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About Stripping Cloth Diapers

Posted by on Mar. 7, 2009 at 9:32 PM
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Stripping Cloth Diapers

Stripping Cloth Diapers - Strip Cloth Diapers 

Over time you may notice that your cloth diapers no longer smell April fresh, even right after laundering. This usually means that they have build-up and need a good stripping. Build-up occurs when residue left by detergents, oils or other substances remain in the fibers. Diapers with either super-absorbant hemp or man-made materials like microfleece tend to gather stink more easily than diapers with all-natural fibers like cotton or bamboo. If the funky smell wasn't bad enough, build up can also decrease the absorbency of your diapers and cause leaking. But don't worry, removing build-up by stripping your cloth diapers is really easy - we'll show you how!

Stripping Cloth Diapers - Hot Water

If your diapers are dirty as well as stinky you should wash them before stripping, otherwise stains may be set in. Freshly washed diapers don't need to be dried before stripping, you can strip right after washing. Before stripping be sure to check the washing instructions for your diapers so you don't accidentally damage them.



Place your stinky diapers in the washing machine and run them through a hot wash with NO detergent. Top loading machines are slightly easier to use when stripping because you can lift the lid to check for bubbles. They may also be more effecient at stripping due to the large amount of water they use. However, front loading washers can also be used successfully, it may take more cycles plus a bit of creativity and a flashlight to see bubbles.

The water should be as hot as possible so you may want to turn your water heater up beforehand, or boil water on the stove to add to the washer. If you change your water heater temperature be sure to turn it back down afterwards!



Rinse, rinse, rinse your cloth diapers in the hottest water your machine will allow. Peek into the washer during the rinse to see if there are soap bubbles on top of the water. Continue running rinse cycles until there are no more soap bubbles. It could take four or more rinses to get rid of all the bubbles. Don't confuse soap bubbles with agitation bubbles - agitation bubbles will disappate quickly if you stop the washer while soap bubbles will hang around a bit.

If your machine allows for hot washes with hot or warm rinses you could substitute hot/hot or hot/warm wash cycles for the numerous rinse cycles. My machine only has hot/cold, warm/warm, warm/cold and cold/cold choices so I generally run a hot/cold cycle then a warm/warm cycle in place of two separate rinse cycles.

Stripping Cloth Diapers - Alternative Methods

Although stripping cloth diapers is generally done at home in the washing machine, there are other ways to strip.

Dishwasher Stripping

Some cloth diapering mamas have had success using the dishwasher to strip their cloth diapers. They claim that the dishwasher provides hotter wather than a washing machine. Due to the potential fire hazard we do NOT recommend this method of stripping. If you are worried that your water isn't hot enough, turn your water heater up or add some boiling water to the washer. Don't put snapping cloth diapers into the pot though, because the snaps may melt.

Laundromat Stripping

If you don't think you can get hot enough water at home, try stripping at a local laundromat. Most laundromats have hotter water and larger machines with greater water capacity than home washers. You may want to run an empty hot cycle before stripping in case there's detergent build-up inside the machine.

Stripping by Hand

You may want to try stripping by hand if you only have a few stinky diapers, but we don't recommend this method for a lot of diapers. Use the hottest water you can stand, and wear rubber gloves to insulate your hands and keep them from becoming sandpaper rough.

If Stripping Doesn't Work


If you've tried everything above and your diapers still scare the skunks away, maybe build-up isn't the problem. Consider these reasons:

Not Enough Detergent

So you've cut down on the amount of detergent you're using, you've stripped and stripped, but your diapers still stink? It could be that you're not using enough detergent. Try running a hot wash with a full cup of detergent then rinse, rinse, rinse.

Vinegar in Hard Water

If you have hard water and use vinegar the acid in the vinegar could be reacting with the minerals in the water and causing odor. Adding a water softener like Calgon to the wash cycle and cutting down or eliminating the vinegar may help in this case. Try 1/4 capful to begin with and use more or less as needed.

Stripping Cloth Diapers - Additives

Sometimes cloth diapers need a little more than plain hot water to get completely stripped. If your diapers are still leaking or a faint odor remains after hot water stripping, you may want to try some of these ideas. Because the effectiveness of these methods depends on what kind of water you have and what kind of diapers you use, these methods won't work for everyone. Keep trying until you find one that works for you. 


by Bi-O-Kleen is a natural alternative containing a unique blend of natural living enzyme cultures and botanical extracts. Bac-Out has been successfully used for stripping by some cloth diapering mamas, however other mamas have reported that their little ones developed a rash from diapers washed with Bac-Out. If you choose to use Bac-Out be sure to rinse a lot and keep an eye out for rashes. 

