How to Strip Cloth Diapers? (Step-by-Step Guide)

Reusable cloth baby diapers drying on a clothes line. Eco friendly cloth nappies on a pink background. Sustainable lifestyle. Zero waste concept.

Stripping cloth diapers is much more than just cleaning them. This article will walk you through how to strip cloth diapers step by step, so there are no surprises!

Most people recommend stripping your cloth diapers at least once a month, but others disagree and say it is rarely needed.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. When you strip your cloth diapers, you remove all the build-up that occurs from the regular cycle of wash and wear.

How to Strip Cloth Diapers?

Stripping cloth diapers is a reasonably straightforward process, and people usually fall into one of two schools.

One way is by soaking diapers, and the other process involves using the regular wash cycle with specialized detergent. To strip diapers, you must start with clean diapers.

diapers in washing machine

To soak diapers, you can either use a bathtub or a top load washer. The soak method is a bit more labor-intensive, so we recommend going the washer route.

Typically you only strip the absorbent part, but if you have all-in-one diapers, you will need to strip the entire thing since the parts don’t separate. 

Read on to discover all the recommended methods of how to strip cloth diapers.

Method 1. GroVia Mighty Bubbles

The washer method is the easiest way to strip diapers. GroVia Mighty Bubbles is the perfect detergent to strip cloth diapers. It is cost-effective, and it smells great!

GroVia detergent is made specifically for cloth diapers and is a natural product made in the USA. An added benefit that I love is that it is not tested on animals. 

The pods are pre-measured, making them super easy to use; all you have to do is just toss one in! The ingredients in GroVia Mighty Bubbles are designed to remove build-up from urine and other deposits left in cloth diapers.

Step 1. Sort the Diapers and Add One Pod

Start with clean diapers. They don’t need to be dry, but they do need to be clean. The purpose of stripping diapers is to remove all of the build-up on the diapers. If they are dirty, you cannot properly strip them.

Use one GroVia Mighty Bubbles pod for up to 24 diapers. You should not put more than 24 diapers in the washer at one time.

Step 2. Run the Load + Extra Rinse

Set your washer to the heaviest duty wash cycle and use hot water. Toss in one GroVia Mighty Bubbles pod and run an extra hot rinse cycle. When stripping diapers, do not use any additional detergents or fabric softeners. 

Once that cycle completes, wash the diapers on a regular cycle. If your diapers seem like they are less absorbent or stains are building up, you can use this method to strip cloth diapers.

Step 3. Smell Check & Dry

This step is pretty self-explanatory; if your diapers still smell dirty, they need another rinse. Simply choose an insert and give it a sniff; it should have a clean and fresh smell.

Use another pod and rerun the cycle. After that, hang them, preferably outside, to air dry. Air drying is always the best method; plus, sunshine naturally kills bacteria and eliminates stains.

There is no need to soak when using GroVia Mighty Bubbles; in fact, they recommend that you don’t, as their product was specifically designed to use without a soak.

As a safety precaution, always keep the pods and all cleaning supplies away from children.

Method 2. RLR Laundry Detergent

Another diaper stripping method is to use RLR detergent. RLR is a non-toxic, all-natural detergent. It is safe for sensitive skin and hypoallergenic.

It is great not just for cloth diaper stripping but also for washing towels, workout clothes, and another smelly laundry. 

To strip diapers, you use one packet per 30 diapers. This product works incredibly well if you have hard water. RLR is hugely cost-effective since you can get five packs for under ten dollars!

Since you strip diapers once a month, this will get you through almost half the year of stripping stinky diapers. 

Step 1. Sort the Diapers

When stripping cloth diapers with RLR, you need to start with clean diapers. You only strip the absorbent part of the cloth diaper unless you are using all-in-ones, then you put the whole diaper in. 

You use one packet per load of 30 diapers. If stripping diapers with RLR, you can still use a whole packet even if you have a smaller washer or are doing a smaller load.

Step 2. Add One Pack of RLR + Small Amount of Detergent

Add the packet of RLR to the washer as well as a minimal amount of your regular detergent. Your diapers are already clean, so you don’t need to use that much detergent.

If you are stripping less than 30 diapers, use even less detergent. Using RLR and a small amount of detergent is all you need to clean stinky cloth diapers.

Step 3. Run the Longest Cycle Available

To strip cloth diapers with this method, run your washer on the hottest and longest setting. Once that cycle finishes, if there is still soapy water, run another rinse cycle. RLR helps remove the ammonia smell on cloth diapers and rids cloth diapers of mineral build-up. 

Step 4. Do the Sud Check

This method can sometimes leave extra suds behind in the washer. If you check your washer and see suds left behind, run your washer for an additional short wash cycle. The second rinse cycle should do the trick! If not, use less detergent next time.

