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Detergent Build Up (Strip Washing Nappies)

32 CommentsMonday, 4 August 2014

Modern washing machines are incredibly water efficient and use far less water than they used to.  Modern detergents are also very strong. A combination of less water and strong detergents means if you use too much detergent or don't rinse enough detergent residue can build up on your nappies. If you find your nappies start to have a strong smell when they are wet, it is highly likely you have detergent build up This problem is most noticeable when baby is teething and their wee becomes strong.

The good news is it’s easy to cure and can be prevented from returning. To cure the problem you need to follow a process called strip washing. I've read MANY versions of "strip washing" on the internet including using fairy washing up liquid, dish washer tablets, vinegar. The Nappy Lady DOES NOT recommend any of these. Would you wash your underwear in washing up liquid or dishwasher tablets? I wouldn't! Vinegar can destroy fabrics so it should never be used with modern nappies.

Here is how i always recommend you strip wash.

  • First put the nappies through a rinse cycle only with NO detergent. If your machine doesn't have a rinse only cycle use a cool quick wash. This is to get them nice and wet already so there is more water held in them for the main washes.
  • Next wash using a FULL dose of detergent and wash at 60 degrees on a long cycle (approx 2.5-3hours) and ideally additional water( sensitive or sometimes called super rinse)
  • No need to dry in between for the second wash, use 60 degrees on the longest possible wash as above with NO detergent and ideally additional water( sensitive or sometimes called super rinse)
  • Finally put your nappies through a rinse cycle again as in step 1. If you see any detergent bubbles in the rinse keep on rinsing until you don't see any more.

This should sort them for the short term.

Preventing Detergent Build Up

Ongoing to prevent this happening again we would suggest doing a cold rinse cycle then put your nappies on a long wash at 60 degrees with no more than HALF the recommended amount of powder detergent. Once a month (or once a week if they are teething) do a 60 degree wash WITHOUT any detergent again. This will remove any build up detergent before it gets bad and needs a full strip wash. If you dry pail your nappies try to rinse them before they go in the bucket or at least the overnight nappies as these are the worst.


Azwa
Monday, 15 June 2015  |  22:53

hi there
i don't know what you mean by a strong smell, could this be a strong urine/ammonia smell? I've only been using cloth diapers for about a month and I noticed lately that the diapers smell very strongly of urine. It wasn't like this in the first couple of weeks. How long does it take for detergent to build up? I really thought I wouldn't need to do a strip wash until I'm a few months into using cloth diapers so I'm a bit surprised. Also, would I need to was dirty nappies with detergent prior to strip washing or is this strip was done only on clean nappies? Thanks.


wendy
Tuesday, 15 September 2015  |  11:57

Strong urine smell can also be from teething and this can be made even worse if there is teething wee and detergent build up. Not using enough detergent or a long enough/hot enough wash can also cause strong smells.
There isn't a set amount of time it takes to build up detergent it depends on the brand of detergent you use, how much you use and the efficiency of your machine. We have had hire nappies that have been new, loaned for 2 weeks and have come back with horrendous detergent residue. For this reason we recommend you use a half dose of detergent to start with as many machines have detergent residue in them anyway and many people frequently overdose the amount used.


Natasha Holder
Friday, 20 November 2015  |  13:14

Our baby is 4 weeks old and we wash our nappies every other day with non bio powder (level tablespoon) on 40 degrees. We tend to rinse the nappies with poo on them before they go into the nappy bucket. We have found the nappies/nappy bucket (dry pail) starts to smell a bit fishy...is this from detergent build up? The temperature being too low? Or a combination of both? The cycle we put them on is approximately 1 hour 15-should it be a longer cycle?

For the strip wash, when you say a FULL dose of detergent do you mean the recommended amount show on the box?

Thanks in advance.


wendy
Friday, 20 November 2015  |  15:49

Hi Natasha,
For a baby under 3months old we recommend you wash at 60deg anyway. The nappies should also be put on the longest wash you have so normally this is 2.5-3hours long as they are heavily soiled items. It's highly unlikely that the smell you have is due to detergent build up as the nappies are so new. I would wash them higher at 60deg and put them on a longer wash. Before you put them on the main wash do a rinse cycle as this also helps to flush then through first.

For a strip wash (we don't think you need to do this). A full dose of detergent is based on what the detergent packaging recommends.

If your problems continue please email us at info@thenappylady.co.uk and we'll check your new method more thoroughly for you.


