How to Strip Cloth Diapers – Part 1

Fuzzi Bunz

No matter how fabulous one’s washing routine of cloth diapers may be, there comes a time when diapers must be “stripped.” 100% cotton cloth diapers and even bamboo diapers seem to rinse beautifully when washed.  Their natural fibers are to thank for that clean rinse.

It is the man-made, synthetic fibers that tend to hold on to stink: microfiber, suede cloth, and fleece.  These are not breathable fabrics and therefore the fibers don’t rinse as well as all-natural fabrics.  Although hemp is a natural fiber, it also falls in the ‘super stink’ category.  Mamas continue to use these types of fabrics though for the top-notch absorbency property.  It’s just really hard to beat.

Why do cloth diapers need stripping?

Over time, they develop build-up.  Build-up from detergents that haven’t rinsed out well, oils, and additives.  There are many layers to diapers and it is hard to get down to those middle layers and clean really well.

Do your diapers need to be stripped? Yes, if:

  • They don’t smell clean after coming out of the washer
  • They don’t smell clean after drying in the dryer – the heat from the dryer makes the smell worse
  • They have an extremely strong odor immediately after your child wets in them
  • Your child has a diaper rash that you can’t pinpoint to any other source
  • Your child has endured a stomach bug that involves diarrhea

How to prevent your diapers from accumulating stink:

  • Let your diapers sit in the diaper pail no longer than 36-48 hours.
    I realize that is pretty quick turn-around in the laundry department.  But I’ve proven it to myself over and over: the quicker my diapers are washed, the less chance they have to absorb the stink.
  • Use a dry-pail system.
  • Change your child frequently – don’t let a large amount of urine collect in the diaper
  • Dry diapers in the sun as often as possible.
  • Use a clean rinsing detergent that is approved for cloth diapers such as Charlie’s Soap.
  • Use as few additives as possible – no fabric softeners, no enzyme boosters, etc.

Do you have ultra-stinky diapers?  Get the complete guide at Mama’s How to Strip Cloth Diapers – Part 2.


  1. Oh, I really need to do this right now! Cloth diapers are amazing (even thought I wouldn’t have guessed in a million years that I’d use them) but they do need to be washed often. I’ve found that it’s not so bad once you get used to it though. I was actually going to write about this but I’m glad I don’t have to now!
    .-= Christine (iDreamofClean)´s last blog ..Free Sample: Tide with Febreze =-.

    • mamalaundry says:

      I can totally relate – I would have NEVER pegged myself as one who would use cloth. But your right – it’s so easy once you get in the groove of it!

  2. Sarah Pfeifer says:

    Currently, my husband and I live in an apartment. We are expecting our first child early June. We are very interested in cloth diapering. We share the laundry facility with the whole apartment floor. Do you think that it is feasible to still cloth diaper? It cost $1 per wash. Do you think it would be sanitary? I really want to make it work, I am just unsure of how practical it is. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions you have. Thanks.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Congratulations, Mama! You’re going to have so much fun with your new little one. 🙂

      I’ve thought quite a bit about your situation, and honestly when it comes to using cloth you are in a tough spot. Cloth dipes really need to be washed every other day in my opinion so that would mean lugging your diaper pail to the laundry facility. Often. With a brand new baby.

      Can you do partial wash cycles on your machines? Just a rinse? If not, it would be rather pricey per load. My wash routine is cold rinse/hot wash/cold rinse. And then when I strip them the occasional extra washes. $1/wash is cheap. But $3/wash is not in my opinion.

      As far as being sanitary, I do think it would be if the hot water that goes to the washer is turned up high enough. It is a little known fact that laundromats and laundry facilities in apartments, dorms, etc don’t turn their hot water up terribly high to save money. And while that is fine for most loads, you need super hot water to wash diapers effectively. (Yes, I know there are plenty of you that wash dipes in cold water.)

      I’m not sure how the other tenants would feel about the diapers. 🙂 While some wouldn’t give it a second thought, some might think otherwise when it comes time to wash their own clothes in the same machine.

      Please know I am NOT trying to discourage you from using cloth! It’s so easy once you get in the groove of it! But these are just my thoughts from the practical side of things. The items I listed might not bother you in the least!

      If you aren’t interested in working around the obstacles, you could always go with a diaper service. Nothing is easier than putting a bag of dirty diapers outside your front door and letting someone else wash and return!

      Feel free to ask more questions! I’m happy to try to answer them.


