Washing Routine, Hot or Cold? Does it matter?

by shethinksmedia

This week as part of our washing series we are going to go over the actual wash part of this whole process.

Our entire washing article can be found below:

We have gone over troubleshooting ammonia, stripping, and the pre-rinse. This week is short and sweet.

Wash on hot, not the sanitary, not the “whitest whites”, but the regular hot cycle which is about 120 degrees on a standard water heater. *Your wash cycle will be about 10-20 minutes depending on your machine.

We have worked with customers who did not have access to hot water, and despite our tips on washing in cold could not get the diapers clean, and a great solution is a portable washer:

This is also fantastic if you don’t have access to a machine washer, or only have access to expensive shared facilities as in some apartment or townhouse complexes. You add hot water manually, put the diapers in and use the handle to wash your diapers. Works for clothing, too, we don’t sell it but have referred customers to it for close to 10 years now with excellent feedback.

Even though your diapers are filled with urine and feces, there is no need for the sanitary cycle. If your diapers are getting clean, they are not harboring bacteria, and you can’t mask the smell of fecal bacteria (honestly, all you will get is perfumey smelling poop). If you trust your hot water to get your bed linens and undergarments clean, trust it to get your cloth diapers clean, we don’t throw away clothing that has vomit, urine, blood and other bodily fluids on it, the machine will be able to do the job.

Next week we tackle detergent to finish our series, have a wonderful week everyone!


Cloth Diaper Washing 101 and Beyond

by shethinksmedia

This week we are diving into wash routine 101 and beyond.

Washing and stink issues continue to lead the majority of our customer service emails and calls, so we know help is always needed in these arenas!

We have our comprehensive overview on or blog here:

Rather than go point by point as we have done in the past, I am going to go over the most common questions for washing that can be solved using our techniques in that article linked above.

The most common question we get from customers who need help with washing is in reference to ammonia. Now, the first question you have to really answer is whether it is ammonia or strong urine. Many customers we talk to who think they have ammonia will troubleshoot to no avail, then when true ammonia hits they always say “Oh, I had no idea how strong ammonia really is!”

Ammonia will sting your nose and smell very chemical-like. It almost always causes rashes, and can also burn your eyes if you get too close to it. If you can ever whiff cleaning ammonia, it smells pretty close to what diaper ammonia is.

A little Ammonia 101: Our human bodies cannot tolerate ammonia internally, so our bodies convert our urine to other byproducts. When our urine exits our body, and begins to break down, that is when you can get that “strong ammonia” smell. Now, if you combine urine that has exited our body with bacteria (could be internal bacteria, external, old feces from the pail, old feces on the diapers), you get ammonia. You *can* have ammonia in otherwise clean diapers, we have seen this time and time again in toddlers who wear disposables at night and have ammonia present in the morning. The bacteria needed to create that ammonia smell could be present in or on your child.

That all being said, the first step we walk customers through who have ammonia in he diapers is disinfecting the diapers, and re-evaluating the wash routine. 99% of the time this fixes the problem, and for that 1% that are still getting ammonia in perfectly clean diapers, increasing absorbency to break down the concentration of the urine and time the baby is in that diaper is the solution.

*BUT, please note:  Ammonia burn, rash or chafing is *never* acceptable, it is something we work with many customers to fix, usually by fixing the wash routine or increasing absorbency/breathability depending on why the child is sensitive to the urine.

1) in the diaper pail, when you lift the lid, ammonia wafting can be normal.
2)in the morning diaper. When a diaper has been on for 8+ hours, it can smell of ammonia in the morning.

If your baby pees early in the night, that is 8+ hours of urine sitting in a nice, warm, moist environment, so it will smell in the morning. Adding absorbency to break down the concentration will help, we can also troubleshoot the wash routine, but it still may be the norm for your baby.

