Stripping cloth diapers

Stripping cloth diapers is something that has intimidated me until recently. My daughter is 9 months old and has been using her current cloth diapers ever since she graduated from her newborn cloth diapers, around 2-3 months old. Her diapers haven’t required “stripping” until now. The cloth diapers have worked great ever since I put her in them. She has had very few leaks and no diaper rash. She will occasionally get a little redness and I will apply a cloth diaper safe cream to her bum. One application will usually take care of it.

I have heard a lot about cloth diapers building up a funky smell such as a “barnyard” (poop) or “ammonia” (pee) smell. This problem can be especially bad when detergent builds up in the diapers allowing the stink to cling to it. I have prevented the odor problem by sun drying my diapers on the outdoor clothesline when possible. The sun bleaching action and fresh air has prevented any kind of funk odor buildup.

Recently however, I have noticed some leaking around the edge of her diapers. This can be caused by several things: a poor fit, not getting changed often enough, use of diaper rash cream (if it is not cloth diaper safe it can cause the diapers to become water repellent), or a buildup of detergent and/or minerals in the fabric of the cloth diapers. Her diapers fit her excellently d/t the fact that they are adjustable to her size. She gets changed frequently. I only ever use cloth diaper safe rash cream. This leaves me with the probability that she has some detergent/mineral buildup in her diapers.

So, now its time to do some cloth diaper stripping. I have researched the MANY methods to strip cloth diapers and the most commonly recommended methods categorized here.

Stripping using hot water wash- Some cloth diapering families strip their diapers by washing the diapers in hot water repeatedly until there are no soapsuds when the washer is agitating. However, if the odor buildup is not corrected after this treatment (in my case it didn’t work) I would suggest trying another one of the methods below. This is good to try 1st because it is gentle on the diapers, inexpensive, and organic!

Stripping cloth diapers bumgenius style- The cloth diaper manufacture Bumgenius recommends adding ¼ cup bleach to your hot wash cycle once per month. They say this will help fight odors and sanitize the diapers. Others say never to use bleach, so check with your manufacture for brand specific instructions. Many cloth diaper users state this worked when nothing else did. If you do choose to use bleach don’t OVERUSE it!

Stripping cloth diapers with dawn- Stripping with dawn is generally recommended as safe for all diapers. To strip cloth diapers using this method start with clean diapers (they don’t have to be dry). Add 1 tsp. of original blue Dawn dish soap to your high efficiency washer or 1 Tbsp. to your regular washer, with your cloth diapers. Wash on hot.

stripping cloth diapers with dawn

Original blue dawn dish soap

After washing with Dawn, Bumgenius recommends tacking on 2 hot wash cycles without detergent and continued rinsing until no suds are seen during rinsing. This is the method that worked for me. I washed with the dawn on hot and then followed it with 2 additional hot wash cycles. There were still suds so I ended up doing 2 more rinse cycles to get ride of those last suds.

Others recommend following the Dawn hot water wash with repeated rinse cycles (instead of full hot wash cycles) until suds are gone during the rinse cycle. This may take up to 6 or more rinse cycles. For me it is easier to follow the Dawn wash cycle with the 2 plain hot water washes. My washer is in the garage and this way I can just set it and forget it for a while. The full wash cycle is much longer than multiple rinse cycles so this requires less trips to the garage. Whichever way you choose to go just check and make sure there are no detergent bubbles before calling it quits!

I will warn you this method pretty much took me all day because I had to wash the diapers (prior to stripping), then do the dawn wash, 2 hot water washes, and 2 more rinses before they were completely suds free. It was not a problem for me but I just want to warn you. If you use this method do not plan on using your washing machine for anything else that day. I set my washer to soak during the dawn wash cycle so this may have increased the rinse needs of the diapers. When I was done with this lengthy process though my diapers SMELLED LIKE NEW AGAIN and were so absorbent!

