What is RLR Laundry Treatment (and Is It Good for Cloth Diapers)?


If there’s one thing that causes confusion when using cloth diapers, it’s laundry products. What products are good? Which ones are you supposed to avoid? What is cloth diaper stripping? When and how do you do that? Why is this person saying it’s good, and this person saying it’s bad? It quickly becomes overwhelming.

One product you’re likely to come across when researching or discussing cloth diapers is RLR Laundry Treatment.

Since it’s so popular in the cloth diaper space, I spoke with Sam, Sales Manager for Cadie, the manufacturer of RLR, to dig into what RLR Laundry Treatment is, why you would use it, and how to use it. What I discovered was that RLR was even better than I thought.

Special Note: Cadie didn’t sponsor this post, and I am not an affiliate for their products at all, I just really like their products and the results it has given myself and countless other cloth diaper users over the years. Because I trust it, and think it’s an important product to the community, I wanted to share information about RLR with the Cloth Diapers for Beginners audience.

So, What Is RLR Laundry Treatment?

RLR Laundry Treatment is a laundry stripping product. It removes dried-in mineral deposits, detergent residue, and product build-up from laundry without bleach or harsh chemicals.

This is of course invaluable to those using cloth diapers, as build-up of any sort on diapers doesn’t just mean “dingy laundry”, it means stink issues and even painful rashes if left unfixed.

Is It New? Why Have I Never Heard of It?

RLR is not a new product by any stretch of the imagination.

“RLR was developed roughly about 40 years ago,” Sam told me. “Going back then, obviously [cloth] diapers were mainstream; you know, nobody had disposables, nobody had pampers, nobody had anything like that. So 40 years ago it became a pretty popular item.”

Over those 40 years, RLR has gone through changes both in its packaging and its formula, Sam explained.

RLR was originally packaged in containers. As it’s popularity as a retail item grew, Cadie began selling it in small packages.

Currently RLR is sold in small foil packets, and in pill forms that resemble dishwasher pods. You can check out both packages here.

Sam explained the pods were originally created for laundromats, who sold them individually to customers.  Today, 90-95% of the RLR sold is in the foil packets, which look like this:

RLR photo of foil package

Note: Sadly, if you remember RLR from a few years ago, the mom jeans, button-up blouse model was dropped during a package redesign. Luckily, if you would like to enjoy that photo again, you can still see it on their product page here (at the time of publication anyway).

What is RLR Made From?

The formula for RLR has gone through some changes since its original creation as well.

“The RLR that you see now, this particular mixture and ingredients has been around for close to 30 years,” Sam explained.

The original formula contained bleach and some other ingredients that were later removed as more natural and better ingredients became available.

Today, the main ingredient in RLR is sodium carbonate. Sam confirmed that it is not only biodegradable and septic safe, but it is also gentle on sensitive skin.

“That’s why today, RLR works so good, and that’s why so many moms love it because even babies with sensitive skin and things like that, they’ve never had an issue with RLR. Over the years, there was never, ever, any complaints. And it’s actually pretty costly to make it that way,” Sam said. “It’s a pretty expensive mix because of the fact that we try to keep it so simple, and harmless, and biodegradable, and that kind of stuff.”

Also of note is that RLR is manufactured in the United States.

“We pride ourselves that all of our products are made in the USA, that’s a very big thing. We’re proud because you have products coming in from China and other places, and you really don’t know what’s behind it and most of the time it doesn’t work that well, it’s just more marketing,” Sam said. “Our products are all made in the USA, we use the best, and the safest ingredients, and that’s why it works so good.”

Is RLR Safe for Cloth Diapers?

Yes, RLR is safe for cloth diapers. Not only is it made from gentle ingredients, but it has been tried and tested by countless cloth diaper moms over the years.

Many cloth diaper users, myself included, first heard about RLR from recommendations from others in the cloth diaper community. RLR has been a favorite for stripping diapers, both because it’s so effective at removing build-up and because it’s a fairly gentle product, which usually is something cloth diaper users care about greatly.

