Another Stripping Diapers Post

by Amanda Hearn · 29 comments

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Thankfully for us, cloth diapers are made of.. well, cloth! That means that they can be washed and it would take a whole lot to actually ruin them. In my four years of cloth diapering experience I have yet to see a diaper ruined as the result of anything but general wear & tear or the PUL wearing out or being defective.

There is no need for regular stripping if you have a good wash routine and are using a detergent that works for you. If you find that regular stripping is necessary, you might consider a different detergent. The tips below should cover the basic scenarios that you run into with cloth diapering. If you have other question, please feel post below so that I can answer them, and hopefully it will help others in the same situation.

General Stripping

Hot washes with no detergent.  It’s that simple. Often times there is a bit of residue left behind in your diapers from using too much detergent, overfull loads of laundry, or just extra dirty diapers that just didn’t quite come clean.

You may find that diapers with microfiber manifest problems sooner, as the tightly weaved fibers are susceptible to buildup and often start repelling (the diaper doesn’t absorb properly), but it is also seen in natural fibers often as ammonia smells or “stink”.

  • Wash your diapers as you usually would.
    You should always start with unsoiled diapers for any stripping process.
  • Wash 1-3 more times, without detergent, using warm or hot water.
  • Dry as usual.

Chances are this will get rid of any buildup left behind and you can continue your diapering as usual. If your problem persists, try again.

Detergent Changes

Cloth diaper users sometimes find that their detergent is no longer working for them or that their child has developed a sensitivity to it. Often times this happens around the same time that infants or toddlers begin eating solid foods. Typically what is needed is a change in the wash routine (more detergent, extra cycle, etc.), but sometimes the detergent just isn’t getting the job done – or you’ve tried a new detergent only to find that your diapers now smell like a barn or leak!

  • Wash your diapers as you usually would.
  • Wash 1-3 more times, without detergent, using warm or hot water.
    If you see many suds, wash again. Some sudsing is normal, as it is just a part of the water agitating.
  • Optional: Use RLR alone in a hot wash. RLR is a laundry aid that helps to remove minerals and buildup.


Ammonia is a natural part of the breakdown of urine, so don’t freak if your diaper pale knocks you over, but if your baby’s diaper puts you on your back the moment you pull it off – you have ammonia problems!

That this is hard on your baby’s little bottom.  Parents and physicians often mistake ammonia burns for yeast rashes, leading to ongoing issues as the result of misdiagnosis.  A good wash and some EMAB Bottom Balm could be all you need to get back on track.

  • Wash your diapers as you usually would.
  • Option 1: Try adding RLR in a hot wash (without any other detergents).
  • Option 2: Try Funk Rock from Rockin’ Green

I found that the EcoSprout Detergent and Thirsties Pre-Wash and Super Wash combo were my favorite detergents for deterring ammonia issues.

Some other cloth diaper safe detergents are:


Daycare provider use a non-approved rash cream? Husband use fabric softener on your diapers? You might be ready to strangle them, but thankfully it can be fixed! Don’t hate them for ruining your diapers just yet.

The animal fats used in most softeners create a waxy buildup that can cause repelling issues and can lead to serious stink. Original Dawn (about a tablespoon for non-HE machines) can help to strip these fats and oils from your diapers.

  • Wash soiled diapers normally before starting the stripping process.
  • Wash with about a tablespoon of Original Dawn for non-HE machines and half (or less) for HE machines.
  • Follow up with several warm or hot washes until most suds are gone. Remember that light sudsing is normal – if the suds remain when the water is still that means there is still soap in there!

Rash creams can be a bit more difficult, but a toothbrush, Original Dawn and some elbow grease can really go a long way.

  • Wash soiled diapers normally before starting the stripping process.
  • Using warm water and a toothbrush, scrub the stained areas with a bit of Original Dawn until you are satisfied that the oils have been lifted.
  • Follow up with several warm or hot washes until most suds are gone.

Special Notes

  • Be sure to use Original Dawn (not Ultra!) and remember that Dawn is meant to strip oils, so it is not generally needed for basic stripping.
  • Boiling is one popular method of stripping that you may come across on Google searches. NEVER boil – or using boiling water – on covers, pockets, shells or any other diapering component that has PUL on it. If you must boil, do so only with inserts, prefolds and like items.
  • NEVER strip your diapers in a dishwasher. This one seems to hit the message boards in waves, but this is a risky practice for a number of reasons ranging from damaging fabrics to fire hazards. This is not a good idea.

Good luck and if you have any questions, please post below!

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Amanda Hearn

Amanda Hearn

Founder of The Eco-Friendly Family, design geek, serial tanktopist, content creator, mother, coffee addict, & lover of fun. I am also a partner at Green Child Magazine & Put A Cup In It!
Amanda Hearn
Melanie L April 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm

What is RLR?

Amanda Hearn April 9, 2010 at 12:59 pm

RLR is just RLR, from all I've read it stands for nothing :

Here's a link πŸ™‚

Melanie L April 9, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Oh, thank you. πŸ™‚ I'm forever trying to stay “up” on CDing acronyms!

Amanda Hearn April 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

You're welcome πŸ™‚ It's weird to have an acronym like that and it just be that. I imagine at some point in time, it stood for something, but I can't find it anywhere.

Michelle "Picklewart" March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Very new to CDing. Why “strip”? Is this for times when you've accidentally used diaper cream or something like that? Should you strip on a regular basis? I use your home-made mix (divine by the way – I was already doing home-made reg detergent – worked out perfect!). Your stuff seems to work perfectly.

Amanda Hearn March 31, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I'm happy that you like the detergents! You've pretty much hit the nail on the head about stripping.

