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Cloth Diaper Stripping

A few weeks ago, we started a Q&A thing on our Facebook page. You ask questions, I re-post them and other cloth diapering moms and dads answer. I never expected it to be so well received, but I'm glad it is. We've had some great feedback from you guys about how helpful it's been. We are glad to be of service!

The question we seem to see more than any other has to do with stripping diapers. I would say most of us have had to strip our diapers at one time or another. And if you haven't, you probably will at some point. In this post, I've got some great tips and tricks from fellow cloth diapering Momma's!

First, it is important to establish why cloth diapers need to be stripped...

Do you remember how excited you were when you received your first package of Fluff? How beautifully clean and soft they were? How you couldn't wait to start using them? Oh the joy! Now it's six, eight, twelve months later and your diapers? Well, they ain't looking so beautifully clean anymore. Then you start to notice the most awful stink on the planet when your child pees, leaking*, or repelling, it's time to strip you diapers. So, how are you going to do that?

Unfortunately, there is no exact science involved in stripping cloth diapers. What works for me will not necessarily work for you. So, I've got a bunch of different tips for you to try until you find an option that works for your particular situation.

Option A: Dawn Dish Liquid

This seems to be the most popular way to strip your diapers of oils and balms. I've used this option myself. What you'll do is fill up your tub, washer (not recommended for HE machines), or sink with HOT water. Add 1 tablespoon of Dawn (the original blue version) to the water and throw in your diapers and inserts. Agitate the water a little to get the bubbles going and let them soak overnight. The next morning rinse your diapers with COLD water until there are no more bubbles. You are trying to get rid of residue and not rinsing enough only defeats the purpose. Then, dry them. That's it. Another way is to take a soft bristle brush with the Dawn and scrub your diapers and inserts with it. Then rinse, rinse, rinse.

Option B: Detergent Soak

Another great way to help your diapers with the “stinkies” is to soak them overnight in the detergent you use. This works especially well with detergents like Lulu's in the Fluff and Rockin' Green. Overnight soaking in your detergent is a little different than your regular wash routine. For one thing, you'll want to use more detergent.

For Lulu's in the Fluff use 4 tablespoons for the overnight soak. Why do you want to use more? Erin Powell from Lulu's in the Fluff put it this way, “Molecules have a natural tendency to try to equalize. You can control the 'concentration' factor by adding more detergent for a stripping session (i.e. Glamour Soak). By increasing the concentration, the detergent molecules will easier penetrate the diaper materials and any residue. (Not recommended for routine washing, only occasional soaks). The reverse is also true. If you have a high concentration of residue in diapers and plunge them in clear water (especially hot!), the residues will do their best to move into the area of lower concentration (the clear water).”

Lyn Mack says she uses Rockin' Green to soak her diapers overnight. “I have found that I love to strip my diapers by Rocking a Soak. I fill up my washer with the diapers and some Rockin' Green Hard Rock (we have hard water), and the hottest water I can get. Then I let everything sit and get all nice and happy and clean. I know it is working because I can watch the water get dirtier and dirtier. When they are done they just smell clean and look awesome!”

Crystal Biehl (who I stole the name of this article from...thank you, Crystal!) also soaks her diapers in Rockin' Green. She says, “I have found that letting my diaper inserts soak overnight in my Rockin' Green detergent and then washing as usual with 3 to 4 hot rinses, my inserts are left cleaner, whiter, and fluffier! I try to do this once a month. Since I started using this process 6 months ago, we've yet to have leak problems.”

If you use Rockin' Green to soak, you'll want to use 3 to 4 tablespoons in HOT water. Let them sit overnight, then wash and rinse...and rinse again.

Rockin' Green also has a product called Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer. This product was designed to get rid of the “stinkies”. For best results, they suggest soaking your diapers overnight in your detergent. Then, add 4 tablespoons of Funk Rock to the HOT wash and let them soak for 30 to 60 minutes. Wash and dry as normal. They also suggest using 1 tablespoon in your regular wash routine to help prevent odors.

Option C: Boiling your inserts

If your inserts are the stinky part you can boil them. You will not do this with your covers (especially PUL) as it will ruin them.   Also avoid boiling anything with snaps.  What you'll do is fill up a huge pot with water and put your clean inserts in. Depending on the size pot you have, you may only be able to do a few at a time. Allow them to boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then you'll want to rinse them in cold water. Then dry as normal.

There's one thing we all seem to agree on...HOT WATER. Erin puts it this way, “by adding heat to water, it adds energy. Energy causes molecules to move faster. Faster moving molecules can break up residues easier than slower (cold) molecules. Think about an auto accident. A car moving at 60 mph (hot water) causes much more damage to a guardrail (diaper residue) than a car moving at 10 mph. For stripping, use water as hot as you can get from the tap. Be aware that water temperatures above 130 degrees can cause damage to elastics and/or PUL. Water temperatures from the tap tend to be about 10 degrees less than what the hot water heater is set at. Also make sure that your diapers are un-done, un-stuffed, and/or opened up. That same car (hot water) has to slow down to navigate through the obstacle course (snapped settings, stuffed diapers, etc.), and it can't have the maximum impact on the residue.”

How do you keep from needing to strip your diapers?
  • First and foremost you need to decide if you are using a “cloth diaper friendly” detergent. If you are using just any grocery store detergent you can really put yourself in a pickle. A lot of these detergents contain enzymes, optical brighteners, fragrances and dyes that are unnecessary and will leave a residue on your diapers that can make them repel (which means they won't absorb liquid), stink, and leak. There are some great detergents approved for use with cloth diapers, i.e., Glamour Wash, Rockin' Green, Vaska, and Charlie's just to name a few. All of the detergents I listed are HE approved and are cost effective.
  • Secondly, make sure to rinse ALL your diapers/inserts after changing. Even if it's just urine. When you start your wash routine, make sure to do a cold rinse, followed by a HOT wash with a double cold rinse. Do that every time. It is important to nail down a washing routine.
  • Don't use too much detergent. I know you probably think I'm crazy, but you should use only the recommended amount. Throwing in an extra tablespoon of detergent can cause issues. 
I hope you've found this article helpful. I'd like to thank those who contributed...Erin Powell from Lulu's, Crystal Biehl, and Lyn Mack. Ya'll are awesome!!!

Happy Diapering!

Devin ♥

*Not related with absorbency or fit issues.