stripping diapers, part 3

Last week we described the “how” of stripping, I am going to finish it off with a “try this routine” if you have gone through the stripping process and want to avoid it in the future. I often get asked “how often should I strip” and truly, if you have a good wash routine, you shouldn’t unless you run into a bacterial rash issue or yeast and need to disinfect. The only times I have to strip with my wash routine is when I test new detergents and end up with buildup or bacterial issues that leave stink behind. This is what we have seen working best for our customers, of course your routine may vary, but if you had problems before, it may be worth a shot 🙂

This is for HE and regular top loaders:

-Hot or warm prerinse with no detergent. This is a quick 3-4 minute rinse/spin cycle. If you only have the option for cold, skip it completely OR if you can do a brief “prewash” in warm or hot do it, but not if it is going to take an hour to do so
-Hot wash, not sanitary or whitest whites, with the recommended amount of detergent. Powder fares better than liquid overall, when I say recommended amount, I mean what your detergent container recommends, not the 1/4 amount that manufacturers will recommend.
-2 rinses, these will be a cold temperature usually. Some older machines let you choose “warm” which is great, but cold is fine. The machine will automatically do one, if you can set it to “extra rinse” then do so.

A few tips for HE machines: Make sure your detergent is HE, otherwise you will have “I Love Lucy” suds everywhere and ruin your machine pretty quickly. Get as much water as you can in the machine, I am a fan of doing a “full” load even if it is half full of diapers, diapers like water so make sure enough is in there. If your machine needs weight, don’t add dry towels, they soak up as much water as they add, if you add towels they need to be wet when you put them in there. Put your machine on the “extra water” or “heavy soil” option to get water in there. Washing every other day is best.

We see much more success overall with our customer base and our own testing with the warm/hot prerinse. We find it does not “bake” in stains, but rather helps loosen any old buildup that is left behind. For liquid detergents we have found this especially true over the years. For our advice to skip the prerinse if it is cold only, some will say “gross! then you are washing your diapers in dirty water!”. This is the case even if you do a prerinse. If you have looked at a load of diapers after a prerinse, they are far from clean. The prerinse will loosen some of the soiled matter, but doesn’t come close to getting it all, so your level of “dirty” is different, but still there. The right amount of hot water, and a good detergent will get them clean without a prerinse, give it a try. Spraying down your diapers before they go into the pail will help a great deal if you skip your prerinse, even the newborn bowel movements, it is less going in therefore less to get out.
Finally, make sure you are doing your sniff tests. You can spray as much perfume on poop as you want, you will still smell perfumed poop. I promise there is not a detergent in the world that will mask poop in the diapers or your machine, if you don’t smell poo, it isn’t there. Your two times to sniff:
-Out of the dryer
-When they are freshly peed in

If either of these times gives you reason to turn your nose away, there is a problem. Don’t just “put up” with stink, doing so can lead to health problems and rash problems that you don’t want against your child’s skin. If your toddler threw up on a tee shirt, you washed it and it still smelled like puke, there is no way you would put it back on the child. Diapers have to be treated the same way, (except even worse because you are putting old poop and urine back up against their genital areas). Don’t tolerate stink, truly, shoot me an email and we will figure it out!

I promise our advice isn’t to mess with a good wash routine, or go against other popular advice. We don’t stand to profit on your smelly diapers, most of our customer service is in regards to fixing wash routines. My first goal is to make sure your baby’s skin is healthy, and my secondary goal is to make your wash routine easy. When you have to do 3 wash cycles or add more ingredients than you do making cookies, it really sucks the fun and ease of cloth diapers. With those two goals in mind, and talking with thousands of families over 7 years, we are always working on trying to get as close to a uniform wash routine as possible. There are circumstances where the above advice will vary, as with anything, but starting there, and then emailing me and saying “tried it, still have stink at x,y and z” helps me troubleshoot what needs to change, so keep in touch with me on it!


July 27, 2011. cloth diapers, Q & A, Wash routines.


  1. Brandi Elam replied:

    Thanks for this post – very helpful.

  2. Nicole replied:

    I read an older post on here a long time ago about wash routines and it cut all my problems out. I started doing the warm pre-rinse and used more Tide and I’ve never had stink again. SO glad to have read that advice here because I’ve never read it anywhere else!

  3. Mary Radach replied:

    I use rumparoo covers with my diapers. I have a new top loading machines. I use tide as my detergent.

    Problem: my covers stink of ammonia/stail urine. It’s to the point, my husband wants to use disposables on our daughter.

    Our daughter is 17m old. I used to do a prewash cold then hot wash cycle then extra rinse afterwards in our front loading he machines before we moved ( this past September) but now I do a hot wash then an extra cycle of no detergent, trying to see if it helps. I’ve tried using bleach in the cycles too; used to do it monthly but have been doing it more often lately when trying to rid diapers of the smell.That seems to help the prefolds/diapers but not the covers. I feel the pull fabric on the covers is very thick on the rumparooz but can’t figure out how it’s absorbing/keeping in the smells. My sister uses econobums covers which are very thin pull fabric and is t having as much problems.


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