To see why the nighttime diaper can smell like ammonia, imagine peeing on a tee shirt (similar to your fitted/prefolds/pocket inserts), wrapping it in a plastic bag (cover/pocket) then leaving it for 8 hours, it would stink to high heaven when you opened the bag, on the flip side, if your had your 2 month old pee in a little tee shirt and did the same thing for 3 hours, the stench wouldn’t be nearly as much, hence why your newborn never had this problem but at 17 months does (volume/concentration/age factors)

For the pail, it can vary based on lots of things, if you keep an open pail in a broom closet and wash toddler diapers every 3-4 days, your odors will be very different from a closed pail in a larger ventilated room washing every 1-2 days. Buildup-free diapers still do this in pails, it doesn’t matter how clean they are going in, if you have the right combination of volume and age in urine, it can produce the same effect just given time. I see “have an open pail” as frequent advice for preventing ammonia, but air doesn’t do anything to prohibit bacterial growth. A closed lid pail isn’t airtight, even if it has a lockdown feature, unless you vacuum seal it after each time you put a diaper in, you allow lots of air flow in the pail to open and close the lid every 90 minutes to a few hours, plus the lid itself doesn’t seal air out, so it is fine to have a closed-lid pail (this is beneficial for other reasons than containing odors, like keeping out bugs-yes it does happen-and exploring little children).  When you have an open pail, the odor just has more room to dissipate in, and not hit you in the face when you open the lid, so if you are happy with your closed-pail lid there is no reason to switch~

Phew! OkY, so we tackled what ammonia is, when it is normal, and when it isn’t. Next week we will get into more washing 101 and beyond tips!


Tips and Tricks for keeping baby yeast-free!

by shethinksmedia

Last week we discussed some basic FAQs about yeast, this week we conclude with tips and tricks to keeping baby yeast-free.

Helping keep baby yeast-free

When your child is yeast-free, a great preventative measure during hot weather is to sprinkle corn starch in the diaper area. Corn starch washes out very easily, and poses no laundry issues, and is non toxic and safe to use. Do not do this, however, if your child has existing yeast, or is coming off of a bout of yeast. Corn starch will feed an active fungal infection, making it worse and doing so very quickly.

As far as cloth diaper fibers go, we typically see more yeast cases in natural fibers than in synthetic stay-dry fibers. One side of the table will say that natural is best to increase air flow, as yeast does best in warmer, damp areas. However, the other side says that dampness will cause yeast to get a hold faster and stronger, so it is best to stay in synthetics with frequent changes. Our anecdotal evidence suggests that second theory to be true, while heat and wetness both contribute to yeast, we see more success with stay dry fibers and frequent changes than we do with staying in natural fibers and frequent changes. This will vary by customer though,so if you use natural fibers, don’t give up on the first go around, treat the yeast and see how your baby does with frequent changes and corn starch. Some families have just found adding a fleece liner at nighttime when the baby s in the diaper the longest works best for them to keep the skin drier. If you use synthetics and are battling yeast, natural fibers may provide relief as well. If it is possible, “naked baby” time or going cover-less (with fitteds or prefolds) is beneficial as well, letting them run or roll around to give their skin as much air and light as possible in between changes.

Please email us with any questions, we want your baby to be in cloth, but we want them to more importantly be safe in their cloth, and keeping their skin healthy is at the top of that list :)

Have a wonderful week!

Let’s talk about poo!

by shethinksmedia
This week we are going to take a page from my 2 year old’s playbook and talk about poo.

The infamous “number 2″ is one of the biggest reasons families are hesitant to jump into cloth diapers, and is the most frequently asked question at our Cloth 101 orientations. The first thing I say to these families, once you have been vomited on a few times, in my opinion, poo is no big deal.  If that doesn’t help ease your worry about the soiled diapers, we are going to go over the 3 ways to deal with bowel movements below.

