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How to Strip Your Cloth Diapers

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Let’s get serious. If you are having issues with your diapers, it is time to strip them. This means you are removing gunk that has attached to the fibers over time. Your diapers should smell fresh and clean when you take them out of the washer, dryer, or off the line. It is important to use a non-scented detergent free of optical brighteners so that it won’t hide/mask any flaws in your wash routine. If your diapers have yuck on them, you want to know it so it can be fixed before it causes a rash on your baby’s bottom or the smell gets so bad you feel like throwing your cloth diapers in the trash.

The most common reason to strip cloth diapers is that they don’t smell fresh. This can happen when they come out of the dryer or more commonly after baby pees in them. This is called ammonia or barnyard and can be caused from bacteria or hard water minerals over time. There are many different factors that allow this to happen: Washing too many diapers at one time, not using enough detergent for the soil level, not using a strong enough detergent (most often homemade detergents or ones with little surfactant), using too much water (giving diapers little to agitate against and diluting the detergent), not drying diapers completely (causing mold/mildew), not using a long enough wash cycle, or failing to do a pre rinse (therefore washing your diapers with urine and poop particles still in the fabric). Take a second look at your wash routine and adjust accordingly.

Now that you know what smells to look for, make sure you smell your baby’s diaper when you take it off to avoid a problem sneaking up on you. The earlier you catch it the faster you can avoid ever needing to strip your diapers. The truth of the matter is that no matter how solid your wash routine is some people need to strip their diapers at least once or twice before their kid potty trains.

The Process-

There are many ways to “strip” your diapers. A few of our favorites are listed below and we hope you find one that works best for you. If you are still having trouble please contact your local diaper store or diaper manufacture.

Using Bleach

Bleach kills all bacteria including yeast and staph. If used too often your diapers will break down over time causing unnecessary wear on all parts of the diaper. Use sparingly and look over your diaper routine if you have recurring issues. Nervous? The makers of BumGenius recommends ¼ cup bleach in the hot wash once per month. Most diaper manufactures are against the use of any bleach but almost all of them will give you instructions to use it if the baby had yeast, including brands like Gro-Via and Rumparooz. It will not fade the color of pul or tpu but will slightly fad hemp, bamboo or unbleached cotton.

  • Instructions: Simply add plain ol unscented bleach to your bleach dispenser next time you wash. You still need to use detergent because bleach and detergent work hand in hand. If you don’t have a bleach dispenser make sure to dilute it in the machine before adding your diapers. Be sure to add an extra rinse at the end. Your diapers will still smell like bleach for a few washes. If that bothers you feel free to start the cycle over with detergent to help get rid of the smell.

FYI: Bleach alternative or color safe bleach doesn’t have the same effect and will not work in the same manner as bleach. It will however whiten or boost your detergent if that is what you are going for. Make sure your unscented bleach has instructions for sanitizing on the back and you’ve got the right thing.

Using Tea Tree oil

Info: Tea Tree Oil (TTO) is known for being able to remove bacteria and yeast. It is an affordable essential oil and great for many uses other than laundry. There are lots of essential oils may be used but this one is most common.

  • Instructions: Simply add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil next time you wash. Let your machine agitate a bit and then stop it and let it soak for at least 4 hours, overnight is better. (If you have a front loading machine, soak them in a bath tub or bucket.) After the soak allow the machine to finish the cycle. Then wash them again with detergent to remove any leftover essential oil.

Mineral Strip

Info: If funk is coming from a buildup of hard water minerals, a non-clean rinsing detergent, or your diapers just need a deep down clean try a mineral strip.

  • Instructions: Soak your diapers in something that will soften water and remove gunk for 4 hours or overnight: Try “Funk Rock”, “Mighty Bubbles” or “Charlie’s Booster”. (If you have a front loader, soak them in a bath tub or bucket). Allow a wash cycle to finish then rinse hot repeatedly until you aren’t noticing any soap bubbles. Usually 2 or 3 times is plenty. You can skip the cold rinses and just allow the machine to agitate the diapers in hot water then spin. You can also add tea tree oil during the soak if you want to kill bacteria as well.

Tips: (because you will read a lot on the internet)

  • 1.Never boil your diapers. I guess it wouldn’t hurt 100% cotton prefolds or flats but we still don’t recommend it. It will stiffen natural fiber diapers and make microfiber less absorbent. It can ruin elastic and pul.
  • 2.Never soak your diapers in things that aren’t mean for fabric.
  • 3.Never pour bleach directly on your diapers undiluted. 



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