How & When to Strip Cloth Diapers

How and When To Strip Cloth Diapers

If you’ve been cloth diapering for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “stripping” being thrown around. You may even hear it often enough to think it’s something you should be doing on a regular basis. Although stripping has its place in the world of cloth diaper laundry, it is NOT something you want or need to be doing on a regular basis. That being said, there are still times when stripping cloth diapers can be a useful tool to bring life back into diapers that are perhaps not performing as they should. There are a few reasons that a diaper may not perform as intended. Maybe you’ve got a stink in your stash, mineral build up from hard water, or you’ve bought previously loved diapers and don’t know their laundering history. In all of those situations, stripping your diapers can be a great tool. If you’re switching from a gentle detergent to a mainstream detergent for your diapers because of stink or absorption issues, you should do a strip to ensure any leftover build up is removed.

What exactly is stripping? Stripping refers to the removal of mineral build up and overall gunk from cloth diapers. If your wash routine is working as it should, you should never need to strip, but sometimes you just don’t get started with a great wash routine right off the bat, your water hardness changes (it does that throughout the year), or you’ve bought some previously loved diapers that you want to “reset”. What is mineral build up? Mineral build up is when the naturally occurring minerals in your tap water (calcium, for example) get deposited into the fibres of your cloth diapers. This is most often an issue if you have hard water, but is completely preventable with a good wash routine that factors in your water hardness. What about “overall gunk”, what’s that? If your wash routine isn’t working as it should, urine can be left behind in your diapers. Over time, that urine can build up and cling to mineral build up or the fibres of the diaper materials themselves. You’ll know if this is happening to your diapers because they will stink something fierce after they are peed in. The solution to getting rid of mineral build up or “overall gunk” is stripping.

How and When To Strip Cloth Diapers

How should you strip your diapers? I’ll start by telling you how not to strip your diapers. Do NOT use blue Dawn dish soap to strip your diapers. Please. For starters, it’s a dish soap and is not intended to be used on fabrics, especially not ones that are going to be touching the most sensitive skin on your baby. Aside from the fact that Dawn will not eliminate mineral build up or “overall gunk”, it can wash away the grease on the gears in your washing machine. Using any dish detergent in your washing machine voids its warranty, and can greatly shorten the life of your machine. Just don’t do it.

How and When To Strip Cloth Diapers

There are excellent products available that are designed specifically for stripping mineral build up out of clothing and cloth diapers. The two products that I recommend are RLR and Grovia’s Mighty Bubbles. Both work great and are safe to use on all cloth diaper materials. RLR is available in packets or a package of two balls. Grovia’s Mighty Bubbles are available in packs of 5 or 10 pods. With either option, you’re going to use three packets/balls/pods for one strip. You can generally strip up to 60 diapers in one go (a pocket diaper shell and one insert count as one diaper). If your diaper covers/shells are made entirely of PUL, they don’t need to be stripped as there is nothing for the minerals to cling to. If your covers do have a layer of material in them, then they should be stripped along with the inserts.

How and When To Strip Cloth Diapers

Here are the instructions for stripping cloth diapers:
1. Fill the bath tub half full of HOT water.
2. Add three RLR packets/balls and half a cup of laundry detergent, or three Grovia Might Bubbles pods, and stir.
3. Add the diapers and stir.
4. Soak for 4-8 hours, stirring occasionally.
5. Drain the tub and run the diapers through one hot wash cycle without detergent.

If you have an HE washing machine, you will need to do the stripping in the bath tub. If you have an old school top load washing machine with the central agitator, you can do the stripping in the machine. Just fill to the largest load size on hot, pause the machine, and follow from step 2 above.

It is generally good practice to follow a strip with a disinfecting bleach soak. When stripping due to stink issues, the strip pulls build up from the core of the diapers. The disinfecting bleach soak will kill off any harmful bacteria that has been brought to the surface.

Have you ever needed to strip your cloth diapers? What did you use to do it and did you find it effective?

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29 Comments on “How & When to Strip Cloth Diapers

  1. I’ve always read to do a bleach after a strip? Should I be putting bleach In my reg wash?
    Thanks for u help!

    • Yes, you typically want to do a disinfecting bleach soak after a strip. That post is coming! You don’t need to be adding bleach to your wash cycle though.

  2. Thank you so much! I’m currently cloth diapering baby #4 and he has gotten a horrible “diaper rash” which both of my girls also started suffering at this age. I didn’t realize and neither did our doctor that it’s most likely ammonia burns. One daughter ended up with scars from it and was sensitive to disposables, so had rashes with those too. I’ve stripped, bleached, and washed half of his diapers so far and they look and smell so much better! I was about to just give up and use disposables.

