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Washing Used Cloth Diapers + A Guide to Stripping Cloth Diapers

So, you’ve bought used cloth diapers to save money… Now what?! Here’s how to wash used cloth diapers and the best methods of stripping cloth diapers.

Stripping Cloth Diapers

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Last week we talked about where it was ok or not to buy used cloth diapers. Most of you that commented agreed that buying used is an option for you. I already gave you my opinion, but I definitely want to say again, don’t rule out the option to buy used

There are ways to make sure your diapers are cleaned really well so that it’s definitely a safe and clean option!

It seems the only two real real hurdles to buying used cloth diapers is: 1) Not having a warranty. This isn’t a big deal to me, especially if you’re getting a great deal on used diapers. 2) Sanitary and cleanliness of buying used diapers. This post is all about how you can feel better about knowing you can get your used cloth diapers completely clean.

How do you clean used cloth diapers?

If you know where the diapers are coming from, personally [like a close friend], you might be fine with just washing them normally… as in your normal cloth diaper wash routine, but even then, I would still advise you to really strip the cloth diapers and get them super clean.

Bleaching cloth diapers

There are a few methods of stripping [cloth diapers… get your minds out of the gutter] and I’m going to cover them all and give MY opinion on them… you choose which you like the best!

  • Rock a Soak – This is a super popular type of stripping within the CD community.  You simply take your Rockin’ Green Detergent and add in about 4 tbsp of detergent with Warm-Hot Water and let your inserts and covers soak for a few hours, even overnight. 
    You can soak in your Top Loading Washing machine or if you have a Front Loader, you can soak in your bathtub.

Rockin' Green Hard Rock Laundry DetergentRockin’ Green Hard Rock Laundry Detergent

My opinion?  I’ve rocked a few soaks and to be honest, I was never truly happy with the results.  I didn’t have the “nasty water” that so many share pictures of, so maybe my diapers weren’t that dirty to begin with?  I’ve also read that soaking PUL in water tends to lead to de-lamination, so this could be an issue of you decided to “rock a soak” often and for long amounts of time.  However, some have great success with this process.

  • Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid – This is also very well known in the CD community.  Dawn Original BlueDawn Original BlueIt’s how I used to strip and it does seem to work.  I simply think it really gets all of the yuckiness out of your diapers, but beware… you WILL have to rinse, rinse, rinse after this process. 
    Maybe a total of 4 times to make sure you get all of the soap out.  When I used this method, I washed the diapers normally once and then during the 2nd wash, I use no detergent and squirt in about 1-2 tbsp of Blue {supposedly can’t be any other type of Dawn} detergent.  Then… RINSE!

My opinion?  Like I said, I used to do this as my primary method of stripping, but I don’t anymore.  Actually, I don’t need to as I’ve got a great washing routine down and hardly need to strip my diapers {other than when I buy used}. 

I’ve also read warnings about this method on Front Loaders saying that it creates too much suds which can clog your washer and tear it up. Not sure if those are true or not, but just let it be known that the theory is out there!

  • Bleach – Yep, as much as I’ve started to go green and get rid of chemicals in cleaning, I still rely on bleach for the cleanest of clean in my diapers. But, please read this part: NEVER BLEACH YOUR PUL COVERS!!! Bleach does lead to de-lamination and can void any warranties on your diapers that you may have [on ones that you’ve bought new].
    Now that I’ve said that, I DO bleach my covers but with SUCH a small amount.The process I use is to wash the diapers normally, twice like I always do, but I do separate into two loads – inserts in one load and PUL covers in the other. If you’re using AIO’s, I’d suggest treating them as I do covers.
    I then add in bleach to my detergent tray and wash twice. I use approximately 1/4 cup of bleach for a load of inserts and only approximately 2 tablespoons in a load of covers. I prefer a hot wash with cold rinses.
    Then, RINSE, RINSE, RINSE!  At least 3 times. You want to make sure ALL the bleach is out of your covers and inserts.

This is definitely my favorite way to get a deep clean and I was having to do it about once every 1.5 months, but lately, after finding the best cloth diaper detergent for my family, I haven’t used bleach in about 3 months!

Washing Used Cloth Diapers

I really think that buying used cloth diapers is a totally safe opportunity and great for when you’re cloth diapering on a budget. I hope you see that it’s relatively easy to clean them like they’re brand new!

You may like these other posts:

DIY Reusable Diaper Liners


Wednesday 6th of June 2018

I am trying to refresh my daughters diapers in anticipation of the birth of her third child. Her water is very hard but mine is not. I soaked them in BIZ and Calgon and hot water, then rinsed, then washed in hot water with detergent, biz and bleach. They are still pretty hard and brownish. Any suggestions – other than buying new ones? Thank you ,


Sunday 10th of June 2018

It sounds like you've done quite a bit already. I'm so sorry that nothing seems to be working. I never had this particular issue so I'm not sure what else could be done. :(


Thursday 18th of August 2016

For used diaper covers what would you do for these..Thanks!!

Lindsey G.

Thursday 18th of August 2016

Hi Kelley - I still like using a little bleach on them. I tend to stay on the side of, I don't want anything gross on my kid's diapers - haha! So I do use bleach but a LOT less. I'd probably only put in a few tablespoons or capfuls and then rinse rinse rinse. Good luck!


Saturday 9th of July 2016

I got some used prefolds and inserts and I'm a little confused as far as stripping goes. It sounds like I don't have to use both dawn and bleach to do this but one or the other. I'm just being sure I got this right. I am brand new to cloth diapering and will be doing so after my baby arrives. I was thinking of using bleach to strip. It sounds like I need to use bleach the first time. Do I add detergent as well or no? Then I rinse 2X. Is this correct or did I miss something? Thanks so much!

Lindsey G.

Sunday 10th of July 2016

You're exactly right, Kelley. I use either Dawn or bleach. Since they are used, I always feel better using bleach just in case there was ever yeast in the diapers. I go ahead and use detergent as well, just add the bleach in too. You'll just want to be sure you rinse rinse rinse so there's no bleach left in the diapers. Good luck - you'll do great!


Saturday 12th of September 2015

I just bought two used bumgenius diapers. Yay me! After reading all these comments I'm still confused. Should I use the dawn soap or bleach? How much? Hot or cold water? Thanks for the help.

Lindsey G.

Monday 14th of September 2015

Hi Jennifer - it really depends on what you're comfortable with. I preferred bleach myself, since you don't really know what could be lurking in used diapers. I used about 1/4 cup of bleach for a load of inserts and literally only like 2 tablespoons in a load of covers. Then rinse, rinse, rinse! I preferred a hot wash with cold rinses. Good luck! As you'll find out, cloth diapering is much trial and error to see what works best for you and your washing machine [and water].


Thursday 2nd of April 2015

I just bought some pre-loved cloth diapers. I have a front loader HE machine. My friend had me do a rinse cycle, then a hot wash using detergent and a little bleach in the dispenser with a few extra rinses. Will this be sufficient instead of soaking them in the tub?

Lindsey G.

Friday 3rd of April 2015

Hi Kim - yay for saving money and reusing cloth diapers! Yes, ma'am. What you did should work totally fine and you don't need to do an extra soak in the tub, I would think. Give them the old sniff test - if they smell clean after what you did, you should be good to go!

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