ENOUGH with the "Stripping" Already


Our Customer Service department fields at least 5 "stripping" questions per day. The term, stripping, pops up daily on cloth diaper forums and manufacturer's Facebook walls. I've cloth diapered 5 babies (since 2003) and this term was nonexistent when I started cloth diapering.

As pocket diapers and other polyester cloth diapers became popular, a new generation of washing instructions was marketed alongside these products. Washing instructions that told customers to use 1/2 (or less) of the recommended dose of detergent. The result: unclean diapers, ammonia issues, diaper rashes, and ultimately unusable cloth diapers. This was then followed by a whole host of "stripping" processes and customers who think that this is normal for cloth diapers. It isn't.

Common sense tells me this: I wouldn't wash a load of my own towels with half of the detergent.  Why in the world would I do this with soiled diapers and expect them to get clean?

Here's what you need to know:

Stripping- Today, this term is overused. Stripping is the removal of OILS left behind from fabric softeners and diaper balms. It is achieved by washing your diapers with blue Dawn dish soap to strip the oils off of your diaper fibers. If properly cared for, you should never need to strip your diapers.

RLR- A laundry treatment that is for the removal of MINERAL deposits on clothing. It would be useful for people with extremely hard water (think well water) whose clothing gets dingy from mineral residue. RLR is not a soap or detergent. You use this with detergent and only if your diapers are dingy from your home's hard water.
photo (78)

Bleach- Not normally recommended by cloth diaper manufacturers. If you are consistently getting your diapers clean you should never need to bleach them. The exception to this is if your baby has a diagnosed yeast or bacterial infection. You can safely bleach your diapers with 1/8 cup of bleach in a cool or warm wash. Make sure to rinse well to remove any remaining bleach.

Aquarium Descalers, Boiling, Dishwashing Detergents, Microwaving etc- NO, NO, NO, NO

With so many diaper laundry challenges, false information, and crazy wash routines, it is a wonder that anybody chooses to cloth diaper anymore. It must be insanely overwhelming to newcomers, when it doesn't need to be.

This is a care label from a popular brand of cloth diaper from 2008.
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The science behind clean diapers is easy. Think SUDS!


- Simple wash routine. Wash every two days with a hot or warm wash and an extra rinse.  No soaking or watching for bubbles during the rinse cycle.  Just throw them in and go play with your kiddo!

- Use enough detergent.  Use the FULL amount of detergent recommended on your detergent packaging.  Eco friendly detergents are great but don't always clean really well.  If you go with an eco friendly detergent pick a salt based one (not one with coconut or other plant oils as a main ingredient), and use enough.  In fact, you may need to use a bit more than recommended.

D - Duration.  Your diapers must be exposed to the proper concentration of detergent for at least 45 minutes to get fully clean.  A 15 minute wash cycle won't cut it!

- Stay away from additives.  Baking soda, vinegar, boosters, essential oils etc. While when used seldomly won't harm your diapers, they are not good to use constantly.  They can impede your detergent's cleaning ability, can cause rashes, and can ultimately ruin elastic and laminates.  If you are adamant about using them, check with the manufacturer of your diaper first.

We hope that you will find this article useful and can help us in spreading GOOD information about how easy diaper laundry can be!!   Don't waste time contemplating extreme diaper care.....Life's too short to worry about an extra rinse cycle :-)

220 thoughts on “ENOUGH with the "Stripping" Already”

  • Maria

    Great post! I say it over & over (and just posted about it again yesterday actually!) that "stripping" shouldn't be necessary with a good routine. :-)

  • Melissa C.


  • Mary D

    Re. duration--are you saying that my diapers need to be agitating for 45 minutes? Or that my complete cycle should be 45 minutes? I remember my mom's washer growing up and the longest agitation length possible was 18 minutes and that was in the pre-HE days.

  • Kim

    Hi Mary,
    They should be exposed to detergent in sufficient concentration for 45 minutes. Most of today's machines have wash cycle lengths of at least this long...or longer!

  • Kate B

    i have the same question about duration. i have a very basic machine and the longest wash cycle (the "heavy" cycle) is only 18-21 minutes. should i be running 2 consecutive heavy wash cycles? i haven't had any stink issues but want to make sure my diapers are getting clean.

  • Becca

    Yes! Use detergent!!! Lol

    Only things I would add are
    1) dawn should never be used in a washing machine... It voids the warranty (I almost found that out the hard way but was lucky to have a really nice technician thatbdaid he would keep my secret lol)
    You can spot treat the diapers that have oil/cream residue with a drop of dawn and dish soap!

    2) always pre rinse!

    3) 1/8 cup of bleach won't fully kill yeast you need 1/2 cup in a large load.... Add bleach, and water, then agitate a bit and add diapers so not all bleach dispensers dispense evenly.. Mine just dumps it on the clothes and I have issues with them...

    Thank you so much for telling people to use detergent, that bleach isn't necessary unless you have a problem listed above (contrary to the instructions from other cloth diapers manufacturers who sell incredibly weak detergent) and to stop obsessing about suds in the rinse!!!

  • Brittany

    Front loaders may have 45 minute or long wash cycles but certainly not top loaders lol. 18 minutes max. But good job Grovia. FINALLY. lol. The movement back to no crazy diapering begins! Baby steps.

  • Kim

    Choose your longest cycle possible on your machine!

  • Rumsita

    Hi, I love that GroVia's instructions are no-nonsense!

    I'm wondering if you might be able to answer a question for me. A few months back, I visited my local cloth diapering store in search of RLR, and they didn't have it anymore. They told me that they now carry GroVia's Mighty Bubbles, and that it "will work the same way as RLR". Can you either confirm or deny that for me?

  • Kim

    Great question! RLR and Mighty Bubbles are NOT the same! RLR is purely to remove mineral buildup from hard water. Mighty Bubbles not only removes minerals but also cleans and disinfects.

  • Beck

    Thank you for this advice! After 4years out of the mcn game, it was beginning to feel too overwhelming to bother with them for our new squish.

    Do you have a preferred detergent to use? Powder, liquid, brand? Are things like soap nuts or rockin green still recommended?

  • Lindsay

    Hi Kim, I have some preloved diapers that I'd like to make sure are clean from bacterias (many of them are also dingy). How would you suggest cleaning them both from bacteria and dingyness? I have purchased RLR and I do have disinfecting bleach here at home. Thanks!

  • Kim

    We actually do not recommend either of those detergents though that opinion comes purely from years of feedback from our customer service department who is on the front lines receiving complaints. Powder detergent is great and our favorite eco friendly brands are Tiny Bubbles, Allen's, and Country Save. Favorite store brands are Tide, Gain, and All.

  • Kim

    RLR will remove any mineral deposits and a one time bleaching with 1/8c of bleach and some extra rinses should do the trick!!

  • Janelle Coleman

    I just wanted to say thank you. This is the most common sense I have seen from *any* CD manufacturer... ever.

  • SME

    Thank you for this article!!! I hope it helps many moms get a good wash routine!

    What about Calgon or Washing Soda if you have hard water?

  • Kim

    For extremely hard water a softener like Calgon is fine. Softened water will allow the detergent to work better and you MAY even need to use a bit less detergent if you are using a softener or have a home water softening system!

  • carolyn

    I'm curious which Eco friendly detergents you would recommend.

  • Kim

    Our favorites are: Tiny Bubbles, Allens, and Country Save!

  • Melissa Mendez

    Oh yay! Practical advice! I wrote a series on cloth diaper laundry, and what I learned is that it's not that complicated. Heck, I've been switching detergents like underwear, and I haven't had to strip yet. :-) The diapers I mean. And I've found that almost any detergent will work as long as you are using enough and adding Calgon water softener if needed.

  • Holly Parsons

    Great advice! It's been a few years since I used cloth and I have a baby due in July. Been trying to look for a good but also cost effective detergent that is sent/dye/etc free as we have a lot of sensitive skin in our house. We can't use Tide, Gain or All (I've tried them all at one point). I currently make my own detergent but have read that it's not really good for diapers. Can I ask why? I'm pretty sure we have hard water (going to have it tested soon) so what would be a good wash routine for hard water @Kim (or anyone else)? (We do a lot of laundry, baby in July will be #4 so 6 in our household total)

  • Deedeen

    Hi!! Thanks a lot for this post. I still have 2 questions:

    1. I tell my customers (and I do it myself with my CDs) to do a first rinse in the washing machine, before running a long cycle to wash them. Why? Because we want to extract the urine of the diapers before washing them. If you do not rinse them, you are going to wash the diapers WITH the urine! Yerk!

    2. Please, would it be possible to tell me what is "hot" and "warm"??? Here in Europe we don't have the same washing machine, ours heat the water inside the machine. We have settings with Celsius degrees. Could you tell me what is the degrees corresponding with "hot" and "warm"?

    Thanks a lot!

  • Heather Johnson

    Great post! I have a super simple cloth diaper laundry routine too. I have never had any problems. And the only time I strip is when I occasionally accidentally get diaper cream on the diaper rather than containing the cream to a liner. I actually cannot remember the last time that I striped.

  • Nancy M

    Why is coconut surfactant a no-no?

