Time to Strip Your Diapers? Troubleshooting Cloth Diapering Issues

At some time or another, it’s nearly guaranteed that anyone who is using cloth diapers will run into problems.  The three most common problems seem to be ammonia stink, barnyard stink, and repelling.  Whenever these things happen, the advice seems to be “strip your diapers.”  But the thing is, different methods of stripping are designed for different things and different machines.  When I first ran into issues, someone suggested that I “strip my diapers” and I was just so lost.  There seemed to be umpteen different methods of doing it and none explained that the different methods had different purposes.

Fortunately, cloth diaper resources have improved.  I’m going to take a look at the most common issues and tell you how to fix them.  Note: this may not be an immediate fix.  Depending on the severity of the issue, it may take a few attempts.

Ammonia stink

Your diapers come out of the washing machine smelling clean, but when you take them off, the ammonia smell is just overwhelming.

Cause: Urea naturally turns into ammonia and will build up in diapers over time.

How to fix it: Disinfect your diapers.  There are a few different ways to go about this.

A.) You can do the Rockin’ Green method, which is how I tackled it.  1.) Wash your diapers.  2.) Rock a soak in Rockin’ Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer.  (Soak for 4-8 hours.)  3.) Rock a soak in Rockin’ Green detergent.  4.) Finish out with running your diapers through the laundry as per usual with no detergents.

B.) Boil your diapers.  (Caution: Only do this with inserts, as it may cause diapers with PLU or TPU to delaminate, or ruin the elastics in fitted or contour diapers.)

C.) Bleach your diapers or use OxiClean.   (Caution: check your manufacturer’s warranty before doing so.  Most diaper companies discourage the use of bleach.  GroVia specifically says not to use oxygen cleaners.) I personally always reach for OxiClean and have never felt it necessary to use chlorine bleach on my diapers.

D.) Sun your diapers.

Not recommended methods ever: Some people suggest that you run your diapers through the dishwasher.  I’m going to say that this is a very bad idea.  Yes, it may work, but it’s also risky because it is a fire hazard.  As much as I love clean smelling diapers, I love reducing the odds of my house turning to ashes even more.


Repelling is usually caused by something getting on diapers that shouldn’t be, like most diaper creams.  As much as I love Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for clearing up the odd rash, it (and other zinc diaper creams) are not CD friendly.  Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can also cause repelling.

How to fix it: Use a degreasing agent.  Dawn is the most common fix.  However, before you do so, check your machine’s instructions.  My washing machine, for example, says explicitly not to use Dawn.  In my case, I would manually scrub the diaper with Dawn and a toothbrush.  Either way, once you’re done, rinse like there’s no tomorrow.  Run multiple rinse cycles until you have no bubbles.  (If you’re washing by hand, rinse, rinse, rinse, and rinse some more before you put it in your machine.)

Barnyard/Funky Poo Smell

I’ve had a few occasions where Norton’s diapers started to smell like a sweaty horse that had been ridden hard and put away wet.  Gross.  If I wanted to smell that, I’d start mucking out stables.  The cause is that diapers aren’t coming clean enough in the wash.

How to fix it: Run your diapers through the wash with double the amount of the detergent.  Rinse like mad to get out the extra soap.

Other methods that have worked for other people: Consider trying a wash with Tide Free and Gentle Unscented.  I consider Tide Free to be the devil when it comes to washing diapers, as it caused an ammonia funk that almost caused me to give up on cloth, but a friend of mine swears by it.

Need to increase absorbency

Diapers aren’t holding as much as they used to?  Your diapers are probably holding onto residue or have some detergent build up.

How to fix it: Run a couple of hot wash cycles with no detergent to work out the build up.  Or run a wash cycle with RLR and then do extra rinses to make sure that it’s rinsed clean.

Special thanks to Cozy Bums for helping me with my own early diaper stink issues!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  I receive a small commission from purchases made through those links, which I use to support Cloth Diaper Addicts.

Legal Disclaimer: I am not liable for the results.  This is a list of suggestions.  It is up to the person using the list to decide what s/he is willing or is not willing to try.  Use at your own risk.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. I’m going to pass this on to a couple of my friends who cloth diaper. These are great tips!

  2. Great advice. No longer have kids in diapers but several friends who do and who use cloth. I will pass this on also.

  3. Great tips here. I will definitely pass it on to my friends that are using cloth diapers

  4. Lots of greta information here. Thanks for posting. I haven’t had to strip yet thankfully but I’ll be coming back here for advice when I need to 🙂

  5. Thanks for all the great info here! This is a great go-to post when I have issues which I’m sure I will!

  6. Great summary! I think I cried a little when I read this “I’ve had a few occasions where Norton’s diapers started to smell like a sweaty horse that had been ridden hard and put away wet.” LOL!

  7. Sarah Hayes says:

    Ive been trying to figure out how to do this and this post told me more than thought there was to know lol. Looks like I need to invest in some Rockin Green too. Thanks for all the info!

