Something you should know about with cloth diapers, you may need to strip. Stripping is a process to get rid of buildup caused by hard water, detergent buildup, using non safe rash creams, ammonia, stink issues, and just to make sure your diapers are at their freshest and most absorbent.
Stripping can solve multiple problems. One such problem is repelling, when your diaper is having leaks because the fabric is not at it's most absorbent. This is usually caused by hard water mineral buildup or detergent buildup from using too much detergent and/or not rinsing enough. Another reason to strip is if you are having stink issues. Stink issues can be caused by not using enough detergent, detergent buildup, hard water buildup, ammonia, and other causes. Usually if your diapers smell like a barn, you aren't using enough detergent and you should play with how much you use. If they smell like pee or burn your eyes and nose after they are dirty, then it's ammonia buildup. Another culprit of stink is not using the right detergent. Some people have problems with some detergents that others find amazing. You have to find the right detergent for your diapers, water, and washing machine. Also, make sure you aren't using dryer sheets or fabric softener, as well as detergents that contain dyes or optical brighteners. It may also help to switch from a liquid detergent to a powder detergent. Liquid detergent has been known to cause buildup.
So you think you have to strip, now what?
Now you decide what kind of strip you want to do! There are multiple ways to strip your diapers and each has their benefits. I suggest you play with it and decide what way is best for you. I also think stripping can fix the symptoms, but you have to also find the cause of the problem and cure the disease so to speak. If you find yourself stripping often, you should tinker with your wash routine and try to adjust it so you can find the perfect routine and products for you! You may simply need to switch to a new detergent, you may also need to adjust how much detergent you are using, or you may need to add an extra rinse or adjust the temperatures of your washes. Whatever it is finding it is key and may take some Patience, trial, and error. Eventually though you will get it and you will be one happy cloth diaperer! I however live in an area that has VERY hard water and because I'm renting I'm not allowed to have a water softener. Plus on top of that our pipes are very old and my washer isn't the greatest. So I have settled for stripping every couple of weeks, especially now that we are fighting ammonia. One day I'll get a better machine and live somewhere with a water softener and all will be well, but stripping isn't hard to do so for now it's a good system we have worked out.
Different ways to strip
1. RLR - RLR is my go to stripping method. It's ingredients list is super secret so we don't know exactly what is in it but we know it is safe for cloth diapers and we know there is washing soda. I have heard people swear by adding washing soda to their wash and it stripping just like RLR but I have also heard of people's diapers being ruined because plain washing soda makes them rough and nothing gets the diapers soft after that has happened. So if you want to try that use caution and do so at your own risk, I won't risk it. Anyway back to RLR. It's very simple to use, you just put your clean diapers, weather dry or wet, into the washer with a packet of it (half a packet if you are using a HE washer) and wash on hot with a couple extra rinses and then voila, you're done! You should notice a difference right away.
2. GroVia Mighty Bubbles - GroVia Mighty Bubbles comes to us from the makers of GroVia diapers. It's a newer laundry treatment and is super convenient. It comes in a little packet that you just toss into the wash, kind of like a tide pod.The ingredients are Sodium Carbonate (washing soda), Sodium percarbonate, Sodium Polyitaconate, surfactants, Enzymes, Oxygen bleach activator, and Sodia sillicate. To use you place in the washer with diapers (clean or dirty, doesn't matter, but I always put them in clean), No other detergent is needed. You wash on hot and do a hot rinse and voila, you should notice the difference as soon as they are dry.
3. Bleach - Bleach is controversial. Some people say don't use bleach because it can damage your diapers. Some diaper companies recommend you use bleach. I personally use bleach on all my diapers that I buy used or am given, and occasionally to do a really deep strip. You KNOW they are clean and nothing is going to be wrong with them once you strip with bleach. It's kind of like starting over! I use 1/4 cup of bleach. How I do it without bleaching the color from my diapers is I fill my washer up [maximum water level] with hot water and 1/4 cup of bleach. It will bubble a little. Then I let the washer run a minute or two so the agitator mixes the bleach in, then put my diapers, inserts, wipes, etc in. The general consensus is this should be done no more than once a month. I recommend doing this to all your diapers after thrush, yeast, sickness, or if you get used diapers.
4. Blue Dawn - Blue dawn! This should be used with caution. I have heard you can also use Dapple Baby Bottle and Dish Liquid sold here. The Key to stripping with dish soap is to only use a little as it's very hard to rinse out. Some people just put a few drops in a bath tub and soak overnight then do a bunch of rinses until there are NO bubbles. Or you can do the same thing in your washer. Fill your washer with hot water and about 5 drops of the soap. Then put the diapers in and wash on hot, and keep rinsing until it's all out and there are no bubbles. I've heard this is better for oil buildup, not mineral buildup, such as if you use the wrong diaper rash cream with your cloth diapers. I have never used it, so I can only tell you what I've heard, such as it is very difficult to get them completely rinsed when using this method.
The bottom line is, if you need to strip, I suggest RLR or GroVia Mighty Bubbles which are sold here. We are battling Amonia and the only thing that has worked is the bleach strip and the Grovia Mighty Bubbles, not RLR.