    You say, " If you go with an eco friendly detergent pick a salt based one (not one with coconut or other plant oils as a main ingredient), and use enough. "

  • Kim

    Here is a great article debating the difference between natural and petro derived surfactant. It discusses both the enviromental, health and cleaning abilities. In fact, coconut (and other natural) surfactants actually require a higher wash temperature to work well.

    Detergents that contain PLANT oils are generally an issue because the oils actually bind to the minerals in hard water (which most people have) and create that lovely slime (think that stuff on your glass shower door) which over time can build up on absorbent diaper fibers.

  • Kim

    Hi Dee,
    A first rinse is just fine and in fact a warm rinse works better than a cold one in the case of pee and poop! Hot wash means not exceeding 50C.

  • Kim

    Hi Holly,
    The main reason we don't recommend homemade detergents are not so much the ingredients people use, but the actual formlation. We are not chemists (most cloth diapering parents aren't) and too much or too little of certain ingredients could mean unclean diapers, ruined diapers, or even worse a chemical burn or rash on baby. It just isn't a risk we would take and we recommend leaving the detergent formulation up to the experts!!

  • Bethany Bell

    I was wondering why I didn't recognise any of the recommended detergents. They all seem to be US or Canada brands. How about ones that are available in Aussie supermarkets? Ecostore and Earth Choice are my go-to's but I would change if there were a better alternative that's easy to get.

  • Deedeen

    Thank you so much Kim! You are the first one who can tell me that bloody Celsius Degree!

    Here in Europe, a lot of people are washing at a temp. of 60 C... But I recommand 40 C (it's the normal setting on machines).

  • Kim

    Ecostore is salt based, so I would choose it over Earth Choice with has coconut derived ingredients.

  • Jennifer

    Hi Kim! I've heard a lot about Tide, but people usually say to only use the kind without blue crystals. I can't seem to find that kind, is there really a difference and am I just looking in the wrong places for it? I know there is also Tide free and clear but I've only found that in liquid. Do you know if that is a good version? Thanks! !

  • Danielle

    I've read a lot of mixed advice about using vinegar in the rinse cycle to get rid of the ammonia smell. I know you mentioned not needing additives, what if the diapers are starting to smell?

    Someone once told me you could use fels naptha to get poop stains out of CDs. Would this work or ruin CDs?

    Thanks so much for this post and all your advice!

  • Kim

    Tide Free and Clear liquid would be just fine! Any Tide powder (blue crystals or not) will work just as well too.

  • Kim

    I would NOT recommend vinegar in your rinse cycle. It will NOT help with the ammonia smell. The ammonia smell comes from unclean diapers. You should increase your detergent and make sure your wash cycle is sufficient and you will notice a HUGE improvement.

    Stains! Use the sun. It is free, contains no chemicals and works AMAZINGLY! Simply place your clean, still wet diapers in the sun (you can even place them in a sunny window)for several hours. Viola...stains will be gone.

  • Alicia

    THANK YOU! I am so sick of reading about using special detergents that cost 4x what regular detergents cost. I am tired of being told to use less of it...why? Why on Earth would I use LESS detergent to remove fecal matter??? Really? My ex was using my cloth for our DD and he asked how to wash them...I told him to rinse, then wash, and rinse until there was no more soap. He said "ok...but I read..." I just stared at him. Duh. Just wash them.

  • Tanya

    How about the tendency to use an anti-fungal in the wash as a regular occurrence? Here in Aus there is a movement of people that insist on doing this... brands would be dettol and cannesten... it does my head in because I don't believe it is necessary (anyone heard of the sun for sanitising??) and so harmful to our world.

  • Teresa

    I accidentally put bounce in the dryer with my cloth diapers. What can I do to remove it? Thank you!

  • Teresa

    How would you recommend washing diapers that have gone through the dryer with bounce?

  • Donna

    Just wondering what you think of soap nuts I have been using them since my baby was born and they worked great until he started solids. Now I am not finding th strong enough we have very hard water. We are on a well what would you recommend?

  • Chawna

    My washer is fast, top load plain jane machine". I can do a soak off 30 min, that adjatatea every 5 min or so, should I be doing that? Is nellies okay to use? Thanks in advance !

  • Cloth Diaper Retailer
    Cloth Diaper Retailer April 4, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Your directions are completely correct EXCEPT ONE BIG FAIL TO MENTION: You do NEED to do a pre-wash cycle FIRST. This is to fill the diapers with water and wash away the urine and soils. It opens the fibers for washing and if done in warm water, makes body soils more soluble. Then the dirty pre-wash water gets flushed away and fresh new CLEAN water comes in to wash your diapers. Skipping the pre-wash step and just tossing your dirty diapers and washing them means you are washing them in urine and soiled water. And Alicia, the post does not mention specific detergents to use or not use and most special detergents are not 4x the regular cost of detergent. They are concentrated and you are only using a couple of TBSP as opposed to 1/4 or 1/2 cup.

  • Hiller

    Just do a regular wash with extra rinse. Being a top load machine you are going to want to make sure you are using ENOUGH detergent to get a good concentration to clean. If Nellie's is getting your diapers clean by all mean keep using it!

  • Hiller

    We do not recommend Soap Nuts for cleaning cloth diapers. We think they are great for regular clothing but simply do not clean well enough in hard water (which most of people have) for cloth diapers!

  • Hiller

    This is ONE of those cases where you need to truly strip your diapers (or remove the oil residue). You should take your diapers and wash them with regular BLUE Dawn dishsoap. The stuff they use to "degrease" those poor penguins after oil spills :-(

  • Hiller

    This is ONE of those cases where you need to truly strip your diapers (or remove the oil residue). You should take your diapers and wash them with regular BLUE Dawn dishsoap. The stuff they use to “degrease” those poor penguins after oil spills

  • Rachal

    I love this! So it says you do not have to use a lot of water... I have been using Super, you think I could get away with just using a Medium load.

    About detergent. Is it a myth to only use powder or can I use liquid too?

  • Serviced Apartments Guy

    Excellent tips, and summarised so well in the suds mnemonic

  • Amber

    So if my diapers have an ammonia problem that means they are not getting clean or there's a buildup? I use just a little more than the recommended amount of detergent. Does this mean I need to add more detergent or is there a buildup happening with the detergent on my diapers? I'm not sure if I should add more or use less.....I follow the SUDS wash routine to a T. I had been using All Free & Clear....should I try something else?

  • Faith

    I have never had to strip my diapers, but recently my LO has developed a nasty rash to private area ( very red, swollen with small pimples). I put him in regular diapers and it goes away, thinking its either a reaction to the Rocking green detergent or yeast/bacterial? running a bleach wash now ( spoke with grovia). i'm very frustrated, and hoping that the bleach wash will help. my washer is a top load with a "heavy duty" cycle that runs for 1 hour 11 mins, I use this setting after I do a pre rinse.

    I love cloth diapering, but if this doesn't work then I may have to stop. ( BTY my LO is 18months, cloth diapering since he was 1 month, I used cloth with my eldest Lo too).

  • Kim

    Unfortunately, in our experience this is a common complaint with people using Rockin' Green detergent. It works for some, but for many it simply doesn't clean well. I would HIGHLY recommend switching to a regular store brand detergent and use the FULL amount to properly clean your diapers.

  • Kim

    I would switch to regular All or even Tide and again us the full amount. Sometimes free and clear detergents don't clean well enough for families, particularly if they have extremely hard water.

  • Henry

    So I've read the article a few times as well as all the comments.
    And it is still unclear to me what to do when you are actually in the middle of a diaper disaster where stripping seems to be the only choice. Our caretaker had used vast amounts of Desatin last week. First time he had a bad rash, we never had to use it before in 8 months, we had those thin washable liners on top of the inserts, but it went through and I accidentally washed it all together anyway. Huge mistake! So now it seems everything has a strong and strange smell and some even repel water when tested . What do I do?

  • Kim

    Yes, if Desatin was used with your cloth diapers you will need to strip, to remove the oils from your diapers so they can absorb. I would recommend wetting your diapers and take some BLUE Dawn dishsoap and a toothbrush and scrub the top layer, rinse well, then run through a regular wash. You will notice a HUGE improvement :-)

  • Henry

    Thank you for the advice Kim, very appreciated! Operation disaster recovery will begin tomorrow and Mighty Bubbles have aslo been ordered for the follow up cleaning ;)

  • petra

    We have grovia hybrid. Our son was born last week and we are looking forward to start to use them. The problem we have is to find a detergent free of plant oils and petrolum in our country. We do not know which detergent in Europe is good for Gro VIA SOAKERS. Do you have any experience with that?
    We found a seller who has tide products but they do not have Tide Free, just the normal Tide.

    kind regards,


  • Kim

    Vaska is fantastic and easily found in Europe I believe!

  • Landa

    My daugther use Grovia hibrid. I live in Europe to and here we not find tinny bubbles or Vaska. I have some problems with laundry diapers because I have a HE front loader machine and we don't use powder detergents because my daughter is allergic. If I use the the full amount of detergent recommended lots of foam appears even a make a extra rinse. Any sugestion?

