Stripping Cloth Diapers: Pick Your Method

August 20th, 2007

Do I Need to Strip My Cloth Diapers?
If you are noticing a strong odor coming from your cloth diapers after they have been soiled, you may need to strip your diapers. Even if the cloth diapers smell fresh after laundering but a strong, ammonia-like odor emanates from them after being used, this is a sign of needing to be stripped.

How Did This Happen?
Stripping cloth diapers is really regular maintenance. Because cloth diapers are absorbant, they are bound to absorb detergent in their many layers. When cloth diapers get a build-up of detergent residue in their layers, a strong odor is created when the diapers become soiled. There are a few ways cloth diapers can get detergent build-up: If the water you wash your diapers in is hard, the detergent may not rinse out thoroughly which will cause a build-up of detergent. Using too much detergent in the wash can also cause the diapers to have a detergent build-up. Stay away from pure castile soaps like Dr. Bronner’s because these will leave a residue on your diapers.

Not using enough detergent can also be a problem. So either way you look at it, you are probably going to need to strip your cloth diapers. One way to keep your cloth diapers from getting a detergent build-up too quickly is to use a second rinse after the wash is completed. If you live in an area with hard water, try using a 1/4 cup vinegar in the rinse; this helps soften the water, allowing more detergent to rinse out of the diapers. You can get a downy ball in the laundry aisle at the grocery store and add vinegar to that, throw it in the wash and it will dispense at just the right time.

How to Strip Cloth Diapers
Stripping cloth diapers is a rather simple process and there is more than one way to do it. There are products available to help with stripping diapers but they aren’t always necessary. I have stripped cloth diapers before using my washing machine, cold water and several rinse cycles. But, here are the stripping methods that I have found to be most effective and safe for just about any cloth diaper.

Method #1: Simple, Routine Stripping
On a regular basis I do some maintenance stripping. All you need to do is set your washing machine on a heavy duty cycle with a hot wash and don’t add any detergent. Add your clean cloth diapers. When the washer is done filling and it begins to agitate, open the lid and check for any suds in the water. Even if you see a layer of film you will want to repeat the wash cycle again until you no longer see any detergent in the water during agitation.

Once you no longer see detergent in the water your diapers have been stripped. See, that was easy. Now that your diapers are shiny clean, make sure you are washing your cloth diapers correctly.

Method #2: RLR Treatment
RLR Laundry Treatment is a water softener and is available in most major grocery stores and online. It is totally safe, free of phosphates, bleach and other harsh chemicals. What it does is remove mineral deposits and detergent build up. When you use RLR Laundry Treatment, wash your clean cloth diapers on a hot wash with one package of RLR added to the wash. You will most likely see a lot of foamy white suds. Continue washing and rinsing on the hot cycle until you don’t see anymore filmy soap in the washer. It is best to use a heavy duty cycle because you get a stronger agitation which can help release more detergent build up into the water.

Method #3: Stripping Fleece Pocket Diapers
Synthetic materials like fleece often don’t rinse out very well. This can cause pocket diapers to have an odor and the build up can cause them to repel which will result in leakage. Using diaper creams without using a liner against the fleece can also cause repelling issues. In this case, there is a little bit more labor involved.

If you find that your pocket diapers need stripping you need to do it by hand. First soak the pocket diapers in hot water with some dawn dish soap for about 30 minutes. Then take a soft scrub brush and scrub the entire layer of fleece both inside and out. Then wash the pocket covers in the washer until you don’t see any soapy residue left in the water.

How to Avoid Detergent Build Up in Cloth Diapers
Avoiding detergent build up in cloth diapers is just about impossible. If you use and wash your diapers enough, they are bound to absorb detergent and need stripping. But, you can prolong the time between stripping diapers by giving your cloth diapers an extra rinse after the complete wash cycle has finished.

Choosing the right detergent can also make a difference but users of cloth diapers and manufacturer’s opinions vary widely on the best detergents to use.

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