Baking Soda

has been trusted for over 100 years as an effective yet natural and gentle cleaner with no harsh chemicals. Baking soda natural effect is to balance pH, keeping things neither too acidic nor too alkaline, and it resists further changes in the pH balance. Add 1/2 to 1 cup to the wash cycle to neutralize and eliminate odors. Then rinse until there are no more bubbles. 

(washing soda is even more effective in my experience) 


and other water softeners can help with stripping by removing hard water minerals that trap dirt into fabric fibers. Calgon also helps to prevent detergent build-up, neutralizes the hard water minerals in your water, and contains no phosphates. Expect lots of bubbles when using water softeners, so be sure to rinse until they're gone. 

Dawn Dish Soap

Add a squirt or two of original Dawn dish soap to your washer and run a hot wash, then rinse until there are no more bubbles. Dawn is a degreasing agent and helps stripping by removing oily residue. If your microfleece is repelling (not allowing wetness to penetrate) try scrubbing a little Dawn right into the microfleece with a medium bristle brush. Be sure to rinse, rinse, rinse until the water runs clear. 


Use OxiClean to help remove residue and improve stripping effeciency. OxiClean is an alkaline laundry booster containing chlorine and phosphorus, and is safe for laundry. Try one to two scoops in your hot wash and as usual, rinse until there are no more bubbles. 


by Cadie is not a bleach, blueing agent, or detergent. It removes dried-in mineral deposits and detergent residue from fabrics, pulling the deposits out of the fibers and suspending them in the water until they gets rinsed out. It is gentle and safe for all fabrics and PUL, and it is free of perfumes. Add one envelope to the hot wash and - you guessed it - rinse, rinse, rinse! 

Sensi-Clean and Sports-Wash

are actually the same detergent, labeled differently to address different needs. Sensi-Clean and Sports-Wash do not contain perfumes or brightening dyes and have been proven to rinse completely clean leaving no residue on laundry. Add to your hot wash then rinse as needed. 

White Vinegar

naturally breaks down uric acid and soapy residue. The acid in white vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. It also prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew. Vinegar can be added to your final stripping rinse to remove the last of the detergent residue and to soften your cloth diapers - try 1/2 - 1 cup. Don't worry, your diapers won't smell like vinegar after they're dry.

Last Resort


Bleach is generally NOT recommended for diapers, but if you're at the end of your rope and it's a choice between using bleach or hating your cloth diapers, bleach may be the answer. If you've tried everything else and your diapers still stink, add a little bleach to the hot wash. And - say it with me - rinse, rinse, rinse!


Stripping Cloth Diapers - More Resources

If you're looking for a second opinion, check out these articles about stripping cloth diapers. They're very helpful!


Happy Cloth Diapering!

by on Mar. 7, 2009 at 9:32 PM
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by Fluff Master on Mar. 7, 2009 at 9:33 PM

How to Strip Cloth Diapers

By Amy Weekley, published Apr 05, 2007

From time to time, you may notice that your cloth diapers begin to smell a little funky, even fresh out of the wash. No, it doesn't mean that you aren't getting your cloth diapers clean - it just means that there is some build-up of oils and detergent residue in the fabric. This build-up will not only cause odor, but can also decrease the absorbency of your cloth diapers, creating leaks. You can eliminate the odor and leakage issues by stripping your diapers. This is a fairly simple process.

Stripping your cloth diapers: Step 1

First wash your cloth diapers as you normally would. It is important to start with clean diapers. If your diapers are soiled when you begin the stripping process, you may set stains in the fabric. Simply run your cloth diapers through a normal cold wash cycle with a small amount of detergent, and rinse as usual.

Stripping your cloth diapers: Step 2

Run your cloth diapers through a hot wash with no detergent. Turn up your water heater if necessary to make sure that the water is really hot (but be sure to turn it back down afterward for safety). Note: check washing instructions for your particular cloth diapers. If you are using all-in-ones or pocket diapers with waterproof covers, too-hot water may damage them.

You may want to use just a drop or two of original blue liquid Dawn dish detergent to this wash to help cut some of the oils, but it's not always necessary. You can also add a bit of baking soda to absorb odors.