  • Kim

    Hi Landa! Persil is another standard detergent commonly found in Europe. It even comes in a "sensitive" version and works well for cloth diapers!

  • Jenna

    Our Stay Dry Soakers seem to be repelling urine, so we're thinking we need to strip them. We were using Tiny Bubbles but ran out so were using the Trader Joe's powder soap, which I think we'll need to change (it's coconut / plant based).

    I'm not sure if it's the Trader Joe's soap or possibly the Weleda diaper cream we use only at night with disposable diapers that's causing the repelling (maybe a little bit of the diaper cream is transferring when we switch to cloth in the morning?).

    If we are going to strip, does it matter if it's Blue Dawn ULTRA as opposed to Blue Dawn regular? And can the Dawn go in the washer? How much? (someone posted that you can't put Dawn in your washer, I can't see why.)

    Can we use the TJ's soap but with hot water maybe? (I saw the note above about using hot water to open up the coconut based detergent?).


  • Beverly

    Hum... My longest wash cycle is 16 minutes.... I have an older top loader. My diapers are coming out smelly thought right now. I can full cycle wash twice but there is no way (I can see) to have 45 minutes of constant contact with detergent....

  • Kathleen

    What a wonderful article, Thank you! This makes so much sense.

    I do try to wash my diapers just this way, however, since our old washer broke and we got an HE washer, I noticed our diapers stink quite a bit, not always when on the baby, but definitely when they sit in the pail for an hour . Admittedly this might be due to the fact the transition coincided with my daughter switching to more solids (and this is my first child so I have no comparisons), but I am struggling with the volume of water added to the drum.

    I read that I should soak a big towel or two and add them too, such that the volume of water is increased, but this seems to help only marginally. I currently run 3 cycles (compared to my one in the old machine) a rinse for solids, a wash with plenty of detergent (including an extra rinse on this cycle), and a third wash (without detergent) I use to act as yet another rinse because the bubbles do not come out with the regular wash. I am certainly defeating the purpose of the HE machine :-)

    Am I doing something wrong? Thank you for this wonderfully written piece!

  • Alexis Moore

    How can I correct my current issue of horrific ammonia smell and burns due to my hard water and not enough detergent? (Lesson Learned)

  • […] not like that you dirty birdy…we’re still talking about diapers here. Blogger Kim Ormsby has a lot to say about diaper […]

  • Bridgette

    We have been cloth diapering since our son was a couple weeks old (he is now 9 weeks). We primarily use Grovia AI2s. But we got a new HE washer and since then we have been having issues with him getting a bad rash every time we use the diapers. When we use disposables with diaper rash cream for a few days it clears up. We had been eliminating possible issues (it's not the wipe solution we were making). We do a rinse cycle first, then heavy duty deep wash with a Tide pod and a double rinse cycle on warm/hot water. I am almost positive it is the detergent and I was looking to ordering a special cloth diaper detergent? and I'm not sure if we also need to treat the current diapers to remove any other residues too? What would you recommend? We are so disappointed because we are trying to do the fiscally responsible thing for our family and now we just feel bad that he is getting these bad rashes with them! :(

  • Jessica

    What's the deal with detergent build up, then? Is it not really an issue? My fleece inserts are FILLED with leftover detergent after a few washes, and so are some of my microfiber inserts. I use Allen's in the recommended quantity for my HE front loader, and end up with slightly stinky diapers right out of the drier, tons of suds sitting on top after the spin cycle, and TERRIBLE skunk (ammonia?) smell after my daughter pees. Do I need to increase detergent? Decrease? Switch altogether? Get a better washing machine (I wish!)?

  • Amy

    Hi! I bought some diapers second hand and they wreak of ammonia! I have some mighty bubbles to use but I was wondering if I need to do a pre wash first (with the soiled diapers) or just go straight to the mighty bubbles! Thanks!

  • Kim

    I would recommend giving them three washes with your Mighty Bubbles and that should take care of them!

  • Kim

    I would recommend switching to a better cleaning detergent. Even your regular store brand might do a better job at getting your diapers clean without tons of suds.

  • Kim

    Before ordering something special try Tide Free. It could be that your little one is actually sensitive to the dyes/perfumes in regular Tide.

  • Kim

    I would first get your diapers nice a clean. A product such as Mighty Bubbles can help you do this. Then, moving forward choose a good cleaning detergent and use ENOUGH of it. Even a store brand detergent will do. Stay away from Dreft, Soap Nuts, or any other detergent whose primary ingredient is coconut oils. They generally do not do well in hard water.

  • Kim

    For stinky pails, try leaving it open a crack (or more). I know that sounds odd, but the airflow truly helps. Even in an HE machine, you should only need to do a wash/extra rinse. Don't watch for bubbles!! Seriously!

  • Kim

    Then to compensate for the shorter wash cycle, wash on hot and increase your detergent.

  • Kim

    Repelling should only happen if you accidentally used a fabric softener or rash cream with oils that are coating the fabrics. If that is the case, scrub the tops with blue Dawn to remove that oil, then rinse them well.

  • Jennifer Bryan

    I'm glad I found this post, though I'm not sure it helps with my specific problem. My 18 month old is an extremely heavy wetter. I use a mixture of cloth and sposies. I'm a member of several local mom's groups, but since I work full time, I don't have the time to get into all the stuff about cloth diapering that they do.
    That being said, I remember trying to get into the cloth diapering was like learning a foreign language. And everything that you said in this article rang true. Why in the world would we use a pinch of detergent for poo and pee covered diapers and expect them to get clean?
    I've never had a strong ammonia smell on my diapers. I've just never really had them absorb enough for my baby's extreme amount or urine output.
    That's why I started to search the internet today; because I've always heard thousands of mom's in my area talk about stripping diapers like it's a necessity.

  • Tiffany Seright

    I am having issues with my CDs, they come out stinky and have been giving my kids rashes. When I wash I do a warm rinse, hot wash on fullest setting for the most water, and then a hot rinse(as part of the cycle) with and extra warm rinse. I use Nellies, usually 2 scoops which I think is 2 tablesoons worth. We have hard water. Im just lost as to what I can do to get them really clean. I tried using more detergent but that only helped for a little while. I tried using the delicate setting cuz it seemed to ise the most water. I am on the fence about keeping these diapers cuz I am done with all the laundry. I suspect they do need to
    be 'stripped', but I dont use bleach. Any advice would be great

  • Kim

    Your diapers are stinky and causing rashes because they are not getting clean. The small amount of a poor cleaning detergent along with high water level and hard water means that your detergent concentration is not high enough to properly clean. You absolutely need to change detergents to a better cleaning brand. Use the FULL scoop of something like (Tide, Gain, or Whisk). You will notice within 2-3 washes that they are much cleaner and your babes should be rash-free.

  • Rhonda

    The best investment was a diaper sprayer. We used it with every diaper, even just the wet ones. Rinsed most of the urine out immediately. Never had a problem. BTW I cloth diapered all five of my children, and we're on grands now. Many, many things have changed, but some stay the same. Rinse, rinse, rinse, wash well, no bleach, dry in the sun if possible. I certainly don't miss diaper pins and plastic pants, though!

  • Stefani

    I'm so happy to read this. I tried cloth diapers with my daughter years ago (she's 4 now and potty trained) and had to stop using them because I could never seem to get the darn things clean enough even though I was following all of the cleaning and stripping advice to the letter. Now we are expecting another baby and I'm thankful that I never did get rid of my stash. I'm going to go wash them with real detergent using this easy method and hopefully start using them on my 2 year old until she's potty trained too. Maybe I'll have the routine down before the new baby arrives this summer. YAY!

  • Grace

    What can I use to wipe down a diaper cover after it has been used? I'm looking to extend the life of my pul covers and lessen the amount of cycles I put them through in the wash. Just water doesn't sound right to me, to get it fully clean, but I'm afraid to scrub soaps on them without knowing it is safe and won't effect the covers efficiency.

  • Shannon

    Any opinion on Charlie's soap as a detergent? Thanks!

  • Kim

    Charlie's is NOT a good cleaning detergent and actually requires an additive disinfectant to fully get diapers clean. Best to find another good cleaning detergent!

  • Kim

    Any cloth diaper cover should be able to go through a regular wash cycle with no problems. An ample stash is important and you will likely want 4-6 covers PER size if using a sized system and 12-14 covers if using a one size system.

  • Kisha

    Thank you SO much for this article! I am still new to cloth diapers, (3rd baby but first time using cloth). I had to strip twice now due to detergent build up so hoping knowing a proper wash routine I won't have to strip again! :)

  • Kisha

    My longest wash cycle is 18min including rinses (top loader), in order for the detergent to stay in long enough do I stop it before it gets to the rinse cycle in order to get to the 45min woth detergent? Thank you

  • Kim

    No, we would intead recommend slightly increasing the amount of a good cleaning detergent in your 18 minute wash cycle to counteract your short cycle!

