See also: What is Diaper Stripping?
Though there are a variety of methods for stripping your diapers, the cheapest and most tried & true is definitely stripping with plain old hot water. You’ll need no special supplies or considerations other than good old hot water, your washing machine, and several hours of time to monitor the situation.
Works best for: removing diaper issues caused by general buildup or soap residue; restoring fluffiness to diapers and inserts
1. Start with diapers that are already clean of all urine and poop. They can be dry (from in storage) or still wet/damp (fresh out of a load of laundry from the washer). Either wet or dry will work fine.
2. Plan to get your washing machine water as hot as possible. Many modern washing machines have a built-in heating coil inside them so that water is selected to a specific temperature when selected. So, don’t worry about this if you have a newer machine as your washer will take care of it for you. However, if you have an older washing machine, make sure the levels on your hot water tank are set high enough that water can get truly hot. Turn up the heater a couple hours before you plan to strip to ensure that really hot water will reach your diapers. Alternatively, for an older washing machine, you can also boil some water on the stove, let it cool slightly, and then manually dump it into your top loader.
** Caution — do not dump straight boiling water into the load, however, as it can damage PUL, plastics, and elastic. Be sure to let it cool slightly first.
3. Place all your diapers in your washing machine. Choose settings that will yield the hottest water temperature, whether “Sanitize” or “Cotton/Towels” or plain old “Hot/Cold”. Also select settings that will increase your water level, if possible. Use “High” water level or the “Water Plus” setting on a high efficiency machine, if it has it. Start the cycle. DO NOT ADD ANY SOAP.
4. Check the water level part way through. If there is not enough water (if all the diapers are not thoroughly SUBMERGED in water), then manaully add HOT tap water (or partially cooled boiled water) by hand. In a top loader, just dump it in. In a front loader, you can pour water in via the detergent drawer manually. Just go slowly so it doesn’t overload it and splash/spill. Alternatively, see if you can pause the cycle partway through it ejecting the first batch of water. Usually, at this point, I can get the door to unlock and can dump several pitchers of hot water overtop of my diaper laundry pile within.
5. Watch for bubbles. If your diapers had a problem with soap residue or buildup, all this hot water should be enough to get suds forming. Take a peek at what’s going on several times throughout the wash cycle. You may be amazed how much soap seems to be in there even though you never added soap to the cycle! That was all embedded in your diapers somehow–no wonder they needed to be stripped!
6. Top up water at different phases of the cycle. When your cycle switches over to “rinse”, you may need to add more water manually again. Just listen for the switch and stay in tune with what’s going on.
7. Do more rinses. Once that initial wash has spun dry and indicated it is done, don’t remove your diapers. Set them up for another one, two, three, or more rinses. Continue to rinse on Hot/Cold or on Warm/Warm (as opposed to just cold). The idea is to keep the soap sudsing OUT of the diapers. Continue to use hot/warm water and to keep the water levels as HIGH as possible, whether via the machine of by hand. So, how many rinses do you have to do? Continue to rinse until you see NO MORE SOAP BUBBLES. Take note that soap bubbles have a whiter, filmier look to them, and tend to linger longer on the surface of the water. In newer machines, or in machines where the water is being more aerated/agitated, you may see some bubbles forming during agitation, but they may be only air bubbles. Air bubbles are tiny, more uniform in shape, are clear to look at, and they disperse and pop very quickly after they form.
So, just how many rinses can you plan on doing? On average, most people will need to complete an additional 2-3 effective rinses to completely rid their diapers of built up soap. However, in worse cases, or in cases where your rinses are not quite as effective as they could be (not enough water, etc), you may need to complete upwards of 9 or 10 rinses!
So, don’t plan to strip your diapers if you are in a hurry! You need to be around to be constantly checking for suds ad well as checking the water temperature and level. Trust me, it will pay off in the end if you do it right the first time around! If you get too laissez-faire and think the machine will simply take care of it for you in two swift rinses, you may find yourself stripping again in a few days!
8. Dry your diapers normally. Once all the suds are gone from the wash and the diapers have spun clean and dry in the washer, simply proceed to dry them as you normally would (hang shells to dry, tumble dry inserts if you like, etc).
Hopefully this tried & true method of stripping will have solved your diaper problems. If your problem is truly gone, you’ll once again have diapers and inserts that are fluffy, aborsorbant, and that smell clean and free of any strong ammonia smells whether wet or dry.
Don’t forget, in order to prevent this problem from happening again,
- always wash diapers in hot water and high water levels
- always rinse diapers several times (possibly even in warmer water) after laundering with soap
- use the least amount of detergent possible
- use only cloth diaper approved detergents
- never add fabric softener or use dryer sheets
On the other hand, unfortunately, if you find that even after this labor-intensive method, you are still left with diaper issues (stink, repelling, ammonia, rash, etc), then you may need to move onto another method, such as stripping using Rockin’ Green Soap.