just going to get wet again.
Step 2: Wash your diapers in super hot water without detergent, just hot water. You may want to turn the water heater up to do this. Make sure to read the manufactures instructions for your diapers before doing this step. Some diapers shouldn’t be washed in very hot water.
Step 3: Rinse your diapers again, in a hot cycle if you can. Peak into the washer during the rinse to see if there are any bubbles in the water. Repeat this step as many times as you need to until there are no more bubbles in the water. No bubbles mean there is no more soap buildup on your dipes, which is what you’re after! This can take 4 or more rinse cycles, so don’t be surprised if you have to rinse over and over again.
Step 4: Dry your diapers. Even better, dry them out in the sun. Sunshine is great at getting rid of stains and killing germs.
Additional Tips for Stripping Cloth Diapers
Original Dawn Dish Detergent
Add a few drops of Original Dawn Dish Detergent to Step 2 above. This can help get rid of any oils that may be on the diapers. Note: if your washing machine is still under warranty, some washing machine manufacturers will tell you that using Dawn in the washing machine will void their warranty, so check this out before using this trick.
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda to Step 2. This can help eliminate odors that have built up on your diapers.
Add about 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of Step 2 above. If you normally use vinegar in the rinse, try not using it. Sometimes vinegar is really helpful, but sometimes it can react negatively with hard water, leaving a stink behind.
Bac-Out by Bi-o-Kleen
Bac-Out is a product that can help with stripping cloth diapers. You can find Bac-Out at many natural food stores. Just make sure to rinse the diapers really well, probably several times. Some babies are very sensitive to the ingredients in Bac-Out.
Calgon Water Softener
Try using Calgon Water Softener if you have hard water. Be sure your diapers get rinsed out really well after using.
Use Oxy-Clean in Step 2 above and then rinse, rinse, rinse. Oxy-Clean can break down the fibers of your diapers, so I don’t recommend doing this method very often.
You may be able to find a product called RLR at your local grocery store. It is a laundry treatment that is not as harsh as bleach and can really do wonders for diapers with a lot of build-up. I have used this on my pocket diapers when they were really leaking and it fixed the problem on the first try. Follow the package instructions and make sure to rinse your diapers really well afterward.
Bleach. I know I’ve said not to use chlorine bleach on your cloth diapers. But, sometimes it is the only thing that will get the job done. I would definitely save this as a last resort and make sure to rinse like crazy! And, using bleach will void the warranty for some diapers – it’s a good idea to check with your diaper manufacturer before washing your diapers with bleach.
Yes, chlorine bleach it is great for killing germs, but it is bad for cloth diapers, covers and your family. It will eat away at the fibers in your diapers, leaving holes and frayed edges. It also decreases their durability and absorbency. It may adversely affect the waterproofing in certain cloth diapers. Baking soda and oxygen bleach are great whiteners to use in its place.
Additional Effective Options
Remember, Chlorine Bleach Options Should Only Be Used AS a Last Resort!
FOR ALL OPTION – Rinse 2 or 3 times. If you see suds at the end of the rinse cycle rinse again!
During soak, stirring occasionally to release the mineral build-up from your cloth diapers.
Follow up with a 30-minute bleach soak. Then Wash with your normal detergent plus borax 3-4 times.
PRECAUTION: Keep pets and children away from deep cleaning solutions. Wear gloves and protect your eyes from any slashing.
- OPTION 1: (Not recommended for iron-rich water) Soak your diapers once in hot water with 1/2 cup of your regular detergent plus add up to a 1/2 cup of bleach for a minimum of 30 minutes but no more than 45 minutes. After the soak, Normal wash and Rinse.
- OPTION 2: Pour 1 1/2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup of lemon juice into a gallon jug. Fill the remainder of your jug with distilled water.
Directions For Use: Use 1 cup of this solution + 1/2 cup of your regular non-toxic laundry detergent in a hot water soak. Optional, add 10-15 drops of Lemon or Thieves essential oils to your liquid washing soap for an added cleaning strength. Soak 4-6 hours. After the soak, Normal Wash, and Rinse.
- OPTION 3: Fill your bathtub or top loader half full with HOT water, Add 3 Grovia Mighty Bubbles pods plus 1/2 cup of your regular detergent for ONE deep cleaning. Soak 4-6 hours. After the soak, Normal Wash, and Rinse.
- OPTION 4: DIY mix – Combine 3 Tablespoons of each Washing Soda, Borax, and Calgon for one deep cleaning. Add this DIY mix to your top-loader or bathtub that is half full of HOT water plus 1/2 cup of your regular detergent. Soak 4-6 hours. After the soak, Normal Wash, and Rinse.