  • Jess

    Hi! So thankful to have found this! I almost went through the stripping process. . Reason being, we've been cloth diapering for 5 months now & a lot of our diapers leak pee and its not out the sides or back - it's coming straight through the diaper itself. Do you have any advice on what we can do? We typically wash every 2-3 days & use 1 scoop bum genius detergent (although we have sunbaby diapers) & run through two cycles. One with detergent & hot with an extra rinse & one without detergent on cold with an extra rinse. . Usually about 20-24 diapers at a time . . Any advice to get them to stop leaking would be greatly appreciated.

  • Jess

    We've never used any type of fabric softener or rash cream & ours are leaking through the diaper or repelling. All we have used is coconut oil which I read was safe??? Any advice to get them to stop doing this?

  • Kim

    If you've used enough coconut oil the fibers could be coating with coconut fats and not absorbing. In this case, you should actually strip them with blue Dawn!

  • Kim

    Hi Jess,
    Are these pocket diapers? If it is leaking right through the waterproof layer that sounds as though the waterproofing is failing. If this is the case, I would contact the pocket diaper manufacturer directly and see if they are under warranty. The problem with China cheapies is that you may not get the warranty or customer service you get from most U.S, Canadian, or European brands.

    Moving forward, I would absolutely recommend using a good cleaning store brand detergent and use the full recommended amount. 1 scoop of a boutique detergent like bumgenius' will not get your diapers clean!

  • Cassandra Ryan

    Thank you so much for that fantastic article!! I am only just embarking on this mcn adventure with my 6mth old and I have to say the washing regime was the most daunting part!! I was describing to my mum all the washin 'recommendations' that is being posted and she pretty much told me what rubbish all that was and to wash exactly how you have described. Really looking forward to using mcns and will no longer be afraid of how to wash them now :)

  • Julie

    i just stripped several diapers that I had purchased used. Since I only had 8 diapers I used a small bin with about 8 gallons of water and one mighty bubble pack. I let them sit in the hot water overnight then followed with a bleach soak and 2 hot washes with Tide free and gentle detergent (that's what we always use). My son wore one of the diapers today and he now has several red marks I various places from the diaper. What could be causing this? Do I just need to rewash several times or should I restrip and bleach again? Thank you!

  • Kim

    It could be an issue of not rinsing out the bleach. I would recommend doing a couple of extra rinses at your next wash and see if you don't notice an improvement!

  • Whitney

    We had an issue of minerals in our water that bound to our diaper soap (Charlie's or Rockin' Green) and stank! I could still smell soap residue after each load, even with this simple routine recommended. Our solution with our particular water ended up being to strip with Charlie's booster (it's unscented, a plus), and then to add a little booster with plenty of Charlie's soap to every load. I occasionally wash with soap nuts added after the first rinse. This works great for our water issues (I know some commenters have asked about hard water), and I don't usually need to do additional maintenance--even occasionally using rash cream. The truth is, even using these recommendations in the article, some people still have a really hard time.

  • Dani

    Okay...we just bought a few "used" diapers to get us started in cd'ing and what I have gathered (please tell me if I'm right) is that I should start with a warm rinse (presoak??) then a warm/hot wash with (all free and clear is what we have) for 45 agitation, and then just a final rinse (part of the cycle or an additional rinse after washer is done?)
    Sorry, a little over whelmed, and want to be sanitary, especially since bought preloved diapers And need an easy routine so to help get hubby on board lol :) thank you!!!

  • spela

    Hello, my shells stared leaking on the side a few days ago (in use for three months now). does anyone know, what should i do? I followed washing instructions... thank you so much.

  • Kim

    When you get a leak is the Soaker Pad totally saturated? Most likely it is time to add a booster!

  • Steph

    Hi Kim,
    I'm using Allen's detergent with a cold rinse, hot wash, and two cold rinses afterward. I have hard water and stinky diapers. I've been CD for two weeks now. Should I switch detergents, add more soap, or try the RLR?

  • Lauran aikin

    Hi Kim
    I current do a gene cycle wash without any soap and then a normal or heavy duty cycle with laundry tarts soap. I'm wondering if I should skip this gentle cycle wash without the soap? It's a front loader he machine. I thought the gene cycle wash would get all the poop and pee off the diapers before I add the soap. Thank you!!

  • Kim

    A initial rinse cycle can be helpful. If you start to notice that your diapers are stinky I would recommend to immediately switch detergents to something with more cleaning power than laundry tarts!

  • Kim

    Yes, I would absolutely recommend switching detergents to something that is better cleaning and make sure you use the FULL amount!! Your diapers are stinky because they are not getting clean.

  • Barbara

    Any thoughts on Nellie's laundry soda for cloth diapers? I have read good reviews on it.
    I have BumGenius AIO (cotton) diapers. I had been using the BG detergent and ran out. I have tons of Nellie's on hand, but wanted to get feedback before starting...

  • Jessica

    I currently am using stay-dry inserts and organic cotton inserts. I am using them on our second son and had issues before with stink and now am having the same issues and am ready to switch to another brand diaper because I am so frustrated. I have tried everything and nothing has worked. It has now caused a blister on my son and his bottom is always red after wearing them. What can I do?

  • Kim

    Hi Jessica! Thank you for your comment. There is nothing contained in the hemp or organic cotton material in your GroVia Soaker Pads that can cause rashes. The rash is coming from your diapers not getting clean. Switching brands will not help if you do not figure out a simple, good laundry routine for your diapers. First, how are you laundering them and what and how much detergent are you using? I'm lookng forward to helping you figure out a solution.

  • Jessica

    Hi Kim, We have a top-loader and I can set the wash load size. I normally set the size to medium so that the water covers the diapers. I do a cold pre-wash cycle, I wash heavy hot wash cycle with 1 tbls. of Charlie's soap and then a warm rinse cycle. After they are washed they still smell. I set the temp. to hot but after it fills it feels cool to me not sure if that is normal with washing machines or not. I would really like any feedback. I have also noticed a smell on our fuzzibuns diapers too:(

  • Kim

    Your issue is 100% due to the detergent you are using. 1tbp of Charlies will not clean your diapers in a top load machine. Your diapers simply aren't getting clean. Please go to your local store and pick up some Tide or Wisk and wash your diapers with the FULL amount. You will notice in 2-3 washes!

  • Jessica

    Will free and clear Purex work? So just to confirm I should wash the diapers 2-3 times in a row and then go back to the Charlie's and just use more? If so how much would I use? Do I just wash them in a heavy wash and that's it or also do a rinse after each wash? Sorry just want to make sure I do it right. Thank you

  • Kim

    No, I would still recommend getting Tide or Wisk. Wash 2-3 times in a row. Moving forward, I would recommend continuing to use a store brand detergent instead of Charlies. A regular hot wash with the FULL amount of detergent, an extra rinse only if you prefer to do one!! Read this great page for the right way to wash diapers!! http://www.gro-via.com/keep-it-simple.html

  • Jessica

    Hi Kim, I have two more questions. Can I use the free and clear Tide (if they have one)? I don't like to use things that have extra chemicals in them. Also, how many diapers should I do per load? I have quite a stash of diapers! Thank you soooo much for your help!

  • Jenn

    I have BumGenius diapers and have been using Ecos laundry detergent. My diapers have a severe ammonia smell and still seem grungy. I'd like to "start fresh". Should I use some bleach?

  • Kim

    Hi Jenn! Your diapers smell and are grungy because they are not getting clean. The main problem is that for a diaper like Bumgenius, that is 100% synthetic material, it becomes imparitive that you use a good cleaning detergent and enough of it. How much Ecos are you using? I would recommend washing them 3 times with Mighty Bubbles. You will notice a HUGE difference in how they look and they will actually be clean. Then moving forward you may want to use a stronger cleaning detergent such as Tide Free or Wisk and make sure you use the full amount recommended on the bottle!

  • Kim

    Yes! 16-24 diapers per load!

  • kristina

    I read the part about not watching bubbles but what about extreme buildup issues. Like sudsy foam so thick you can't see water surface. That's just after a simple hot water rinse no new soap. We do have hard water, use cologon and tide is the detergent.

  • Kim

    I wouldn't worry too much! I would stop using the calgon or cut back on the amount of calgon you are using. Tide works well alone in hard water!

  • anna b.

    Hi Kim, I have been having issues, thus I started stripping once a month. Then I stopped as it was not,helping in my opinion and someone told,me,that 10 years ago no one knew about stripping.
    But then went to India and I left clothies at home (no washing machine). We came back, and my child does drink more, but the cloth diapers leak EVERY TIME and at night I have to change him at least once and he is soaking wet. I stripped the buggers, but, obviously no change. No idea what to do. It was a savings decision and these diapers were supposed to be used on a potential second bb. Any suggestions? I use good detergent, cycles as you suggested, started adding more detergent lately. I'm,confused...

  • anna

    Kim, I have been having issues, thus I started stripping once a month. Then I stopped as it was not,helping in my opinion and someone told,me,that 10 years ago no one knew about stripping.
    But then went to India and I left clothies at home (no washing machine). We came back, and my child does drink more, but the cloth diapers leak EVERY TIME and at night I have to change him at least once and he is soaking wet. I stripped the buggers, but, obviously no change. No idea what to do. It was a savings decision and these diapers were supposed to be used on a potential second bb. Any suggestions? I use good detergent, cycles as you suggested, started adding more detergent lately. I'm,confused

  • Kim

    What materials are your diapers made from, synthetics or natural fibers? What brand and how much deterget are you using? Top or front load machine?