Stripping your cloth diapers: Step 3

Be sure to do an extra rinse at the end of your wash cycle. Add some white vinegar to this final rinse to remove all detergent residues from your cloth diapers. Don't worry, your cloth diapers won't come out of the wash smelling like vinegar. When the diapers dry, all the vinegar smell will disappear.

Stripping your cloth diapers: Step 4

Rinse, rinse, rinse. Run your cloth diapers through as many rinse cycles as necessary until no suds appear. This may take up to three or four rinse cycles, or even more if there is a lot of detergent residue in your cloth diapers. Hint: to prevent detergent from building up too much, use one-fourth to one-half of the detergent you would use on a regular load of laundry when washing your diapers normally. Your diapers will still get clean, but there won't be as much residue left behind.

Stripping your cloth diapers: Step 5

Sunlight is a natural germ-killer and stain-remover. If you have access to an outside drying line, hang your cloth diapers in the sun to dry. If this isn't an option, it is not absolutely necessary - the previous steps in the wash are more important.

It may be necessary to strip your cloth diapers as frequently as once a week, or as little as once a month. Strip your diapers as often as necessary to keep them absorbent and fresh.

by Fluff Master on Mar. 7, 2009 at 9:34 PM

How to Strip Cloth Diapers, Get rid of stink and leaks!

By Katie Watson, eHow Member


Difficulty: Moderately Easy
Step one
Fill your washer with WARM water! Even if you're only stripping a few diapers, I usually use a large load setting for the water!
Step two
Put your diapers in the washer and let the cycle start moving for a minute.
Step three
Add a small amount of liquid dawn (dishwashing soap) to your wash. Make sure it is just plain dawn, no bleach or softening agents added.
Step four
Let the wash go for two minutes.
Step five
Add another small amount of dawn to the wash.
Step six
Keep adding soap little by little until you feel there is enough soap to wash the amount of diapers you are washing. You do not want to add too much soap at one time because it will make too many bubbles and this soap is not made for use in a washer, so you don't want overflowing bubbles in your house!
Step seven
Once the first wash is finished, keep running the wash over and over again ntil you see no soap bubbles in the wash!
Step eight
Once all the bubbles are gone, the stripping is done! Your diapers should be ready to go again like brand new!
by Fluff Master on Mar. 7, 2009 at 9:36 PM

by sarabear524 on May. 16, 2008 at 9:13 PM

I think stripping is only if they start repelling.  For odors, I've heard Tea Tree Oil in the Rinse.  Depending on the brand of Dipers vinegar has also been recommended.  I am experiencing a slight odor after washing too and am interested in reading the responses as well.



by NoUdderMilk on May. 16, 2008 at 9:21 PM

for odor i do 1/4 cup or less baking soda and vinegar in the fabric softener holder (i have a front loader so i guess you could put it in a downy ball or add it at a certain part of the cycle)


by Jessmomto2 on May. 17, 2008 at 11:51 AM

I have had great luck stripping with Calgon water softener.  I use 1 capful with hot water and nothing else.  It will get rid of mineral build-up and the resulting detergent build-up.  Nothing else has worked so well on microfiber for us. Repeat until no suds remain.

My second favorite is Oxi-Clean Baby version.  Use 1-4 scoops depending on your washer and load size with hot water.  It also helps disinfect them.  I use 1 small scoop in my front loader.

Some people also use Dawn dish liquid.  You only need 1 tbsp (unconcentrated version) in a front loader and rinse really well.  Again use hot water.


by LovemyQ on Jan. 26, 2008 at 7:29 PM

Have you ever looked under the softener cap?  Totally gross.  There is softener in there that is kind of thick and caked on, so yes, you may have buildup on the dipes because when the water goes through the softener part, even if it is empty the residue will get into your clean water.


by olivemonster on Jan. 26, 2008 at 10:32 PM

ok, the way to tell if you need to strip the diapers is to take a syringe of water and squirt it on the diaper. if it does not soak in immediately, then they need to be stripped.


by living on Aug. 14, 2007 at 11:59 AM

hmmmm, there are lots of ways to strip.  Some mommas even use the dishwasher if their dipes are *Hot* water resistant.  You can use dawn or the sports wash stuff you find in teh camping section at walmart.  I use dawn in a regular basis to wash my dipes, I just use enough till it's sudsy.  And wash your dipes in the warmest water that you are supposed to use with them.  And you kleep going through rinse cycles until you see absolutely no suds.  I would think you can still use the vinegar, it kind of has a stripping action itself. but you need to rinse a few times after.


by ClothDiaperMe on Aug. 14, 2007 at 4:27 PM

Don't strip unless you need too!!

