As you use your cloth diapers and wash them over and over, you will start to have a build-up of detergent residue in your diapers. The extra rinse cycles help to eliminate some but not all of this build-up. Also, if you use any rash creams, this residue may start to gunk up your cloth. (I highly recommend using liners with ANY kind of rash cream and then washing them separately from diapers or using disposable liners that you can just toss after use.)
Stripping is the process you will use to "de-gunkify" your diapers (remove the build-up). There are a lot of different ways to strip your cloth diapers. You may want to do a little Internet research before stripping for the first time...after all, every washer and every baby is different, but here is the method I used.
How to Strip Your Diapers
From time to time you may notice your diapers are smelling funky or are starting to have leak issues. This does not mean you aren’t getting them clean…but it does mean that you have some buildup of oils and detergents in the fabric. Have no fear! There is an easy way to fix this problem!
Stripping your Diapers:
Step 1: Wash your diapers like you normally would.
Step 2: Run your diapers through a hot wash with no detergent. You may want to add a drop or two of blue Dawn liquid dish detergent to help break up the oils, or a bit of OxyClean to help with staining, but this is not necessary.
Step 3: Run an extra rinse at the end of your wash cycle (2 or 3 if you added anything to the water in step 2). Then rinse one more time with a little bit of white vinegar to remove all detergent residues from the diaper. Don’t worry! Your diapers won’t smell like vinegar once they’re dry.
Step 4: Rinse 2-4 more times, or until you don’t see any more suds appear. This means you have gotten all of the detergent residue out of your diapers. In case you hadn’t heard, you should only use ¼ to ½ the amount of detergent you would normally use with a load of cloth diapers. This decreases the amount of detergent residue in the diapers. Also, the Free-and-Clear varieties don’t work very well. I would recommend a regular detergent, like All or regular Tide, or you can use a detergent especially made for cloth diapers, such as Rockin’ Green or Country Save.
Step 5: Sunlight is a natural stain killer and germ remover. If you can, sun your diapers outside to dry. If this isn’t possible, dry them in the dryer on a low or medium heat setting. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on drying if you have any doubts about the heat level for drying.
You may need to strip your diapers as often as once a week, but your diapers could last a month until they need stripping. I stripped my own diapers every three weeks, but everyone’s water is different. Everyone’s baby is also different, so use your best judgment about how often to strip.
There are other methods of stripping as well. If this technique does not work for your baby or your water, do some research to find other stripping methods. I recommend checking the online diaper blogs, diaperpin.com, diaperdecisions.com, etc.