I’m thrilled to be back writing another guest blog post for Emily! If you didn’t get a chance to read the last one on wash routine basics, I suggest you check it out prior to reading this one. This post is going to focus on the concept of doing a mineral strip on your diapers (AKA stripping). No, not that kind of stripping! Doing a mineral strip on your diapers essentially means treating your diapers to remove a build–up of minerals and the gunk that often accompanies those minerals. Many cloth diapering families will go their entire diaper journeys without ever needing to do one. The purpose of this post is to help you understand the basic concept of a mineral strip, the process, and the tools to be able to determine if you might need to do one.
The water in which we wash our diapers contains minerals. Some tap water contains more than others. This is generally referred to as the “hardness” or “softness” of your water. When our wash routine isn’t quite solid, minerals can deposit and slowly build up in the absorbent fibres of our diapers or inserts. This isn’t good – it can lead to stink, absorbency issues, and rashes. “Stripping” our diapers of this build up can help “reset” our diapers back to the way they should be – clean, absorbent, and healthy for bums. Stripping your diapers should not be a regular part of your wash routine, but rather something in your back pocket to turn to should things go sideways. It can be hard on your diapers and contribute to a fair amount of wear so it’s something you should avoid unless necessary.
One thing that is essential to a successful strip is doing a bleach soak on your diapers after. This step is necessary and cannot be omitted no matter what. When you strip your diapers, any mineral build up or soil on your diapers is released from the fabrics but remains on the surface. They must be sanitized using a bleach soak (not just a wash cycle with bleach in it) after to ensure the diapers are clean. If you do not do a bleach soak after, your child can have a severe rash.
Fluff Love has excellent graphics which outline a variety of ways to effectively strip your diapers.
The basic process is this:
1. Clean your diapers using your regular wash routine (don’t strip dirty diapers!)
2. Soak your diapers using a Fluff Love approved stripping agent in a large tub such as a laundry tub or bathtub.
In case you had any illusions about this process being super fun for a Saturday evening, think again. It’s a long process and something you only want to do if absolutely necessary. Most people choose to strip the entire part of their stash which is in rotation at once which can sometimes mean using disposables or using diapers you typically don’t until yours are finished. In general, I recommend setting aside the better part of a weekend to make it through all the steps.
Fluff Love recommends using one of four approved stripping agents. GroVia Mighty Bubbles pods are my favourite because they’re available locally at The Diaper Shop and you don’t need to measure the ingredients. I just pop 3 pods in for one strip. If you choose to do the DIY mix, you will likely have difficulty finding Calgon as it is no longer carried in Canada.
You can strip anything with an absorbent component (e.g., inserts, boosters, AIOs) but should only strip pockets if you believe they are repelling liquids. You should never strip shells because there isn’t an absorbent part to strip. It would only serve to wear out the elastics and PUL without any benefit. Ideally, the soak in stripping agent will last from 4-6 hours. Give it a little stir every so often. You might notice the water change colours and it might release an odour. Best to leave the bathroom door closed. Generally, the gunkier the water looks the more build up has been released but don’t get discouraged if you don’t see the water change. It is still working! Some people report more of an odour than a change in water colour. The Fluff Love graphic has some more detailed information you should read prior to starting this process.
After, wash your diapers in a water only normal cycle with no detergent. Following this, proceed to do a bleach soak following Fluff Love directions. You need to use the correct bleach-water ratio and ensure you use cold water. Always add the bleach to your tub first, mix, and finally add the diapers. It’s also essential you use the most basic kind of bleach – nothing fancy like coloursafe, scented, or non-chlorine bleach. The cheapest, most basic kind of bleach is best. Also, keep in mind you should never use bleach which has been open more than 6 months as it loses its effectiveness. After your 30-45 minute bleach soak, follow with a hot rinse and then finally a hot wash cycle with the recommended amount of detergent for a regular diaper cycle. Using hot water is important during this step because it is more effective at washing away any bleach residue.
When is a Strip Necessary?
A diaper strip is necessary if:
-you have purchased pre-loved diapers and are not familiar with the owner’s wash routine or their wash routine was questionable (a few times, I have purchased diapers from friends who have solid routines so I only bleached the diapers to sanitize them rather than doing a full strip)
-you’re having major stink issues due to a wash routine problem
-you were using a detergent not approved by Fluff Love and are switching to a conventional detergent such as Tide original powder
-your diapers are repelling liquids
-your diapers have come into contact with an environmental agent you want to remove such as cigarette smoke
Please note, if you have had wash routine issues resulting in the need to do a strip you mustalter your wash routine after completing the strip or the issues will return. Please consult Fluff Love for wash routine suggestions based on your machine or ask someone in your local community for help.
You do not need to strip your diapers if:
-you want to use diapers on a younger sibling after they have been used on an older child
-your diapers are stained (there are LOTS of ways to get stains out!)
You can also use stripping agents such as Mighty Bubbles on clothing, towels, bedding, or any other fabric items you want to refresh. People report having great success using it on their towels to bring back fluffiness and eliminate odours.