How to Strip Cloth Diapers – Part 2

(I apologize for promising pictures.  I don’t have any.  Not one.  I decided pics weren’t really needed.)

It is inevitable at some point that you’ll need to strip your cloth diapers.  So what is the most effective way to do that?

If your diapers are soiled, go ahead and go through your normal washing regimen.  You don’t have to dry them.  You can start the stripping (of diapers) process while they are still wet.

(Here is one of the few times that a top-loader comes in really handy.  I personally think they wash cloth diapers more effectively.  I washed diapers for about a year using a top-loader and I never had to strip them.  When we got our sassy new front-loaders, my problems with stink and absorbency began.  I am certain it is because there is not as much water available to rinse.)

  • Start by placing all of your diapers in the washing machine and running a cold rinse.
    Even if you’ve just washed them, run them through another cold rinse.
  • Squirt about 1 Tablespoon of Blue Dawn Dish Soap into the washer.
    If you have a front-loader, squirt in on top of the diapers – don’t put it in the detergent dispenser.
  • Wash your diapers on the longest, hottest setting your machine has.
    You need as much agitation and as much hot water as your machine will give you.  Don’t skimp on either, or your diapers will still be stinky.
  • Wash your diapers on another long-cycle wash.
    No detergent. No Dawn Dish Soap.  Just a plain wash cycle on hot.
  • Rinse on cold over and over and over until you can’t see any bubbles inside the machine while it is rinsing.
    You shouldn’t even see a hint of bubbles in your machine. If you do, rinse again.  Seriously, you might need to rinse 4-5 times in a front-loader.  You can probably get away with 2-3 rinses in a top-loader.
  • If at all possible, dry your diapers in the sun.
    The sun is beneficial in so many ways.  And getting the stink out of cloth diapers is one of them!

And that’s it!  That’s all there is to it!

But what if you go through this whole process and they still smell awful?

I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few ideas if your diapers continue to harbor the stink:

  • Boil them on the stove for 5-10 minutes.
    Find the biggest pot possible, fill with water and bring to a  boil.  Put your inserts or diapers in the pot, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 5-10 minutes, keeping the diapers submerged as much as possible in the water.  Then send your diapers through a regular hot wash cycle with no detergent.  Rinse.  Then dry in the sun if possible.  Do this only with inserts – do not put boiling water on PUL!  This method is best used for inserts and prefolds.
  • Use a capful of bleach.
    Gasp! I know…
    I am not so much a fan of bleach as you well know, but desperate times call for desperate measures if your battling the stink.  Or your diapers are repelling like crazy.  You can use one capful in the bleach dispenser when doing a hot wash.  I’ve only used bleach once and it did the trick for my diapers.  But I only used it when stripping (diapers).  Never in my usual wash routine.
  • The dishwasher.
    I am NOT a fan of putting non-dish items in my dishwasher, as I am a scaredy-cat and I’m afraid I’ll set it on fire.  If you decide to wash them this way, make sure you clothespin the diapers to the top rack only and disable your Jet-Dry dispenser if you have one.  Wash on the longest setting your dishwasher offers.  You might need to run it through 2 cycles.  Take the diapers out and run through just a spin a cycle in the washer because they will be soaking wet.  Also, don’t put PUL in your dishwasher.  You will not like your results.

Stink and repelling diapers do not work for me!  But clean, absorbent cloth diapers definitely does!

Are you having trouble with your cloth diapers?  Feel free to leave your questions!



Disclaimer: Proceed with caution when washing your dipes, whether it is in the machine or dishwasher and use common sense.  Mama is not responsible for any house fires, or shot elastic in your dipes if you choose to try these methods.  Or any other diaper fails you might experience.  Please be careful.


  1. i am SO glad warm, sunny weather is back for line drying again! it is the best for stains and odor.
    .-= suzannah @ so much shouting/laughter´s last blog ..hymns of praise then let us sing =-.

  2. Thanks so much for writing this post. We are going to start using cloth diapers and I have lots of questions about washing. This was very helpful!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Oh you’re welcome! If laundry questions come up as you get started with cloth diapers, feel free to ask!

