Updated on November 26, 2015
How & 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 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.
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.
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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