So you may have read our page about ‘stripping’ cloth diapers; it’s where we first introduced our SUDS acronym to you: ‘Stripping’ refers to removing an oily residue from the fibers of your cloth diapers, usually from the accidental use of fabric softener or a petroleum- or fish oil-based diaper ointment or cream. There are washing techniques—namely, the good, old-fashioned dishsoap-and-a-toothbrush scrub—that can be used to remove these oils. But we’d like to make a distinction between stripping and deep-cleaning.
Deep-cleaning is what you need to do to when the last few times you have washed your cloth diapers (or, truly, to any laundry) and, they didn't get QUITE clean. You can tell because, well, they STINK.
They might smell like ammonia as soon as your baby wets them. They might be in that pre-ammonia stage, when they’ll smell a little, hmmm. It’s been described around cloth diaper corners of the Web as “barnyard-y” and “sewery.” Maybe you weren’t using enough detergent for the load size and soil level that day. Maybe you were using detergent* that’s not effective in your water. Maybe your area is experiencing a mild drought, which can affect the mineral makeup of your water and change the way your typical detergent works. Maybe you didn't get to dump the solid stuff into the toilet right away, and so the load was more soiled than normal.
Whatever led you to this point, it all boils down to one thing: Lingering nasties. Bacteria trapped in the fibers. Deep-cleaning merely requires using a little more OOMPH before returning to a wash routine that is simple and uses adequate detergent and a long enough wash duration