Until your baby starts solids, bowel movements can go right into the washing machine with your dirty diapers. If you trust your bed linens and undergarments to get clean, trust the diapers to get clean. Breastfed babies will typically have liquid bowel movements until solids are introduced, formula fed babies may as well, it just depends on how they metabolize their food.  If your baby has liquid bowel movements, trust our washing instructions to get them clean, a sniff out of the dryer will definitely show if they are clean or not:

Three Methods for dealing with POO!

If your baby is transitioning into solids, you will enter what we call the “peanut butter poo” stage.  Neither solid or liquid, it is a sticky, tacky substance that holds on tight to the diaper lining.  At this stage it cannot go straight into the washing machine, so we advise using one of these 3 methods:

1) Dunk and Swish: Completely free and easy to use, flip the diaper around so the inside lining is hanging down, hang onto the edges, and dunk in the toilet and swish around.  Flush the toilet (make sure you hang onto it so you don’t need your neighborhood plumber’s services), and repeat if needed.  If you have tiny remnants hanging on, don’t worry about them, they will come out in the wash cycle.  You can master this quickly without ever getting your hands wet, have your pail or wet bag in your reach to put the soiled diaper into after dunking/swishing.

2)Flushable Liners: We sell a variety of flushable liners in our store, these are made from rice paper or other plant origins, and are public septic safe. If you have a private septic, you may want to throw them away rather than flush them, depending on how sensitive your tank is.These are an incredibly popular item, and a small cost to try them out (around 10 dollars for 100 liners). They lay inside the diaper to catch the semi solid movements, then you can pick up the edges and flush, putting the diaper right in the pail. These are not to be used with diaper creams, when creams get warm against baby’s skin they will melt right through the liner, you need to use fleece or flannel liners for diaper creams. There are two drawbacks to these liners, which I myself and others have experienced. One, you have to lay them in with each diaper change, and by this age most babies are pooping 1-2 times a day, so it is an extra step at each change. Two, sometimes they can bunch and shift if your diaper isn’t completely snug-fitting, and miss the semi solid waste completely. However, the majority of our customers love them, so definitely worth a try if they make this stage easier!

3) Diaper Sprayer: If you or your partner is handy, your local hardware store can give you the parts to assemble your own sprayer. If you are like me, and prefer a box with a kit and all the pieces, directions and a number to call if things go downhill, we have two great brands of sprayers in our store. They attach to the clean water supply in your toilet tank, and draw on completely clean water to do the job. If you have a sprayer in your kitchen sink, you will find they work the same way, with trigger pressure and a controlled spray head. Sprayers can be moved from toilet to toilet, or taken with you if you move.

Once your child is fully on solids, their bowel movements will show more adult-like formation, and can be rolled off into the toilet. However, until your baby potty trains, you will need to use these methods again whenever they drink too much juice, go on antibiotics, get the stomach virus, eat lots of blueberries, (you get the idea)…. Don’t retire your liners or sprayer until the diapers are safely stored away .

Let me know if you have any questions, have a great weekend!

Ergo Carriers, What’s the difference?

by shethinksmedia

Today we are going to go over the differences in all of the Ergo carriers:

Ergo is known for its soft structured carriers, great for front and back carrying (there is a hip carry/side carry option, but in practice we see very few customers comfortable using it, so we focus on the front and back carry).

ERGO SPORT: The Ergo Sport is a lightweight, ventilated carrier. It does not have a front pocket for stashing keys/wallet, but it does have a larger cut out right beneath the head, which is great for hot weather. It is padded in the straps, and the torso is a tad big longer than their original carriers.

ERGO PERFORMANCE: The lightest of the Ergo carriers, the performance does not have padded straps, and is made of lightweight mesh material on the outside and body. It is great for taller customers, if you are of petite build you may be “overwhelmed” by the torso cut, this carrier does have the outer pocket for carrying small items.

ERGO ORIGINALS, PETUNIA PICKLEBOTTOM AND ORGANICS: Both of these carriers have the same cut/pattern, one set will just have the organic cotton body. Ergos in these categories feature front pockets, easy adjustments in the arms and waist, and a two click system to comfortably wear your baby. They also include a sleeping/shade hood which snaps on the shoulders of your carrier, and are great for front and back carrying.


