How do I know if I need to Strip Wash?
It is important for you to only strip wash if it is needed - strip washing too often may alter the lifetime of your nappy. If you are washing your nappies properly throughout your regular/daily washing routine Strip Washing shouldn't be necessary very often if at all. Remember to use a liiner with all barrier creams and avoid the use of fabric softeners etc. These create build up in you nappies which alters their absorbency and may cause other issues such as rashes.
Remember that all nappy brands come with their own washing instructions and these MUST be followed. The nappy companies know their products well and can recommend the best care for their brand.
Bottom creams/Nappy Balms//Barrier Creams
Barrier creams and nappy balms are usually oil or fat based. Even some natural oils that some parents use like Coconut oil, will build up in the nappy. Build up is often more noticeable if you always wash with cold water. This is because oils and fats can't break down in a cold wash. A hot (check your brand's washing tips but generally this needs to be below 60Degrees) wash occasionally can help to break down some of this build up.
When using cream/oils on your baby's skin it is a good idea to regularly wash on a warm cycle. This helps to prevent oils and creams building up in the nappy fabrics.
There are some simple tests to see if you have build up in your nappy.
For pocket nappies, hold the cover under a dripping tap (with the water dripping onto the inner lining where your baby pee's)
For inserts/absorbent layers. Try holding that under a dripping tap. You will know if you have buid up If the water beads on the top of the fabric and does not get absorbed.
It is important to realise that if the pocket nappy cover has build up it will effect the moisture getting through to the absorbent inserts and may cause you to have leaks and other problems.
Washing - Fabric Softeners
Fabric softeners or any detergent that has fabric softener in it, will prevent your fabrics from being absorbent. This is because it puts a coating on the fabric to make it soft and then this coating prevents the fabric from being absorbent, especially if it is used regularly.
So this is when you will need to strip wash them.
Strip Washing Techniques suggested by 'The Nappy Lady'
It is actually quite a simple solution but can be time consuming. Try to be conscious of over water consumption when strip washing.
Try the strip wash technique with one nappy first. This helps you make sure that build up is the problem before washing all of your nappies and then finding out it isn't the problem or reason for leaks etc.
Get the nappy and wet the area that has the build up. In a pocket nappy, wet the whole liner area. When strip washing an insert or nappy, wet the whole thing.
Using about a teaspoon of dish washing liquid (Cheaper budget brands are best as it must be one with no hand moisturisers) smear it across the area. Once dish washing liquid has been applied rub the fabric against itself making the whole area really soapy, just like you would do with a face cloth.
Leave it to sit for about 10 - 15 mins. This give the de-greaser time to infiltrate all the layers.
Rinse your nappy under the tap or in a bucket of warm water.
Put the nappy/nappies through the wash without any extra washing solution or detergent.
Dry Nappy as per your normal routine and hopefully this will have fixed your problem. If it hasn't fixed your problem you may need to try another method. The Nappy Lady website (www.thenappylady.co.nz) has other really good information on washing options.
Please be very careful when doing things like strip washing to your nappies. If you use harsh products (like vinegar) it can drastically shorten the lifespan of your nappies and may void your warranty. Always check the manufacturers information first as they may have another option for getting thier specific brand clean.
If your nappies are just really smelly it may pay to just hot wash them (generally under 60degrees) with an extra rinse cycle and hang them outside to get them a bit fresher. The moon, frost, UV light and even being left in the rain can make a huge difference to your nappies and help to freshen them up.
Some interesting scientific information from a Mum about WHY smells occur.....very interesting!
There are always plenty of posts from people who are having trouble with nappies stinking of ammonia. Usually they are fine until bubs has a wee, then they start to reek. I decided to dust off my old science degree and put some info out there that might help.
Ammonia is released when the Urea in urine breaks down. Urea is pretty stable when it is dry, but breaks down in the presence of water and urease, which is an enzyme that occurs naturally and is often in urine. Urine is a nice stable solution by the time it comes out, so it smells but it doesn't have that eye-watering ammonia whiff going on.
So back to stinky nappies. Your nappies can get a build-up of urea in the fabric fibres. This happens when all the urea in the urine is not properly washed out in every wash. The nappies dry and urea crystals form and linger in the cloth fibres. If you have a build-up of urea in your nappies, the next time bubs has a wee there is a sudden rush of water and urease which is fed a big dose of urea and wham - a nice big puff of ammonia.
Everything in urine is water soluble, including urea. The best way to prevent a build-up, and a cheap way to get rid of it once it's there, is plenty of water. Rinse your nappies thoroughly after they come off bubs. An overnight soak in cold water does not harm nappies although there are people who disagree vehemently - if you aren't game to soak the whole nappy, just soak the inserts (this may go against manufacturers instructions so it is up to you - the reason manufacturers recommend dry pailing is often to ensure elastics aren't compromised by long soaking). Use a pre-wash, large cycle and extra rinse when you wash, ideally on 30 - 40 degrees if you can because warm water dissolves things faster. If you have a frontloader that uses less water, pay extra attention to rinsing beforehand.
So there's the science. I know that a lot of this is not the conventional wisdom, but I hope this will still help someone somewhere along the way.
Great to know how and why things happen isnt it!!