How To Strip Cloth Diapers

I’ve been cloth diapering for over three years now, and just last week learned about “stripping” cloth diapers. Evidently, an occasional stripping is a necessary maintenance. Why it took me so long to learn about this… I have no idea.

Baby Xia has been battling a HORRIBLE diaper rash for the past month or so. I’ve tried EVERYTHING to clear it up, including letting her run around bare bottomed for most of the day and just wiping up her messes as she made them! None of the many organic and non-organic diaper creams have worked, and I’ve splurged on many. You just can’t put a price on stuff like this! Airing her out helped tremendously, but as soon as she’d wet her overnight diaper her rash was as fresh as it had been before. It was a never ending cycle.

It all started when I washed her diapers in a new detergent… ONE TIME. She broke out, and never got over it.

I went back to the homemade soap I’d been using, but it didn’t do any good. In my reading online on how to treat the diaper rash I came across the idea of “stripping” the diapers. I hadn’t heard of this before, so I looked into what it meant.

Basically, stripping cloth diapers is just washing them over and over and over until any detergent residues have been thoroughly removed. What you do is throw your diapers into a washer of hot water, with no soap, and wash them. Let it go through the entire cycle, then start over and wash them again. You do this until the water in the washing machine has no bubbles, or film, or any sign of soap whatsoever. You don’t use bleach or anything, just wash and wash.

Once the water stays clear, hang them out to dry. The sun will help finish the sanitizing process.

It’s no wonder poor baby girl broke out!! Like I said, I’ve been washing these diapers for over three years now, and have never stripped them once. They probably had all kinds of build-up on them.

I’ve had Xia in disposable diapers for two weeks now, trying to clear her bottom up. Doing so, along with caking her with corn starch at each changing has worked wonders. I also used a little anti-fungal cream as a last resort. She’s all healed up and I’ve got her back in cloths today.

*Hopefully* this will have done the trick and she won’t break out anymore. I’m still letting her go bare skinned as much as possible though. It’s kinda funny too, ’cause I got her some leg warmers to keep her little legs cozy so she’s walking around in a shirt and leg warmers with her little fanny showing!

Oh, I’ve also switched to Charlie’s Soap. After reading TONS of reviews and opinions, I’m convinced that this was the best choice, even over Soap Nuts, which have a reputation of leaving a film after a while, and diminishing the absorbability of the diapers.

Do any of you cloth diapering Mamas strip your cloths every now and then? What type of detergent do you love, and how do you keep your diapers maintained?

34 thoughts on “How To Strip Cloth Diapers”

  1. I am a Granny (great now,) who began homesteading in the late seventies. I always used thin gauze diapers (defunct company now) that dried on the line instantly. Every so often I would boil them in my canner pot. This sterilized them, but I never thought of striping them. (Waste of water???)

    Some of my seven kids and nine grandchildren I diapered had rashes, others didn’t. It wasn’t organic, but I used Desitin ointment then, and still do on the greats today.

  2. Hey there! I used BAG BALM, the square green can with a cow and clovers on it? usually at the pharmacy section or even in the pet section of your local wal-mart, or feed store. My kids never had diaper rash (I used cloth) for more than an hour. I also am a nurse that worked for my kids pediatrician, and he claimed the corn starch was food for yeast infection type diaper rashes, and have seen them personally get worse not better. I used bag balm like most people use Desitin. It kept their skin healthy because it was preventative. It kept a protective barrier between the urine and feces and my baby’s skin. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. (is that how that saying goes?? I would hate to be one of those people, that, like, say: “a bird in the hand is worth a couple bushels of more birds” you know, something like that! anyways, God Bless You!

  3. I just wanted to say thank you! I’m a young mother living in St. Louis, Mo. Also with my parents. My fiance and I are about to give college a shot again, and we long to live a simple and self sufficient life far from mainstream society. That’s when I came across homesteading, along with your blog. Concerning your baby’s diaper rash, after a few weeks into it, the rash may have evolved into a yeast infection. Diaper rashes are caused by yeast to begin with, but sometimes the yeast level rises too high for normal diaper rash treatments to be effective. Thats when my doctor recommended clotrimazole cream, USP, 1%. I got mine from a convenience store nearby, but maybe you could research the product’s ingredients and find something a little more natural or homemade?

