A lot of times when people want to strip their cloth diapers they think they need to add blue Dawn and then everything will be hunky-dory. I see this so much on cloth diaper groups that I belong to and I’m not sure where the blue Dawn as a cure-all came to be but this is not necessarily the case. In my humble opinion, it isn’t even usually the case.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times that blue Dawn will help, but not for most of your cloth diaper problems. Blue Dawn is a degreaser so it will help when you need to remove diaper creams from your cloth diapers but in most other cases it probably won’t help you very much.
It has been my experience that if you have a good wash routine your diapers should rarely if ever need to be stripped and that the majority of your cloth diaper woes is likely to be too little or too much detergent, with the former being most common. This article from Diaper Junction on the correct amount of detergent to use on your cloth diapers is great. By adjusting your detergent amounts or switching detergents you will likely fix your problem.
But first you will need to fix the problems you are currently having before troubleshooting your wash routine.
This is my first course of action since it’s the easiest. If your diapers are burning your nose hairs out from the smell after your baby pees, you probably need to up the amount of detergent you’re using but you also may have some detergent that’s been left behind. What do you do if you have some detergent left over on your laundry or dishes after washing them? You rinse them again. The same goes for cloth diapers. If you have residue then you will want to do a HOT rinse or wash cycle without detergent.
If you see soap bubbles then keep rinsing in just plain old hot water until the bubbles go away. Depending on the amount of residue you have in your diapers, this could take a few washes. What is the difference between detergent bubbles and agitation bubbles? Agitation bubbles dissipate pretty quickly once the machine stops. If you open the lid and let the water sit for 10-20 seconds or so and you still have bubbles or a film, these are likely detergent bubbles.
In the future you can use a little less detergent or add an extra rinse. You may need to try both to decide which is the best course of action for you because too little detergent can also lead to ammonia from the urine not being cleaned out of the diapers or lead to other unsavory odors like barnyard stink. If you have an HE machine you may need to add more water to your rinse cycle to get all of the soap out.
If using plain old hot water doesn’t help with odor issues that you may be having, you can soak them in RLR. RLR isn’t a detergent, it is a laundry treatment meant to remove ammonia and other odors. Mighty Bubbles from GroVia, Eco Nuts Ammonia Bouncer, and Funk Rock from Rockin’ Green are other good options.
It is good practice to strip any used diapers you have purchased since you really don’t know where they came from. First I do a hot water rinse to see if there is any residue. If so I keep rinsing until my water is clear of soap bubbles and then I treat diapers for yeast to be on the safe side.