    • Mrs. w/1 child says:

      Mrs. Pfeifer,

      My family also lives in a rental unit (a coach house) and our coin operated washer/dryer were shared (and located in the basement). I can tell you from experience that it will be very stressful to try and use a commercial washer to launder your diapers. Aside from the multiple trips to the laundry room, your neighbors may get irritated with the “yuck factor” of dirty diapers, and the cost will likely be more than disposables.

      Our solution was to purchase a small portable washer that hooks up to a faucet. They are very common here in Chicago and can be found used for a very reasonable price (in the $50 range on craigslist) or new (in the $200 range on Amazon or at Walmart). In our building a hot wash costs $1.75 so purchasing a used washer would pay for itself quickly.

      We pay all of our own utilities and a “portable” plugs into a regular three pronged wall outlet. If the water in your building doesn’t get very hot (as mama laundry pointed out is common in multifamily units), it is easy to boil water in your largest soup pot and add the boiling water to your washer as it begins to fill with the “hot” water from the faucet.

      Our Haier model will wash a load approx 3/4 the size of a “normal” washer and fits in out bathroom next to the sink. To give diapers a lot of room to “swish” we fill it about half full when doing diapers. Additionally, with a new baby having a washer in the house will really help. You can quickly wash clothes to get out stains before they set and you can sleep when the baby sleeps, instead of running down to do laundry.

      Another plus of the little “portable” or “European style” washers is that they spin out clothing really well. Synthetics feel almost dry after a spin and cottons are “damp”. This really good spin cycle helps when washing diapers because you can rinse, spin out most of the water (and soap), then rinse and spin again. I only had to strip diapers in the winter when we couldn’t dry them outside in the sunshine.

      Some leases prohibit washers inside your unit but I bet you could talk to your property manager or just “sneak” it.

      Congratulations on your new baby!!!

      Mrs. Nelson

      • mamalaundry says:

        Thanks for sharing your experience in selecting an alternate method to wash your cloth dipes! It’s always interesting to me to read how other mothers do things. 😉

        Thanks for stopping by Mama’s!


  3. What are some brands of cloth diapers you suggest? I am shopping for our baby due in December, and I would love to know your opinion.

  4. One thing I hae also learned from cloth diapering is that amount of water, quantity of diapers and quantity of detergent play a big role in cleaning and maintaining freshness. I still have not figured out the right combination of just enough detergent for the amount of diapers I am washing.

    Can anybody shed light on how many diapers (pocket + insert) they would recommned washing at one time and how much detergent to use? I use Charlie’s soap with my FuzziBunz and BumGenius and have had a horrible time keeping them smelling fresh (they smell like ammonia the moment my son pees). I also have hardwater and an extremely heavy wetter which I am sure plays a role.


    • Mrs. w/1 child says:

      To soften hard water, use approx half a cup of baking soda in the wash. It works like a charm and it is available very cheaply in 5 lb. bags at cost co. (Last time I purchased a bag it was just under $5.00 per bag). Other than that it is a trial and error process as water composition varies from municipality to municipality.

      • Thanks! Sounds cheaper than buying Calgon. I will give that a try. I just stripped my diapers again (boiling them is the only luck I’ve had) so they are fresh and ready to go.

        • mamalaundry says:

          Boiling them is such a pain, but it DOES work without fail!

          Fresh dipes are like the comfort food of laundry. 😉


  5. LifeAsAMomma says:

    I sure wish I would have known how to prevent build up before we gve up on cloth! : (
    I tried stipping several times in many different methods but still nothing worked!!
    I am determined though to give it another try with baby #3!!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Oh no! Yes, the stink can be unbearable. And then if you don’t know how to get rid of it, it seems even worse!

      When you get to #3 in cloth, let me know if you have issues and I’ll try to help you troubleshoot. 😉


  6. Danielle H says:

    I was checking out the Dawn dish detergent, and they have the original and the double concentrated blue stuff. Which one did you use for the 1 T. in the diaper stipping method? I’ve been using RLR laundry treatment, but I’m not sure it’s really working. We use cotton and wool at home, but FuzziBunz when we go out, and the fleece layer tends to get so it doesn’t let the pee pass through and then leaks. We don’t have the stink problem much, though, as I replaced the micro-fiber inserts with cotton prefolds. Cotton washes SO much better.

    • mamalaundry says:

      I totally agree – cotton washes SO much cleaner because it is such a natural fabric. Love it!

      I use the concentrated Blue Dawn. Give it a try and rinse, rinse, rinse. Let me know your results!



  1. Washing Cloth Diapers says:

    […] And, if you feel like something is really wrong with your diapers smell-wise or leak-wise, check out my friend, Lauren’s post on stripping diapers. […]

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