What does stripping your cloth diapers mean?
When you strip your cloth diapers you are deep cleaning and removing residue from:
- Hard water minerals that have built up
- Left over detergent that has built up
And yes, detergent CAN buildup. It is designed to rinse out when appropriate amounts are used. When too much is used, excess suds are created. The extra suds prevent your diapers from rubbing together by creating a chemical buffer. That rubbing is a crucial part on how laundry gets clean. Excess suds can also prevent some of the impurities from being completely rinsed out of the machine properly. This means they are redeposited back on your diapers for next time. So the problem snowballs. This information comes from Tide, you can see more details here.
Having those residues can cause stink, rashes and leaks.
The strip helps to get rid of ammonia issues and stink from a bad wash routine. But you MUST fix the issue with your wash routine or the stink and rashes will just come right back.
Before you strip, look at your wash routine FIRST. Sometimes one simple change is all that is needed. Not all issues are solved with stripping.
How do you know if you need to strip your 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.
How to Strip in Hard Water
GroVia Mighty Bubbles are my personal favorite for stripping or if I want to deep clean cloth diapers. It is made in the USA and not tested on animals. The ingredients listed are: Sodium carbonate, Sodium percarbonate, Sodium polyitaconate, Surfactants, Enzymes, Oxygen bleach activator, Sodium silicate. If you can get your hands on it, this is what I recommend to use to strip. Mighty Bubbles is also affordable. It is available at most cloth diaper boutiques and on amazon.
You can also use RLR. I find that RLR really shines if you have issues with hard water.
Directions for 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 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 right in your washing machine without all that extra time and effort.
- Keep pods away from children.
Directions when using RLR :
- Do your soak on CLEAN, already washed cloth diapers. One packet of RLR is sufficient to do up to 30 diapers. If you are doing more, use another packet of RLR or do two separate loads. I wouldn’t recommend using a full packet on less than 24 diapers.
- You only need to soak the absorbent parts. You may leave any PUL/TPU waterproof covers out.
- Fill your basin with HOT water (120° to 125°).
- Add the RLR and a small amount of the detergent you normally use. Perhaps to the one line for up to 30 diapers. Use less for small loads.
- Add your cloth diapers.
- Agitate (If using a top loader let the cycle run a few minutes. If you are soaking in the tub then mix everything around using a big spoon or spatula, one from the Dollar Store is great for this, because the water is HOT!
- Soak at least six hours or overnight.
- Drain water out and either spin water out (washer) or wring it out (tub).
- Run through HOT rinses or washes with no detergent until most of the bubbles have rinsed away. A few air bubbles are fine and totally normal. If the water is still sudsy, keep rinsing. After rinses are done, go ahead and dry the diapers and use them.
- If you have a top loading washing machine that you are able to fill with water and then stop, soaking can be done right in the washer. This makes it easy to proceed into the hot rinses when the soak is done.
- If you have a front loading machine or a top loader that doesn’t allow you to stop cycles, the bathtub (or a bucket) is where you can soak your diapers.
How to Strip in Soft Water
In soft water situations, the issue is often built up detergent. This usually occurs due to 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.
Remember, if you are stripping due to stink or rashes, no matter how you strip, if the underlying issue with your wash routine isn’t fix, the problem will just come back. For info on fixing that, check out my top 10 tips on washing cloth diapers.
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.
Why am I not recommending the DIY stripping recipe that you see floating around?
The DIY recipe is basically just three different products that act as water softeners. They are washing soda, borax, and Calgon. To get all three you’ll easily spend $16 or MORE. Plus, you have measure out the ingredients and have to soak.
Yes, you will still have full packages of products to use. However, I really want you to keep something in mind. Over 80% of the United States has some level of hard water. That DOES NOT mean that 80% needs 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 really had more issues with the actual wash routine and OVER usage of detergents. My hope is to give you the simplest info I can that works.
I polled people in my AACD Chat group on their preference. 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.