How to Use RLR Laundry Treatment to Strip Cloth Diapers

Sam said that there are no special instructions to using RLR with either hard or soft water, therefore you can follow these instructions in all water conditions:

Product Instructions From The Back Of The RLR Package

“Open package and empty directly on dry or wet laundry in washing machine. Wash as usual with detergent, softener, etc. as desired. RLR can also be used for hand washing one or two small pieces of clothing—just use a small amount in a basin of water.”

Special note: The instructions above are from RLR for use on all laundry. Softeners, either alone or in detergents should not be used on cloth diapers, even with stripping involved in your routine. Cloth Diapers for Beginners recommends a slightly different process for using RLR with Cloth Diapers, which you’ll find below.

Cloth Diapers for Beginners Cloth Diaper Stripping Instructions Using RLR

Cloth diapers are different from regular laundry. Regular laundry is usually made up of clothes with just one layer of fabric and surface dirt; cloth diapers on the other hand are often thick, multi-layered and tightly woven items, often with many types of fabrics involved. When cloth diapers are dirty that get urine, minerals etc., hide deep into the internal layers of the diaper.

Because of this difference I recommend that, if possible, you soak your cloth diapers in the RLR when rather than just using it in a washing machine cycle. Here are some steps to follow:

In a Tub or Bathtub

If you don’t own a washing machine, or if you have a lot of cloth diapers, stripping them all in the bathtub can be a great way to get them all done at once, let them do their long soak, and save some water and energy at the same time.

Here’s the process:

  1. Put roughly 12-16 clean diapers in a regular size bathtub, or less if you’re using a smaller tub or pail. If using a smaller tub, just divide the package of RLR according to how many diapers you’re stripping.
  2. Fill the tub with HOT water until the diapers are covered.
  3. Add one package of RLR and swish it around until it’s dissolved. If you have a nice big tub and are doubling the amount of diapers, double the number of packages of RLR too.
  4. Leave them to soak for about 5-6 hours. If you’re doing this after bedtime, it’s ok to leave them overnight (just have your coffee first before coming back to them in the morning because wringing them out will take some time).
  5. Wring them out gently and put them in your washing machine.
  6. Run two hot washes; one with no detergent, and one with detergent.
  7. Dry as usual.

In Top-loading Washing Machine

Top loading machines are great because they allow the load to sit fully immersed in water, so the process is a lot like putting them in a tub, you just don’t have to do all the wringing. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Choose a HOT cycle or water temperature, and allow the washer to fill up, making sure the diapers end up covered.
  2. Add a package of RLR (two if you have a huge washer and are doing more than 20 or so diapers, and allow the washer to agitate them a bit.
  3. Pause your machine and leave everything to soak for about 5-6 hours. If you’re doing this after bedtime, go ahead and leave them overnight.
  4. Restart the machine and allow it to run through the cycle, including the regular rinse cycle.
  5. Run another hot wash cycle with detergent.
  6. Dry as usual.

In Front-loading Washing Machine

Front loaders do pose a bit of a challenge when trying to soak items since, when still some of the laundry inside the drum isn’t sitting in water. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Put roughly 12-16 clean diapers in the machine with a package of RLR either right on the diapers or in the soap tray (if it works well with powder; I’ve had a front loader that was horrible with powder and know that might not be the case).
  2. Choose your largest HOT water cycle, and allow the washer to fill up and begin spinning.
  3. Allow everything to mix around for a minute or two, then pause the machine and let everything soak for a couple of hours.
  4. After an hour or two, come back, unpause the cycle and allow the machine to spin for another minute or two before pausing it again.
  5. Continue to let everything soak for about 6 hours, coming back every hour or two to unpause the machine and let everything agitate for a few minutes. This will make sure all of the diapers stay soaked in the water and RLR mixture for the whole stripping process.
  6. Restart the machine and allow it to run through the cycle including the regular rinse cycle.
  7. Run another hot wash cycle with detergent.
  8. Dry as usual.