I personally hold the theory that, if they aren't broke..............

It can start to ruin the PUL and elastic if done too often.

If you are going the dawn method, just a splash, and do 2 extra no soap rinses to make sure all the suds are out.

But really, if you are not having repelling/smell issues, don't worry about it.

Other options are the dishwasher, boiling water, and vinigar. All of which will harm PUL.


by aprileshowers on Apr. 9, 2008 at 3:14 PM

When i strip i run a cold rinse like i do always and then in the hot wash i add dawn instead of my normal soap. then i rinse twice. one time with vinegar and one time without. Of course you dont have to use the vinegar, but thats how i do my strip.


by Rebekka3 on Apr. 9, 2008 at 3:20 PM

We do the special striping wash then a normal wash.
Do a wash with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda in your washing machine on the highest water setting possible, also make sure you are using hot water and doing a double rinse. The double rinse gets the rest of the detergent out. The baking soda/ vinegar wash is something you can do to 'strip' the diapers. I would also recommend Country Save, we have had no problems with it! ^_^

*baking soda/ vinegar wash
*second rinse
*wash with detergent
    *hot water
    * highest water setting

For a normal load you should be doing:
*wash with detergent
    *hot water
    * highest water setting
*second rinse or another if needed
*dryer on low in dryer

by on Sep. 22, 2007 at 11:26 AM

My friend sent me how she strips her diapers. This works well for me also.

Repelling Issues*

If you are experiencing repelling issues in the diaper/trainer, then you need to strip out the offending substance and prevent future build up by determining what is causing it.

Possible culprits are detergents, diaper creams (use diaper liners and prewash them in hot separately from the diaper/trainers), hemp oils (don't wash hemp inserts with diapers until they have been boiled and ashed/dried at least 10 times), and hard water (get a water softener).

To strip these out, add a large pot of boiling water to your wash cycle (be very careful not to burn yourself or your child - maybe use two smaller pots and make sure your walkway is clear). Wash once with a tsp of Dawn dish washing detergent and the boiling water followed by an extra rinse. If you are dealing with detergent build up, start them on another wash cycle with no detergent and agitate for a few minutes, then look at the water to see if you have bubbles - if there are bubbles, repeat the boiling cycle (keep doing this until all bubbles are gone). If you are dealing with ointment, oil, or hard water build up, the bubble test won't work. If the repelling issue is not solved by doing the boiling/Dawn
cycle once, try again as a second time should do the trick.

Odor Issues*

Leaving diapers/trainers or inserts in a pail too long or improper washing methods can lead to odor issues. You need to strip the diapers/trainers/inserts by following the same instructions as above for repelling. Boiling water has been proven to remove even the most nasty
odor problems.

To prevent this from happening again, be sure you are using an approved detergent, use vinegar in the rinse OR baking soda in the wash (but DON'T use them both as that causes odor problems due to build up), wash at
least every 4 days, and/or rinse soiled diapers and trainers more thoroughly.



by mommybug02 on Jun. 22, 2008 at 9:40 AM

We were having that same issue and stripping did help some but we've had to revamp our wash/rinse cycle and do 2 extra rinses, the first with vinegar and the second just water. This is what took away the ammonia smell and the rash for us. HTH

I just filled the bathtub with HOT water and dawn dish detergent and scrubbed the diapers around in there and then tossed them in the washer, did wash/rinse cycle, rinse cycle with vinegar (2 times), then 1 final rinse just water.


by MamaRudey on Mar. 18, 2008 at 5:57 PM

I always used one GOOD squirt of Dawn Original, a hot load then washed on warm till no suds.. does that make sense?


by Noahs-Mom on Sep. 13, 2007 at 9:35 PM

When you wash your CD you have to use a small amount of soap. There is a reaction that can happen if you use to much or of the builds up over time where it seems to lock on the smell of urine.
I have tried a few things. I have done the oils in the rinse water. That's done by boiling water and adding essential oils in the water then add the water to the rinse cycle.
This helped for awhile but then Noah smelled like urine and oil.
At the suggestion of my SIL I did a second wash cycle with a small amount of liquid dish soap. This does seem to remove and any extra smells and soap that maybe left behind.
I have to warn you.... Rinse well after doing this. I am sure I overdo it but I put them through another wash cycle with just water and then a secondary rinse cycle to be safe.

