Stripping diapers is a concept that both scares and confuses many-a-cloth-diapering-mom. First, let’s talk about what it’s not.
Bleaching is not stripping.
Some people get this confused, as stripping usually involves bleaching, so let’s talk about what stripping diapers actually is by definition:
Well, gee, thanks Merriam-Webster. So let’s check out the Pam Dictionary, first edition…
Stripping Diapers– the process of “resetting” the absorbent fabric of cloth diapers using a caustic solution to remove (strip) built up minerals, detergent, bacteria, and/or other substances that reduce the absorbency of the diapers and/or create rash problems.
Fwew, what a mouthful. In case you’re wondering why I added “other substances”, it’s because some people regularly use products that are detrimental to diapers and may not have realized it was a bad idea… such as fabric softener.
Because stripping involves resetting the absorbent part of diapers, this means that stripping covers is essentially useless. Throwing in the pocket diapers seems to make some sense, being as they are lined. If you’re using a product like Thirsties Natural Pocket diaper lined with cotton instead of a microfleece, it also makes all the more sense to strip them, too. If you’re experiencing a mineral/detergent build up, though, its probably not necessary to put your pocket diapers through the harsh process of stripping. Do what feels right to you.
When is it necessary to strip diapers, though?
If your diapers are experiencing notable repelling, if they have been washed improperly in hard water for an extended amount of time, if you are experiencing odor issues (sometimes with rash too), or if you need to switch to a new detergent due to sensitivity issues, stripping may be for you.
You don’t need to strip diapers if you’re switching from one detergent to another unless you’re doing so because baby is sensitive to the type of detergent you’re using. Some people recommend stripping diapers whenever you buy used diapers. That may be a little over-kill. Usually bleaching is sufficient unless you notice a significant problem with the diapers, like repelling or rash problems for your baby (which could be indicative of a detergent/mineral build up or detergent sensitivity). Also, using fabric softener by accident on a load of diapers isn’t usually enough to warrant stripping. Using non-cloth diaper safe products on occasion, like vaseline or butt pastes, may not warrant stripping, either, especially if you use a liner. According to Thirsties, many of those products deemed “not cloth-safe” are entirely capable of coming out of natural fibers completely without special treatment, even if you don’t use a liner!
Stripping should never be a regular part of your routine. It is a drastic measure used to deep clean diapers. If you find the need to strip more than several times a year, reconsider your wash routine.
So how do you strip diapers?
First, always begin with clean diapers (wet or dry).
Second, select your stripper (hehe). You can DIY it with 3TBS each washing soda, calgon, and borax, or use 1/4c of two of the three, or just a 1/2c of one of those. You can also use RLR, instead. More on GroVia Might Bubbles later…
Third, fill your machine (or bathtub) halfway with the hottest water you can get from tap and dissolve your choice of stripping agent in the water (some suggest adding 1/2c of good detergent, too). Throw the diapers in and stir!
Fourth, let your diapers soak either until the water cools in a couple hours or overnight. It’s not usually recommended to go much longer than 8 hours. Just aim between when the water cools to when you wake up (if doing it overnight) and you’ll be good!
Fifth, give it a stir! Every once in a while, give everything a little jostle to get things moving and get the solution through the fabric. This is kind of impossible if you’re sleeping, but if you wake up at 3am to pee, go poke at it with a spoon or something. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t stir it, to be honest.
Last, drain and run it through the machine on a cold water wash with detergent plus the recommended amount of bleach for your load (plus water softener, if necessary), and follow it with a second wash with hot water and detergent only.
Some people recommend following a strip with a cold water bleach soak followed by a hot wash with detergent. I never found it necessary to do more than just run my machine twice (once on cold with bleach, once on hot without), but if you are dealing with some serious build up or yeast problems, go for a cold bleach soak if you want. To do so:
Fill your machine or tub halfway with cold water, add 1/2c of bleach, and soak for at least 30 minutes. Then drain and wash with hot water and detergent.
Pat yourself on the back, you survived! Holy moly, what a process, though!
This is why I love GroVia Mighty Bubbles!
Whenever I need to strip diapers, I just follow their instructions, which usually involves throwing in a pod, no extra detergent needed, and running a hot wash with an extra rinse. No bleaching afterwards required, either. One bag of 10 is $9.95, so it’s about a buck a pod. They’re handy for when diapers begin to just seem “off” and you want to freshen them up, too, but I’ve even used them when facing yeast and for that time when my diapers got REALLY bad during that phase of adjusting to the switch from hand-washing to machine-washing. GroVia even states that they can be used every 6-8 weeks to freshen diapers if you want. It’s a really no-brainer way of doing it without the headache. I wash my diapers as usually and then do a Mighty Bubbles strip immediately afterwards when they begin to seem off or I feel like freshening them up. They work excellent, which is why you see them recommended all over the cloth diapering community!
Regardless which process you use, there is nothing more refreshing than diapers that have been deep cleaned! The process is rewarding, especially if you’ve been battling rash or repelling issues!
If you have any questions, if I wrote something in error or forgot to mention something, if you have a recommendation or want to share an experience/product, leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!
Have a blessed day!