What Does It Mean to Strip a Cloth Diaper?

Baby with cloth diaper
Getty Images / Stephanie Neal Photography

Question: What Does It Mean to Strip a Cloth Diaper?

Answer: Stripping cloth diapers is a laundering method that removes detergent residue from cloth diapers. Detergents, fabric softeners and other things in wash water can build up in cloth diapers over time, and the buildup can reduce cloth diaper absorbency. Diaper rash creams also can cause diapers to repel moisture and may necessitate stripping.

There are many methods for stripping cloth diapers. The most basic way to remove detergent build-up is to wash cloth diapers in very hot water without detergent until they no longer produce suds in the washer water. Other methods call for the use of vinegar to remove residues or using dish soap to scrub out oils that repel moisture. If you'd like to instructions on one specific method of stripping cloth diapers, you can check out How to Strip Cloth Diapers.

Taking care to wash your cloth diapers properly is the best way to reduce the chance that you'll need to strip the diapers. Use a detergent without a lot of fillers or additives, as the extras can end up coating the diaper fabrics. You could also make your own cloth diaper detergent. Water that has high mineral content or other substances that could cling to or coat fabrics might also lead to a need to strip diapers, so knowing about the water in your area is helpful.

Stay away from fabric softeners and dryer sheets, as these can cause the diapers to repel the moisture you want them to absorb. Many cloth diaper companies offer washing instructions or a list of recommended detergents on their website. You should always check those recommendations first, since any warranty issues may not be covered if you don't follow the manufacturer's care instructions.

Washing your diapers properly from the beginning can definitely help reduce the need for stripping them later!

If you're considering stripping your diapers, you should also check to see if the manufacturer offers instructions on how to strip them. If their strip method recommendations aren't listed on the company website, you could also call the customer service hotline. Although the basic idea is the same in most stripping methods, the diaper maker might have specific instructions based on the type of fabrics, fasteners, or elastics used in the diapers. Some diaper stripping methods are pretty harsh, and could even damage your diapers. Following the manufacturer instructions will help ensure that you don't void the warranty.

Unless there's a persistent problem with your wash water, you should not need to strip cloth diapers very often, if at all. I only needed to strip my stash once in three years, and I'm fairly sure it was because someone else added fabric softener to the diaper wash.

If you find that your diapers have a smell that doesn't wash out, or they aren't absorbing well and you've already stripped them one or more times, it's worth evaluating your washing methods and checking to make sure any diaper creams or baby lotions you might be using are safe for cloth diapers. A cloth diaper liner might be a good addition if you think a cream or lotion could be causing problems with your diapers.

If you've purchased some used cloth diapers, it's possible that you may need to strip them if the seller didn't take good care of them. Stripping could be a way of salvaging used diapers that otherwise wouldn't work well.