Ergos are great once your baby had head control, if you have a newborn you can use the Infant Insert that is made for the Ergo carrier, it will support your baby in the froggy-leg position in the front carry hold, but you will need to keep one hand steady on their head as it doesn’t keep it as immobilized as the Moby Wraps or other woven wraps will.

At Abby’s Lane, we offer a 30 day trial on all Ergo carriers, lots of styles to choose from (and adorable doll carriers, too!)

Have a great week!

Diaper Chatter, Can cloth diapers make your baby bow-legged? What stinks?

by shethinksmedia

This week we are going to cover some hot topics that many customers will think indicates a problem, but is just the reality for using cloth diapers. In short, this isn’t a problem, so don’t try and fix it.

Now of course, there are exceptions to every rule, if you need to make sure this doesn’t present itself for your baby or your family, please email me at AbbysLane@aol.com and we can go over some possible solutions, but in general, these issues don’t indicate a problem.

AND IN BOLD-please note that our official stance is that a rash or skin issues, or baby being uncomfortable is never the “norm”, so if you are having any of these situations and baby is suffering, it is not considered normal, please email us to troubleshoot some solutions.

1) My diaper pail stinks when I open it!
This can be and in most cases is completely normal. Again, if baby has rashes, OR if your stink is out of the dryer or off the drying line, or in a freshly peed diaper, we have problems. If the stink is in the pail, it can be completely normal. If you are washing every other day or longer, you have feces and urine sitting in a warm, dark and packed pail for 24-36+ hours. Diapers are fabric, and fabric in these contents will stink in these conditions. When you open the pail you will catch a whiff, when you close the lid the problem should be solved.

2) My wet bag stinks when I open it!
See above.   Also normal if the diapers have been in there for several hours, especially poopy ones. If your clean, out-of-the-dryer wet bag stinks, we have a problem, email me to troubleshoot.

3) I used to be able to use a disposable for 4-6 hours, my cloth diapers leak after two. Now, this can be tricky, depending on what you are using the diapers for. Generally speaking, the daytime capacity of a cloth diaper should be 2 hours, less if there is a bowel movement involved of course. Nap time and nighttime are the exception, where you can stuff the diapers to last longer, or use a different system of diaper to last longer. But, in general, you don’t want urine breathing onto their skin for more than two hours at a time. Urine + time+ bacteria=ammonia, and even in stay dry fabrics will breathe onto their skin, breaking down their healthy skim flora and introducing more chances for rashes. We all have times where we need more absorbency, and of course that is fine, but for the majority of daytime purposes, this is considered normal. Less than 2 hours, we may have a fit or absorbency issue, so email me for help.

4) My baby can crawl/walk/sit up in disposables, but can’t in cloth diapers. We get this one quite a bit, concern over milestones that seem to be delayed or impaired by cloth diapers. For the majority of babies this will be the case, but we are talking about a very brief period of time before the skill is mastered in cloth diapers. Disposable diapers have been in use for about 40 years, every generation before wore cloth diapers, many quite bulkier than today’s diapers, and milestones were not a concern. Some options are trimmer than others, but my general advice is if you are concerned, give it 2-4 weeks, 99% of the time you will see them develop to the cloth diapers to meet these milestones, it just takes a little more time and coordination. On the flip side, we often here of much more confident walkers because they are falling down a cushioned bottom.

5) My baby looks bow-legged in cloth diapers! Somewhat similar response above, but with a little more science behind it.  The fact is most babies will appear to be bowlegged, this is completely normal in toddler development:
True bow-legged disorders can be diagnosed by your pediatrician, but it is not caused by cloth diapers, even bulky ones.