Nata
Wednesday, 2 December 2015  |  22:23

My baby hasn't been born yet but we are planning on using Pocket Nappies, Do you only strip the Inserts or the whole Nappy? Most labels say wash on a 30 degree wash, wouldnt it ruin them if was to wash them on a 60?


wendy
Wednesday, 9 December 2015  |  11:24

You only strip wash if you have a problem with detergent build up, if you can avoid detergent build up you may never need to strip wash them. If you need to strip wash it's normally just the inserts but for pocket nappies serious detergent build up can lead to the covers needing to be strip washed too.


Katie Chegwidden
Tuesday, 7 June 2016  |  19:46

Just wondering if you should only strip wash clean nappies or can the process be done on dirty nappies?


wendy
Thursday, 28 July 2016  |  12:38

Strip washing can be done on dirty or clean nappies.


Jena
Wednesday, 10 August 2016  |  12:36

Hi. My machine only has those pre set settings, only thing we can change is temperature and spin. I normally use the baby/toddler settings then 60 degrees. How do I strip wash in this case, I don't think the cycle is long enough to do a strip wash, only about an hour I think. I am not getting satisfied with cold rinse, normal wash then rinse twice. Thank you!


wendy
Wednesday, 10 August 2016  |  13:45

Try one of the cotton cycles instead of the baby cycle. You'd be looking for a heavily soiled cycle ideally 2-3hours long


Sarah
Thursday, 29 September 2016  |  15:23

If I am strip washing clean nappies do I need to do the stage with full dose of detergent?


wendy
Thursday, 29 September 2016  |  15:51

Yes i would do both stages as then you're treating for not enough detergent been used or too much. Unless of course you know you've been using too much all along...


Dorota
Wednesday, 12 October 2016  |  9:50

Hello,
I have pre-loved Charlie Banana + inserts on washing instruction it says 40 degrees, Could I risk it and do stripping twice ( as your recommendation) in 60 degrees? The ammoniac smell is quite strong :(
Thank you


wendy
Wednesday, 26 October 2016  |  10:33

You can prewash them at 60deg however this is at your own risk as Charlie Banana do state that the maximum temperature is 40deg. I have known people (including myself) wash charlie banana at 60deg without any problems however i have also seen some delaminate at this temperature.

A long full dose of detergent wash with lots of rinsing should be sufficient at 40deg.


Lisa
Friday, 21 October 2016  |  10:54

My 7 months old has getting nappy rash, could it be from detergent build up or allergy to the nappy?


wendy
Wednesday, 26 October 2016  |  10:41

Hi Lisa, Highly unlikely to be an allergy to the nappy. All fabrics used (well if you bought from The Nappy Lady) would have been fully approved for use next to babies skin and meet the highest of safety standards. Key things we find as the cause of nappy rash are teething, not washing thoroughly enough or not changing frequently enough.


Sarah Ingham
Wednesday, 23 November 2016  |  19:40

I have bought some second hand bumgenius freetimes and elementals. They all have a musty smell. I have tried strip washing them and washing with a full dose of detergent. They smell ok straight after washing, but over a couple of weeks they smell musty. Any advice/ideas?


wendy
Wednesday, 23 November 2016  |  19:51

Hi Sarah, It might be your normal daily wash routine that isn't thorough enough. You should be doing a rinse cycle, then a long 60deg (2-3hour) washing cycle with at least half the recommended dose of non bio powder detergent. If this still doesn't help drop us an email and we can delve deeper into the problem for you.


Sarah Channing
Wednesday, 23 November 2016  |  22:21

Our local nappy library lady advised using full dose detergent as our area has very hard water. What would your advice be? We have not actually tried the nappies on our baby yet (we have been using little lambs and teenyfits on our newborn so far), but I have been put off by the musty smell. I have done the above a few weeks ago as well.as a full strip wash. It is difficult as I don't know how they were looked after before we bought them.


Laurine
Thursday, 1 December 2016  |  17:06

im about to do a strip wash as recently the nappies have all been smelling really strong of ammonia, and not only the long night nappy ! my son is teething, not his 1st tooth, more like the 11th one! but i tried a new nappy (prewashed and given to me by a friend so not my prewash) today and when i changed it after a wee, it didnt smell at all... so my nappies are in trouble. im just wondering what ive been doing wrong then cause im using cloth nappy since birth, so 17months on, and the smell started a few weeks ago. i think i cant figure out how much detergent to use, it's a non bio powder and the box gives dosage in ml but no little pot to measure it so im never sure what half the dosage is exactly... i recently changed powder too, but the smell started before, although is a non bio with so called wash boosters bad ? Should we always wash nappies on the longest cycle? Cause I've been using the coton but "eco" cycle which lasts for 1,5h roughly.. finally, when you say cycle, does that include the spinning ? Is too much spinning bad for the nappies or essential in between rinse cycles?


wendy
Thursday, 19 January 2017  |  15:50

eco cycles are never good for nappies as they tend to use less water. A full wash should be a good 2-3 hours long and ideally with extra water as these new eco machines use so little highly absorbent fabrics like nappies aren't getting rinsed enough.


