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How to Strip Diapers

Stripping cloth diapers, if you have the right wash routine, 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 - think 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 routine.

There are a few different ways to strip diapers. I prefer to start with the hot water method, then graduate to using additives. 

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. 

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 or detergent buildup, I recommend trying RLR next. 

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.

If none of these routines work for you, feel free to contact me. I'd love to help brainstorm.

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