Eww… what’s that smell? If you’re wondering this after your baby’s cloth diapers have just been washed, then there’s a good chance you’re dealing with mineral buildup. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean the cloth diapers are ruined. However, it probably means your cloth diapers need to be stripped. Learn more about cloth stripping, why it’s needed, and how this method can help renew your baby’s diapers.
What does Stripping Cloth Diapers Mean?
The term “stripping” sounds much harsher than it really is. Stripping cloth is simply a method to remove mineral or bacteria buildup to help diaper fabrics come out cleaner and more absorbent. Buildup often happens from washing your diapers regularly in untreated hard water. It can also happen from using too much detergent, fabric softeners or even from diaper cream.
How Often to Strip Cloth Diapers
Stripping nappies or cloth diapers doesn’t need to be a part of your regular washing routine. In fact, it can take a toll on fabrics, so it’s something you don’t want to do too often. Stripping only needs to happen under certain circumstances. With a proper laundry routine, there’s a chance you’ll never have to strip diapers at all.
When to Strip Diapers
How do you know you need to strip your cloth diapers? Here are a few good signs:
- The diapers retain a bad odor, even after they’ve been washed.
- The diapers seem okay when clean, but then stink really bad soon as your baby pees.
- The diapers seem less absorbent even after you checked (and double checked) for a secure fit.
- You’ve left the diapers sit unwashed for more than a few days and the smell coming from your diaper pail has reached a whole new level of stinky.
- You regularly wash diapers in untreated hard water. Hard water can lead to diaper buildup as the high mineral content can adhere to fabric.
- You just received secondhand cloth diapers. Unless you know for a fact the diapers have just been stripped, we recommend stripping used cloth diapers to remove any detergent, mineral or urine residues that may have been left behind
Instructions for Stripping Cloth Diapers
The process is really quite easy and only takes a few laundry stripping ingredients. To begin, make sure you start with clean diapers. For stripping modern cloth nappies, like fitted, pockets or AI2 diapers, you only need to strip the absorbent parts. If the diapers are flats, pre-folds or AIO diapers, you can strip the entire thing.
- Fill your tub or top-loading washing machine with hot water
- Add a laundry stripping solution to the water. There are a few options when it comes to this. Our recommended approach is always Option 1, but we’ve listed a few others that we know a lot of cloth diapering parents consider.
Option 1: Strip cloth diapers with Dawn dish soap
Many parents have found that stripping cloth diapers with Dawn dish soap is a gentle and effective way to remove residue and buildup from the fabric. To do this, just add one tablespoon of the original blue liquid Dawn dish soap to your tub or top-loader.
Option 2: RLR cloth diapers strip
Another popular method is an RLR soak for cloth diapers. To do this, add a packet of RLR detergent to hot water. One packet works for about 30 diapers, so you may need to adjust the amount depending on how many diapers you’re stripping.
Option 3: DIY cloth diaper strip recipe
Some parents make their own stripping solution. To do this, mix together 3 tablespoons each of washing soda, Borax and Calgon.
- Add diapers to your solution and stir or agitate the water. You might want to take an extra step of using a scrub brush and gently scrub the absorbent parts of the diaper to make sure the stripping solution really gets into the fabric.
- Soak diapers overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- Follow the strip by rinsing diapers thoroughly by hand or by running 2-3 rinse cycles in your washer until there aren’t any signs of soap or detergent left.
- Air dry the diapers in the sun. The sun acts as a natural disinfectant to remove bacteria and will help give diapers a clean, fresh scent.
How about Stripping Cloth Diapers with Bleach?
Unlike stripping, bleaching diapers is sometimes recommended by diaper manufacturers to help keep cloth diapers fresh. However, be sure to read the manufacturer’s warranty because it’s not recommended for all brands. If you’re wondering if you should bleach your cloth diapers monthly, check the manufacturer’s website.
Instructions for Stripping Charlie Banana Cloth Diapers
Many of the stripping methods mentioned above can be used on Charlie Banana Cloth diapers. If you do strip the pocket shells, avoid using very hot water as it can damage the waterproof outer layer. We also do not recommend using bleach on our diapers. Charlie Banana diapers do not usually stain, but if slight staining occurs, hang your diapers outside to dry naturally. Not only will you conserve energy, but your diapers will also benefit from natural sun bleach. For more specifics on caring for your Charlie Banana, check out these care instructions.
How to Maintain Cloth Diapers to Avoid Stripping
Want to avoid having to strip your diapers in the future? The best way to maintain cloth diapers is to immediately rinse them after they become soiled or keep them in a water pail before laundering. The faster you wash the diapers the better.
To prevent future ammonia smells, you can also wash with white vinegar or baking soda. To do this, just pour 1 cup of vinegar into a wet diaper pail and pre-soak the diapers or just pour it straight into the washing machine’s softener’s compartment before starting the wash. Or, add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to the softener’s compartment.
Treating hard water is also key to avoid diaper stripping. To do this, be sure to add water softener to your cycle every time you run a load.
The bottom line is laundering mishaps will happen. Very rarely will it completely ruin a cloth diaper for good. Thankfully, stripping diapers eliminates all that icky buildup so that diapers are as good as new.