  4. I cloth diapered all three of mine and I used homemade laundry soap with a vinegar rinse. I line dried them every time. My son( now 18 year old soldier) was allergic to everything and had raging thrush so I switched to cloth diapers and he got over it. Homemade laundry soap= 1cup baking soda
    1 cup borax
    1cup washing soda
    1 grated up bar of either lye soap or ivory soap
    use 2 tablespoons per wash load then rinse with vinegar.

  5. I used 4 doz. cloth diapers on my kids. I had 2 in diapers twice. I never heard of stripping diapers and never had bad problems unless kids were sick or too much juice as mentioned. Don’t remember what diaper rash ointment I used as it’s been more than 21 yrs. since I had any in diapers. I used ‘rubber pants’ for all. No money ro much else available then. I applaud all the gals suing cloth, saves so much money and the environment. Breastfeeding makes diapoers so easy to clean until they get more food than breastmilk, but clean and flush away solids and then put in a pail. Of course with only 4 doz. I washed pretty often so they didn’t smell much. Set the pail in the laundry room or garage if attached to keep the smell from the main part of your home. White vinegar is very good at reducing buildup as mentioned. For everyone, keep usimng them and I hopoe all those with rash issues can find a solution from those mentioned as there were some good ideas. Making a salve from calendula petals is very good. Put dry petals in double bolier and cover with olive oil and let cook over low temps. for 3 hrs. Strain and add 1 part beeswax to 4 parts infused oil. Can add a capsule of vit. E to the oil before adding beeswax. That will help heal. You can experiment with how much E works. Put in glass jar and when cool cover and keep in a dark place. If you use it frequently you can make a larger amount and use jelly jars in half pints. A thin layer should do it. I made some and my daughter observed the use on a baby that only got changed a couple times/day (not hers)and it healed it in a couple days. This was a couple who lacked brains in caring for their 5 children. Hope this helps. My address can be given out if so desired, by New Life on A Homestead, for any help with the salve if needed.

  6. Have you tried using a cup of vinegar in your rinse water? Vinegar tends to cut through the left over soap residue and leaves your clothes feeling cleaner. No your clothes do not smell like vinegar. Son#2 (now age 24) was allergic to everything and I had to wash his clothes in Ivory soap and then rinse them twice until I tried vinegar in the rinse water. I still used the Ivory soap but only rinsed once. It left the clothes soft even after line drying and no fabric softener was ever added. To this day I still use vinegar in my rinse water.

  7. My youngest (who is now 30 something) used to get occasional rashes. An elderly friend gave me a recipe for something to use to clear them up. Just put regular white all-purpose flour in an iron skillet and cook it until it turns brown. Use this on the the little bottom and the rash clears right up! So simple and it really worked! I stored the browned flour in an old baby powder can. I used cloth diapers on all three of mine (before the convenience of the new fancy ones) and never had any problems with them.

  8. Hi. I just found your site and I think I am hooked. As for the stripping diapers…I have never even heard of it. We use vinegar as a softening agent and always rinse twice. We also hang out to dry as often as possible. As for the rashes, we rarely have an issue, but when we do we use vinegar in a tub with warm water and that helps lots.Great site and thanks for sharing your journey.

  9. I used cloth diapers for 3 sons. They are grown now but have little people of their own. I use to boil the diapers about every 4 to 6 weeks in a huge old pot that I found just for this purpose. I used a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the water. I never had much of a problem with rashes. Just when the middle one drank to much juice. He couldn’t handle the acid, it would burn his bottom. I hope this is a help to all the young mommies out there. I commend you for using cloth diapers. I always thought disposables were so lazy and wasteful.