Additionally, cloth diapers are frequently recommended by doctors to fix hip dysplasia, as they offer the proper spacing for leg and hip development. Babies in disposable diapers with hip dysplasia have to wear braces to space their hips, but modern doctors are more frequently leaning towards recommending cloth diapers for this purpose, as it supports the proper growth for a developing baby.

6)My diaper bag doesn’t work with cloth diapers. Many of the super cute diaper bags out today are really just too…small…so yes, this one is true.   The best diaper bag in our experience is a regular backpack. Easily worn on your back to leave you hands free, nice roomy compartments to carry cloth diapers, durable and can last through lots of washings, and dad won’t balk at lugging it around.

Email us with any questions you have, we are always happy to help make cloth fun and easy for your family, and troubleshooting annoyances or more serious issues is a good place to start~

Have a great week everyone!

The Pros and Cons of Sized Cloth Diapers vs. Onesize Cloth Diapers

by shethinksmedia

When I first started cloth diapering three years ago I did minimal research (shh…a definite no-no in my book now so if you’re new don’t follow suit) and because of my minimal research I chose a diaper system that was one size. Yes, one size, as in one size fits all. Now does a one size system really fit a baby from newborn to potty training? Perhaps. It depends on how big or small your cute little newborn is. Can a one size last a child up until potty training? Yes. At least this was true for us with my son. He potty trained last September and I believe he was about 33 lbs or so.

What about a sized diaper? If a one size is a more economical choice why would anyone consider a sized diapering system? I’ve wondered the same thing. I have a few sized diapers and I have to tell you that I like them because they are trim. Yes, that’s right; trim. Now this might not be a big deal but since it’s summer and my adorable daughter is wearing sun dresses that come with the cute diaper cover-up it has been somewhat annoying. I’ve noticed what an eye-sore it is looking at this stretched out, okay let’s be honest, baby panty, over her big fluffy butt. I mean at that rate I might as well just take the stupid thing off and show off her fluff (which I end up doing).

Even if you don’t have a girl who may need a trimmer diaper for her cute dresses there are pros and cons to sized cloth diapers and one size cloth diapers.

One-Size Pros

Economical. ‘Nough said.

It’s a great way to cloth diaper a toddler and baby at the same time. You will need to purchase more diapers for your rotation though.

Convenient. One set of diapers, that’s it. There isn’t a need to buy more when you need a new size.

One-Size Cons

It can be difficult to get the right fit for your baby. No cloth diaper is going to be 100% perfect and babies go through growth spurts that can be odd. For example, my daughter has chubby thighs but a really skinny waist. A few of her (ah hem cheap!) one size diapers just do not have a good in-between setting for her.

A lot of wear and tear on one stash. When my husband and I set out to buy our first set of diapers for our son our plan was to use them this next time with our daughter. Well, after almost three years of use, washes, drying, stripping, and the list goes on, we had to purchase a new set for our daughter. Think about it, if you were to sleep in the same sheets day after day washing them every other week or so, I highly doubt they’d last three years much less six.

Boring! Only one set from birth through potty training.

Sized Pros

Easier to find a good fit. I like to think of sized diapers the way a disposable is sized; we don’t put our babies in one-size fits all ‘sposies after all. Because a sized diaper is meant to fit a baby during a specific point in their development it can accommodate the chubbiness before movement phase, you know?

You get to purchase more cloth diapers! Yay for more fun diapers to buy! Honestly, I don’t know what it is about cloth diapers that makes them so addictive. I find myself acting like I’m eight years old again when I was in a fuzzy hair clown collection phase.

Chances are you’ll be able to use that first set of sized diapers with more than one child. Again, less wear and tear equals longer (time) lasting wear.

Sized Cons

A little spendy at first. I think you have to look at using a sized diaper system as a long term investment. If you’re on your last child and are just starting your cloth diaper journey this may not be financially beneficial for you.

Not as convenient. You have to purchase more diapers as your baby grows. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious about cloth diapering this may totally turn you off.