  3. Thanks for this post. I’ve read about using Dawn dish detergent on several other sites, as well. Most sites specify “original” blue Dawn. Can you tell me what that means? I can only find the concentrated version and am hoping that’s OK. Perhaps “original” is specified so folks don’t use “Ultra” Dawn or some other version? Am I on the right track? Help!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Jessica, I totally get the confusion! When I wrote to use ‘original’ blue dawn, I meant to use the actual blue liquid dawn. Not one that was scented with green apple or citrus, or some other crazy scent.

      I understand that it doesn’t strip as well as the Blue liquid Dawn. I’ve personally never tried it since I didn’t want to make my diapers worse at the time!

      So I think if you use the Blue liquid Dawn (regardless of whether it is the concentrated/Ultra type or not) you should like your results. I used the Ultra Blue Dawn to strip mine several times and it has worked beautifully for me!

      Let me know if you have any more questions! 🙂


  4. Wynn Przybycien says:

    Is this safe for PUL covers? I have major odor issues with my BG’s and would love to try this. Thanks

    • mamalaundry says:

      In my experience, it has been completely safe for my PUL covers. I always hang my PUL covers (or BGs, FBs, etc) to dry just so they’ll stay in better shape.

      It is my BGs that have given me the most odor trouble! So yes, I’ve stripped them many times using this method. I can’t tell in any way that it has decreased the life of them.

      It is definitely true that hot temperatures can damage the elastic, but at least that is easy to fix in this situation. I’d much rather replace the elastic than deal with stinky dipes!!!


    • I know this is a little old, but thought I’d mention that Cotton Babies actually talks about using Dawn to strip your diapers in their official blog:

      So, yes, it’s safe to use with the BGs

  5. I love to see cloth diapers drying on the clothes line, but don’t like how crunchy they get.
    Any advice?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Janet – it’s your prefolds that are more crunchy feeling, right? My pockets with inserts always feel the same to me.

      Honestly? It bothered me at first, so I would tumble them in the dryer 5-8 minutes on hot with a wet wash cloth to help take out some of the crunch.

      However, I realized that they folded so much better (I use newspaper fold) and stayed in their folded shape if they were a little crunchy. So now I just leave them as is off the line!

      So try tumbling the dryer a few mins and see if that works. If you don’t have a dryer, you could always hang them in a steamy bathroom and see if that would help a little.


  6. Thanks Mama! I thought I was stripping mine just by washing w/ Blue Dawn, but I am going to try this whole process today!

  7. I have stripped my diapers recently because we were getting a slight smell and were having a leaking problem. Smell is gone but the leaking continues. Our prefolds and covers work just fine, but it is my FuzziBunz that I am having some issues. There is leaking through the threading. It is not because he is too wet or needs to be changed, this can happen and often does happen if he pees only a few minutes after I have changed his diaper. It is not leaking through the leg holes or the back, just through the thread. Any suggestions? I have heard several ladies say to dry on HIGH heat in a dryer to reseal the PUL but FuzziBunz recommends only drying on low heat….

    • mamalaundry says:

      Jess, I don’t think I understand. What do you mean by “through the threading?”

      Through the PUL? If that is the case, yes drying on high heat will be fine to re-seal the PUL. I’ve only done that a couple of times when I think there is a tiny hole and I want it to re-seal.

      If that’s not what you mean, let me know and I’ll try to answer again. 🙂


  8. Is there anything more natural to use besides the Blue Dawn?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Darcy, I haven’t found anything that is more natural yet is as effective as Blue Dawn. I’m sorry.

      If you find something, please come back and let me know! I’d love to try it out.


  9. Hi,
    I am using primarily Rumparooz and some Bamboozles (Bummis) with a cover for nightime. I just started using them around 2 months ago. Everything was amazing for the first month and then I started noticing a slight smell from the diapers a few weeks ago. Then, the diapers with the microfiber insert started leaking but the ones with the hemp and bamboo inserts were fine. Now, everything is leaking a little bit. I stripped half of my diapers last night using Dawn. I have a front loader machine. I put 2 tbsp of Dawn poured in the dispensing drawer. Then I did a hot/cold heavy wash and then 4 cold/cold prewash/shorter wash cycles. Because I have a front loading machine – it is tough to see if there are bubbles. Anyway, there is still a very mild smell (better than before but the smell was never disgusting), but I tried one of the diapers with a microfiber insert and he leaked right through. The insert was wet as well but not soaking. What should I do? Should I strip them again or just rinse them again? Also, my machine only allows me to use temperatures like hot/cold, warm/warm, warm/cold, and cold/cold. Currently I have a soiled load that is getting cleaned in the machine as we speak (the other half of the diapers that I haven’t stripped yet). I have done the cold/cold prewash and am currently doing the hot/cold heavy wash. What should I do with these ones when they are clean? Should I strip them and how? So I have 2 separate loads – one getting cleaned now and 1 that was stripped last night and still leaking.

