How to Strip Cloth Diapers 101

Stripping cloth diapers sucks. My partner and I had to learn how to strip cloth diapers the very hard way. I have a very vivid and very smelly memory of my first strip. It was about ten weeks into my cloth diapering experience, and an internet forum advised me to strip our diapers after my partner and I noticed that walking into the boys’ room in the morning was almost like stepping into an alternative reality and ending up in stable with about one hundred horses. Puuuuh! My eyes would practically water from the strong smell of ammonia. I really felt for my poor dears, having to actually sleep in it.

So we had to quickly learn how to strip cloth diapers or throw them away. The throwing away was not an option really, but we made a major mess after mixing dishwashing liquid and bleach (damn you internet!) in the same wash, forcing us to run away from our own home for a weekend, plus we ended up three dozen diapers short. But memories made, lesson learnt and that mistake was never repeated.

Why Strip?

Stripping diapers is essential to remove the buildup of ammonia, bacteria, detergents, minerals from hard water, and oils in diapers. This is because there are parts of the diaper (like inserts and pockets) where sufficient water does not reach during a regular wash. Hot water works to remove this accumulated dirt and bacteria during stripping and will eliminate that funky smell, increase absorbency as well as reduce the risk of rashes and yeast infections for your baby.

Before Stripping

The first rule of stripping diapers is: never to strip dirty diapers because that will leave your diapers looking like junior did an enthusiastic paint job in yellowish-brownish colors. You don’t want that to happen because if it does, you can forget all about your pristine white inserts and liners that were the pride and joy of your diaper drawer.

Clean your diapers before stripping

  1. Remove any solid waste by shaking it off into the toilet;
  2. put your diapers in the washer and run a cold rinse to remove any remaining waste particles;
  3. add a little (quarter to half cup should do) of your regular diaper detergent;
  4. run through one wash cycle with hot water. Run through a warm water rinse followed by a cold water rinse and ‘voila’ your diapers are ready to strip.

Tip: After the wash, you can soak your diapers overnight in a wash pail (or good ol’ bathtub) with a few drops of peppermint oil for an extra touch of freshness after stripping.

Stripping Cloth Diapers in a Washing Machine

What You Need

  1. Washing machine (of course!)
  2. An additive (like dishwashing liquid)
  3. Extra hot water that you can heat on your stove in a stock pot
  4. Flashlight (for front loading machines)


Time: three to four hours

  1. Put your pre-washed diapers in the washing machine with a teaspoon of dishwashing Liquid. Do not add any detergent. You should do an average twenty diapers per wash.
  2. Run a hot wash cycle with the most hot water possible and at the highest temperature setting. If your machine does not run enough hot water, heat some water on your stove and add it to the wash during the hot cycle. This only works for top loading machines not front loaders.
  3. Run a hot water rinse if your machine has this setting. If not, run a warm water rinse. Follow this with a cold water rinse and another warm water rinse.
  4. If you have a top loading machine, open the top periodically to check for the presence of bubbles. If you have a front loading machine, use your flashlight to check for bubbles.
  5. Run alternating warm/cold rinses (four to five should do) until there is no more effervescence (bubbles). Agitation bubbles will quickly disappear once you stop the machine but soap bubbles will stay around for a bit, and this means you need another rinse.
  6. After thorough rinsing, take out your diapers and hang to dry in direct sunlight (if possible) for that extra touch of freshness and natural bleaching.

Tip: If dishwashing liquid does not work for you, you can try other additives such as stain removers as a replacement.

More Diaper Stripping Tips

  • With stripping, you will find that you need to try one or two methods before you get the right formula that works for you. If you use a washing machine and the funk refuses to go away, one of these could be the problem:

    • Not using enough detergent during your regular washes.
    • Not using enough hot water during your regular washes or during stripping.
    • The water itself not being hot enough during the stripping process.

Try adding a full extra cupful of detergent when stripping, or adding extra hot water (if you use a top loader washing machine) boiled on your kitchen stove to the wash cycle during stripping.

  • Grapefruit or grapefruit seed extract are effective at killing yeast and can be added to the overnight soak before stripping your diapers.
  • Try to separate natural fibers (cotton, hemp, bamboo) from artificial fibers (microfiber, fleece, PUL) when stripping because some artificial fibers cannot withstand extremely high temperatures and additives such as bleach.
  • Check on warranty guidelines for your cloth diaper as some diapers, especially artificial diapers come with warnings not to immerse in extremely hot water.
  • You can use apple cider as an additive instead of vinegar if you have hard water. Half cup of apple cider should do the trick.

Absolute Don’ts

  • Never ever mix bleach with vinegar. The reaction between the two produces chlorine gas which is highly toxic. Either add bleach alone to your wash but not the two together. Do not try this at home.
  • Never use vinegar as an additive during your stripping routine if you use hard water. The various minerals in the hard water will react with the vinegar, and if you thought the stunk in your diapers was bad before, then you will need to fumigate your house when vinegar meets hard water. With hard water, opt for another additive or use a water softener.
  • Avoid soaking your diapers overnight in your washing machine as this might lead to rust build up in some machines.