How Often Can You Use RLR Laundry Treatment?

I asked Sam how often to use RLR, but he hesitated to put a strict time on it.

“It’s very hard to say, that really varies for every person,” Sam said. “But that’s something that people figure out, it’s not something for me to tell them.”

Sam went on to say that even using RLR Laundry Treatment every wash would be fine.

“I mean again, it’s harmless, so you can only benefit. Again, it’s not a bleach, it’s not a strong chemical that would deteriorate the fabric or anything like that, so it’s not an issue,” He said.

Here at Cloth Diapers for Beginners, I don’t recommend using it at every wash, and prefer striving toward finding a solid wash routine that really works for you. Stripping is something that should be done if diapers are leaking before they are soaked through, or if there’s a smell after washing them.

That Said, Ditch the Guilt

Some cloth diaper users really nail the wash routine right away, never have a repelling leak issue, never have a smell issue, and therefore never need to strip their diapers. Others find themselves stripping their diapers every few months. There’s lots of reasons for this, many of which are out of anyone’s control and/or completely out of a normal person’s laundry knowledge bubble. These things include water hardness, bad detergent claims,  A TON of conflicting cloth diaper info on the internet, washing machine access (leading to longer stretches between washes), the list goes on and on so DON’T FEEL BAD about any of it.

What is so great about hearing from RLR that their laundry treatment it made to be natural and gentle on fabrics and skin, is that you don’t need to feel bad about using it often on your diapers.

It’s ok to strip with RLR Laundry Treatment now and then, so ditch the guilt already!

Where Can You Purchase RLR Laundry Treatment?

Unfortunately, RLR can’t be found in the big-box stores like Walmart or Target.

“We do have a lot of baby stores that just order them in cases and put it in their stores, but as far as big chains and those kind of stores, no,” Sam said.

He recommended checking your local mom-and-pop stores and baby stores as many do carry them, but it would be impossible to list them all accurately by location.

Many online and brick and mortar cloth diaper retailers do carry RLR for order, you can click here for a directory of cloth diaper retailers near you.

RLR is also available on Amazon.com here.

Alternately, Sam let me know that Cadie will actually sell you RLR Laundry Treatment directly.

“That’s something that we’ve been doing the last couple of years simply because every day we have moms calling in to say that they use so many of them that they just want to buy a case or two. So we decided that, you know what, it makes sense, as long as you buy a case,” Sam explained.

If you’re in Canada or the US, you can purchase a case of RLR, which contains 144 of the foil packages, for the wholesale price plus shipping.  As is often the case with wholesale pricing, the price lowers when you buy multiple cases.

To find out the current wholesale price, and what shipping to your address would amount to, you can contact Cadie either by phone or email (you can find their phone number and email address here), and ask for Sam. Don’t be shy, he’s incredibly nice!

Conclusion

RLR is a laundry stripping treatment. It removes dried-in mineral deposits, detergent residue, and product build-up from laundry without bleach or harsh chemicals.

For cloth diaper users stripping diapers is sometimes needed as build-up leads to smelly diapers and even painful rashes if left unfixed.

Before speaking with Sam for this article, I knew RLR was a good product. I had heard good things and so I had tried it, it worked really well, and I then recommended others give it a try, and they loved it; that is a good product in my mind.

After speaking with Sam, I have a much better appreciation for Cadie’s commitment to keeping RLR all-natural and gentle, as well as their down-to-earth and sincere belief in the quality of their own products. This to me makes RLR a great product, and I will continue to recommend it to cloth diaper users who need to remove build-up from their diapers.  

I think Sam summed it all up well when, in speaking about RLR he said,“We make many products, and we have out there many products. And the way I gauge a product is by so many people just if you go online and you see just the feedback, so many people how they’re saying it’s a must.”

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