Troubleshooting – How to Strip Cloth Diapers

How to Strip Cloth Diapers

revised May 28, 2015. While most of the information has remained the same, some of the steps and recommendations have been updated to reflect the most commonly accepted recommendations for stripping your diapers. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations first to ensure you are not going to void their product warranty.

If your diapers are leaking or stinky you’ve probably heard of stripping.  No, this is not something you do to earn extra money by removing your clothes! Stripping your diapers refers to the process of removing minerals and detergent that may be clogging the fabric of your diapers.

How do you know it’s time to strip your diapers?  If you can answer yes to one of these statements then you may need to strip your diapers.

  • Are your diapers brand new? Guess what? You do NOT need to strip your diapers!
  • Are your diapers stinky – like ammonia or barnyard stinky? (See next section)
  • Are your diapers leaking? (See next section)
  • Have you used a detergent that contains fabric softener? (Probably need to be stripped)
  • Have you recently changed detergents?  (May need to be stripped)
  • Did you get diaper cream on the fabric of your diapers?  (May need to be stripped)
  • Have you used fabric softener or dryer sheets on your diapers?  (Probably needs to be stripped)
  • Did you buy your diapers used or pre-loved?  (For sanitary reasons it’s a good idea to strip)
  • Has your baby had a yeast infection? (May need to sanitize your diapers, similar to stripping. See next section)
Did you answer yes to any of the above questions?  More than one?  Then it may be time to strip your diapers.  Before you decide if it’s time to strip I have a few more questions for you.


  • If your diapers are stinky, just how stinky are they?  Since cloth diapers don’t mask odors created from urine and poop remember that some smells are normal. Even a slight ammonia smell after a long night of sleeping may be normal.  Want to learn more about ammonia?  Read Understanding Ammonia and Cloth Diapers.  If they are stinky AND causing rashes then by all means it’s time to strip.
  • Where are your diapers leaking?  Make sure your diapers are fitting your baby properly.  Some brands may take a while to learn how to adjust the sizing to fit your baby just right.  You’ll want to make sure there are no gaps around the legs or waist where the pee can escape.  Other reasons your diapers may be leaking can include the dreaded tummy sleeper (wet at the belly), the side sleeper, or the chubby thighs baby!  Diapers that are leaking due to fit probably don’t need to be stripped.
  • Are the inserts saturated or dry?  If the inserts are fully saturated then your diapers are probably leaking because they can’t hold any more liquid.  Depending on how heavy a wetter you have, a full diaper may happen in an hour, 2 hours, or 4 hours.  The standard time for a cloth diaper is 2-4 hours (nighttime is a different story!!).  To prevent leaks remember you can add extra absorbency or change the material that you use (hemp and organic cotton are both super absorbent).  If your inserts are dry, you have a good fit, and your diapers are leaking then it may be time to strip.  
For the rest of the questions in the first part it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll need to strip your diapers.


How do I strip my diapers?  Before I get into the details I need to remind you that every manufacturer has different recommendations on how to safely and effectively strip your diapers.  Please contact the company directly (or search their website) for detailed washing instructions as they may vary from our recommendations.

You should always strip CLEAN diapers. Wash as usual prior to beginning your cloth diaper strip, there is no need to dry your diapers prior to stripping.

For those of you with hard water, who use too much detergent (or the wrong type of detergent), have used fabric softener on a load of diapers, or have used diaper creams on your diapers – your diapers may be repelling and need to be stripped.  When diapers repel they are no longer quick to absorb (or fail to absorb all together).  Buildup and repelling don’t normally occur in brand new diapers but rather after several months of use.

The most basic (and safest) routine for stripping diapers is to wash them in hot water 3-6 times to remove and residues. This method may not work for all issues, but is a safe place to start.  Sometimes it may be helpful to add a laundry aid like RLR or Calgon to help remove the minerals, detergent, and creams in your diapers. 

What are RLR and Calgon used for?  RLR is a laundry aid, not a soap or a bleach.  It works with the water to help loosen particles that have accumulated over time in the fabric of your diapers or inserts.  When used for stripping diapers RLR should be used on clean diapers, with hot water, and with no detergent.  (For complete manufacturer recommendations for use please refer to the RLR product page.)  Calgon can be used regularly in areas that have hard water (when a water softener is not installed) to help prevent minerals from building up.  It can also be used to strip your diapers.

Let’s talk about bleach! Bleach can also be used for “stripping” or sanitizing your diapers. If your baby has had a yeast infection you will need to sanitize and bleach your diapers to prevent the yeast from coming back.  Yeast can live in fabrics after they have been washed.  Yeast is most effectively killed at high temperatures and with bleach.  It is also very common to sanitize pre-loved diapers.  For a standard size machine and load of diapers, 1/4 cup of bleach can be diluted with your water in the wash cycle (with detergent). You may want to do an extra rinse to be sure that all of the bleach is rinsed out well. Please note that bleach can wear down natural fibers; such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo, quicker than microfibers.  Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations prior to using bleach.

What about blue Dawn?  If you’ve been told that you need to strip your diapers it’s probably been recommended that you add a few drops of blue Dawn (original formula) dish soap to your laundry.  Why is it recommended so often?  The main job of dish soap is to cut through grease and grime (on your dishes) and get your plates clean.  It makes sense that dish soap can be used to cut through grease and grime in fabric.  Dish detergent can be effective at removing diaper cream residue (or fabric softeners and other oily residues) from the fabric of your diapers (apply a small drop directly to the spot and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush).  Rinse the dish soap from your diapers and then wash as usual. You should not add dish soap to your washing machine as it may void the warranty of your machine and may ruin your motor – especially in the newer machines.  Why “Blue Dawn”?  Many dish detergents contain extra ingredients such as enzymes, dyes, and fragrances which aren’t recommended to use with cloth diapers.

Newer products that may help include GroVia’s Mighty Bubbles, Rockin’ Green Funk Rock, and EcoNuts Ammonia Bouncer.  These may help remove stubborn ammonia smells and help keep them away longer.

What about vinegar, baking soda, bleach, and other additives?  Most manufacturers don’t recommend using these products because they can deteriorate the PUL and elastic.  Vinegar can be used for removing odors and build up BUT should be avoided if you have hard water because it may actually worsen those problems.

Keep It Simple!  Whatever method you decide to follow for stripping your diapers the best advice I can give you is to keep your wash routine (and your stripping routine) SIMPLE!  The more ingredients and tricks that you try the more you could be complicating your problems.

If you are still confused you can always stop by our very active Facebook Fan Page (or Twitter, email, or by phone) and ask us any questions you may have along the way.  We’re always here to help.

Copyrighted material, may not be copied or reproduced other than for personal use. Kelly’s Closet and – revised 2015.

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