Method 3. DIY Stripping Solution

Some people prefer to use their own cloth diaper stripping methods rather than use pre-packaged detergents.

This how-to-strip method is excellent for people on a budget or who prefer to know exactly what is going into their washer.

To deep clean cloth diapers on your own, you can use Borax, washing soda, and Calgon. You will need three tablespoons of each.

These products can be purchased in bulk and will last you a long time if properly stored. To use DYI stripping method, you will need a bathtub, a large plastic tub, or you can use your bathtub. 

Step 1. Fill A Container with Hot Water

Step one of the DIY method is to fill your container of choice with hot water. You should fill the container of choice halfway with very hot water. You can place the clean, absorbent part of the diaper into the hot water as you prepare the cleaning solution.

Step 2. Create the Solution

It will cost around or under $15 to purchase all three diaper stripping detergents. To make the solution, mix together three tablespoons of Borax, washing soda, and Calgon. The benefit of this method is that all three ingredients can be used as laundry boosters as well. You may also wish to add half a cup of detergent.

Step 3. Soak for 4-6 Hours

When following the DIY stripping instructions, you need to let the diapers soak for approximately 4-6 hours. You also need to stir and agitate the diapers occasionally. You can use the handle end of a broom, a paint stirrer, or a spatula to agitate and stir the solution and diapers.

Step 4. Wash with Hot Water

The final step is to wash the diapers with hot water. If you have been using a plastic bin or the tub, you can transfer the diapers to the washing machine now. If you have them soaking in a top-loading washer, finish filling it with water and run the wash cycle.

Stripping is a Remedy, Not a Routine

Cloth diaper camps are split on whether a stipping diapers routine is actually needed. Many people argue that if you are properly caring for your cloth diapers, they won’t need to be stripped.

The basis for this argument is that if diapers need to be stripped, there is something wrong with your process.

Those who swear by it as a routine say you should do it monthly, but you will have to figure out what works best for you and your diapers.

Clues that you might need to strip your diapers include reduced performance; they don’t smell “right,” or the texture feels “off.”

If you find yourself needing to strip diapers regularly, take a look at your normal wash process. You may need to change detergents or methods, and you may even need to test your water hardness. 

Stripping diapers is also recommended if you receive hand-me-down cloth diapers or purchase your diapers second-hand.

What is Stripping Cloth Diapers?

So, after all of these steps and rules, on how to strip diapers, you may still be asking yourself what does it mean exactly?

When you strip diapers, you are removing the build-up from the fabric of your diapers. You are literally stripping away the build-up of substances that have accumulated into the diaper’s fabric over time.

Stripping requires the use of specialized detergents or ingredients to remove build-up and is different than stain removal or odor removal, although tripping diapers can help with that. 

When you strip, you remove oils from baby balms, diaper creams, and possibly even detergents that have built up over time.

Why Does Build-up Happen?

There are several reasons that build-up happens on cloth diapers.

It could be because your water is too hard, you may not be thoroughly rinsing your diapers when you wash, or if you use diaper balm, oils may be deposited.

Build-up is a film or coating that is now covering the fabric of your cloth diapers. When build-up occurs, your diapers will be less absorbent and leak more. They may also start to smell. 

Hard Water

Hard water is one of the main reasons build-up might accumulate on your cloth diapers. When you have hard water, that means your water has high mineral content.

Just like you would use a filter to reduce the mineral taste and content with your drinking water, you may need to use specialized detergent for your clothing. 

There are test kits you can purchase at your local hardware store to test your water at home. 

Too Much Detergent

Using too much detergent when you wash is another reason your cloth diapers may have build-up.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how much detergent to use for your washer size and the load size. 

If detergent is thoroughly rinsed out when washing over time, the build-up can reduce your cloth diaper’s efficiency.

Fabric Softeners

Fabric softeners are another culprit that causes build-up. Most cloth diaper companies suggest that you don’t use fabric softeners on your diapers. I never used them, and I rarely had to strip my cloth diapers.

Fabric softeners have chemicals that can build up and make your cloth diapers less water-resistant. Plus, they use chemicals and perfumes that might not be good for your baby’s skin.

Diaper Cream Products

Diaper creams are usually a big no-no when using cloth diapers. The ingredients in most diaper creams, especially petroleum, are harmful to your cloth diapers’ fibers.

Even though diaper rash is less common when you use cloth diapers, it can still happen.

If your baby does develop a rash, be sure to use a diaper balm approved for use with cloth diapers. Your best bet is to check the manufacturer’s website for the brand of diapers you use for recommendations.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Your homemade laundry soap, while natural, might actually be working against you and your cloth diapers. It is possible that your homemade simply isn’t strong enough to combat the particles and bacteria that live in cloth diapers.