Laurine
Monday, 5 December 2016  |  10:04

Hi, I have done a strip wash like you suggested to me after an email, but the nappies still smell after being in contact with wee, even for less than an hour, I think the smell is not as bad but it's still a bad smell. I have tried some second hand Terry squares I had never use before and even after a whole night, they didn't smell at all... They're 100% coton, but I have some 100% coton nappies/boosters in my stinky stash so I can see how my daily routine wash is probably the issue. Is it inevitable that nappies will smell eventually no matter what? Or do I need to do another strip wash? Also, if I rinse the nappies before storing them in a dry pail (I wash every 2days), do I need to run a rinse cycle before the wash? Would you recommend non bio Persil powder ? The box says "with wash boosters" or something. Is it bad? I used to use the non bio Fairy powder but I have to say, the other brand smells "stronger of clean" if I can say it like that, but maybe it's more prone to build up in the nappies then.. I'm a bit desperate about finding the proper wash routine as I thought I was doing it right (dry pail, wash every other day, rinse cycle before, wash at 40, no tumble dry, extra rinse sometimes) but apparently not because my nappies are badly affected! I now rinse the nappies after a change and I used to do the eco coton cycle but now I run the normal coton cycle, the wash time is at least 1hour, then with the rinse and spin, the whole cycle is about 2hours, is that good?
Above all, I'd like your opinion about the life of nappies, do they have to smell when they've been used too much (95% of my stash was second hand) or is it "just" a detergent build up issue? Sorry about the long comment...


wendy
Thursday, 19 January 2017  |  15:52

you need to be using a standard not eco cycle. Rinse first and then a long 2-3 hours 60deg wash. You can do a final rinse at the end.


wendy
Thursday, 19 January 2017  |  15:47

Ongoing we often find a full dose of detergent leads to detergent build up whereas half doesn't. Depends on how many you put in the drum too, we aim for half to third of a drum so you're not on a full load. If you have second hand nappies and they still smell after washing try putting them out on the line to dry this can really help.


Rebecca
Wednesday, 15 March 2017  |  5:07

Hi, we have strip washed our nappies and have been continuing to was with a pre rinse at 60 with half the amount of powder but the smell persists. I don't think it's quite as bad but still notice it even through her sleeping bag. Is there anything else I can do? I hope to start hanging them on the line soon. They have been smelling since she was about 8 weeks old and is now 12. She is dribbling a lot but no sign of a tooth yet. Is there a particular detergent I could try? Currently using the powder that came in the totsbots peenut kit but we had been using non bio liquid. Thanks


wendy
Monday, 20 March 2017  |  14:26

Swap to a non bio powder rather than a liquid as it washes out better. If the smell is just at night time rather than day this can be a sign of how concentrated the wee is and also tends to happen with teething. Once the tooth comes through the strong wee normally stops it's all the period before hand when the teeth are moving round that the strong wee and teething symptoms show. When you do your rinse this is normally a cold rinse, it's just a rinse and spin in the machine and then a long separate 60deg wash.


Noona
Saturday, 13 May 2017  |  9:34

The bumGenius nappies we bought from you recommend a monthly bleach but im struggling to find bleach which isnt toilet cleaner. Any ideas where i can get it? They have become super ammonia infested and a strip wash hasn't really solved it.


wendy
Wednesday, 17 May 2017  |  12:18

Please email us direct as to become super ammonia infested sounds like you've not been washing them properly. Bumgenius refer to American laundry bleach which is different to things over here. We have never got to the stage any of our customers have had to bleach their nappies.


Melissa
Tuesday, 6 June 2017  |  16:06

I need to do a strip wash as the nappies we bought BTP brand new from Bambino Mio and the pre-loveds from Bumgenius are suffering from teething wee smell, especially the overnighters.
In the instructions for a strip wash, you say to use powder. Should nappies always be washed with powder rather than liquid detergent as I tend to use both depending on what I have at home.
Thanks!


Amy Hills
Tuesday, 20 June 2017  |  11:43

SOme of my nappies say to only wash at 30 degrees (Little BLoom). Will I damage them by washing them at 60?


wendy
Tuesday, 11 July 2017  |  10:03

Hi Amy,

Little Bloom would be destroyed if you wash above 30deg. I'm afraid their pul isn't very reliable or long lasting which is why we don't stock them.


wendy
Tuesday, 11 July 2017  |  9:46

Always try to use powder detergent as manufacturers find it washes out much better.

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