How to Strip Wash Cloth Diapers

Pigeon Bottle Nipple & Vegetable Liquid Cleanser
What has this cleanser got to do with diapers?

Your baby’s cloth diapers have been working well for a while but start leaking after 1 to 2 hours. Sounds frustrating, right? If the diapers are repelling pee due to build-up, try doing a strip wash. Causes of build up? Too much detergent, insufficient rinsing, natural oils from fabrics and diaper cream.

Strip Wash Method 1: Use Hot Water

  1. Start with clean diapers (i.e. already washed and dried diapers)
  2. If you have a washing machine with temperature control, choose the 60 degree Celsius wash cycle
  3. Use NO detergent
  4. Put the cloth diapers into the washing machine and run the cycle
  5. Add extra rinses until no more soap bubbles are present (Soap bubbles stay around longer than agitation bubbles.)

If Method 1 can’t remove the build-up, try Method 2.

Strip Wash Method 2: Use Dishwashing Liquid Detergent

  1. Start with clean diapers (i.e. already washed and dried diapers)
  2. Fill a pail halfway with warm/hot water (turn the shower tap to the hottest mode). Or add warm/hot water from a flask into the pail. (Recommended water temperature: at least 40 degree Celsius)
  3. Add a few squirts of dishwashing detergent (I use Pigeon Bottle Nipple & Vegetable Liquid Cleanser, shown in the picture above). Agitate.
  4. Place cloth diaper with build-up issue into the pail
  5. Wash the layer which is supposed to touch baby’s bums by rubbing fabric against fabric. Rub REALLY hard. (But DO NOT use a scrub.)
  6. For pocket diaper: turn it inside out and rub the inner layer too.
  7. Rinse at least 3 times until no more soap bubbles are present
  8. Throw the handwashed diapers into the washing machine for 1 more rinse. Spin dry. Hang dry.

Try using the cloth diapers on baby. Hopefully, they start working again. 🙂

Any more questions on cloth diapering? Just fill up the comment box.

This is a follow-up article of How to Prevent Cloth Diapers From Leaking.

21 thoughts on “How to Strip Wash Cloth Diapers”

    1. Hi Joyce, over here, I’m referring to the stiff type of plastic scrub, which may cause fabrics such as fleece to pill. “Scrubbing” with a soft brush or toothbrush should be fine. Rubbing “fabric against fabric” is the safest way as materials of the same type can’t wear themselves out.

  1. My cloth diapers aren’t leaking but have a strong stench esp after baby pees now. I don’t have hot water in washing machine though. Will this method work to help strip wash & remove the stench? Also, any opinions on vinegar?

    1. Hi Rebecca, that sounds like ammonia rather than detergent / oil build-up. You may refer to the strip washing tips by Everything Babything here. You may boil hot water and strip the diapers according to the steps mentioned. It also addresses the use of vinegar.

      After the strip washing is completed, you’d also need to review your existing laundry routine to find out the cause of ammonia build up. Could it be:
      – insufficient agitation during a wash cycle?
      – insufficient or inappropriate detergent used?
      – insufficient sunning or drying?

      Do you soak diapers before washing them? I read somewhere that soaking could cause the pee to penetrate deep into every part of the soaker and become more difficult to clean.

      All the best in getting clean diapers again. 🙂

  2. Hi MieVee, just to drop by and tell you, the method with the pigeon wash WORKED!
    So happy my bumgenius are finally working as they should!!!!!!

    🙂 thanks! it’s so nice to have someone sharing their knowledge!

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  4. I am experiencing leaks now after abt 1 month of use and going to try the second method. I soak the diapers in water till washing them the next day. Could that be causing the problem?

    1. Hi Rooma, yes, do try the stripwashing method, especially if any diaper cream or potentially non-cloth diaper friendly detergent has been used.
      As for soaking: it’s ok to soak inserts / soakers / doublers / traditional cotton nappies / washable liners, if you prefer.

      However, please don’t soak any PUL diapers because soaking could cause the lamination to deteriorate faster, leading to leaks, which cannot be resolved by stripwashing.
      You may spray poo off the inner surface and leave the diaper in a dry pail, to prevent soaking the PUL for long hours.

      Hope this helps. 🙂

  5. Hi MieVee.. Can I use dish wash soap instead (e.g. sunlight, fairy) to strip CD/inserts that was used with diaper cream?

  6. Hi,

    I recently tried a strip wash on some pockets. I ran 2 cycles at 60 degrees with a tiny (2ml) amount of dishwashing detergent in. Then I ran rinse and spin cycles until I thought all the bubbles were gone. Alas, I tried one of the nappies this morning and it leaked very early on and quite significantly. Any tips on where I might have gone wrong? And what could be a next step? I’d hate to think I’d ruined them, they’ve been fabulous so far.

    Cheers.

    1. Hi Kate, do you know what causes the leakage on the pockets? E.g. Diaper cream buildup?

      If it’s buildup on the pocket, then you’d need to dissolve dishwashing detergent in a small pail of water. Then rub the pocket’s inner stay-dry layer very hard by hand with the solution. As mentioned in this article. This way, you can target the buildup directly. Then rinse till no bubbles.

      After that, you may wish to prevent future buildup by using a diaper liner or changing diaper cream (assuming diaper cream is the cause), or reducing / changing detergent (if that’s the cause).

      Hope this helps.

      1. I’ve assumed it’s build up. I use flushable liners, but I doubt their ability to hold back all of the nappy cream. I’ll give that a go and see how I get on. Thanks for the tip. I’ve also asked a good friend (I live in Sweden and don’t necessarily know the best stuff to get for all my nappy needs) which detergent she uses and she put me onto hers so I’m going to try that as well.

        Will let you know how I get on.

        Thanks again.

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  8. Hi, my little Bee has been getting bad rsshes from the cloth diapers. When I use disposables, his rashes will be gone and back again when I use cloth. The rashes are above his gentians and on them. It’s just raw skin on his genitals though it doesn’t seem to bother him at all. A one point, the skin broke and bled a little but he wasn’t in pain. I just wonder what I can do with this. Will strip wash help?

    1. In this case, I’ll try soaking doing a hot wash with my oxygen brightener.

      If you suspect detergent build-up, then yes, do a strip wash.

      Or he may be reacting to something in the detergent. Which are you using? Anything with enzyme can cause a rash when using cloth diapers.

      Also, when he’s having a rash related to cloth diaper, I’ll use disposable until the cloth diapers are sanitized. Then try again gradually when the rash is completely gone. (Coincidentally, Jae’s having a rash probably from too many strawberries & loose stool, so I’m letting him heal with disposable and lots of diaper cream first.)

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