Q. How do I know if my diapers need to be stripped?
A. You may start to experience one or more of the following problems: repelling, decreased absorbency, stinkiness even after being washed, or intense ammonia smell when your baby wets.
Repelling means that instead of urine being absorbed into the diaper, it is rolling off and leaking. It’s different than just needing more absorbency, because when you go to change your baby’s wet clothes and diaper, you’ll find that the diaper itself is not that wet.
Q. How did my diapers get residue in them?
A. There are several ways a diaper can get residue: incorrect laundry detergent, rash creams, and hard water.
First, of course, cloth diapers need to be washed in a clean-rinsing and additive-free detergent like Rockin Green, Charlie’s Soap, or Tiny Bubbles. NOT Dreft!! If they are washed in a conventional laundry detergent with additives like scents, colors, fabric softeners, and optical brighteners, they can pick up residue from the detergent.
Another frequent culprit is rash creams. Many diaper rash creams work by making a waterproof barrier on your baby’s skin – which is good for protecting their skin, but bad if it gets on the diaper. Be sure to use a cloth-safe rash cream like Grandma El’s or Earth Mama Angel Baby. If you must use a cream that is not safe for cloth diapers, be sure to use a liner to protect your diapers.
Finally (and we get this a lot here in the DFW area), hard water is often the culprit, especially if you are already being careful about your detergent and your rash cream. “Hard” water is water with a high amount of minerals dissolved in it. (It’s opposite, “soft” water is what you have when the soap is very difficult to wash off and your hands feel slippery even after rinsing, when washing your hands.) These minerals in the hard water can be deposited onto and into the fibers of your diapers, where they decrease absorbency and hold onto stink – especially ammonia. This happens to my kiddo’s diapers about once a month or so, even though I use residue-free detergent and cloth-safe ointment. When this happens, I strip my diapers.
Q. What exactly is stripping diapers and how do I do it?
A. Stripping your diapers is just removing the residues from them. You can use the multiple-rinse method or the soaking method.
The multiple-rinse method is one that I have seen a lot on online cloth diaper communities. Basically, you wash your diapers in HOT water with just a squirt of Dawn liquid dish soap. Then you continue to run hot wash/rinse or just hot rinse cycles until there are no suds left. This method works best for top-loading washing machines where you can lift up the lid in the middle of the wash cycle to look for suds. It’s a bit difficult for me to use with my front-loading machine, so I use the soak method.
To use the soak method (as found on the back of packages of Rockin Green detergent), you will soak your diapers in double the normal amount of cloth-safe laundry detergent for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. Then, wash as usual (prewash + hot wash + rinse + extra rinse), but don’t use any detergent in your prewash. If your diapers were clean before you did the soak, you don’t have to use detergent in the prewash or the regular wash.
If your washer doesn’t have a “soak” button there are two ways to do this. In a top loader, just set your washer for a regular laundry cycle, and then as soon as it is full and agitates for a minute or so (to make sure everything is wet through), turn your washer off and let everything soak in there. You can also take your clean-but-not-stripped diapers and soak them in your bathtub. (I suppose you could soak your dirty diapers in the tub too but then you would have to clean your tub afterwards.) If you soak in your bathtub, it goes without saying to make sure you keep your bathroom door CLOSED since a tub full of water is a safety hazard for small children.
Yes, it’s Friday and today we are giving away a package of the NEW Rockin Green Funk Rock Natural Ammonia Bouncer. So new, it’s not even on the market yet, but we have one! One package of Funk Rock will de-stink your diapers AND keep the stinkies away for a full month when added to your pre-wash cycle.
To enter, please leave a comment with one question you have about cloth diapering, babywearing, or breastfeeding. The winner will be chosen randomly, but questions will be answered in future blog posts.