Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How To: Boil Strip Cloth Diapers

It's that time again!  About every 6 months you are supposed to strip cloth diapers. It helps release built up detergent, ammonia build up and fixes any repelling issues you may be having. Some folks strip more often and some less often. There are a lot of variables that contribute to how often it needs to be done including whether you have hard or soft water, what kind of/how much detergent you use, how long you wait between diaper loads, how many diapers you wash at a time. It all sounds overwhelming, I thought so too before giving it a try myself, but it's rare that you have issues stemming from all of the variables at once so it's really not bad and remember, it's only every 6 months. If your child is in big kid underpants by the time he/she is 3, you've only stripped your diapers 6 times in 3 years.

There are a lot of ways to strip diapers and your biggest problem come stripping time will help you figure out which method will be best at that given time. For me this time (and last) we are having ammonia issues. I'd say it's because at my parents house I was going 3 days between diaper loads which gave them too much time to sit in the pale. I also think we have some detergent buildup since the detergent we use doesn't really bubble so it is hard to tell if I've gotten it all rinsed out or not. 

The last time I stripped our diapers, it *kind of* fixed our ammonia problem. It was better but not completely ammonia free. Every time I have researched stripping methods, boiling is always at the top and seems to be a tried and true method of the times but for some reason it intimidated me. Part of it was laziness, "Can't the washer just do it for me??" And the other part was skepticism, "Our washer water gets pretty hot, maybe a soak in there will do..." I decided to put those thoughts aside and go for it and I am so glad I did!

Here's how you do it:

1) Sort out all of your CLEAN inserts, covers, pre-folds, etc. 

2) Fill a couple of your biggest pots with water and bring them to a boil. Add 3-4 inserts per pot and set a time for 10 minutes.

Even though I suspected a detergent build up, I was kind of amazed at the suds that started showing up in the water. Even though I had rinsed and rinsed, even done multiple full hot wash cycles back to back, after just a few minutes of boiling the pots were filling with suds. 

3) Fill the sink with super hot water and drop in your covers. 

You can't boil your covers because that would melt your PUL (the waterproof material). 

This step could also be done in your bathtub or the washer. I chose the sink so I'd be working on everything in one room. Don't forget to agitate them with some tongs or a wooden spoon or something periodically. 

4) When the timer goes off, grab some tongs and a big bowl. Transfer the inserts from the boing water to the bowl and dump into your washer. 

I even went ahead and filled the washer with hot water so the already boiled inserts could get even more soaking time. 

5) Repeat with the remaining inserts, changing the water between each batch. While you continue on with steps 1-4 until all of your inserts are complete, take on some 10 minute tasks around the house. I did my hair and make up, folded some laundry, nursed Ayden and wrote this blog post. 

While I did all of that, Ayden did some of this:

6) Once you have boiled all of your inserts and your covers have had a decent amount of time to soak, run them through a hot wash cycle or two without any detergent so everything the boiling released has a chance to get agitated out and rinsed away. Then follow up with your standard cold rinse and line or dryer dry as usual. 

My advice would be to tackle this project on a day you plan to stay home for a better portion of the day and take it as an opportunity to get some of the little things that you keep putting off knocked off of your to do list. 

Boiling diapers in the kitchen may not be for everyone but consider these thoughts before letting the yuck factor sink in:

1) You are starting out with clean diapers. 
2) Boiling, especially for as long as 10 minutes, sanitizes anything. 
3) You could always run your pots and such through a sanitizing cycle on your dishwasher if you feel like getting things ultra sanitized. 

I will update in a week or two to let you know if this method totally kicked our ammonia problem or not. Happy Stripping!


Flashback!  Here's what we were up to one year ago today: "It's Official!"

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  1. I kid you not I boil stripped all my inserts last night too!! Hope it fixes our ammonia build up problem too :) Did you change your water in between batches?

    1. Too funny! I did change the water between batches. I can't believe I left that out, it's an important step. I'm going to add it, thanks!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I found your youtube and blog a few weeks ago and have been devouring both. We are expecting our first baby in January and are planning to cloth diaper. Your videos, the cloth diaper channel, and your blog are easing my mind (& my husband's) about taking on cloth diapering. So thank you so much!


    PS - Although I live in NC now, I'm originally from central Kentucky. Some of your videos make me homesick in a wonderful way. :)

    1. So glad you found us!! I hear NC is beautiful too :). Cloth diapering really is great (and CUTE!). Glad I can help ease your all's mind about it. I have a cloth diapering 101 series in the works. How are you feeling? January is a great time to have a baby! (Ayden's b-day is the 21st).

  3. Um...I was cool with this thread until I read it toward the end. Do NOT try to strip your diapers in the dishwasher! I know someone who nearly burned down her kitchen doing that.

    1. I was referring to pots, tongs and such. I agree, no dipes in the dishwasher. I will clarify that sentence.

  4. Thanks, Sarah. I'm having an ammonia issue and did a strip in the washer, but I am starting to notice the issue again so I suppose I'll be boil stripping soon too!

  5. Did the boil stripping end up working well for your ammonia issues? Just starting to get diapers back out for baby number 2 and think I remember having some ammonia issues just before potty training, so was thinking of boiling them all first.

  6. It did... for a little while. I went a year without a single issue at our old house and now anything I try seems to only fix it for a little while. I think our new town has water that makes keeping them in good shape difficult.

  7. Hi Sarah:-) I enjoy reading about your adventures so much! I have a quick question. My husband and I are expecting baby #2 in early August and we are going to give cloth diapering a go:-) I would however like your opinion on purchasing used cloth diapers?

  8. Hi. I am just now seeing this! I think you can get some really great quality used diapers (we have purchased and borrowed some used newborn diapers this time around). There are diaper swap pages on Facebook that are really great for this. PM me on Facebook if you would like more help with this. When in August are you due? It's right around the corner for us huh?

  9. Hi I noticed the cloth diaper you use fits a lot more slim than the ones I use!! What brand do you use?

  10. They are in the final rinse now. We will see how it all worked out. Thank you for the fun read. Your writing is easy to digest and funny

  11. Hey there, I just boiled my diapers for the first time in two years (bad mom!!) but I had almost ZERO suds?!?! Does this mean that the ammonia and soap is so ingrained in the fibers I will need to boil them three more times?? Am I doing something wrong? - Traci B.