Stripping your nappies
This is a process designed to remove build-up and residues from your cloth nappies.
When/how often do I need to strip?
There is no need to strip your nappies as part of your regular routine. It shouldn't be part of your preventative maintenance; if you find you need to strip your nappies regularly it is an indication that something is wrong with your washing routine.
Nappies only need to be stripped in the following circumstances:
a) Nappies smell when they come out of the wash or as soon as they're peed in. Clean nappies should smell like nothing. If they smell it means they have an ammonia (urine) build-up and they aren't getting cleaned properly. It is recommended to strip your nappies and then adjust your wash routine to ensure your nappies get cleaned properly going forward.
b) Nappies bought pre-loved. It's generally a good idea to strip them before use, just to make sure that they are properly cleaned and not harbouring any nasties.
c) Baby has a yeast nappy rash/thrush. Cloth nappies will need to be treated to prevent reinfection. Refer to our page on thrush for more information here.
d) Nappies that leak. Note stripping is usually the last resort, after other troubleshooting options have been tried/addressed, eg check that the fit is correct, add extra absorbency, change more frequently etc. If nappies still leak after everything else has been checked, it usually indicates a build-up issue. Build-up is likely if you've used softeners (eg sta-soft) or washed with laundry soap (vs detergent, eg Sunlight bar soap) and didn't add an after-wash rinse to your cycle.
How do I strip my cloth nappies?
Firstly, wash your nappies using your regular wash routine. You should always ensure your nappies are clean before stripping. It is pointless to strip dirty nappies.
a) Starting with clean nappies, use the following methods for ammonia build up:
1. Do a long, hot wash with the full recommended amount of detergent. If your nappies still stink, move on to step two.
2. Do a regular wash cycle with the full recommended amount of detergent and add 1/2 cup baking soda to your wash cycle. Follow this with a rinse to which you add 1/2 cup vinegar. If your nappies still stink, move on to step three.
Machine: Add a 1/2 cup of bleach (dissolved in 1 litre water) to your washing machine (Important!: For a Frontloader make sure you only add it after it has filled up with water. you add the bleach solution through the detergent tray *) and run your nappies through a short cold wash. Then follow up with a warm wash cycle to break down the bleach. This is for a machine 3/4th full
To bleach strip in a bath use the following dilution:
1 cup bleach for a full bath or,
1/2 cup bleach for a 1/2 full bath or,
1/4 cup bleach for a 1/4 full bath etc
Keep nappies in the bath for 30min, and maximum time of 45 min
Follow with a warm wash (add detergent, no softener) in the machine to break down the bleach
1 tablespoon of bleach for 4L of water
* Check your Frontloader manual if you have a HE machine, if it uses less than 45L water per washload, reduce the bleach to only 1/4 cup
b) Starting with clean nappies, use one of the following methods for stripping preloved nappies:
1. Add a 1/2 cup of bleach (dissolved in 1 litre water) to your washing machine (wait until the machine has filled up with water) and run your nappies through a cold wash. Follow with a short warm wash to ensure all the bleach is rinsed out. You can also do this in the bath tub - fill the tub with cold water, add the diluted bleach solution, stir and lastly add your diapers. Soak for 30 minutes, then do a short hot wash (add detergent, no softener) in your machine to get rid of the bleach.
2. Add 1tsp Grapefruit Seed Extract (GFSE) to your regular wash cycle and wash your nappies once.
c) Starting with clean nappies, use one of the following methods for build-up issues:
1. Do a hot wash without detergent. If this doesn't get rid of the softener or soap build-up, proceed onto step two.
2. Add a tbsp of Sunlight Liquid in the drum of your washing machine and run your nappies through a regular wash cycle. Add an extra rinse afterwards. Do not add the dishwashing soap in your detergent drawer unless you want your machine to start frothing at the mouth. ;-)
Finally, dry your nappies - preferably line dry in the sun as it also acts as disinfecting agent.
1. Won't bleach harm my nappies?
No, not if diluted properly (as described above) and used infrequently. You shouldn't need to strip your nappies on a regular basis. That said, using bleach may result in your warranty being discontinued so always check with the retailer first.
2. Won't vinegar/hot water cause my PUL covers to delaminate?
Regular use of vinegar and especially soaking in vinegar can cause PUL to delaminate and/or damage elastics, however as mentioned above, stripping is not something that you need to do regularly. Infrequent use of vinegar will not harm your nappies. Cloth nappies can be safely washed up to 60C (yes, even with every wash), any temperatures higher than that is not recommended. Be careful of the medical rinse or sanitise setting on certain washing machines, as this heats the water up to 90C.