RLR- This laundry treatment and cloth diaper stripper is created to remove deposits in cloth diapers left by soil, minerals, and detergent buildup. This is an inexpensive product and its recommended use is every 30-60 days or when leaking and smells become a problem. At $2.99 with free shipping on Amazon this is a very doable option. It can also be purchased in multipacks up to 12 count running $21.93. If you purchase the 12 count than the treatment cost is only $1.83 per load. There are other brands available that work essentially the same way. They remove sediment so it is rinsed away in the wash cycle.

how to strip cloth diapers RLR

RLR laundry treatment

Grovia Mighty Bubbles This laundry treatment is made in the U.S.A. and the product description states that it is HE compliant and safe for all washing machines. This product dissolves completely and rinses smells and buildup away. People with hard water and ammonia smell in their cloth diapers seem to be particularly fond of it. It can be purchased in a 10 count for $8.90 or a 20 count for $13.99 making it between $0.70 and $0.89 per load.

stripping cloth diapers grovia mighty bubbles

Grovia mighty bubbles

Fuzzibunz Strip Rx- This is only a small 4 oz. bottle but can last up to one year, if you strip every 3 months. It is eco-friendly and biodegradable. This product can also be used in any washing machine. It removes detergent, buildup, and general stink issues from your diapers. One bottle runs $16.81. It is recommended to use ¼ bottle per load.

prevemt diaper rash with fuzzibunz strip rx

Fuzzibunz Strip Rx

The white vinegar rinse off- Some blogs and YouTube videos recommend putting ½ to 1 cup of white vinegar in your rinse cycle to dissolve buildup. Usually, I am a big fan of vinegar for all kinds of cleaning projects, including laundry. However, Bumgenius specifically recommends not using vinegar with their cloth diapers. If you have hard water vinegar will be a major stink ATTRACTANT to your diapers and can also cause ammonia burns for your little ones. No bueno!

The detergent soap soak- I have read recommendations to soak your diapers in your regular cloth diaper safe detergent and hot water for several hours. This can be done by starting your wash cycle and then opening the lid to your washer after it has filled with water and agitated the detergent/diapers for a few minutes. Leave the lid open for 3-4 hours and then resume the cycle and follow with an extra rinse. You may need to follow with additional rinses if there are suds in the rinse cycle. This seems to more of a deodorizer than a stripper. It might be a good option if you have a stink issues but no leaks. We use Rockin Green diaper detergent.

cloth diaper detergent rockin green

Rockin Green cloth diaper detergent

Oxiclean- I have seen this recommended by different cloth diaper users. Oxiclean is oxygen bleach and sanitizes as well as deodorizes diapers. This can be used when diapers develop a stink buildup. I have hesitated to use this in the past because it is not recommended by any cloth diaper manufactures, that I have found. However, it seems to be generally regarded as safe.

reusable diapers clean with oxiclean


Each diaper brand has specific recommendations for use so look up or contact your manufacturer for more information but from my research these methods appear to be the safest and most commonly used.

The confusing thing about stripping is that there are so many ways to strip and it depends on your water type which method is best for you. Which method to start with can be intimidating the first time. I would recommend reading this article and trying one that seems to be the most applicable to your situation. The great thing about having so many options is that if one method doesn’t work for you then another probably will!

Whichever way you choose, stripping is time consuming so take these precautions with your diapers to make them go longer in between stripping.

  • Use cloth diaper safe detergent
  • Always rinse before washing your diapers and add a extra rinse after washing your diapers.
  • Use a cloth diaper safe rash cream (we like Thirsties Booty Love and CJ’s BUTTer)
  • If you choose to use a regular diaper cream (not cloth diaper safe) protect the diaper by using a flushable diaper liner or a washable fleece diaper liner
  • Wash diapers often (every 2-3 days)
  • Sun dry, outside when possible
  • If you have hard water, a water softener such as Calgon can help. It prevents detergent, mineral, and limescale buildup on your cloth diapers. Calgon runs for $24.99 on Amazon for a 2 pack (32 oz. each). If you have hard water and find you have to strip way to often using Calgon preventatively can help your diapers stay fresher and delay buildup. It can be added to your regular wash routine.
calgon water softener

Prevent hard water and limescale buildup with Calgon

Don’t forget, no matter which stripping method you use rinse until all the suds are gone after you are done with the stripping treatment. This may be several rinses depending on your water type, treatment, and type of diapers.

Happy diapering and thanks for reading!

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