  10. If your baby gets a rash that lasts more than a couple days it is usually a yeast rash and you shouldn’t use the corn starch for it. It will actually feed the yeast. This worked great for all my babies when they had the raw rash (seemed like if you wiped, it would wipe the skin off kind of rash) Washing babies bottom with clear water, pat dry, spray with a mixture of good which hazel and a few drops of tea tree and coconut oil to calm the redness and seal the bottom from moisture. You can buy those carry on spray bottles or sometimes even bigger ones at the dollar store. It lasts a long time you don’t have to use a lot. (Even when they didn’t have a rash I would just spritz as a preventative) Best part is it is really cheap and lasts a LONG time. Then apply a thin layer of plain yogurt on the babies bottom. Don’t worry about getting it on girly parts it is fine to just smear it all over. The yogurt will cure a yeast infection naturally without having to use anti-fungal medication. Feeding yogurt will help also and restrict any extra sugars as the yeast will thrive from that as well. Hope this helps.

  11. My youngest had incurable diaper rashes… until I found “Miracle”. Trust me. It is a miracle. Green goopy stuff, but never another diaper rash!! It is found at Hope your diaper stripping works.

  12. We also cloth diaper and although we have yet to deal with any rashes (thank goodness!) I do have to occasionally strip them to get out any buildup/residue. I think we have a touch of hard water. I usually strip them with a squirt of blue dawn and lots of rinses! Actually… this reminds me that I need to do this with the diaper laundry on Monday!

    Oh, and we use a homemade detergent like the one at the link others have provided. I really like it and it doesn’t cause buildup as fast as other kinds of soap we’ve tried, but they still need a good stripping every now and again!

  13. I don’t do cloth diapers (thought about it but haven’t jumped) but I wanted to chime in on the diaper rash. At night to help prevent wetness from sitting against her skin try spreading some Crisco or some kind of shortening over her bum. It makes for a natural wetness barrier. Worked great with my kids!

  14. First, I LOVE CHARLIE’S SOAP!!!! I have been cloth diapering through 5 babies for over 9 years. Charlie’s is new to our house. I replaced my diapers for our newest little one. I bought pre-folds from Green Mountain Diapers which I would highly recommend. After reading about Charlie’s on their site I hemmed and hawed quite a bit before switching. I am so glad we did. I carefully followed the instructions on the Charlie’s website to prepare our washing machine. When we wash our prefolds and family wipes I do a full 4 minute wash cycle with cold water. No soap! Then I go back and do a 10 minute hot regular cycle with one scoop of Charlie’s and 1/2 scoop of Sun brand oxygen bleach from Walmart. FABTABULOUS!! and Thrifty!!! I think the key is to use the largest water level and only half fill the machine. I change LOTS. I do a load of diapers every 3rd day. Plenty of water is the key. As I side note in the past I have always used Bummis Super Whisper Wraps. For this newest addition I delved into the world of wool. I am a convert for sure. We use Disana wool pull-ons. They are awesome. I wash them with imse-vimse wool wash and lanolize with Lansinoh. The wool covers are so comfy and breathable. I have had NO leaks. As a thrifty girl I sized up and got the 6-12 month size even for our newborn. They were great. I rotate 3 covers. One more thing and I promise to hush. We use Angel Baby Bottom Balm. I can’t say enough nice things about it. A little dab will do you and it is the best barrier hiney cream I have EVER used. Just say no to commercial wipes! A warm cloth is great and if she has a really messy poop I go back with one spritz of California Baby Diaper Area Wash and pat off with the othe side of the cloth. Happy to chat!

