What Does it Mean to Strip Cloth Diapers?
When you strip your cloth diapers you are deep cleaning and removing residue that may have built up from:
- Hard water minerals that have built up
- Leftover detergent that has built up
Continue to read below as I explain there are sometimes simpler things you can do before having to strip cloth diapers.
How to Strip Cloth Diapers
GroVia Mighty Bubbles are my favorite to strip cloth diapers and for an occasional good deep clean. It’s made in the USA and not tested on animals.
The ingredients listed are Sodium carbonate, Sodium percarbonate, Sodium polyitaconate, Surfactants, Enzymes, Oxygen bleach activator, and Sodium silicate. If you can get your hands on it, this is what I recommend to use to strip. Mighty Bubbles is also affordable.
You DO NOT need to add a water softener to strip cloth diapers.
TIP If you aren’t sure if you have hard water or not, don’t worry. You can safely use GroVia Mighty Bubbles or RLR in any water type. It will just suds up more in softer water which may require additional rinses.
How to Strip Cloth Diapers with GroVia Mighty Bubbles:
- This must be done on already washed, clean cloth diapers.
- One Mighty Bubbles pod per 24 diapers (this is one full diaper including the cover, inserts, prefold, or flats.) If you have more than 24, do it in another separate load following the same directions.
- Use the longest, heavy-duty wash cycle on hot and throw in one Mighty Bubbles pod. Do not add detergent or other additives. Do one extra hot rinse or wash cycle.
- If the cloth diapers still smell or seem to have issues such as causing rashes, repeat steps 2 and 3 (up to 3 times).
- Dry the diapers.
- No need to soak with the Mighty Bubbles. GroVia strongly recommends against it. Their chemists created it to work in your washing machine without all that extra time and effort.
- Keep pods away from children.
How to Strip Cloth Diapers with RLR :
- This should be done on already washed, clean cloth diapers.
- One pack of RLR per large load. This is up to approximately 30 diapers. If you have more than a full load, do it in another separate load following the same directions. If you have small or medium loads you may still use the full packet.
- Add the RLR and a very small amount of the detergent you normally use—no more than the one line for up to 30 diapers. Use less for smaller loads. Remember, the diapers have already been washed.
- Wash on the longest, heavy-duty, hot wash cycle available.
- If there are suds remaining after the final rinse, run one additional hot rinse or short wash cycle.
Directions for stripping in Soft Water
In soft water situations, the issue is often detergent buildup. This usually occurs due to the overuse of detergent in each wash load.
Run clean diapers through a HOT wash (must agitate). No detergent, no additives. Just cloth diapers and HOT water. If you can see in during the cycle, check after a few minutes of agitation, if you see suds…do another hot wash/rinse. Continue until most suds are gone. Some bubbles are normal as there will always be air bubbles present. If you can’t see inside, then do at least 2 hot washes as described. More may be needed.
If you have a small number of diapers that need this treatment, you may also run under hotter water in your sink or bathtub. Squeeze the water out of the insert or diaper while doing so. Continue until all suds are gone.
When and Why Stipping Cloth Diapers is Needed
When to strip cloth diapers
- They smell out of the wash, after drying or immediately after a pee. Again. Always try to adjust your wash routine first as no matter how you strip, if the issue with your routine isn’t fixed, the smell will just come right back.
- They are leaking and you’ve already checked for a good fit and that you have enough absorbency. Leaking from hard water mineral build-up often presents itself with the insert still being dry in spots when it leaks. If it’s fully saturated then you need more absorbency.
Why strip cloth diapers
1: Hard Water Mineral Buildup in Cloth Diapers
Hard water is determined by the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. The more there is, the harder the water is considered. Very large amounts may not wash away in your laundry, leaving deposits on the fabric. For cloth diapers, this leads to the inserts not absorbing correctly and leaks.
If you have an existing buildup of anything crusty or discolored on your sinks, showers, and toilets; hard water mineral buildup may apply to you. You can purchase test strips to confirm. Anything above 180 ppm is considered very hard water.
… And this is SO IMPORTANT because this is one of those things that is overcomplicated in the cloth diaper industry.
80% of the US has some level of hard water. This does not mean 80% need to use anything special to get clean laundry. Before you go down a long, complicated road of testing, stripping, and washing make sure it’s not something simple that is amiss.
2: Detergent Buildup in Cloth Diapers
Yes, detergent CAN build up.
It is designed to rinse out when appropriate amounts are used. When too much detergent is used, excess suds are created. The extra suds create a buffer that prevents laundry items from rubbing together. Rubbing is a crucial part of how laundry, and cloth diapers, get clean.
This information comes from Tide, you can see more details here.
Excess suds can also prevent impurities from being completely rinsed out of the machine properly. This means both the remaining detergent and whatever impurities (in this case pee and poop) are re-deposited back on your diapers for next time.
So the problem snowballs. Every wash your cloth diapers will stink more and more and begin to have a barnyard smell. Your baby also may begin to get red, sunburn-looking rashes while wearing cloth diapers.
Stripping is a last resort. If you have questions about washing cloth diapers check out our Washing Cloth Diapers 101 go read our tutorial.
If you are stripping due to stink or rashes, no matter how you strip, if the underlying issue with your wash routine isn’t fixed, the problem will just come back. For info on fixing that, check out my top 10 tips on washing cloth diapers.
Explanation of why I don’t recommend the DIY laundry strip recipe that you see floating around
The DIY recipe is just three different products acting as water softeners. They are washing soda, borax, and Calgon. To get all three you’ll easily spend $16 or MORE. Plus, you have to measure out the ingredients and have to soak them.
Yes, you will still have full packages of products to use. However, I want you to keep something in mind. Remember when I said over 80% of the United States has some level of hard water? That DOES NOT mean that 80% need to use a water softener to get clean laundry. Often a good detergent on its own is plenty. Also, I’m not saying no one needs to soften their water. Because there are people that do. I’m just saying do your research first.
The DIY recipe is fine if that is what the actual issue is. Hard water mineral build-up. But in my many years of dealing with cloth diapers, I’ve found that people had more issues with the actual wash routine and OVER usage of detergents. I hope to give you the simplest info I can that works.
I polled people in my AACD Chat group on their preferences for how to strip cloth diapers. I asked if they had used either Mighty Bubbles or RLR AND also done a strip with the DIY recipe which they liked better. Over 100 people participated. 98 claimed GroVia Mighty Bubbles as their favorite for stripping cloth diapers. 13 selected RLR. And just 4 chose the DIY recipe.
Jenn is a long-time cloth diaper educator and a passionate small business advocate. She has worked in the reusable diaper industry for over a decade, helping millions of families via her websites All About Cloth Diapers, Thinking About Cloth Diapers and Cloth Diaper Geek as well as hundreds of small businesses during that time. Her goal always to provide simple, reliable information.