Like I said it maybe overkill but it is pointless if dish soap is left in them.

I hope this helps... OH I also use Borax all natural laundry additive with the first was cycle....


by ophelia_bliss on Sep. 14, 2007 at 9:41 PM

I use to strip once a month in my dishwasher. Everything with snaps on top. Prefold & everyting else where ever. Making sure to cover the Jet Dry. Running two cycles & stoping before the dry cycle. Open the door half way through for the bubble factory!
 But now I just wash everything with a squirt of plain Dawn. I gave up on pockets. So we just use  prefolds cotton  & hemp, varius covers, wool every now & then.

by Diapermakinmama on Apr. 7, 2008 at 9:20 PM

Here i what I do  I also have a FL  HE washer

hot rinse with vinegar
longest hotest cycle you have
3 regular wash cycles on hot. 

If your diapers are really really stinky I have heard that boiling a couple at a time works wonders.

Bleach helps but is not necessary.  As long as you are rinsing enough the bleach should be unecessary.




by aprileshowers on Apr. 7, 2008 at 9:24 PM

a bit of dawn dish washing liquid with HOT water. rinse with vinegar, then rinse some more.



by Jessmomto2 on Apr. 8, 2008 at 7:33 AM

If you have hard water you will need to use Calgon to remove minerals and etergent build-up.  We have hard water and a FLer.  I have tried the oxi-clean and hot water methods with no luck, because of the hard water. 

Use 1 capful of Calgon and very hot water.  Run a full cycle this way.  Warm rinses are best.  Continue to do it until all suds are gone, only using 1/2 capful of Calgon, for the susequent cycles.  This is all that has worked for us.  Good luck!



by nygirlie22 on Oct. 11, 2007 at 1:04 PM

you can also use charlies soap. That is what I had to do and now that it the only detergent I use at all. To strip I had to pretreat the diapers with the charlies soap, then soak them for at least an hour, then do a heavy duty hot wash. They have been great since. (after I stripped my washer too).



by Liz_24 on Jul. 15, 2008 at 3:36 PM

That's exactly what I did. It seemed to help my prefolds a little. I had a lot of vinegar build up from the vinegar rinse. You need to boil them for a good while though, depending on how many you have in there.



by amandajoy21 on Aug. 31, 2008 at 1:18 PM

Check  the website for the diapers you bought it should tell you how to strip them. Also look at what detergent you use because some can actually make smells worse and try using a detergent with baking soda and in the rinse with the TTO add about a 1/4 Cup of white vinegar it will help with the smells and remove and left over soap residue since you can't use fabric softener. I have also heard letting the diapers line dry also helps.



by supercrafty on Sep. 1, 2008 at 7:14 AM

If they smell as soon as she wets them, it means they need to be stripped.  If they smell after they've been sitting in the diaper pail for a day or two it just means it's time to wash them.  That's my experience anyway.  The ammonia smell is always the worst at the bottom of the diaper pail and nonexistent in the diapers at the top.  I use some baking soda with essential oil (tto or sweet orange oil) sprinkled in the bottom of the pail and over every few diapers.  It seems to help a bit.  IF anyone knows of a way to eliminate the ammonia smell, I would be very curious to know!




by Dawn-Kiame on Sep. 2, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Now that I use baking soda in the wash and vinegar in the rinse, I don't have this problem anymore. And I've never stripped my dipes.  I use a tiny amount (about a tsp) of All Free & Clear, about a tablespoon of baking soda, and about 1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse.  HTH



by reddawn1975


on Dec. 23, 2008 at 10:04 AM

Also to add to the very last resort with stinky diapers:

Remember with bleach, less is more! Start out with 3/4 cup or less for a full load and rinse, rinse, rinse! Also not that I do this often but the few times I have I allow the washer to fill completely with water and agitate a little before adding my diapers. This allows the bleach to work it's way through the water and be less concentrated and thus your diapers will have less harm with this way. Or for that matter any cloth/clothes. Of course I don't have a bleach spot and I don't have a new front loader ether so if your machine has this you may be able to just add it to the bleach spot.

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