  8. Rachael says:

    I swear by bleaching (regular bleach) every 4 weeks. If BumGenius says its ok this often for their AIOs, I figure everything else is golden too. I also second the microfiber funk. If I have to use them, I’ve been washing them by hand. The machine just doesn’t agitate all the layers well enough. Hand washing just once will give you a good idea of what ‘clean’ should smell like! Hint: NOTHING!

    • Actually Cotton Babies (makers of BumGenius, Flip, and Econobums) are the only big manufacturer to say Yay, Bleach! Others say point blank to not use bleach, but if you absolutely must, don’t use it on the covers.

  9. Lara Clinton says:

    This is super helpful. I’ve seen some methods that seemed way out there to get diapers squeaky clean but these would be a lot better!

  10. I am guilty of using a pet enzyme spray on the barnyard funk. I called the manufacturer first and the lady I spoke to said add a little to the wash it should be fine but she was unsure if I wanted to spray the diapers. It was a bacterial enzyme and I decided to give it a shot and added a few rinse cycles. I sprayed every poopy diaper and wipe and by the time the bottle was empty the barn yard was banished never to rear it’s ugly head again.

  11. Bianca Munoz says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve only used bleach to strip a couple of times. Always felt bad.
    But I am going to use this as a reference next time.

  12. Pinning this for when I need it!

  13. This is great, I’m going to pin it for future troubleshooting 🙂 Would you do anything differently for natural fabrics vs synthetic ones?


  1. […] natural fibers.  The downside, though, is that microfiber is prone to stink.  (Don’t worry; that can be fixed.)  Additionally, microfiber can’t be right up against your baby’s bottom because it’s so […]

  2. […] which ones didn’t work for you, what local store is the best, and what resources you use for troubleshooting.  Before  you know it, you’re going over to each other’s houses, having coffee, or […]

  3. […] in a water softener.  If you have soft water, then you’ll have to use less detergent… or strip to remove excess detergent build […]

  4. […] the exact same answer: Calm down.  Your cloth diapers are not ruined.  You don’t have to strip them or use Dawn.  You don’t have to flog your husband for forcing you to use such potent […]

  5. […] adventure.  (And it’s blog fodder.)  While most of the time, the suggestions I gave in my cloth diaper stripping post work well, sometimes an issue will be so pervasive that it will take multiple attempts.  We […]

  6. […] it’s time to strip.  If you have a barnyard funk, it’s time to use extra detergent.  Here’s a great post from Cloth Diaper Addicts about stripping your diapers.  She doesn’t mention it, but I use just Calgon to strip my […]

  7. […] Tide product is called).  It took about a month and a half of using Tide on my diapers for me to strip them.  I think I used the Tide for about… two or three […]

  8. […] and languishing in a laundry basket in my basement than dirty and becoming stinky cloth diapers in need of stripping because I got lazy.  I hate stripping diapers.  It’s a huge pain that I can generally avoid as […]

  9. […] wash them all together?  No, of course not.  You may end up with repelling issues and have to strip your diapers, but that’s still fixable (albeit time consuming).  In the interest of true confessions, […]

  10. […] through shared experiences.  Or, in the case of the effectiveness of Dawn as a degreaser for stripping cloth diapers, we rely on the data provided by other industries and then apply that information to the treatment […]

  11. […] the problem that I was starting to have again (even after strips and rocking a soak) was that the diapers were smelling a little, um, not brand new fresh when I pulled them out of the […]

  12. […] It took some trial and error to figure it out.  We bought a wet bag to line the diaper pail.  This should have allowed me to work smart, but it didn’t work out as anticipated.  Our diaper pail rocks.  It’s a Graco diaper pail that requires something like two C cell batteries.  You wave your hand over it, it opens up, you insert the diaper, it closes.  No smell.  The problem with the wet bag is, it’s too long and narrow to fit the diaper pail.  So that means it takes up more space and allows less diapers to go through, thus increasing the amount of time spent cloth diaper washing. […]

  13. […] did the diaper stripping, the prescription creams, and finally gentian violet.  The rash never completely cleared up.  I […]

  14. […] Cloth diapers can stink for a multitude of reasons, and that stink is one of the main reasons for stripping cloth diapers.  How your diapers stink will indicate how you need to strip… but your cloth diapers should […]

  15. […] I doubt it.  But why chance it when there are already products available that will work for stripping cloth diapers without the questionable […]

  16. […] also do a ton of cloth diaper stripping for local ladies and for Cloth for a Cause.  Sometimes, diapers can be salvaged.  When something […]

  17. […] not “bleach or nothing” in most situations.  There are a wide variety of methods for curing your cloth diaper stink without a bleach soak.  (Yes, here’s the […]

  18. […] when added to water. Hydrogen peroxide is a known disinfection at concentrations between 6% to 25%. OxiClean contains 18% hydrogen peroxide, a level well within the disinfecting range of the chemical. […]

  19. […] when added to water. Hydrogen peroxide is a known disinfection at concentrations between 6% to 25%. OxiClean contains 18% hydrogen peroxide, a level well within the disinfecting range of the chemical. […]

  20. […] “Time to Strip Your Diapers?…” – Cloth Diaper Addicts […]

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