Stripping Cloth Diapers: Part 2

POSTED ON 2013-11-20

This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Stripping Diapers: Part 1 is available here.

In part 1 of this post, I talked about using hot water to strip your diapers. Although this method works well for detergent and urine residue, there are other sources of residue and sometimes hot water just doesn't cut it.

If this simple method doesn't work, don't give up...there are some other way to solve your leaky, stinky problems. The stripping method required will depend on a few factors such as the amount of build-up, the type of residue and also the hardness of your water. Since we often don’t know what is causing it, I always suggest trying the simplest method and work up from there.

For all these methods, the key is using a lot of hot water and agitation. If possible, set your washer's water level, temperature and agitation level as high as possible. Also make sure your diapers are clean before you strip them. They don't need to be dry...but they have to be clean.

1. Detergent

This method can be used for regular maintenance or to remove excessive mineral or detergent build up. Fill your washer with hot water and the recommended amount of a cloth diaper safe detergent. For example, I use 3 TBSP of Rockin’ Green Cloth Diaper Detergent. Add your diapers and let them soak for 30-60 minutes then launder as usual, skipping the soap. Once they are washed, rinse them several times until no more suds remain. If your diapers have excessive build-up, it may take a few soaks to get them in good condition. If you have really hard water, you may find a quick soak before every wash helpful.

2. Stripping Agents / Ammonia Bouncers (Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer or Laundry Tarts Strip It!)

Stripping agents, also called Ammonia Bouncers, remove residue from detergent and ammonia (from urine) as well as sources of other bad odours. This method involves soaking your diapers in hot water and the stripping agent for a period of time. Please follow the directions on the package.

3. Water Softener

Water softeners such as RLR or Calgon help remove mineral deposits and detergent build-up. Mineral build-up is common in hard water areas. Wash your clean cloth diapers with hot water with one package of RLR or half the recommended Calgon added to the wash. Both these products will cause a lot of foamy suds. Continue washing and rinsing with hot water until you don’t see any more filmy water or suds in the washer. It usually takes between 2 – 4 rinses.

4. Dish Soap (Dawn Original - Blue)

NOTE: Use dish soap with caution. This method should be used only when all other options have been exhausted and your diapers are still leaking. It may be necessary to bring out the Blue dawn when your mother-in-law decides to slather zinc based diaper cream on your little one's bottom. Dawn Original dishwashing soap (the blue, non-concentrated formula) may be necessary to get rid of diaper creams, lotions or oils that may be coating the fibres of your diapers. Original Dawn acts to cut through and wash away grease and oils that may be causing the problem, however it also contains a few ingredients that are not recommended for use with cloth diapers.

Wash your clean diapers with hot water with no detergent. Add a small amount of Dawn. Keep adding soap little by little until you feel there is adequate soap for the number of diapers. Don't add too much soap at one time or the washing machine might overflow. This dish soap is NOT low sudsing and is not meant to be used in the washing machine so keep on eye on it, especially if you have a high efficiency washing machine. After the initial wash with Dawn, wash 1-2 more times on hot (without adding soap) and then rinse with cold until there are no more bubbles. It usually takes 2-4 rinses.

5. Vinegar

NOTE: Use vinegar with caution. Some diaper companies do not recommend adding vinegar to the wash since it is acidic and it could damage the waterproof PUL. When used with caution, distilled white vinegar naturally breaks down uric acid and soapy residue and can be used to remove mildew, mold and strong odours. Vinegar is likely not necessary unless you develop consistent problems with smelly diapers, residue build-up, mildew or mold. Also, if you have hard water, using vinegar can cause your diapers to stink even more. If you use vinegar and you notice your diapers start to smell worse, discontinue use.

Add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to your final stripping rinse to remove residue, urine, mold and mildew (and soften your cloth diapers!). It is a good idea to dilute the vinegar before adding it to the rinse cycle. I hold 1/2 cup of vinegar under the stream of water as the washing machine fills up for the rinse cycle. You could also use a Downy Ball or the fabric softener dispenser in your washing machine.

6. Bleach

NOTE: Chlorine bleach should be used with extreme caution. Chlorine bleach is very corrosive and will break down the fabric fibres and shorten the life of your diapers. It could also be harsh and irritating to your baby's delicate skin. However, bleach is very effective in getting rid of bacteria. Bacteria can cause diaper rash, infection and smelly diapers. BumGenius, recommends using 1/4 cup bleach with your regular wash once a month. AppleCheeks however strongly advises against the use of bleach on their products. In fact, using bleach will void their warranty. I would suggest contacting the manufacturer before using bleach on diapers. 

These are some methods I have used and/or researched. If you have a stripping success (or failure) story, I'd love to hear about it. What has worked for you? Any good mother-in-law / diaper cream stories?