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.