    [email protected]

  15. Hello, also praying for you and yours. (Years ago) when we used cloth diapers, I poured a generous amount of vinegar with water in the diaper pail for the used diapers to soak in until they were washed. The only thing that worked on stubborn rashes was Desitin ointment. There is a recipe for laundry soap at that we have been using for a year now and it works very well. — Lucy

  16. We are looking forward to welcoming baby # 9 in September.:)I have used cloth diapers on and off for all my years of babies.:)Our littlest at this time is 15 months and has been in cloth her entire life.I had never heard of stripping my diapers but just this past week I did do it not knowing what it was called.Faith has done all her messes on the big girl potty since she was 8 months old.(Her choice).So I only deal with wet diapers most of the time with her but I noticed a couple weeks ago that everytime she wet it smelled quite strong.So decided to just rinse and rerinse over and over and have not noticed the odd smell since.
    We have been making our homemade laundry soap for a couple years now and do not plan on EVER buying it again.It is so much cheaper this way and even with sensitive skin issues our homemade soap never gives a problem.Thanks for the info.~Nikki

  17. I use a homemade detergent that I have never had to strip with.

    Also the dish detergent works GREAT as a stripping agent. Just a TINY squirt in the washing machine and then A TON of rinses until your machine doesn’t rendering any more bubbles.

  18. I used to own a diaper service. We bleached of course, hot water, hot dryer. The final of 3 or 4 rinses we used a PH neutalizer. It would be hard to get for you, besides its a chemical. I would think you could also use vinegar to help neutralize. Rinseing always seemed to be the key for us.

    Good Luck!

  19. Kendra,

    I really enjoy visiting your blog!

    I like boiling diapers as well as other whites and dishrags/clothes. My grandmother used to boil whites in a big black pot, and we do have one, but we just put articles to be boiled in a large pot on the stove.

    Also, I’ve used coconut oil and also tea tree oil to treat diaper rash as well as a terrible yeast outbreak that I once had. I know the tea tree oil burns if the skin is broken, but it sure worked for me. I was very careful using it on my babies where the rash had caused the skin to break.

    Has anyone else had huge issues with diaper rash after baby consumed lots of juice or fresh fruit? Oh, especially kiwi! I could always tell if they’d had enough vitamin c ’cause they’d break out with a TERRIBLE rash and have AWFUL diapers!

    God bless you and your family, Kendra! I don’t know you, but we’ve often prayed for you and your family since the time you mentioned your husbands job loss.


    • Sherry,

      It means so much to me to know that my family has been in your prayers. I am humbled. Thank you.

      As for the diaper rash, I tried tea tree oil on baby’s bottom too, but it just didn’t do any good. The best thing has been pure cornstarch and lots of fresh air. What I’m finding is that different things work for different people!! Too bad there isn’t one simple answer, huh?!

  20. Oh my! Thanks so much I’ve never heard of this! The same thing happened to my little man and so I washed the diapers (which had been washed in the new detergent) in hot water with vinegar because I thought that would help and then I washed them twice in my homemade detergent. They didn’t smell “chemically” anymore after that so I felt alright about them. I did cake his bottom with Desitin (NOT natural but I had tried EVERYTHING) and corn startch when I started cloth diapering again. It was cleared up in 2 days. HIs rash was so bad he napped for a week without a diaper (fun laundry week for mom!) and soaked each night for 20 minutes in a tea bath and NOTHING worked! Thanks so much for sharing your successes and your “life happened” moments! It’s awesome to know someone else thinks/feels and is going through the same things as I am!

    • Lauren,

      LOL, yeah, I tried putting Xia in the crib w/out a diaper too… wish I’d taken a picture. She’d pooped, and then smeared it all over her bedding, bumper pad, crib, blankets, self…. yeah, fun times! That’s when I went to disposables for naps and outings, and bare bottom around the home. What a mess, lol!

  21. I used the same batch of cloth diapers (with the old “plastic pants”)on three children, with various detergents, and never stripped my diapers. My firstborn had a terrible time with diaper rash (and as he got older, various seasonal allergies also became apparent.) My next two, diapered with the same diapers washed with the same various detergents, never had problems with diaper rashes. Again, I never stripped the diapers over the several-years period of using them. Therefore, I’m not so sure diaper rash problems are necessarily related to the diapers, detergent buildup, etc., in most cases. If that were so, it doesn’t make sense that my first child had almost constant rashes from the get-go, and the second and third had none. I think often-times it’s probably more a case of certain children having certain sensitivities, in which case you’ll just have to try different things by trial and error.

