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Choosing reusable cloth diapers is a big decision that can lead to a rewarding journey for you and your baby. But where do you start? Here are the most commonly asked questions on how to start your cloth diaper journey.

Nicki's Diapers is a family business founded by Nicki and later joined by her husband Jesse. As a husband and wife team, they worked together to ensure the highest quality products while following responsible environmental and social business practices. The company is now located in Akron, Ohio.

Stripping Cloth Diapers: How to Strip Diapers to Bring Them Back To Life

 

As you cloth diaper your little one, sometimes it becomes necessary to strip your diapers to freshen them up and bring them back to square one. If you’re unsure about how or when to strip your diapers, you’ve arrived at the right place! In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about stripping cloth diapers.

 

dirty cloth diapers that need stripped

What is diaper stripping?

If you’ve landed here you may be wondering what it means to “strip” a diaper. Different from your usual wash, stripping cloth diapers removes mineral and bacteria buildup.This is super important because that buildup can reduce the absorbency of your cloth diapers—hello, leaks! 


There is a number of things that can lead to buildup and cause the resulting unpleasant smells. Some of these things include an ineffective wash routine, untreated hard water, too much detergent, and even the wrong detergent.

 

baby wearing cloth diaper next to bucket for stripping cloth diapers

How to know if you need to strip cloth diapers?

Stripping your diapers only needs done in certain situations and shouldn’t just be part of your normal wash process. If you’re wondering how to tell if you need to strip your diapers, here are some things to look out for:


  • Unpleasant Smells: Be on the lookout (or smell-out, rather) for odors reminiscent of a fish tank, barnyard, or ammonia smells. If your diapers have one of these smells that just won’t go away even if the diapers are clean, then you should strip your diapers. If the smell isn’t persistent and just comes and goes, the resolution may just be to change up your detergent to amore cloth diaper friendly detergent option.

  • Rashes: If you notice that your little one is getting a lot of diaper rashes and you cannot pinpoint the cause, stripping your diapers may help. If the rash is due to buildup, then stripping the diapers should resolve the issue. However, if the rashes persist after stripping them, you’ll want to consider other factors such as moisture sensitivities, diet changes or sensitivities, medications, and teething.

  • Leaking Diapers: If your diapers are leaking frequently even with a good fit and well before the insert is fully saturated, then you may want to strip your diapers. It’s likely that your cloth diaper is experiencing those buildups. To make sure buildup is the problem, you can spill some water on the diaper and see if the diaper soaks it up quickly or not. Another method to test for buildup is to put a clean insert or diaper in a bowl of warm water and squeeze the water out; if the water gets cloudy then you have buildup and residue left behind that did not come out in your normal wash process.

 

learning how to strip traditional cloth diapers

What is causing the buildup?


There are many things that can cause buildup on your diapers; however, the majority of issues can be traced back to the following culprits:


  • Diaper cream: Unfortunately, not all diaper creams areclothdiaper friendly rash creams and can create a film of residue that acts as a barrier, blocking the absorbent fibers from doing their job. If you're not sure whether it's the problem or not, you can try switching to another type of cream and see if it makes a difference.

  • Detergent: When it comes to washing your cloth diapers, not all detergents are created equal, and not all are safe for babies. Usingcloth diaper-friendly detergent is important in helping avoid buildups. If you use detergent in your prewash, too much detergent in your main wash, or the wrong type of detergent, over time layers of detergent will develop on the surface of your cloth diapers. It often results in repelling liquid rather than absorbing it, especially with stay-dry diaper fabrics. To test it out, you can pour some water on the diaper's surface and check if repelling happens.


  • Water Type: It is possible that your household’s water could be the cause as well. Untreated hard water has a lot of minerals that get left behind on your fabrics as your diapers are getting washed. Not only do these minerals get left behind, but your washer then has a harder time getting all of the waste out of your diapers. Using water softeners or a detergent with softener in it can help with this! 

 

clean and folded cloth diapers that have been stripped

How often should you strip cloth diapers?

