October 29, 2012

How and when to STRIP your Cloth Diapers.

If you use cloth diapers for any significant length of time, odds are, you are going to have to strip them at some point. Most of the time, diapers are stripped for one of the following reasons. The first reason is repelling; over time, diapers can lose absorbency and may even start leaking. The second reason is stink, most often, ammonia stink. The final reason diapers may need to be stripped is usually accidental, i.e. fabric softener was unintentionally added to a load of diapers or non CD-safe diaper rash cream was used. Basically, the need to strip cloth diapers is usually some form of build up causing problems. However, there are some cloth diaper users who preemptively strip every so often in order to prevent future issues.

Hot Water

The most basic of all the stripping techniques is simply using hot water. Diapers are run through repeated wash cycles with just hot water, no additives, until the water is clear. *Diapers should not be washed or stripped with water exceeding 150 degrees.  Please consult your diaper manufacturers warranties and care instructions before proceeding.


Probably the most popular stripping method is to use regular blue Dawn dish soap. A couple of squirts in a hot water wash cycle, no detergent added, can be effective at removing build up. This usually causes lots of suds and takes several rinses for the water to be completely clear. In the past when I stripped with Dawn, I didn’t get many suds. I ended up applying Dawn to each diaper individually, rubbing them until they were sudsy, and then leaving them in a sink of hot water to soak overnight.


Many people are skeptical to use bleach on cloth diapers, but actually, Cotton Babies recommends monthly bleach treatment of their products. Around ¼ cup of bleach is added to a full load of diapers with no detergent, and then rinsed until the water is clear. For me, this method produced many more suds than stripping with Dawn and took at least 5 rinses to completely rinse out.


RLR Laundry Treatment was suggested to me when none of the previous stripping methods had solved my ammonia problem. It can be ordered from several well known online cloth diaper retailers and is relatively inexpensive. Mine came in a packet that was added to the hot wash cycle with no detergent, and then the diapers were left to soak. And then, you guessed it, rinse, rinse, rinse, until the water is clear. This method can be very effective if build up is caused by mineral deposits from your water.

Brand Specific Funk Remover

Many cloth diaper and cloth diaper detergent manufacturers make a product that removes build up/ammonia/general stink. The application technique is generally the same as the methods already discussed. The product is added to a wash cycle, with or without detergent, depending on the instructions, and then rinsed out, often after a period of soaking.


Stripping with BacOut is similar to stripping with any product, with the exception that most resources I found suggest soaking diapers in the washer with BacOut AFTER the diapers have already been washed and rinsed. So after a normal hot water, cold rinse cycle, refill the washer, add ¼-1/2 cup of BacOut, let soak for desired length of time, run the wash cycle, then rinse until the water is clear.

During a particularly nasty battle with ammonia stink, I used every stripping method listed above with the exception of BacOut. It can be trial and error to find the stripping method that works best for you, but most people have a favorite, tried and true method. What’s yours?

Bio:  Kelly is a licensed audiologist with a 4 year old daughter and a 1 year old son. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, painting, and relaxing with her friend, iPad. Follow her on Twitter at @KellyFShelton or at MortarBoredMom.blogspot.com for more motherly ramblings.


Great article. I have had to strip my diapers a few times.

I have an HE washer and am reluctant to use dawn soap in it as it voids the warranty and can cause serious problems with a front load washer. I have never used bleach on my diaper stash.

I wash my diapers with Charlies soap in hot water on the "sanitize" cycle.

To strip diapers I run a soak cycle in cold water and white vinegar. Then I use a scoop of OxyClean Free (directly into the washer) and Charlies soap (in the dispenser) and run the washer on Sanitize with an extra rinse cycle. It has worked AMAZING for us.