Different Ways to Strip Cloth Diapers
Your baby’s bum has some of the most sensitive skin of her entire body, and taking care of it goes beyond changing it when a diaper is soiled or wet. You also have to decide which diapers, diaper creams, wipes, and soap to use down there, too!
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There are pros and cons to each method, and you’ll need to decide which route(s) is the best fit for your family. If you choose to go the cloth diaper method, you have probably found yourself wondering: am I getting the diapers clean enough?
That is a really good question to be asking yourself as you start (or continue) on the cloth diapering journey. Hard water and excess detergent (or detergent that isn’t getting washed all the way out) can create buildup in your child’s diapers that can lessen absorbency and create an environment for bacteria to grow.
So what do I do about it?
Another good question! In some cases the best thing that you can try is something called “stripping,” which has nothing to do with cutting diapers into pieces or going to “places of ill repute.” Rather, at its most basic, stripping is putting your cloth diapers through a pretty intense cleaning process to get rid of hard water residue or detergent buildup that is preventing your diapers from getting clean the way they should.
Is stripping the same as cleaning? Are they interchangeable?
The answer is no! For the most part, a good washing routine will keep your diapers stain-free and smelling like daisies. Stripping, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily always use detergent. All of the stripping techniques use really hot water and multiple rinses to break down and wash away all of the extra gunk that regular washing sometimes leaves behind. Stripping isn’t for everyone, and it will most likely do more harm than good if you do it without having an efficient and effective everyday wash routine. That said, sometimes stripping is necessary to keep diapers in tip-top shape.
If you’re wondering if your diapers are good candidates for stripping, ask yourself these questions:
- Did I just get them secondhand?
- Am I having trouble with leaking or wicking even though they fit correctly?
- Do they smell unpleasant even though I’m washing them the right way?
- Do I have really hard water?
- Do I use petroleum-based diaper cream or a non-cloth-diaper-approved diaper cream regularly?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, your diapers might be due for a good stripping. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t strip regularly or on new diapers. Some people never need to strip their diapers, but if you think your diapers could use a strip down, don’t do it more than once a month.
It’s also important to note that stripping is done after you have already cleaned your diapers for the day. The diapers should have gone through the entire washing routine before you even attempt the stripping process (they don’t need to be dried, though, so feel free to start a stripping load right after washing them the normal way).
Run your diapers in a detergent-free wash using the hottest water that both your diapers and washing machine can stand. Once the wash cycle has finished, rinse the load twice more in the hottest water the fabric can take or until you don’t see any soap bubbles (the bubbles come from detergent and mineral buildup within the diapers). Run one last rinse cycle with a cup of white vinegar and dry the diapers like normal. If your house has exceptionally hard water, either use a water softening product in that last rinse, use pre-softened (purchased) water that you heated on the stove, or just cut down your vinegar use to one or two tablespoons.
GroVia Mighty Bubbles is probably the most highly recommended stripping detergent on the market. It works best for diapers that are leaking, smell strongly of urine immediately after getting wet, and have a not-quite-clean odor even when you washed them correctly. RLR is a fragrance-free detergent that helps soften hard water so that you can remove the mineral buildup that lessens absorbency. You can get it online for about $10 per five-pack.
Stripping with bleach is a somewhat controversial option because it can void the warranties on some brands of cloth diapers. If you choose to go this route, add in ¼ cup chlorine bleach (not the splashless or color-safe variety) to the rinse cycle after a hot water, detergent-less wash, and then rinse two more times in hot water.
If you are having trouble with leaks or lack of absorbency, but you’re doing all of the cleaning and care correctly, you might want to try stripping your diapers. It can be a time-consuming process, but the end result is often diapers that look and feel like new.
And if you’re looking for an alternative to cloth diapers for overnight potty training, check out our Peejamas selection. Our soft pajama bottoms (also come with matching tops) can absorb urine from nighttime accidents while still leaving a wet sensation so your child knows to get up and use the potty.