After a stressful long distance move this past summer, this view was such a beautiful one: clean cloth diapers hanging from our new clothesline. And, they smelled like nothing! Nothing but fresh air. Aside from unpacking and organizing the entire house with my two little ones, these clean diapers were quite an accomplishment that came from lots of frustration and hard work. I finally found a way that worked for me to strip our cloth diapers naturally.
What is Cloth Diaper Stripping?
If you’re new to cloth diapering and wondering what stripping them means, it’s a laundering method used to remove anything that’s causing stink (you’ll know) or causing your baby to have unexplained diaper rashes. Another sign that it’s time to strip your diapers is if they lose their absorbency. The most common contributing factors are buildup from detergents, rash ointments or minerals in your water. The final kicker for me was the extremely soft water at our new house. The diapers just weren’t coming clean during normal washes. You may not ever need to strip your diapers or you may end up doing it once a month. It’s not that much extra work once you find a method that you’re comfortable with.
Why “Natural” Diaper Stripping?
There are many ways to strip cloth diapers but it was a challenge to find one that was completely natural and gentle, yet effective. For example, one of the most common methods uses blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. This product scores a “D” on the EWG Cleaners Database. I don’t buy it to wash dishes for this reason, and feel uncomfortable running it through our HE machine with diapers. Another method is bleach. I haven’t kept bleach in the house since I’ve taken steps towards using cleaners that are less harsh. Even though some cloth diaper manufacturers may recommend bleach, I still feel like it would break down natural fibers after a while. I read that all-natural Bac-Out (which I love for taking stains out of furniture and carpet) can be used to strip diapers but I also read that it can irritate, especially if your baby has extra-sensitive skin. My baby does so I didn’t dare try it.
100% natural and non-toxic is important to me since that’s one of the main reasons I’m cloth diapering to begin with. I use organic cotton diapers (BumGenius Elementals) for my baby and have always used natural cloth-diaper-safe detergents and diaper ointments. I now use Rockin’ Green Soft Rock detergent for regular diaper laundering because of our soft water, but they also have a version for hard water and one for regular water. I have always used Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm on my babies for diaper rash and absolutely love it.
A Way to Strip Cloth Diapers Naturally
The first two natural diaper stripping methods that I tried didn’t work. I tried the hot wash/rinse with no detergent, where you do a hot wash followed by 3-4 rinse cycles without detergent until you can no longer see suds in the water. There were no suds, but the diapers still came out stinky. I also tried the vinegar/baking soda method, where you add 3 cups of white vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda to the water when the washing machine fills up during a hot water wash. Then you follow with a cold wash and extra rinse. The diapers came out a little less stinky than the hot wash/rinse method, but still not perfect.
I scoured the internet and finally decided to try Rockin’ Green Funk Rock. It’s a 100% natural compound that’s phosphate-free, enzyme-free and SLS-Free. Here’s how I did the stripping:
- Soak the diapers (20 at a time) in hot water with 4 tablespoons of Rockin’ Green Funk Rock for 2 hours.
- Toss the diapers into the washing machine and run a cold wash without detergent followed by 2 cold rinses.
- Run a hot wash with Rockin’ Green Soft Rock (or your favorite diaper detergent) followed by 2 cold rinses.
- Lay or hang diapers in direct sunlight (this helps to remove stains and sanitize) and let them completely dry. Remember to bring the diapers in as soon as they’re dry if it’s hot outside because the heat can cause the same damage that overheating in the dryer could.
The diapers were finally stink-free and my daughter’s diaper rash settled down. I now add a tablespoon of Funk Rock to my pre-wash every time I wash diapers for an extra cleaning boost. It’s been a couple of months and there are no signs of needing to strip them again anytime soon. I have heard that diapers made with natural fibers like organic cotton need to be stripped less often, and I do believe it. The first time I really noticed that it needed to be done was after 9 months of using the diapers. I’m hoping that it’ll be even longer next time, now that I have a good wash routine going!