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Modern Cloth Diapers

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.
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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 :-)

58 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!



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