Stripping Cloth Diapers – Here is How To Do It

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First and foremost, if your cloth diaper is under warranty before you attempt this, please consult the manufacturer as you could void your warranty if they have specific stripping instructions.

These are general instructions only.

Stripping cloth diapers is something most cloth diapering mamas will have to do from time to time. There are many reasons why you would need to do this.

You might like to strip wash;

  • 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.

Another culprit that may have you needing to strip your diapers is using the wrong kind of detergent. Many natural detergents have oils in them that will build up on your diapers. Also, detergents with fragrance, brighteners, etc. will leave stuff on your diapers, which you don’t want.

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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Two Cloth Diaper Stripping Methods

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.

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.


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 1Start 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.Stripping Your Cloth Diapers

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
original blue dawnAdd 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.

Baking Soda

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda to Step 2.Baking Soda

This can help eliminate odors that have built up on your diapers.

White Vinegar
vinegarAdd 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
bacout2Bac-Out by Bi-o-Kleen

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

calgon 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.

rlrstrippingYou 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 Bleach. I know I’ve said not to use 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.


Soak Strip

  1. Put your cloth diapers through a normal wash cycle
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of Rock’n’Green to your machine
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Resume the cycle
  6. Double rinse the cloth diapers and if you wish, you can add Canesten to the final rinse cycle
  7. 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.

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