  • christina

    Can I use tide ultra I have soft water and a top loader not an he though

  • Trish

    Hi, I have a stash that primarily consists of stay dry soakers, (I do have some microfiber, and hemp best bottom inserts, and sustainable babyish fitteds for overnight)

    I was having some serious ammonia issues, Ive been using tide free and clear from the very beginning. I was following fluff love and cd science recommendations of using soap in the pre wash (half amount) and the full amount on the main wash. I was using the longest cycle on my machine (It actually goes for 2 hrs) I used the mighty bubbles 3x and they were working well after that, its been 3 weeks and the ammonia/stinky smell is back.

    I have a front loading HE machine, with soft water verified by a water test strip. It seriously seems like there is too much soap, sometimes my machine does a suds lock, and even then once the cycle is done, I do a wash without soap and it fills with bubbles. Everything I read hammers the point across that people are typically not using enough... but I'm thinking I either need to switch detergents, or use less soap. Any suggestions?

  • anna

    It seems I can't post anything. Tried for the oast few days.
    I use picket bum genius. Detergent is Claudia's choice, I increased to suggested dose lately. Top loaded. I ran some experiments n neither the pocket nor the inners are absorbing water!
    gave them 4 cycles in the hottest without detergent.There is slight improvement, but still leaky...

  • Kim

    Hi Anna,
    Your diapers are 100% synthetic materials and so can sometimes be more challenging to get clean. First, switch detergents. Go buy some regular store brand detergent such as Tide, Gain, Wisk. Wash your diapers on regular warm with the FULL amount of detergent recommended on the bottle. You can do an extra rinse if you need. Remember keep your wash routine simple! This will also help: https://www.facebook.com/GroViaDiaper/photos/pb.113086012061944.-2207520000.1426251445./807915715912300/?type=3&theater

  • Kim

    Sure! Because of your soft water I would start with about 1/2 the dose of detergent and increase if needed.

  • Kim

    Hi Trish,
    With your soft water (soft water is not very common) you may indeed need to watch the amount of detergent you are using. I would skip the detergent in your prewash, it is probably too much. There is no need, and that cycle will serve as a good rinse cycle to help remove any solids and help with stains even without detergent. Use anout 1/2 amount in your main wash cycle (this is the ONLY time we ever recommend using less detergent). You can do a single extra rinse if needed.

    Lastly, I would switch to a POWDER detergent such as Tide or Gain. Powder cleans and rinses better in soft water!

  • anna

    Thanks a lot. Will try that today!

  • anna

    Ok, so I did as you suggested. There is a huge improvement, but the diapers still leak around thighs where the elastic is. All of them. Which I find really suspicious cause I bought them at different time, not all at once. I tried tightening them thinking they are not tight enough to skin. But they still leak. What could be happening now that they seem to be absorbing much better?
    thanks for all the suggestions.

  • Dominique

    First, thanks so much for this article! It's the simplest to understand and, coupled with your answers to readers' questions, I now feel prepared to wash diapers correctly!

    My only question is about Rockin' Green. I have pretty hard water and have been using it for baby clothes, although I have to pre-treat stains with Babyganics. Can you tell my why it is not recommended for diapers? I just want to understand why. I'm hesitant on Tide because of chemicals and additives, and a baby with sensitive skin.

    Thanks again!

  • Kim

    Hi Dominique,
    95% of the customer service calls for rashes, stinky diapers etc are from parents washing with Rockin Green. In our opinion it just doesn't properly clean diapers. I certainly understand your concern regarding chemicals in detergent, but our #1 concern is that people are getting their diapers completely clean so their baby's skin stays rash free and healthy. If regular Tide is just too far of a stretch for you, I would recommend choosing the dye/perfume free version or even All Free and Clear will work well!

  • Kim

    Hi Anna,
    Are the insides completely saturated when you get these leaks? If so, it is time to add a booster or something to increase the absorbency of your diaper!

  • Aimee

    Do you recommend Nellies? and, you are saying that any Tide powder is fine to use, but what about the dyes and scents in those products? I thought detergents with dyes, scents and brighteners were bad for cloth diapers?

  • Kim

    Detergents, scents, etc aren't necessarily bad for diapers. Some people may not want to use them because baby has sensitive skin.

  • Michelle Carter
    Michelle Carter April 3, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    My only issue with this article is this:

    I have been cloth diapering my son for 2.5 years and never had an issue with my diapers. This week, the diapers suddenly smell like ammonia VERY strong. However, NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING has changed in my wash routine. I use the exact same amount of detergent (the amount you say is proper). I have not added anything, not changed washers, nothing. It's not my sons pee (because I put new cloth diapers on him that I ordered - same brand I always use, just new prints) and there was no smell, even after being in it all night.

    So, what's your suggestion here? Why is there a sudden smell that is so strong my eyes and nose are burning, on,y after he pees on them? How do I get rid of it?

    I don't agree with the statement you made of "if properly cared for, you should never need to strip your diapers" because I haven't changed a single thing in 2.5 years and all if a sudden, I may not have a choice and I did nothing wrong.

  • Samantha

    I've been using Rockin' Green with my Bum Genius and Flip diapers and my little girl has very sensitive skin. She had what we thought was a bad rash at first but then it started looking like a chemical burn, which I assumed was due to ammonia still in the diaper. So I CAN use regular detergent? I thought using regular detergent would ruin my diapers but I'm sick and tired of dirty diapers! I currently use liquid All Free n Clear with all our other clothes. Should I use liquid or powder?

  • Kim

    I'm so sorry your poor baby girl has such a bad rash. Most likely it is from your diapers not getting clean with Rockin Green. Switch detergents immediately,Tide, Wisk, Gain, are all great cleaning options. Wash your diapers on regular hot with the full amount of detergent recommended on the bottles three times. You will notice a HUGE difference!

  • Kim

    What kind of detergent are using? What is your wash routine?

  • Samantha

    I was using Rockin' Green for the diapers but I use ALL Free n Clear on all our clothes because her skin is so sensitive. I always wash my diapers with a Hot water cycle in my front loader with an extra rinse cycle. I wash them every few days.

  • Amy Hannah

    Thank you for this article I'm new to cloth this is my first and my question is my washer is located in my garage and only has hookup for cold water. Do I just need to manually add hot water to the washer as it fills or is there something else I can do? Thanks in advance

  • Krystal

    My diapers smell when my baby wets them. I am using bumgenius, however, I live in a condominium complex where we share laundry, so I bought a little counter washing machine. You say to agitate for 45 minutes. How can I do this if I am using a hand washer? Does the sun sanitize? I regularly dry them on the line. I have started pre rinsing before I wash. Only just started using warm water for the rinse. Not sure if the water gets hot enough for the wash and rinse afterwards at least 2 times. He hasn't had any rashes but once or twice his foreskin swelled in Irritation. Should I be washing longer in my hand washer? From reading the comments I see I need to change my detergent. What is a booster for absorbency? Thank you

  • Miss B

    So my question is about ammonia, what can I do to get rid of it even if it's already set in after the rinse and wash and rinse again? It smells really bad and is still in my LO diaper I used disposable diapers because of it how do I get rid of just ammonia smell

  • Kim

    What detergent and how much are you using??

  • Kim

    Warm rinse is great to start, then wash with enough or a good cleaning detergent. 45 min with a hand washer is tough....you help compensate the lower time by slightly increasing the detergent. The sun does help to disinfect a bit.

    A booster is an added piece of material that will increase absorbency of your diaper without adding a bunch of bulk. They are awesome to have for naps and nights. Check them out here http://www.gro-via.com/absorbency/boosters.html

  • Kim

    I would honestly recommend manually adding some hot water to at least get the water temp up to warm. This will help your detergent to dissolve better. With such a low wash temp you are going to want to make sure you are using the FULL amount of a good cleaning detergent and that you let your wash cycle run for at least 45 minutes.

  • Kim

    If you feel your diapers are getting clean stick with what works for you!

  • Krystal

    Thank you for your help. I am using bumgenius. I was only doing 1 tablespoon before because I thought the suds were too much. I added 3 tablespoons today we will see. Should I change the detergent I use? What else can I do to disinfect

  • Vanessa

    I've only this year started using EcoSprout at the suggestion of a local cloth diapering mother who owns and runs our closest cloth diaper, all things baby type store. She swears it works great. I'm up to 4 tbl of detergent and am still not seeing the ammonia go away without stripping them. It feels like this is the biggest racket anymore. I can't possibly need to use more detergent?!

    Routine in my HE top loader:
    Cold rinse, hot wash with 4 tbl of ecosprout, double rinse. Each cycle is run with the extra water feature.

    I think I'm going to swap warm water in for the cold rinse. But, should I switch that to an actual wash instead of just a rinse?

  • Vanessa again

    Forgot to add that we've been using Grovia, OzoCozy and Green Mountain Diapers prefolds only. It's all either cotton or bamboo. I only own one microfiber diaper.