    Thanks so much!!!

  10. I’ve been using hemp inserts for a couple weeks now. All of a sudden they smell so STRONG like ammonia after my lo pees. It’s not just after they sit – I can smell her wet bootie from a mile away!

    How do I fix this and any ideas what has caused it??

    • mamalaundry says:

      Charlie – Hemp is a little harder to get clean than say, cotton. In my experience, diapers that smell awful as soon as the child pees in them have detergent buildup and need to be stripped.

      If detergent is your culprit, you might need to experiment a little – how much detergent you can use in your water and your machine. Or you may need to even change detergents.

      But I wouldn’t do any of that until you strip them really well. Rinse, rinse and rinse again.

      If you’ve stripped them well and are still having trouble, email me and I’ll help you troubleshoot. [email protected]

  11. What detergent do you suggest? I have been using Rockin green for the past 5 months and i’m not liking it. I mainly use BG diapers and no matter how many times i strip or rinse after i wash they stink. I have tried more detergent/less detergent extra rinses and nothing helps. They smell sunky right after he pees in them. Stripping helps for a while but then a few weeks later they stink again.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Ashley, it may be that the Rockin Green doesn’t work well with your type of water or possibly the washer that you have. And just for the record, my BGs are the worst to hold onto stink. It seems to be a never ending battle with them!

      If this were me, I would change to Original Liquid Tide and use only 2 Tablespoons or so in my next wash. Then I would rinse them like crazy and dry in the sun. I’d do it this way through several wash cycles and then see how it stands.


  12. Christina says:

    I’ve tried this successfully a few times to deal with ammonia and stink but since my son has started daycare, he’s had almost constant diaper rash. They put cream on him every day and they seriously slather it. As you can imagine, it’s all over the diapers despite using liners and of course, he goes through three or four outfits a day. I’m hoping this works, or I guess we have to go back to disposables for daycare. Not really a question, so much as an argh!!!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Christina, So sorry you are having such a hard time with the dipes.

      As I’m sure you well know, the cream will make diapers repel horribly. Sometimes even the creams that are formulated with cloth diapers. You might try scrubbing them with a toothbrush to loosen the fibers to see if some of the cream will wash out.

      Have you tried baking soda for the diaper rash? I just wrote a post on it yesterday over at Life as MOM. It’s especially helpful if you’re using cloth since it’s harder to use creams. I’m not sure if your daycare people would do the baking soda thing consistently, but you could definitely do it at bath time and just whenever you’re home with him.

      Make sure to read the comments in that post. Those ladies have some wonderful suggestions! And it’s so true – what works for one baby’s diaper rash doesn’t necessarily work for another’s. Maybe you’ll find a remedy after reading through those. It can be so frustrating trying to find the right cure!

  13. I just started CDing and so far not good 🙁 I bought the Sunbaby diaper brand (12 dipes and 12 inserts for $60) and they are leaking. Not just once and a while but everytime! Some of my readers who are also new moms and new to CDing suggested that I strip the diapers to help with absorbency, will this in fact help? We don’t have na issue with smells yet because each diaper I put on him has never been worn before. I hate that I have to wash his entire outfit everytime and I really want CDing to work for us. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Hi Nicole, I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time with CDing. It can be tough to figure out the real issue.

      First, I’d look at your detergent and see if it is premium (think Tide). If you are using homemade detergent, I’d switch to a premium storebought detergent until you can get it figured out.

      You haven’t used any diaper creams or lotions, right? They’ll definitely cause leaking.

