This question gets asked a lot on cloth diaper advice boards: "How do I strip my diapers?" As a favor to one of my new followers, I am posting this short tutorial on stripping. I hope it helps!
What is stripping?
- Stripping (diapers, not the kind involving a pole and dollar bills) is simply the process of getting all the "gunk" out of the fibers. Sometimes the gunk is merely detergent residue from using too much detergent. *Guilty* Other times, the gunk is from the diapers not getting clean in the wash cycle. Either you're not using enough soap or the soap you are using isn't working with your type of water. *Also guilty* Either one of these situations is not good.
How do I know I need to strip?
- You will know it's time to strip when 1 of 2 things happens:
1. Your baby gets a rash. The rash will be pretty solid and be in the shape of your diaper. If your baby wears a fitted, baby will have a rash everywhere the diaper touches from back to front. If you use a diaper with inserts like a Flip your baby will have a nice square rash in the diaper area. *I found that out personally*
2. The instant your baby's diaper is soiled you know it because it smells like stinky gym shoes/swampy. Sometimes you can tell BEFORE you put the diaper on your baby because it smells like this as it comes out of the washer and/or dryer. *The time this happened to me, I was using a new wash routine with a different soap and the diapers smelled gross the second I took them out of the washer.*
- If neither of these is the case, but your baby is getting a rash that is splotchy OR you are switching from one brand of soap to another, it's a good idea to strip just in case. Oftentimes switching brands will cause issues due to the different compositions of the soaps conflicting with one another.
How do I strip?
- First, you get a pole...Oh, wait! Wrong strip! ;-)
- Go out and buy some plain blue Dawn dish liquid. "Original" formula. Anything with lotions, moisturizers, scents, etc. is a no-go.
- Wash your diapers with your regular wash routine. Seem crazy? If you start with "clean" diapers, the Dawn has less work to do overall.
- Fill your washer with hot water. The hotter the better! I have heard a lot of people actually turn the heat level up on their water heater specifically for this purpose then turn it back down as soon as they're finished.
- Add your Dawn. This amount will vary from person to person and article to article, anywhere from 1 Tbsp to 1/4C. I, personally, take the bottle and squeeze for a count of 3-5 seconds...probably somewhere close to a Tbsp. Just remember: The more soap you add now, the more you have to WASH OUT later!
- Run your diapers through the wash cycle.
- Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. *Note: This may or may not be the amount of rinses you will need. I put it that way to illustrate the point.* Keep tabs on your diapers and check to see if there are still suds in the water. If you can't tell, pull a diaper/insert out and rub it together. If it sounds "soapy", rinse some more.
- Once you are certain you have run your water bill up a sufficient amount and wasted enough time staring at the washing machine AND your diapers have no more suds, you can finally dry them in your preferred manner.
- If you only have a couple of inserts or other non-PUL-lined diapers that may need stripped (say you bought them off a swap), you can do the alternative method: Boil them. Take your inserts and put them in a large pot of boiling water. DO NOT LEAVE THE POT. EVER. Any residue will make bubbles and could cause the pot to boil over. Each "batch" should be boiled approximately 10-15 minutes. Then rinse under cold water. If the water is clear, you're good to go. If it's cloudy, dump the "diaper soup" and boil again for another 10-15 minutes. This method is not safe for PUL.
As a side note, be sure that if you have a new washer you check your manual. Some manufacturers will not honor your warranty if you use something other than laundry detergent in their machine. In this case, you will want to use something like RLR and follow their specific instructions for stripping. The hoses on front loading machines have also been known to melt with extreme heat, so be careful there too. *Makes me glad I have an old top loading washer!