  22. I have used Charlie’s Soap in the past, but now we stick to our homemade detergent. It seems to work well for us. I’ve been clothing diapering for almost 4 years and our 4th child is due in a few weeks. I think I might just go ahead and strip the one-size pockets just to make sure that they won’t bother his little bottom. It seems like pre-folds and inserts end up cleaner than the pockets do. Thanks for reminding me!

  23. I’ve been cloth diapering for 3 years, as well. Baby #3 is due any day, so our diapers are getting a workout! 🙂

    When my first was born, I tried a variety of different detergents in that first year while trying to find that “right” detergent. We also learned about stripping, since I didn’t do the diapers any favors with my detergent experimenting! I now strip our diapers every few months.

    Our favorite detergent is Planet. I’ve tried Bum Genius detergent (which caused a rash on my sensitive little guy), Rockin’ Green (which did NOT work well for us), Tide, Purex Free & Clear, Arm & Hammer, and Ecos. Planet is definitely working well for us! One bottle lasts a long, long time since we use so little of it for each load.

  24. The easiest, quickest (relatively) way I’ve found to strip laundry, diapers included? Leave on the clothesline during a rain. Works like a charm, every time. 😀

    I will say be careful with Charlie’s Soap. I used it for a month years ago. It left a funk in ev.e.ry.thing. Took me a good four months to strip all our sheets, towels, clothes, diapers, etc. That’s when I discovered the rain trick, go figure. We have super hard well water though, lots of calcium and lime. Lots. Charlie’s finally admitted (again, a few years ago) that their soap doesn’t always work with hard water.

    And a gal who’s blog I follow just posted this to boot.

    For stripping in the washing machine, I’ve used RLR, or my personal fav, Sportswash. That will pull double duty if I ever get hubby out hunting since it erases [human] scent off the clothes. 🙂 But I use Arm & Hammer Dye and Perfume Free [laundry] detergent for everything, and have never, ever, used more than half the scoop for even my biggest laundry loads. Growing up my mom taught me that we never needed to use that big old detergent amount because it was overkill, and wouldn’t you know, she was right. 😀

  25. I’ve never heard of this…thank you! I don’t have anyone in diapers, but two of mine have sensitive skin and end up with rashes from t’s and undies. I bet this will help 🙂
    Back when I was doing diapers, we used vinegar as our fabric softener to prevent yeast rashes and improve absorption.
    As a former science teacher, I wonder if stripping would go faster if the first load had about 1/4 cup of baking soda to soften the water? I may have to experiment…

  26. I’ve been using cloth diapers with Katherine since she was about 3 weeks old (waited for all that nasty black tar to flush through). She recently got a bad diaper rash / infection that I’ve had a bugger bear of a time kicking. I’ve always used Charlie’s Soap on her diapers, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of a residue that’s bothering her.

    My current theory is there is some sort of bacteria that is not getting wiped out in the wash. Her rash is a million times better than it was before — mostly because I’ve been slathering her little bottom in bacitracin (neosporin generic). I’ve been planning on stripping her diapers and running them through several cycles in hot hot water and then sun bleaching them. Hopefully that’ll knock out any lingering issues. I also ran my washer with straight vinegar in the chamber to clean out the machine.

    Let me know how it goes!

    City Roots, Country Life

  27. In the two years I used cloth (before my daughter potty trained), I only stripped them once. I actually used Dawn dishwashing soap, just the plain stuff, at first and then did a million rinses. It worked well. I was using just Tide or something at the time. After a little research, and considering we all have sensitive skin, I switched to Charlie’s Soap. I love the stuff! We use it for all our laundry, and once I switched to it, I never had a need to strip my diapers again.
    I am expecting my second in October, so will probably strip my diapers when I pull them out of storage. I don’t have any really good reason, but it seems like something I should do…


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