      If your diapers are leaking straight out of the box (in other words, brand new), I wonder if that type needs to be washed several times before they are really absorbent. I’m sorry that I’m not familiar with that brand. Actually, now that I think about it…if it were me I would try stripping them a couple of times to prep them and then try again.

      If this didn’t answer your question, let me know and I’ll try again. 😉


  14. So I am at my wits end. I started CDing about 7 months ago with my 2yo and have constantly battled amonia smell and some pretty serious rashes. At first I thought it was my FL washing machine but have since moved and have a TL and still the problems! I had been using Ecos Free and Clear which I have since heard can cause buildup in hard water, which I believe I have but not to the point where I see rusty color stains on any of our clothes. So yesterday I stripped with Blue Dawn. I actually used more than recommended here and washed until there were no suds, about 5 times in hot, using 2 extra long washes. So tonight when I put a cloth diaper on her for bed I was pretty confident we would have no stink. But here I am at 5 a.m. awake and confused because I woke up due to the amonia smell!! I am just so confused as to what is happening and why I can’t get the smell out. Today I plan on trying bleach because of how desperate I am but any ideas about what I am doing wrong?? I have invested in new detergents that people with hard water have recommended but if I have researched correctly, I need to strip before switching detergents, right? I am just not sure what my next step should be and would really not be too worried since LO is nearly potty trained but we are expecting in 3.5 weeks and I was hoping to CD this baby from birth on. HELP!

  15. I accidentally read over the second hot wash and jumped straight into cold rinses after the initial hot wash. I’ve done about 6 rinses (Front loader machine.) I’m hoping I didn’t mess anything up!

  16. I stripped all my diapers at once using the blue dawn – minus the second hot wash – and my pockets are FABULOUS now! My Flips, however, still stink! Should I do this routine again with just the flips, or do you think I may need to add a little bleach and wash them on their own?

  17. Please help. I live in an area with hard water. I have been CDing about 4 months and for the past 3 have been battling ammonia issues. (my daughter is only 4 minths old). I have a frontloader and started using Rockin Green hard formula and my diapers smelled horrible. So i stripped my diapers they still smelled. I used a little bleach which helps but I have to use each time or else. I am currently using Tide and still having to battle the smell after even adding more water to each wash cycle. The only relief was when I went back east to visit family. I used my parents top loader with Tide and no issues for 2 weeks. Came back and the 1st wash at home and ammonia. I am using prefolds with covers and cotton AIOs. I am at a loss feel like I have tried everything. Any suggestions greatly appreciated if I can’t figure out this wash routine worried will have to switch to disposable.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Valentina, I’m so sorry you are having so much trouble with your dipes. I just posted a potential solution for you today:

      You are going to have to trick your washer into sensing it has more in it. As a result, it will dump more water in and get your diapers cleaner.

      Stay with the Tide. Try adding an extra old towel or two to bulk up the amount of items in the washer. It should be enough laundry/towels that you consider it a ‘large’ load. Make sure you are doing an extra rinse and hang outside if at all possible.

      Try the extra towel trick and see what happens. It might take a load or two before you see any difference. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll help you troubleshoot. 🙂

  18. I’m going to try stripping my dipes tonight in my front loader. I do have a question though, we have a cycle called “Sanitize” it would technically be the hottest, longest cycle. I’ve heard that it’s not safe to wash dipes using this cycle. Should I back off and use the “Heavy Duty” cycle instead?

    Thanks in advance!

  19. Jessica says:

    A few loads ago, I noticed that a sample of regular diaper cream snuck into the laundry-you can imagine my horror!!! As I was moving the newly washed diapers from the washer to the dryer (it was raining that day), I noticed an open, now empty sample of diaper cream. Soooo, it seems like all of my diapers are repelling now. I can only imagine taht the diaper cream circulated through the entire load. I have done a hot wash with Dawn with no luck. I put some vinegar in the wash regularly, so I’m wondering if I should move onto Bleach? Or should I hand wash my entire stash, scrubbing all of the insides of the pockets with a toothbrush? Please help!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Oh Jessica. I would be such an unhappy girl at discovering that diaper cream sample. So sorry for you!

      Honestly, I would hand scrub them all with a toothbrush and blue Dawn. I think it will take scrubbing them by hand to get the diaper cream out. If they still seem to repel after washing, I’d boil them a couple at the time and scrub with a toothbrush again.

