Cloth Diaper Stink Issues

Cloth diaper stink issue is something a lot of our customers ask us when cloth diapering their children.  There are many factors to consider when tackling the issue of cloth diaper stinks and eliminating the problem.

Stink issue whether it's the ammonia smell or stink that causes rash problems isn't limited to the case of the baby sitting in their pee or poop for too long.  Often times cloth diapers that are not cleaned well have residues that cannot be washed out with conventional detergents.  Bacteria growth isn't the cause of stink itself but it's their feces that can stink up your cloth diapers.  When the baby pees or poop on the diaper, leftover residue and bacteria from the detergent can also wreck havoc on the baby's butt.

Over time, even with number of washes, the residue build-up whether it's the detergent that wasn't rinsed off properly, fragrance, optical brigtheners, bacteria growth or anything that left behind accumulate enough for the smell to come back.  It's not uncommon for the cloth diapers to give off a foul smell after the child pees which often times indicate the build-up.

The Myth
Some people claim 'cloth diaper detergent' or 'cloth diaper friendly detergent' is a marketing gimmick.  What those people fail to realize with most conventional detergents is that they are not residue-free.  If your cloth diapers and clothes are getting cleaned with each wash, why are all these chemicals fail to clean the clothes properly?  Though it may seem like regular detergent is cleaning their diapers and have no stink issues for weeks or even months, when the problem arise, it's not uncommon for people to struggle in getting rid of the stink.

"Free & Clear" isn't always Dye Free
Check the ingredients of any detergent marked as FREE OF DYES.  Often times they are labeled with various terminology for optical brighteners which could lead faster build up causing stink issues as well as performance of the diaper fabrics.  If your child has skin issues or any sensitivity we recommend using 'clean rinsing' detergent to minimize reactions caused by one or more ingredients of the detergent.  There are clean rinsing as well as hypoallergenic detergents available on the market.

Other Factors
Water pH level play a significant role in how the detergent works in cleaning your cloth diapers.  Water hardness level varies by locations across the country.  Terms such as 'hard water' doesn't indicate how hard the water is and if you live in an area with "very" hard water, the same washing method used in another location with softer water will likely not work.  Other facts to consider are the type of washing machine being used as well as if you're using cold or warm/hot water.  Cloth diaper material also play a very important role in getting them washed.

Some Tips
We have tips in getting your cloth diaper clean and keeping the cloth diaper stink issue at bay.  Though it may not eliminate the issue 100%, by following some our tips you can see great results.

  1. Wash frequently!  Don't let the dirty diapers sit for more than three days.  'Wet pailing' or method used to keep diapers in pail with water is something we do not recommend risking fabric damage but poses a serious safety hazard (with a lid on or off).  After cleaning and rinsing (for poop) the diaper, keep the diapers in a dry pail with pail liner.  Washing the cloth diapers frequently minimize bacteria growth which is the main source of stink issues.  An overview of our washing method is discussed here.
  2. Avoid bleach!  Most bleach sold in stores are diluted and may not be strong enough to combat serious stink issues.  Bleach also does not tackle build up problems.  They are two separate issues.  If the detergent build-up isn't taken care of first, you'll only keep fighting the stink issue every single time.  The only exception to the rule of using bleach is if there's an yeast infection.  You may then have to soak such cloth diapers separately as well as what them by themselves to avoid contamination.
  3. Try to stick to natural fibers if possible!  Natural fibers can be washed and even boiled (flats & prefolds) cleaner than synthetic materials.  Because synthetic fibers are usually plastic based, they cannot be cleaned out well nor take heat very well.  There's a reason why our grandparents boiled the diapers for 100% disinfection.
  4. Use residue-free detergent - Residue free detergent does not leave residues behind and helps to strip away build-ups while rinsing clean.  Often times cloth diapers and clothes may seem to lose it's absorbency or repelling properties, it's generally caused by build-ups left behind by conventional detergents.  Cloth diapers can be stripped which would improve the fabric performance.  Natural fibers will start to absorb again while synthetic covers like PUL will stop absorbing moisture and keep pee and moisture contained.
  5. Got Hard Water?  You will definitely want to stick with certified residue free detergent for better cleaning.  Unfortunately if you have 'very' hard water, often times most detergents combined with hard water acts as abrasives which over time shortens the fabric's life.  Depending on how hard your water is, using water softener on top of residue-free detergent will less likely to cause issues in a long run. 

Need Help?
Do you have any stink issues that you cannot get rid of?  We have successfully helped many customers in battling cloth diaper stinks.  Talk to us!  We can help you to eliminate these problem!