  • Kim

    I'm going to give you some advice that will let you love your diapers again and simplify your laundry!
    -change detergents immediately. Tide, Wisk, Gain are all fine.
    -do ONE single prerinse with warm water and then your wash cycle with the FULL recommended amount of detergent.

    Wishing a couple of washes you will notice a massive difference because your diapers will actually be getting clean!!

  • Vanessa

    Going straight to the store lol. Here's hoping this works. I never had so many problems when I used to use Sun free but, they don't make that where we moved so I switched. I'll be replacing it today. It's diaper load day, too! Thanks, Kim!

  • Erin

    I have a high efficiency top loading washing machine (Maytag Bravos XL). I was looking into plant based "natural" detergents and came across Ology, sold at Walgreens. Would this detergent be safe for cloth diapers?

    Also, I see that Tide is recommended a lot. For an HE top loader, would we need the powder or the liquid? Is the Free and Clear tide ok to use, or will free and clear cause build up on synthetic materials?


  • Annie

    We started cloth diapering with our third child. We loved it until our diapers started leaking one by one, starting with the synthetics and Grovia ones (we have a mixture of a bunch of different kinds). We had been using Rockin' Green detergent with a top loader. Now we live in Europe and are expecting another baby. I'd like to continue to use cloth diapers, but I don't even know where to begin. We now have an HE front loader (whose instructions are all in German so I can hardly decipher what cycle is what) and don't have access to regular detergent brands like Tide (or blue Dawn for that matter). Ack. Please tell me I don't have to just chuck all of our cloth diapers!

  • Kim

    Your diapers haven't been getting clean with Rockin Green. Simply start washing with the FULL amount of a good European detergent like Persil and your diapers will look and function much, much better!

  • Kim

    Skip the plant based detergent and go for Tide. Liquid of Powder is fine as long as you see the HE symbol on the front of the bottle!

  • Kim

    Your diapers, especially synthetic bumgenius diapers aren't getting clean. Switch to a good cleaning store brand...Tide, Wisk, All are all fine. Use the FULL amount. You will notice a big difference once your diapers are actually getting clean!

  • jenn

    My cycle is about 3 hours long in a he front loader. My diapers are always clean and smelling fresh but is it possible to shorten my cycle? It goes through a pre wash then normal cycle and a second rinse. Ive only been using cloth about a month but i wash every other day and 3 hours is a long time i find myself getting behind on normal laundry with a cycle that long.

  • Kim

    Without seeing your machine it would be hard to say....have you tried a permanent press cycle? Those are generally a bit shorter.

  • Kristin

    What advice would you give to someone who only uses soap nuts for laundry? Would you recommend a monthly rlr wash to prevent repelling? Where can I find rlr?

  • Erica

    I am about to give up cloth diapering. It's going on 6 months, and it feels like I've tried everything.

    I started with 1/4 manufacturer reccomended amount of All free n clear with lots of water, which was what I was told to do. After a month my diapers started to smell like ammonia after she peed, and the poop all of a sudden was not coming out. Rinsed out, but I could still smell it.

    I then switched to gain, using a full cup in the hot wash. (I normally do a cold wash, hot heavy duty wash with detergent with an extra rinse.) This did not help at all, then my daughter started breaking out from her diapers. (Allergic reaction breaking out.) Someone told me to skip the last rinse, so minerals wouldn't build up. I did this, and she got a giant red burn across her private parts. We went diaperless until it cleared up.

    I then switched to regular tide. She broke out from that really bad. So then I switched to tide free n gentle and after getting a water test strip, it showed we have very hard water. I have added a capful of calgon with every wash now, and I'm using a whole capful of the tide free and gentle. Her diapers are now increasingly smelling worse of ammonia, and takes 5 washes to get poop smell out of the ones she poops in. I even tried added a cap up to line 1 in the prewash too.

    I'm not sure if I needed to "strip" all along, and start over. I bought everything for that tonight to try. But I really don't want to end up in this mess again. She gets ammonia burns with every diaper if I forget to slather coconut oil on her every change. To add,I don't really understand the stew consistency for water amount. I fill up my oversize load machine about 2/3 full. It's a top loader.

    Please help. Not only have a spent a fortune on different detergents, calgon, and now stuff to "strip," but I'm sick of making my daughter wear smelly diapers, and breaking out in rashes. We have every sort of diaper, and material you could think of.

  • Kim

    I'm so sorry to hear this and I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you!! Your initial wash routine started the "ammonia ball rolling" and likely it was never resolved so now you have an ammonia issue that has compounded and can't simply be remedied by using enough detergent.

    Deep Clean Your Diapers:
    1) Place all diapers in your bathtub with hot water and 2 pods of Mighty Bubbles. http://www.gro-via.com/grovia-mighty-bubbles.html Allow them to soak until the water cools. Your water may look murkey that is the minerals and urine deposits coming out of your diapers.
    2) Drain tub and rinse your diapers well.
    3) Next, you need to bleach your diapers to make sure all the bacteria is removed. In your top load machine you will want to fill with warm water and add 1/2c of regular bleach. Soak for 30 minutes and then RINSE WELL!!!

    Moving Forward:
    You need to make sure you are using enough detergent. With your top load machine and hard water you will want to use POWDER Tide Free and Gentle (it has water softeners in it already) and use the FULL AMOUNT of detergent in a hot wash. Match your water level for your wsh cycle with your load size. That's it!!!

  • Kim

    Are you having stink or rash issues? Soap Nuts are generally not great at cleaning diapers. RLR will not do anything for repelling, it is simply a hard water mineral remover and nothing more.

  • Erica

    Okay, I have heard I can't use bleach since I have iron in my water. Can I use tea tree oil for the disenfecting purposes? I'm assuming my detergent still is not working the best, because of the fact that the poop smell is not coming out for several washes. I have looked everywhere in my town for tide free powder, but can only find liquid. Can you suggest another free and clear detergent that might work better? Otherwise I can see about ordering it online. In the meantime should I just use more liquid? I've been afraid of using too much too, since I heard that causes problems as well.

  • Kim

    Then you would want to follow my direction for the Mighty Bubbles deep clean and THEN (Taken from Fluff Love University,http://www.fluffloveuniversity.com/):

    Average Bathtub:

    1/2 full: 1 cup of Borax and 4 cups of Peroxide

    Start with CLEAN cloth diapers, soak for at least 30 minutes (and not to exceed 45 min.) in COLD water, rinse in HOT water, and follow with a HOT wash with detergent. It isn’t as good as bleach, but it’s the best alternative. Iron Hard water leaves hard orange deposits around your water sources. This does run the same risk as bleach as far as fading and “staining” goes, so its not a better substitute for bleach. You should only be using borax/peroxide mix if you have iron rich water.

  • Kim

    You can order Tide Free and Gentle Powder easily online! http://www.amazon.com/Tide-Gentle-Powder-Laundry-Detergent/dp/B0049MEHSQ

  • Meg

    Hi Kim - I'm hoping for a bit of advice, as I've been struggling with my cloth diapers for about the last 8 months (and I've only been using them for about a year). I've been having major leaking issues with all of my synthetic fibre diapers, BumGenius Freetimes. I've tried Country Save, Nellie's Soda, stripping with RLR and Calgon, adding Calgon to my wash (we have very hard water), stripping with Dawn, all with no big improvement. I was told we have very hard water and this is bad for cloth diapers, especially microfibre ones. (I didn't know!) So my latest attempt to make this work has involved getting rid of all of the microfibre diapers and replacing them with natural fibres - BumGemius Elementals with a hemp booster - which has not been cheap! I've also switched detergents to the Laundry Tarts brand and did two rounds of stripping with their Strip-It product. This worked for about 4 weeks, and now I'm noticing my formerly odorless diapers are smelling just faintly like a barnyard, and I see that I'm heading down a familiar path.

    I'd really like to continue using my cloth diapers, as disposables are prone to "poo explosions," but between the leaks and the impossible washing routines, I either need to get a PhD in chemistry or quit my job to make this work! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Meg

    Hi Kim - I'm hoping for a bit of advice, as I've been struggling with my cloth diapers for about the last 8 months (and I've only been using them for about a year). I've been having major leaking issues with all of my synthetic fibre diapers, BumGenius Freetimes. I've tried Country Save, Nellie's Soda, stripping with RLR and Calgon, adding Calgon to my wash (we have very hard water), stripping with Dawn, all with no improvement. I've used a few different cycles in my HE machine, always a rinse then a hot wash for at least an hour, then one or two more rinses.

    I was told we have very hard water and this is bad for cloth diapers, especially microfibre ones. (I didn't know!) So my latest attempt to make this work has involved getting rid of all of the microfibre diapers and replacing them with natural fibres - BumGemius Elementals with a hemp booster - which has not been cheap! I've also switched detergents to the Laundry Tarts brand and did two rounds of stripping with their Strip-It product. This worked for about 4 weeks, and now I'm noticing my formerly odorless diapers are smelling just faintly like a barnyard, and I see that I'm heading down a familiar path.

