June 2, 2010

Oops, WRONG detergent! Now what?

If you read yesterday's detergent post, then you know what to expect for today:  Your first choice of detergent resulted in leaking, smelling, rash, or even all three.  Now what?

Thankfully the answer is pretty easy, though it can take some time: a routine maintenance called stripping.  The idea is to strip the detergent residue out of the fabric.  Successfully done, it will improve absorbency, reduce odors, and help your baby stay rash-free.

If you google "stripping cloth diapers" you'll find dozens of ways to do it.  Some are easy, some are unbelievably complicated.  Some methods void warranties.  Here are the three methods I recommend most often.  These methods are accepted by most of the major cloth diaper brands.

1. Hot Water - try this one first...it's easiest!  Simply wash diapers and inserts as usual, then rewash in hot water 2-3 times with no detergent.  During the agitation cycle (preferably hot water agitation), look inside your washer.  If there are any soap bubbles at all, run another hot wash.  Repeat until water is absolutely clear.

2. Oxyclean - either the Regular or the Baby version will work.  Wash diapers as usual first, then rewash in hot water with the amount of Oxyclean recommended on the label (usually 1 scoop).  Rinse 2-3 times until water runs very clear.

3. Dawn dishsoap - this one is overall the most effective, but takes the longest.  Use original blue Dawn.  Wash diapers first, the rewash in hot water with 2 tablespoons Dawn.  Then rinse and rinse until water is clear.  This can take a while to wash out all the Dawn bubbles.  It's extra bubbly since it's not made for washing clothes, but it works very well to strip out detergent residue.  If you have hot water rinse, that will be faster.  If you can't get them bubble-free in 2-3 washes, then I recommend going ahead and using them, but running 2-3 washes when you wash them again.  That way it breaks up the number of washes needed to get the water to run clear and you can use them in between. 

Other popular methods include using RLR (little balls of detergent found in the detergent aisle) or soaking with Rockin' Green.  I haven't personally tried these methods, but I've heard great things about them.  These methods are also not mentioned much by the manufacturers, but I don't think they would void any warranties.

Just one last note: if you use dryer sheets or fabric softener with your regular laundry, it can transfer residue from the machine to your diapers.  Use the same methods to strip out fabric softener residue.  Then I recommend using a scoop of Oxyclean once every week or two to prevent buildup from occurring again.


I tried the Dawn method, but then I heard it can really mess up your washing machine since they aren't made to work together. just as a heads up. the Rockin' Green really does work. it works wonders on all sorts of clothes too, not just the cloth.

I had no luck with Rockin Green, but had excellent luck with Calgon. It did WONDERS for our diapers.

Also, I heard that you can't use OxyClean if you have ever used regular bleach on your diapers, is this true?

I've never heard of Oxyclean not being able to be used after bleach. I've done it before. BUT, I don't recommend using bleach on anything with PUL...it's very hard on the PUL and even a couple of uses seems to have an affect on the waterproofing.

The key with Dawn is to just use a tiny amount...no more than 2 tablespoons. Any more is going to be way too sudsy and that can overwhelm the machine's rinsing capabilities.

Once we're out of our box of Country Save, I plan to give Rockin' Green a whirl. I haven't tried it yet, but I have some clothes that will be a great tester!

I would never put Dawn in a high efficiency washing machine. (You should read the warranty; Dawn might even void it.) I stripped our diapers by hand using Dawn (very successfully, if a bit time-consuming) and then washed and rinsed them as normal in our HE front loader. I would rather spend a bit more time stripping diapers than potentially ruin an even more expensive household appliance. Luckily, after being more careful, I haven't had to strip them again.

Good point, Kansas Mom, thanks for commenting! I have only a top-loading washer; sometimes I forget how very different front-loaders are!

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I stripped my new to me (used) diapers from
diaperswappers.com in the bathtub. Ran HOT water only and 6 tablespoons (3T for washing and 6T for stripping) of Rockin' Green. I let them soak for 4 hours. Rockin' Green calls it Rockin' a Soak. Then I drained the water and transferred them to the washing machine for a rinse cycle. They are more absorbent than ever! I didn't know I had problem dipes until they got better!!!

I am gonna have to try this Rockin Green - thanks again!

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