  3. Thank you for all the information on cloth diapers! I have found your site extremely helpful since getting back into the world of cloth diapers with baby #2. I was just wondering if I need to wash the diapers and inserts before stripping them?

  4. 3 days ago I noticed a very strong ammonia smell on my soiled cloth diapers – I immediately put them in the wash and then did a Grovia mighty bubbles treatment. They smelled clean coming out but once they were soiled again they still smelled of ammonia! My mom says bleach, but I was terrified! I’m going to follow your instructions straight away. thank you!

  5. Is there a reason you do the mighty bubbles in the tub instead of using the instructions on the package? I did 3 got cycles back to back, each with one mighty bubbles pod.

  6. Hi! I have a question: my daughter has a super sensitive bum so I put a regular diaper rash
    cream on at night just as a precautionary measure. I put a fleece liner on to protect the diaper, but I’ve just been throwing them in with the wash. Should I wash them separately? Do I need to strip my diapers because of it?

  7. In the instructions you say or laundry soap. Is it enough to just strip with tide free? I have received used diapers and know they have been used in hard water. But I am having a hard time finding the water softener detergent.

    • Hi Laura!
      To strip you need a stripping agent. You can use RLR or GroVia Mighty Bubbles as a stripping agent. Detergent (Tide) alone will not strip diapers. After stripping previously loved diapers, you’ll need to disinfect them with a disinfecting bleach as well.

  8. I have gallon bag full pf RLR that I bought from a co-op group I used to belong to. Any idea what measurement I would need to do this strip method?

  9. Hi. I have a question about the stripping. I think my diapers, after years of use, are leaking because I have hard water. Doesn’t it defeat the purpose if I strip them in the same hard water? Or will it still work? I can’t get calgon anymore here in Canada. What do you recommend? Thanks

    • Hi Janine,
      The product you use to strip will prevent the hard water from depositing minerals in the diapers. As I mention in the post above, you can use RLR (3 packs or 3 balls) or GroVia Mighty Bubbles (3 pods) to strip cloth diapers. You’ll want to follow the strip with a disinfecting bleach soak. The full instructions for stripping are in the post above. 🙂

  10. In terms of the disinfecting bleach soak, do you do that before or after the hot water/no detergent cycle? I have an HE machine so I have to do soaks in my utility tub. How long would you recommend for the bleach soak?

  11. Your above instructions mention using detergent with the RLR but not with the GroVia Bubbles. Is this the case or will I need detergent with the bubbles as well? Thanks!

  12. I recently bought 15 total previously loved cloth diapers from someone on Facebook. In the stash I believe there are 10 covers (6 Nicki’s Diaper Covers, 2 “Imagine”, 1 “Thirsties”, 1 Wolbybug) and 5 AIO diapers (2 BumGenius Freetimes, 1 Bumgenius elemental, 1 Bottombumpers, and 1 Grovia/CozyBums.)
    A few burp clothes, swaddle/receiving blankets and inserts were given to me as well. (I was curious if I could use the burp cloths and receiving blankets as stuffers to save on money?)
    So, anyway my question is;
    Will the stripping and/or bleach soak negatively affect any of the covers or diapers or other items, considering the different types of materials used (Freetime having microfiber inserts that are sewn into the diaper vs. Elemental being fully lined with 100% organic cotton, for example) and opposing care instructions between brands, such as no bleach?
    I have no information on their previous wash routine, but they smell and look great and appear to be very gently used.
    It would really comfort my Mommy worries before the baby gets here to completely strip and bleach them but I also worry about it ruining the materials and effectiveness of the diapers, especially the organic cotton and I’ve also read very opposing views on the bleaching method.
    Also, considering the few covers and diapers I have, how should I adjust the amounts of the stripping agents (RLR etc) and bleach?

    Any insight would be appreciated!!!

  13. Is it possible to still have ammonia build up after doing only a bleach soak to get rid of yeast? Thank you for such an informative page!

    • If the diapers smelled like ammonia when peed in, then you’d typically need to strip first then bleach (and double check that your bleach says “disinfecting” somewhere on the label and is less than 6 months old).

      Tide Original Powder can eliminate an ammonia problem all on its own sometimes. You’d do 3-5 back to back main cycles with the full amount of tide original powder (line 4). If that doesn’t kick the ammonia, stripping then bleaching would be needed.

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