    I'd really like to continue using my cloth diapers, as disposables are prone to "poo explosions," but between the leaks and the impossible washing routines, I either need to get a PhD in chemistry or quit my job to make this work! Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • Kim

    Hi Meg,
    I'm going to give you some very simple advice that will literally solve all of your problems!
    1) Go to the store and get some regular powder TIDE (it already has water softeners in it)
    2) Washing: Do a single warm rinse, then use the FULL amount of detergent (recommended on the package) in your regular hot wash cycle.
    3) Within 2-3 washes your problem should be completely resolved.

    Sadly, your diapers just aren't getting clean with the boutique detergents you are using.

  • Meg

    Thanks for your quick and easy response! If only I started with this...but I didn't because I feel like I read somewhere that scented detergents are bad?!

    I'm going to get some Tide tonight - fingers crossed!

    Thanks again!

  • Jen

    Hi Kim,
    Is there a difference between using Purex Free and Clear and Tide Free and Gentle? I read through all of these comments, and it doesn't look like Purex Free and Clear is recommended. That's what I have been using without any problems (cold rinse cycle, hot full cycle with towels added), but I've only been cd'ing for 3 wks now, and I don't want to run into any issues down the line. I have hard well water (with high iron), but we have a whole house water softener with an iron filter. Do you think it's ok to stick with Purex F&C, or should I switch to Tide Free and Gentle? I'd like to stay with a Free and Clear detergent as we have sensitive skin in our family. If you say to switch, I'm assuming the liquid is good since we don't need the extra water softener of the powder, correct? Lastly, because of our whole house water softener, should I be using the full amount of detergent or slightly less? Thank you!!

  • Courtney

    Help!!! I made a huge mistake... My diapers (Grovia organic cotton and microfiber inserts) were still smelling like pee when I took them out of the dryer a little bit damp, so I meant to soak my them for about an hour in Ecos detergent and then throw them in another wash cycle. The problem is I was also packing to go out of town and somehow I completely forgot about the soaking diapers for an entire day... THEN we left town and they ended up soaking for almost a week! AHHH. When I came home this morning they smelled terrible. All of the exposed parts (any part not completely submerged) is a disgusting brownish yellow color and they smells like a toilet that hasn't been cleaned in months. My entire house smells, and I'm not sure what to do about my diapers. Did I ruin them? What do you suggest I do?

  • Kim

    Oh wow......well my initial thought is your diapers may be ruined and you should throw them away. You MIGHT want to try washing with a good cleaning detergent and bleaching them with chlorine bleach, but I'm not really sure even that will save them. I'm really sorry that happened :-(

  • Kim

    No, there isn't much difference and both can work just fine. Since you don't have hard water you should follow these simple steps:

    – Use 1/2x the recommended amount in your pre-rinse/pre-wash, and then 1.5x the recommended amount in the main wash cycle.

  • maria

    Public laundrymat. Longest cycle is 23 mins. Has a quick wash cycle 17 mins. I know that a prewash is important so they arent washing in dirty water. Does this mean I should do a short cycle then 2 full cycles (to be 46 min) and then an extra rinse?

  • Tatiana

    Hi Kim, I've read all the comments and just wasn't to clarify. My cloth worked fine the first 3 months when we were in Maine. When we moved to southern California the rashes started. We have a top loading HE machine and I've been using All free and clear. Cold rinse, hot wash on heavy duty with the eco option switched off. We went from no rashes in Maine to a red bum and rashes at her waist. Since we have hard water I plan to switch to tide powder. I am not sure about my wash routine. I read of you have hard water not to do an extra rinse. Please help

  • Amanda

    We use soapnuts because I do not like anything that isn't completely natural. Do u recommend soap nuts

  • Alicia

    Hi Kim! I have a similar question to above: Last week, a part went out on our washer, and my dirty diapers sat for 4-5 days. I washed them in baking soda, then in soap, then rinsed in vinegar (this is what led me here!). They look fine and my microfiber inserts don't smell, but the pockets themselves DO smell like poo. Is there anything else I can/should do at this point? I'm only about 6 weeks into cloth diapering and have no idea what to do. Thanks!

  • Karyn

    I started my oldest on cloth when she was a few months old. I sadly didn't know too much about proper soiled storage and always tossed wet and poo diapers (including the covers...I mostly had pocket diapers and PUL covers) into a bin of water to soak. Was usually a couple days like this before I washed. They started leaking and I was told I shouldn't be putting them in water an I'd ruined them. I never looked into it any further.
    I'm curious now as I have a second and would like to try cloth again (without buying new dipes as it isn't an option)
    Is there anything I can do, or is it true and they're beyond repair?

  • Mandy

    Hi Kim, do you recommend any particular Australian detergents to use? I saw you mention Ecostore over Earth's Choice, but that gets pricey very quickly. Any run of the mill ones okay to use as well? Thank you.

  • Brisa

    HI Kim!
    We will be cloth diapering again soon and now own an HE top loading washer. I was wondering if it is ok to use HE Tide with the Grovia diapers?

  • Jacs

    Hi Kim! So glad I found this entry, although I wish I'd found it sooner. I hope you can help me. I CDd with my son, but we had a diaper service for the first 5 months so I didn't need to wory about washing. The company went out of business so I needed to do my own, and had been given a ton of different types from friends. I chose the pockets as the easiest, but quickly became overwhelmed with the cleaning process because I thought I had to use less detergent and then they were stinky- bah! So I switched to disposables. Here I am with baby#2, and giving CDs another go. They were getting stinky, so I stripped them about 2-3 weeks ago. They were okay but now two of them are leaking out the side; the insert is not wet at all! Should I strip them again? I do not use any diaper cream. The dipes are BumGenius, although I also use FuzziBunz and Happy Heineys. I have been using Arm&Hammer powder detergent, just about 1/4-1/2 of the recommended amount (Now I know better!). We do NOT have hard water either. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!

  • Alison

    Hello! I am at a loss with my diapers. They are all natural fibers- cotton/hemp/rayon. I use Arm & Hammer unscented liquid detergent. Rinse cold, wash hot, rinse cold. I also started using Calgon, as we have hard water. I was having some leaking and was told it could be detergent buildup and sure enough- lots of suds when a ran an extra hot water wash cycle. So, I thought I should strip them to remove all the suds. That seemed to help with the leaking. Since then I have yet to find an amount of detergent that doesn't leave me with suds, and I continue to have leaking problems ~1week after stripping. I am uncomfortable using such a small amount of detergent, reinforced by reading your post! I have not had stink problems.

    I do frequently use coconut oil as a barrier cream for mild redness. I'm wondering if this has caused the buildup in my dipes. What do you recommend as a barrier cream for cloth diapers if not coconut oil?

    Secondly- are you saying that it's normal and not a problem to have suds in your rinse cycle? The goal should NOT be to have no suds?

    Thanks for your help!

  • Geanna

    If you have an HE washing machine, youHAVE to use detergent that has the HE symbol on it. You cannot use regular detergent in it as it will cause too much sudsing. As far as I'm concerned, high efficiency machines don't get the clothes clean because they don't use enough water.

  • CN

    Hi there Kim - Great post. I'm wondering if you can help me. I recently got a bunch of used diapers from a friend (Blueberry one-size deluxe pocket diapers), and have followed your instructions in the comments above to give them a good washing, and then set them in the sun to dry for the afternoon to reduce some of the stains. Some of the microfleece cloth on the inside of the more stained diapers is quite rough and "crunchy" and I refuse to put them on my baby that way. What is causing that and is there a way to get rid of it? I've seen websites that recommend fabric softener but I know that isn't advised. I've got some Grovia Mighty Bubbles coming in the mail in case that will help? Thanks in advance for your advice!!

  • Kim

    Wash with the Mighty Bubbles 2-3 times, that will remove mineral buildup and deep clean them. Then tumble dry, that will soften them up a bit!

  • Kim

    No, HE machines actually clean extremely well when compared to their non HE counterparts. It isn't a lack of water that isn't cleaning clothes or diapers it is the misconception that you can clean poopy and wet diapers with tiny amounts of detergent!! If you took your bath towels out of the wash and they smelled dirty would you think "I need to add more water"? No, you would think "I need more detergent!"

  • Kim

    Do NOT check for suds, use ample amounts of detergent to get your diapers clean. Are you certain that the leaks aren't due to simply needing more absorbency in your diaper? Often, once baby gets to be a bit older you may need to add a booster.

  • Kim

    Deep clean them wth Mighty Bubbles and then run them through a cycle with 1/4c bleach. When you wash your diapers use the FULL amount of detergent. Do a warm prewash, then a regular hot wash with detergent and that is ALL!!!

  • Kim

    Absolutely, it works beautifully!! Make sure you use enough!

  • Kim

    Hi Mandy,
    Most any store brand detergent will be just fine!!

  • Kim

    Hi Alicia,
    Wash them with ample amounts of detergent and 1/4c bleach!

  • Kim


  • Kim

    Hi Tatiana
    Switch to powder detergent. Do a prewash with 1/2 cap detergent and then a heavy duty warm wash with a FULL CAP of detergent. No extra rinses!

  • Kim

    Do a quick wash with 1/2 amount of detergent, followed by a full cycle with the FULL amount of detergent. No extra rinse!