If you notice build-up happening, you might want to reconsider and instead try a detergent specially made for cloth diapers. Most are all-natural, and many are vegan and not tested on animals.

Poor Washing Routine

If you have checked everything out and made changes and are still struggling with build-up, your washing routine may be to blame.

A poor washing routine can leave detergent, residue, bacteria, and other oils on your cloth diaper fabric. If you have tried everything else, revisit your wash routine to see if you’ve missed a step or performed one incorrectly.

Signs That You Might Need to Strip Cloth Diapers

There are some telltale signs that it is time for you to strip your cloth diapers. Chief among those signs is your child developing frequent diaper rash, a bad smell, and leaking issues.

You should also strip your cloth diapers if you have purchased them second-hand. You don’t know what process they went through before getting to you, so stripping them provides a clean slate.

Diaper Rash

Diaper rash happens from time to time. While it is less common with cloth diapers, the occasional diaper rash is nothing to panic about.

However, if your baby is developing frequent diaper rash while using cloth diapers, it may be time to strip them. The rash may result from bacteria, oil, or detergent build-up on your baby’s diapers.

However, I am not a doctor, so if your child is suffering from a diaper rash, it is recommended you consult their pediatrician for further advice and treatment.


If your diapers do not smell fresh and clean when coming out of the wash, even after an extra rinse cycle or two, it may be time to strip them.

Bacteria create odor and build-up on cloth diapers traps bacteria, oils, and stains on your diapers. Stripping them down should help return them to a fresh, clean smell.

Leaking Issues

All diapers leak from time to time, but if it becomes a constant tissue with your cloth diapers, consider stripping them.

Buil-up can make your cloth diapers less effective because the oils on the diaper’s fabric reduce their ability to absorb water.

Things like diaper cream and fabric softeners have chemicals that repel water and moisture, the opposite of what you need your diaper to do.

Buying Used Diapers

If you purchase used cloth diapers, it is recommended that you strip them before use. There is nothing wrong with purchasing cloth diapers second-hand, especially if you have verified the seller or the store.

However, you don’t always know the last time the diapers were used or what state the previous owner left them in. Stripping them provides you with a clean slate to start from.

What to do After Stripping Your Diapers?

After you have stripped your diapers, carry on with your normal wash routine. You should be washing your cloth diapers approximately every two days. Start with a rinse on cold, then a warm or hot wash, followed by a warm rinse. 

Remember to use the right amount of detergent for your load and washer size. It is recommended that you use a detergent specifically formulated for use with cloth diapers.

Eco-friendly detergents are a great option, but you may need to use them slightly more than the recommended amount. After a few washing cycles, you should have a good idea of the right amount for you!

Be sure to wash your diapers thoroughly; this is not the time for the quick wash cycle. When washing cloth diapers, use the regular or even lengthiest wash cycle.

It is recommended you stay away from using additives when washing to reduce the risk of build-up. Using additives can often interfere with the detergent and even wear down your cloth diaper’s elastic and laminate covering.


When should you strip cloth diapers? 

Some people say once a month and others say when you notice signs such as leaks, smell, or your baby developing a diaper rash.

Can I use vinegar to strip cloth diapers? 

Vinegar is great for cleaning some things, but it is not recommended for cloth diapers. Vinegar will wear down PUL and wear out elastics.

Should I strip used cloth diapers? 

Absolutely! In fact, stripping used cloth diapers is probably the first thing you should do when you get them home! Stripping used diapers gives you a clean slate to start from!

Will bleach ruin my cloth diapers?

The short answer is yes. It can wear down the fabrics and the elastics. Used in small amounts and sparingly it can be used as a disinfectant.

Why do my cloth diapers smell? 

Your diapers likely smell because build-up and residue are trapping bacteria and odors in your diaper fabric. If your diapers smell it is time to strip them.

Why do my cloth diapers smell like ammonia? 

Urine build-up in cloth diapers causes the smell of ammonia. As your baby gets older and urinates more and more heavily ammonia can build up in the fabric.

How do you get the ammonia smell out of cloth diapers? 

Stripping your diapers can help remove the smell of ammonia. You can also use an oxygen-based cleaner like OxiClean on a regular basis when washing.

What detergent is best for cloth diapers? 

Look for a detergent specifically formatted for use on cloth diapers. Some are GroVia, Rockin Green, and Charlie’s Soap. Check with your diaper’s manufacturer for specific recommendations.

What is stripping cloth diapers? 

Stripping cloth diapers is removing build-up from the fabric of your diaper. When you strip your diapers you break down the build-up and revitalize your cloth diapers.

When to strip cloth diapers? 

You should strip your cloth diapers anytime you notice one of the warning signs: bad smell, frequent leaks, or your baby develops a diaper rash. You should also prep cloth diapers after purchasing them.

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