Stripping is only needed if the diapers aren't working properly. Maybe some cream, accidental use of soap or fabric softener, possibly detergent buildup. I rarely strip, probably just a few times in 2.5 years. Using a detergent that works for you is key, in my experience.

E March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hi there. We are using your detergent recipe and it seems to be working fantastically! However, on occasion all of a sudden after a batch of diaper laundry has been done they will all smell stinky after she’s peed in them. This doesn’t happen all the time. Should I strip the diapers or do you think too much detergent is causing a buildup and making them stinky? Need help troubleshooting. Thanks!

Jennifer Gaytan April 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I messaged you on this on FB and just now saw this link. Thank you for posting this. I am going to do this but have one question. Since I have a septic tank, I cannot use bleach, so should I use only vinegar?

Nicole H. April 28, 2012 at 2:38 am

I’m glad I found this post. I think I may have an ammonia build up in my diapers. They come out smelling clean (I use your detergent recipe which has worked great!) but as soon as my daughter pees it reeks strongly of ammonia. The only other thing I can think is that I’ve been told when babies are teething their pee has a stronger ammonia smell. I think I’ll try stripping to see if it helps at all. Thanks!

Sharon September 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I can only seem to find Dawn Ultra at any of the stores I have tried. I even went to the Dawn website, and it doesn’t seem like they even make “regular” blue Dawn anymore. I could only find it on Amazon, but shipping is well more than the product itself for something that I am hoping that I do not need to use very often. Any ideas of where I could look? Where do you get your regular blue Dawn?

Amanda September 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I feel like I saw it at a dollar store (Dollar General or Family Dollar maybe?). I haven’t bought it in a while, perhaps someone else will chime in.

Anonymous January 3, 2015 at 5:36 pm

You can find it at a dollar store or a dollar General

Anonymous March 13, 2015 at 3:29 pm

I accidentally used dawn ultra, what will happen I the diapers?

Amanda Hearn March 13, 2015 at 9:15 pm

You didn’t ruin them! You just may have to do a bit of extra rinsing to get the suds out if they are present.

Brittany February 16, 2013 at 12:50 pm

This has been sooo helpful! all of the tips on cloth diapers has been. i should of read this before i emailed my question:S sorry!
but thank you so much for this blog it touches so many topics i have questions on!!

Rachel June 5, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I just ordered some cloth diapers to try. I’ve never used them before and a microfiber insert accidently stuck to the washer and was washed with other clothes using regular detergent. Do I need to strip? I have no idea if it’s absorbing like it should since I’ve never used them.
Also, I threw a towel in the dryer with cloth diapers to cut down on drying time. The towel had previously been washed with regular detergent and dried with a dryer sheet. Do I need to strip all of those diapers? Some are microfiber inserts and others are diaper covers.

Rachel June 5, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Oh and some are AIOs.

Kate July 18, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Hi there… I went to the link for the bottom balm. It says it can be used with cloth diapers. We’re using best bottoms and I’d love to find an ointment that didn’t require a disposable insert to work. Do you agree that bottom balm is safe for cloth diapers?


Amanda July 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I do, I love their bottom balm. You apply it much like a salve, rubbing it in a bit to help heal and protect. It’s not globby like traditional ointments and creams.

Kate July 18, 2013 at 5:39 pm

What a fast response and when you’re dealing with Cappy’s loss. πŸ™ Thank you so much! I’m so new to this and I’ve made quite a few mistakes already — I’m the one that used the rash ointment, nobody else! :/ Off to buy some bottom balm so I won’t mess up the next set of inserts! (we’re going up in size)

Amanda July 18, 2013 at 5:48 pm

You’re most welcome. The good news is that a good scrubbing can fix pretty much any diaper blunder (and we all have them!). You’re doing great πŸ™‚

Liz September 3, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Should I strip my pre folds and inserts before DS#2 arrives? What is your process for prepping used diapers for a second child?

Jessie September 8, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Have you ever used Purex Free & Clear? I was told it’s good for cloth diapers, but mine are starting to leak and smelling a little funky…thinking maybe I should try a different detergent? Need the most affordable option for a top-load HE washer

Ashlea September 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Since Dr. Bronner’s soap is made with essential oils, would it be bad to add a tablespoon to the hot wash as well? Thanks for the awesome recipe.

Emily Stewart December 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thank you -relatively new to CDing, but I think a is just what our stash needs!
good strip

Courtney April 29, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I have a question. I just started using cloth diapers again. I had stripped them a while back because I was thinking about selling them but then decided I was going to use them again and decided to use your recipe. It was working perfectly then all of a sudden one batch of diapers I washed started leaking horribly. I’m thinking that it was because I used a different washing schedule then when I used your detergent the first time. I used your routine first and they didn’t leak but this second batch I used my old washing routine. which was rinse first in cold water wash in hot and rinse in cold twice then tumble dry. So could you help me out?

Brittany September 9, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I am referencing this in my blog. Please let me know if you would not prefer that. I will direct link and reference your blog name.

Liz Watson July 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

I am new to cloth diapering and had no idea, despite what I thought was plenty of research, that diaper rash creams were a no no. I used a & d a couple times with some of my cloths to clear up a little diaper rash left over from disposables but I’m not sure on which diapers! They are all mixed together now, so I’m just keeping an eye on leaks and hoping I didn’t use enough ointment to mess up the absorbency of the couple that were exposed. If I have to dawn it is!

Rachael VanDyke January 29, 2016 at 11:13 am

This was so helpful. I am new to all this and just bought preloved fitteds. Had no idea where to begin! thanks!

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