Stripping diapers shouldn't be a part ofdiapers' regular washing routine and it is only needed under certain circumstances because it can be hard on diapers. It should only be used to help you deep clean and set diapers back to their original state.


If you have hard water, are using weak detergent or one with heavy chemicals, or have an ineffective wash routine, you will need to strip your diapers more frequently than others. If you do find yourself needing to strip your diapers often, we recommend reaching out to our service team for help troubleshooting. 

What items should you strip and which ones shouldn't you strip?

One thing to keep in mind is not all cloth diaper products should be stripped. The rule of thumb is if it has absorbent material then it should be stripped. These would be: 


Other parts of your stash, like covers or all-in-twos, should not be stripped. These do not have absorbency, and stripping them can destroy the waterproof coat.

How to Strip Cloth Diapers

There is a number of different ways you can strip your cloth diapers—we always recommend starting with the least abrasive methods and then making adjustments as needed. You should remember to always start stripping with CLEAN diapers. If you start with dirty diapers, then everything you’re doing will simply work to remove the waste and such, rather than tackling buildup.


Use these methods to strip your diapers with little to no chemicals, keeping your fabrics safe in the process.

 

baby throwing cloth diaper in washing machine for cloth diaper stripping


Method #1: Detergent Free Washer Cycles

This method is effective for removing buildup without using any detergent or chemicals. Lots of products such as Borax, Oxy-Clean, and Rockin Green are harsh on cloth diapers—especially natural fibers—so we never recommend using them on your diapers. Use this method before trying any others! 


  1. Place your clean diapers in your washer.
  2. Run them through a hot wash cycle with no detergent (if you have hard water add calgon as directed on the container).
  3. Repeat this process 3-4 times (if you have hard water, we recommend only doing this 2 times).
  4. Dry your diapers on low heat, air dry, or dry them out on a clothesline.

 

Cloth diapers stripping in a tup

Method #2: Tub Wash with Dawn

Sometimes the buildup is too heavy for method #1 to get your diapers all the way back to square one. When this is the case, the next step is to bring in the handy blue Dawn dish soap. This soap is super gentle and effective for removing oils and other buildups!


  1. Fill your bathtub with hot water (keep in mind that it should be hot enough to clean them, but not so hot that you cannot have your hands in the water).
  2. Add a few drops of blue Dawn dish soap and mix gently. You want the dish soap to dissolve into the water, but you don’t want a Dawn bubble bath.
  3. Insert your cloth diapers and let them soak for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, hand wash your diapers, making sure to get as much dish soap out as you can.
  5. Run the diapers through 1-2 rinses in your washer with tap or cold water (no detergent) to get any remaining suds or leftover Dawn out of them.
  6. Tumble dry your diapers on low heat, air dry in the dryer, or dry them out on a clothesline.

 

using a washing machine for stripping cloth diapers

Method #3: Toothbrush and Dawn Scrub

In the event that you are still encountering some remaining stubborn buildup, you can use a toothbrush and Dawn dish soap to finish the job. The use of a toothbrush will help loosen any remaining buildup while still using a gentle cleaner.


  1. Start with Steps 1-4 of Method #2.
  2. Use a toothbrush and scrub with the Dawn anywhere you see lingering buildup. 
  3. Run the diapers through 1-2 rinses in your washer with tap or cold water (no detergent) to get any remaining suds or leftover Dawn out of them.
  4. Dry your diapers on low heat, air dry in the dryer, or dry them out on a clothesline.

Using these methods, you should be able to get your diapers refreshed and back to square one in no time—all with minimal chemical intervention! That being said, sometimes if the buildup is too heavy, these methods won’t quite remove all of the buildup. In the event that these methods do not work, as a last resort, you can use a laundry booster specific for cloth diapers, such as GroVia Mighty Bubbles.


When in doubt, if you have any questions along the way, always remember that our team at Nicki’s Diapers is here to help you be successful! We’re always happy to answer any questions, troubleshoot issues, and make recommendations. 


Happy Cloth Diapering from our Nicki’s Family to yours!