Stripping


Stripping cloth diapers, probably an expression you've heard tossed around a time or two if you've started your online research. One of the most common questions I get - 'how often do I need to plan on stripping'? The good news - if you have the right wash routine, it is something you may never even have to do. However, if you are having problems and cannot put your finger on it, chances are stripping your diapers will help.
Another way to think of stripping - imagine of a brand new (prepped) diaper as neutral. If you are using the wrong detergent or have very hard water, over time your diapers will end up in the negative. To get your diapers back to neutral, they need a good reminder of what their job is - to absorb! You give them this reminder by doing a nice, deep wash.
There are a few different ways to strip diapers. I prefer to start with the hot water method, then graduate to using additives as necessary. 
Hot Water Stripping
Hot water stripping uses agitation and very hot water to break up whatever is lodged in your diapers. This is my preferred method because it is cheap and simple. In short, you want really hot water, and a lot of it. 
  • If you can, turn up your water heater before you start to strip. If this isn't possible, consider adding a pot or two of boiling water into each load (be sure to pour the water into a filled machine, and not directly onto the diapers themselves). 
  • If you have a Front Loader, consider adding a wet towel to trick your machine to fill more, or manually upping your water quantity level if possible. 
  • Strip your clean diapers in very small batches (10-15 diapers). You want the water : diaper ratio to be tipped in favor of the water. 
  • Set your machine for a heavy and long washing cycle. 
  • Once diapers have had a chance to agitate, peak into the machine. You should see cloudy water, or bubbles - either of which will indicate the process is working. 
  • Continue to do hot loads until you do not see any more clouds or bubbles. 
  • Dry as usual.
  • Please note, GroVia and bumGenius cap the water temps to which diapers should be exposed. We recommend an alternate stripping method if you are using these diapers. 
  • Also note - 'hot water' is different than the 'sanitize' setting. Unless you are dealing with an infection that dictates all your diapers need to be sanitized, this setting is far too hot for diaper components, and can cause premature wear and tear. 

Time to Bring out the Big Guns
Do not be defeated if this process doesn't work for you - there are other options. If you needed to strip because of the buildup of a bad rash cream or fabric softener, I recommend trying Dawn next. If you needed to strip because of hard water, I recommend RLR next. If you just can't figure out what might have caused it, I recommend an additive specifically made for cloth diapers, like GroVia's Mighty Bubbles or Rockin' Green's Funk Rock.

Stripping with Cloth Diaper Additives
Both GroVia's Mighty Bubbles and Rockin' Green's Funk Rock are designed to target those fabrics and issues specific to cloth diapers. Haven't used either product and need help deciding? From the years of customer reports who have used both, our vote goes to Mighty Bubbles. While Funk Rock gets rave reviews, the users who have tried both found that the Mighty Bubbles seemed to be a more 'wide net' solution, applying to more issues than just ammonia buildup.

How to use? Both packages come with instructions. Two more tips not mentioned on the packages: use these additives with diapers already clean and aim for roughly 20 diapers per stripping load.

Stripping with RLR
A water softener such as RLR will breakup any residual gunk in your diapers, especially the buildup caused by hard water. If you do not have easy access to RLR, you can also use Calgon. It is typically found at the top or bottom of retailer's shelves, near the borax and other 'old school' laundry aids. 
  • Starting with clean diapers, dump a package of RLR over the top of all your diapers.
  • Run a hot load. 
  • Continue to run hot loads until you do not see anything but beautiful clean water in your rinse cycles (note - don't confuse agitation bubbles with soap bubbles). 
  • If you have hard water, and the RLR treatment worked well for you, considering adding a bi-weekly or monthly RLR wash to your normal routine. 

Stripping with Dawn 
A degreaser like good ol' plain blue Dawn Dish Soap is a great way to deal with buildup caused by a clogging agent like rash cream or fabric softener. Dawn's degreasing powers will cling to the oily residues and help effectively remove them. I prefer to use Dawn after the 'Hot Wash' method has failed, simply because Dawn can really be a beast to rinse out. (Also, be sure to check your manufacturer's warranty before starting as Dawn can be a no-no. If you are concerned about this, try stripping in your bathtub or using RLR instead.)
  • Strip in small batches (10-15 diapers), you want there to be a lot of water and not a lot of diapers. 
  • A few words on how much Dawn to use
    • Using Dawn is not an exact science (let's face it, most of cloth diapering is an art, really).
    • Start with a Teaspoon - if you do not see any bubbles in your first rinse cycle, that means you did not use enough Dawn. 
    • Work your way up until you see bubbles in the rinse cycle. I have heard of success with as little as a few drops, and as much as 2 Tablespoons. 
  • Add Dawn into the machine just like you would add your detergent
  • Start a hot wash cycle + rinse
  • Peak in during the rinse cycle, you should see bubbles the first time (refer to 'how much Dawn to use' above)
  • From there, keep doing hot washes (without anything added) until your water rinses clear.
Closing Thoughts
On Used Diapers: Please note, stripping and sanitizing are not the same thing! If you are buying used diapers we highly recommend you strip and sanitize the diapers before you use them. Yes, even diapers purchased from a friend. Yeast, staph and other nasty buggers can lurk in diapers beyond stripping.

Stripping Often? New to cloth and it seemed like your issues started within just a few weeks or months of starting? Have a good routine it seems, but still having to strip on a monthly basis? We should talk, as this is usually a sign your wash routine and/or detergent aren't sufficient. While some people with really hard water and/or a water-stingy front loaders do have to strip on a regular basis, most times a tweak or two in routine will prevent the need to strip as often, or at all.

Detergent change up? Changing detergents because you are frustrated with the one you are using? Be sure to strip in between this change. RLR or Mighty Bubbles (or even the hot water stripping if your previous detergent was a 'clean rinsing' formulation; NOTE - most 'grocery store' detergent brands are not clean rinsing). If you don't strip between, plan on allowing at least ten wash routines using the new detergent before gauging if it is working well for your diapers. Why? During those ten washes, it is cleaning out the buildup from the last detergent.