  • Kim

    Charlies and Rockin Green are notorious for not cleaning well for many people. Go to your local box store and purchase a mainstream detergent and wash your diapers with the FULL amount. You will be shocked at how clean then get!! You should not need to strip your diapers and have a crazy wash routine to get diapers clean. If you do....something isn't right!

  • Kim

    Don't soak your diapers, dry pail. Wash every two days. Choose a mainstream detergent.....Tide...Persil...Gain and wash with the FULL recommended amount. Keep your wash routine simple and with enough detergent and you will be just fine!

  • Darian

    Just want to make sure: Using Dawn is only necessary to remove oils from things like baby balm...but, if I'm using a good detergeant (like Tide), I shouldn't have to use Dawn?
    Which diaper cream do you recommend with cd's?

  • Cassandra

    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.

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

  • Kim

    Yes, Dawn will only help to reove oils. You should only use a cloth diaper safe balm such as Magic Stick with your cloth diapers.

  • Kim

    Hi Cassandra!
    First, what diaper are you using? How oldis baby? Your laundry routine is NOT recommended and I would change immediately to a simple routine that uses enough detergent and does not require you to use additives. Please read here: http://www.gro-via.com/laundry-extras-detergents.html

  • Samantha

    We cloth diaper part of the time and my son has very strong smelling urine so many times I struggle to get out the urine smell...how do you advise I get the smell out I have washed the current batch about 10 times with and without detergent and they still smell like urine

  • Blanca Juras

    KIM! Huge fan of you and your cute family and of course Grovia's. We use the hybrids. I am wondering... What laundry detergent do you use personally for North's dipes?

  • Rebecca

    We've been using bumgenius elemental (organic cotton) diapers and cleaning with Charlie's soap. After 6 months, the diapers are smelly & dingy, seem less absorbent and my daughter is getting frequent rashes. Having skimmed through the comments about, it seems my problem may be the Charlie's soap. I see you talk about addressing Charlie's soap woes with 2-3 cycles of mighty bubbles or Tide free & clear. Which is better given the fabric & duration I'm dealing with? And do I stand a chance of salvaging these diapers after 6 months of using a bad detergent? Or should I just start from scratch & use the right detergent? (We have 15 & loved them until the last couple of months so I'd hate to toss them!) Thanks for your help!!

  • Kim

    Yes, Charlies is NOT good at cleaning diapers. I would recommend doing a deep clean with Mighty Bubbles and then switching to a regular store brand detergent like Tide, Gain, or Persil and use the FULL amount. You will see a HUGE difference within 2-3 washes!!

  • JAS

    Thanks for bringing sense into cloth diaper laundry! I started out with cloth using a "safe" detergent but then decided that it didn't make sense especially since we use cotton prefolds. I'm having stink issues though and was hoping that someone might be able to help me diagnose the problem... I wash every 3-4 days. Cold rinse, heavy duty hot wash with Tide Free (#2 line) with 2 cold rinses. I have an old top loader and use the medium water setting. The heavy duty cycle agitates for about 20 minutes. My diapers still have a faint stink at the end of the wash routine and I can tell by smell when my daughter has peed. Nothing over powering but definitely something there. I've tried more detergent but then the diapers feel and sound soapy at the end. Sometimes just running an extra rinse at the end will kill the initial smell but they still stink when she's pees and I think they're giving her a bit of a rash. I've also trying varying the water level but can't find a combo that works. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Audrey

    I use cotton prefolds and covers, but my prefolds seem to be getting rougher (think like thick denim feel) not softer the more I use them. Is it okay to use a natural fabric softener, like Mrs Meyers on them every now and then? I've seen it recommended a few times.

  • Chantelle

    Hi Kim, our third baby is due in a couple of months and this will be our first cloth diapering experience. I plan to use Foca detergent for diaper cleaning. My question is regarding the 45 minute wash. We have a top loader machine with a maximum high agitation time set of 14 minutes. Due to this 14 minute agitation, each time I wash the diapers am I supposed to run my machine 3 times to get close to the 45 minutes of contact with the detergent? Also, our water is slightly hard, so is it okay to add Calgon water softener powder with the Foca detergent in effort prevent mineral buildup? Thanks for your help!

  • Stephanie

    Hi Kim I read earlier on you did like allens Eco detergent I'm not sur how much is the recommended amount as at the store I was told to use 1 tablespoon but my diapers are defiantly not getting clean, should I use the same amount of allen's for my diapers as I use tide for my normal clothes wash? Thank you so much this has been a great post with lots of awesome information!

  • Stephanie

    I should add that we have a he front load machine and I'm using the liquid detergent, if you think I should switch to tide or gain is the power of those better? Thanks

  • Jessica

    Would you recommend stripping diapers when bought used? Or would you suggest not buying used diapers at all? I have never had a problem with rash when buying brand new diapers but just bought some used grovia ones and my son is rashing. :(

  • Norma Pena

    Great tips! I am not a big fan of bleach. It is useful, though. My advice is to put essential oil while you are rinsing them. It will make them smell better. Essential oil is not harmful for your baby. Greetings!

  • Kim

    We do NOT recommend using EOs in your diaper laundry. While natural, they can indeed cause skin reactions in young babies and can also coat diaper fibers if used frequently enough If your diapers are getting properly cleaned there is no need to mask with a scent or EOs!

  • Kim

    Yes, you should wash them well and bleach them once before using!

  • Kim

    I would either double up your amount of Allen's OR switch to Tide, which works beautifully for cleaning cloth diapers!

  • Kim

    Ecover works well as a softener for cloth diapers!

  • Regina

    Thanks so much for writing this article and for taking the time to respond to everyone. Between the original article and your responses I have learned a wealth of information. I have been having ammonia problems for forever with my daughter. We are using cotton profiles from GMD. I definitely had a complicated wash routine involving what I now know was too little detergent for too little time. Obviously, it was not working. I'm thrilled to report that for the first time in a long time her diaper did not smell like ammonia when I took it off. I washed all her diapers 3 times with slightly more than the full amount of country save detergent (my longest cycle agitated the diapers in soap for only 15 minutes) and what a difference! Thank you!

  • Kim

    I'm loving Tide and Persil!!

  • Kim

    Increase your detergent to the FULL amount and make sure you are using the longest wash cycle!

  • Paige

    This is such a neat artical!!! Ive been searching on how to strip diapers and everything keeps telling me to use hot or warm water but the charlie banana website is telling me use cold water.

    When you say the full amount of tide detergent do you mean to the top line or just depending on load size?? I have 16 diapers so my load is pretty small. I just can't seem to get the ammonia out of them and they arent very soft anymore :( I've only had them for about 5 months. Do you know what could be my problem?

  • gatha

    I am using the bum genius detergent full amount washing every 2 days, rinse wash rinse, but them smell very potent. Like burn your eyes potent after wearing. what can i do for this??

  • Kim

    Change detergents! Your diapers are not getting clean and it is time to use a detergent with the proper cleaning abilities. Any store brand detergent will work well, Tide, Gain, Persil. There are senstivie or scent/dye free versions if you need, but ALL will actually get your diapers clean. Use the full amount as recommended on the detergent package. You will notice a HUGE difference withint 2-3 washes with a new detergent!

  • Kim

    Add a couple of towels to your load to make it full. The agitation with a proper load size helps to get diapers clean. What detergent are you using and how much? Your diapers are NOT getting clean and that is why they smell. We can help you get them back on track :-)

  • Crystal

    This post is a godsend! I am only a few months into cloth. I've wanted to try CD since my first child 7 years ago, but we have to utilize daycare and until recently, state laws didn't allow it. Now that the laws changed, I convinced hubby to go along with (in his opinion, terrifying) adventure. Because I wanted to try all the things, I have primarily been purchasing gently used. The main thing that kept popping up were lengthy wash routines and constant advice of stripping, usually while using very expensive stripping agents.

    I thought the purpose of CD was to save money, ease the planet's resources and just make things easier. I am the oldest child of seven and we came from very humble means. I remember being 10 and hand washing prefolds on a scrub board in the tub using regular detergent, rinsing, wringing and hanging to dry. I almost preferred that than some of the suggested routines out there! I did an initial "strip" with blue dawn and a capful of bleach added to my wash, did one extra rinse with new to me diapers for sanitary reasons. Other than that, I hand rinse my diapers after changing the baby and wash on hot with my detergent and that's it. People started to make me feel insecure saying it's not enough. I haven't experienced any leaking issues or ammonia/funk smells, but I was still becoming fearful I may be harming my baby in some way.

    I am SO grateful for this post and so many mommas agreeing with it! It made me feel much more confident in my decision!

  • Casey

    Question: I just started using cloth diapers on my 3 month old yesterday (bumgenius pocket diaper) and had pre-washed them in our normal laundry detergent (Gain Hawaiian Aloha HE) and he immediately broke out in his first diaper rash after only half a day of wearing. I have since gone back to the disposable diapers and desitin to treat the rash....
    What should I do now? Which laundry detergent should I grab from the store tonight?? Also, are there any diaper creams that are ok for cloth diapers?

  • Kim

    It may be a reaction to the scented detergent. Try an unscented kind. Magic Stick is an incredible diaper balm that is 100% safe to use with any cloth diaper!