Stripping cloth diapers means removing any buildup that has accumulated over several months of cloth diapering so your diapers can function at their best again. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about stripping cloth diapers.
Do I Need To Strip My Diapers Before Using Them?
No. When you first get your diapers you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing before first use. For PUL diapers and covers that usually means 1 to 2 washes plus possibly running them through the dryer. For natural-fiber diapers such as bamboo fitteds or hemp pocket inserts, you often need to wash them 3 to 6 times before use to strip the natural oils out of the fabric and help them fluff up to their full absorbency. Prefolds often need to be washed and dried 10 times before their first use, to make them fully absorbent.
How Do I Know When To Strip My Diapers?
Cloth diapers only need to be stripped when they are not working properly due to some kind of buildup. If your diapers worked great for a while but then started leaking, or they have a lot of rash cream stuck to them, or they are stinking and not getting completely clean after being washed, then you may need to strip your diapers.
How Do I Strip My Cloth Diapers?
There are many ways to strip your cloth diapers, and they all are just different ways of removing buildup that has accumulated from rash creams, non-diaper-friendly detergent (meaning it’s full of fabric softeners, brighteners, or other additives that will coat your diapers and make them repel moisture instead of absorb it), or not getting the detergent completely rinsed out after each wash cycle. Here are my favorite ways to strip cloth diapers:
Basic Stripping Routine
Wash your diapers as usual, then run them through a hot wash with no detergent, followed by 3 to 4 rinse cycles until there are no detergent bubbles in the rinse cycle (this is hard to see in a front-loader, so just try 3 to 4 rinses and then see if your diapers are absorbing better and stinking less).
Stripping Routine for Rash Cream Buildup
If you use a natural rash cream that requires only a thin layer on baby’s skin, such as Burt’s Bees or California Baby, you shouldn’t have problems with your diapers getting rash cream buildup, even if you see little white spots on your pocket diaper linings. You know you have a rash cream buildup problem when your diapers start to leak and repel moisture instead of absorbing it. The best way to deal with these localized buildup issues is to take an old toothbrush and scrub Dawn dishsoap into the white spots, then launder as usual. Some people say you can strip your diapers by using Dawn as a detergent occasionally, but this both voids your washer’s warranty and is ineffective compared to scrubbing the buildup at its source.
Stripping Your Washer
Sometimes your diapers are doing okay, they’re not leaking, but they are stinking more than usual. If you have had a happy diaper routine up till now and are not dealing with major stink issues, you probably just need to strip any buildup of detergent or diaper yuckies out of your washer. The easiest way to keep your washer clean is to run an empty wash cycle on hot with 1 cup of vinegar every few months, or whenever you notice your good wash routine isn’t as effective as it used to be. Another way to very quickly strip even old Tide residue out of your washer is to run a few loads of regular laundry using a sample of soap nuts as your detergent. These natural dried berries work as a natural, biodegradable detergent that is so effective that it will pull the old detergent residue out of your washer and deposit it on your clothes for about 2 to 3 wash cycles, until all the residue is gone. You will know the residue is gone when your clothes stop smelling like Tide when they come out of the washer and start smelling like nothing. This means your washer is totally buildup-free and you can go back to washing your diapers as usual. I recommend you wash clothing when you’re doing this so you don’t have Tide residue deposited on your stash, which is the last thing you want!