      Let me know if this works for you! Hoping it does! 🙂

  20. How do I strip my diapers by hand? They’re leaking, I have Bumgenius, sunbaby, and kawaii. What do i need to do?

  21. I am experimenting to use cloth diapers for my baby. I bought second hand cloth diapers as I don’t want to spend a fortune just in case I don’t like it. I am committed to washing the diapers every other day, however, I noticed that at the start of the second day, our bathroom, where I store the diapers in a dry pail start having strong ammonia smell (I guess from the baby’s urine). After washing though, the diapers smell fine. Do you have any recommendation how to eliminate that strong ammonia smell of unwashed diapers? Thanks in advance!

  22. My inserts turned yellow!!

  23. Thank you for the detailed post. I stripped my diapers last night with blue dawn and the inserts and covers still smell like dawn. Is this ok? I followed the directions and after the second hot wash rinsed 2-3 more times. I didn’t are any more soap bubbles in my top loader. I just don’t can’t to give him a rash. Thank you.

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Hayley, I think they are probably okay to use even if they smell a bit like Dawn. The key indicator is bubbles…but I have been fooled before.

      Try them and if you see any irritation at all, just rinse and rinse again.

  24. My daughter has been in cloth diapers since she was about 2 months old, she is now going to be 2 in February. A while back she developed a rash and even the Drs couldn’t figure out why. So, I stripped my diapers and put them back on her after her rash had healed. Well, she got the rash back. It ended up being a really bad infection. So again, I stripped the diapers and I did sun then right after. I put them on her again and without skipping a beat, the rash returned. So she has been in sposies for a while now because I’m not sure what else to do to clean them. I stripped them again yesterday and although it’s freezing out I hung them out for a bit then let them dry in the dryer. I put on of them on her today and again she got all red and blotchy and has some welts. I have read what it says to do here and am awaiting new detergent in the mail to try that and I’m also going to try the bleach and everything else the website has to offer, but does anyone have anything else I could try?! I’m desperate! She shows no sign of wanting to potty train and I want to cloth diaper very badly! (Sorry if any of the words are misspelled or anything, typing on my iPad) thank you ladies!!

    Signed: mama who wants to cuse cloth again!!

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Jennifer, have you tried completely sunning them? Stripping one last time and then allowing them to dry in full sunlight? I know it’s frigid cold right now, but that’s what I would do. Then switch detergents.

      I’m sorry, as I know you’re frustrated!!

      • We don’t have much sun right now and haven’t for a few days. :/ I’m not sure what I could do if there is no sun.

    • My niece had this problem! Turned out she was allergic to the detergent AND the dawn!

    • Hi Jennifer! Were you ever able to resolve this? I currenty have my prefolds and covers (both FLIPS) in the washer on a cold rinse, which will be followed with the Dawn stripping method. My little guy got an infection on his pee-pee last week, the pedi had no idea why. We switched to sposies to let the cream heal it. I put the cloth back on about 4 days later, and he was raw within an hour. I just bought the Dawn soap today and really really hopefuly this works! I loooove clothing – this is the 3rd go-round for us, and we are not fans of disposables. Just wondering how this was resolved for you???

  25. Cassandra says:

    I have been having problems with my diapers and I want to quit so bad. I change my daughter’s diaper, set her on my lap, and pee starts running down my leg. Diaper isn’t saturated? Check. Diaper fits correctly? Check. Maybe the inserts lost their absorbancy?

    Here’s my laundry routine;
    1. I do add baking soda to the diaper bin to help eliminate odor, so that goes in with the first rinse.
    2. After the first rinse, I take out the inserts, spray them with bleach (from a spray bottle), add the rest of the diapers and rinse again
    3. Hot wash with detergent (I use Seventh Generation natural laundry detergent) I do not use fabric softener. Also, I don’t have well water.

    And that’s it. I am at wits end and I just can’t figure out why they are leaking!! HELP


  1. […] addition to my normal washing, I usually strip my diapers once a month or so.  You will want to periodically do this because of build-up from detergent […]

  2. […] I actually call this my “disinfecting strip” because it’s a combination of both stripping and disinfecting my diapers at the same […]

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