Stripping Cloth Diapers in an HE Washer


Over time, cloth diapers require some maintenance, commonly referred to as “stripping.” Before you take the plunge, you should know the difference between two common cloth diaper ailments, along with what course of action should be taken.Stripping Cloth Diapers In An He Washer 1 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families{Photo Courtesy: The Memoirs of Megan}

Do your cloth diapers smell badly (like ammonia) after your child urinates in them?

When you take off their cloth diaper in the morning, does the smell knock you off your feet?

Are your diapers occasionally leaking?

If you experience any sort of smell issue, you have a buildup problem. Buildup is typically from detergent that is not being rinsed out enough and happens over time. Here are some ways that you can strip your cloth diapers, in your HE washer.

  • RLR: A common favorite with stripping diapers is by using RLR. It is very easy to use, as you add a packet directly into the drum, and run it in the very hot water cycle. After that cycle is complete, run some extra rinses until you don’t see any more bubbles through the glass. Typically, 2-3 rinse cycles is sufficient.
  • Calgon: If you have very hard water, buildup is something that is a constant battle. Calgon is a water softener that can be purchased in the laundry isle at stores such as Walmart. To strip cloth diapers using Calgon, add it to your laundry detergent dispenser. Use half the amount as directed, and no soap. After that, rinse, rinse, rinse. As a preventative measure, a small scoop of Calgon can also be used along with your favorite natural washing detergent in every single wash cycle.  
  • Soaking items in some HE washing machines is not possible, if the drum drains when you press the “pause” button. If this is the case, you can soak your cloth diapers in your bathtub with a clean rinsing detergent (such as Rockin’ Green) for about an hour, and then transfer them into your washing machine to do rinse cycles.

*It’s important to remember that when you are working with build up, the hotter the water, the better. 

Stripping Cloth Diapers In An He Washer 2 Daily Mom, Magazine For Families{Photo Courtesy: The Art of Making a Baby}

Do your cloth diapers seem to repel?

Are you having a constant leak problem?

Did you use a non-cloth diaper-friendly diaper rash ointment recently?

Did you forget to separate your liners/wipes when washing if you’re using a prescription strength ointment?

If you’re experiencing any (or all) of these problems, your course of action may be a little different. Sometimes, simply soaking won’t take care of the problem. You may have to get a bit more aggressive.

  • RLR: Once again, stripping cloth diapers with RLR is pretty much a cure-all. It’s tough enough to cut through a film that may be left over from ointments or creams. Follow the RLR stripping instructions above.
  • Dawn: Dawn is  efficient with being able to handle stripping diapers. Using original blue Dawn is a great way to handle repelling and leaking issues. The thing to remember though, is that Dawn is NOT high efficiency approved, because it is not low-suds (in fact, it’s pretty much opposite.) Because of this, many HE washing machine warranties advise against using dawn in the wash cycle, and sometimes it has even been known to void warranties. If you need to strip the diapers using blue Dawn, it is advised to do so in the sink, or bath tub. Using as hot water as possible, place your diapers in the sink or tub. Squirt a capfull or so amount of blue Dawn into the water. Allow them to soak, agitating the water every 5-10 minutes using a wooden spoon. If you have serious repelling issues with your pocket diapers, you may also want to take a brush and scrub the fleece on the inside of the diaper, to make sure that all the film is removed. After soaking (and possibly scrubbing) rinse the diapers as much as possible in the sink/tub, and then transfer them to the washing machine, for additional rinse cycles. Continue rinsing until you don’t see any more bubbles.
  • Boiling: If you’re dealing with issues such as a yeast rash, or very stinky/soiled diapers, it is advised to boil them. If you’re using diapers with a waterproof PUL (pockets, or covers) you won’t want to boil those- only the inserts or pre-folds. Using the biggest pot available, boil distilled water on the stove with the prefolds or inserts in it. Using tap water can deposit additional minerals. After soaking them in the boiling water, you can decide if you want to also soak them in Dawn, or run them through a wash cycle with hot water. Vinegar has been known to reduce yeast, so adding a small amount of it to your boiling water may also help.

Stripping diapers may sound intimidating and it may take a bit more time and effort if you have an HE washing machine, however, it’s an easy way to maintain your diapers, and handle common problems. Now get to strippin’!

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Megan lives in Michigan with her husband, daughter, and son. Her days are spent hanging out and doing family projects on her real-life farm, and spending time on the Great Lakes. She loves swimming, celebrity gossip, University of Michigan and Denver Broncos football, trashy reality TV, and writing. In addition to being a Mommy and self-proclaimed urban-farmer, she owns a photography business located in Southeast Michigan, Memoirs Photography, and is a partner in a niche Michigan wedding photographer team called Mulberry & Sage.


  1. How much rocking green would I use in the tub? Also if I leave it overnight to soak will it hurt? Our washer went out and we won’t get our replacement til sometime tomorrow early afternoon, but my diapers are in desperate need of a stripping.

  2. Properly washed diapers do not need to be stripped ever. if you are having to strip in an HE machine Grovia Mighty Bubbles RX is amazing. I have used it on donated diapers to my outreach and it is easy to use and super effective.

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