Guest Post Contributed by Bert:

Elizabeth (aka Bert) is a stay-at-home-mom and contributing writer for She Thinks Media. She lives in the Twin Cities with her husband, Ben, her son Buggie, and daughter Lady Bug.  When she’s not trying to convince Buggie to expand his interests beyond Thomas the Train or put his pants back on she’s writing about her experiences as a mom on her blog, First Time Mom (FTM). After all, Bert maintains there’s a first time for everything, even if you  have more than one child! 

Tips for keeping your cloth diapers in good condition!

by shethinksmedia

This week we are doing a brief run down of some “tips” to keep cloth diapers in great condition.

  • Let diapers cool out of the dryer before stuffing them (pockets and stuffable AIOs).  Stretching hot elastic can wear it out prematurely.
  • If you have a washing machine with a rough agitator, or your laundry tabs are worn out, get a roll of velcro at the fabric store. Cut into 2 inch squares and toss the “hook” part (the scratchy side). Keep your “loop” pieces (softer fabric) in a dish by your diaper pail. Before you toss the diapers in, put the loops on your aplix tabs, they will not budge during washing, when you take the diapers out of the dryer put them back into the dish.
  • Use a Snappi to “comb” your aplix tabs if they are linty.
  • Wash every other day. Now, this tip comes with controversy, there are those who advise to wash less frequently to avoid wear and tear on the diapers. In my opinion, it is 6 of one/half dozen of the other, and you could avoid a lot of washing issues and save money.

If you go through 15 diapers a day and wash every other day, you would need a stash of about 22-25 diapers. You also avoid letting them stew in bacteria and feces, and also can avoid ammonia buildup (remember, urine + time + bacteria=ammonia), and avoid a really stinky pail.

If you wash every 3 days, you need 45-55 diapers. True, they could last longer, BUT even if you wear out every single diaper you have you still have invested the same amount into them if you have to re-buy your stash, and you have avoided a lot of washing issues in the meantime.  In 8 years of doing this, I have yet to have a customer report that every single diaper needed to be replaced from washing every other day, and in fact many have reported that when they did start extend their wash time, they had to use bleach to strip more frequently (which wears out fabrics faster).

So, in short, we advise washing every other day. You need a stash half the size, easier washing, and less potential for harsh stripping agents.

Have a great week everyone!

Cloth Diapering a Newborn: Umbilical Cord Notches, Do you need one?

by shethinksmedia

Through 5 babies of my own, and working with/testing diapers with thousands of customers over 8 years, the official Abby’s Lane stance on umbilical cord notches is….don’t worry about them!

If you have a newborn diaper that you love, but it doesn’t have an umbilical notch, OR, you are waiting until the stump falls off to start using cloth diapers, we say don’t sweat it and jump right in.

Here is why:
Any diaper that has an umbilical notch, cloth or disposable, will still rub on the bottom of the stump. Whenever I used my Lil Joeys, folded my prefolds below the cord, or used newborn disposables, you will always see the top of the diaper is covered with dried blood and the stump may have some as well. Is this harmful? Not really, but any rubbing/chafing does slightly open the door to infection as the stump heals.

In my experience, laying a cloth diaper gently over the stump is less irritating:

  1. Bowel movements never go up the front of the diaper, they will always shoot out the legs or travel up the back, so you do not risk fecal contamination on the stump.
  2. You change a newborn’s diaper pretty quickly. He isn’t laying in it for 8+ hours at night like a toddler will, for those first few weeks of stump time, you are changing every 90 minutes to 3 hours, so there isn’t a lot of time where urine is going to sit on the stump.   PLUS, a newborn’s urine is very “pure”, they aren’t eating dirt, worms and steak like a 2 year old is, input is minimal and pure, output will be the same way, not very irritant laden.

When you have a diaper over the stump, it keeps it covered and holds it in place very nicely, sleepers, onesies and clothing doesn’t knock it around, and when you lay the baby against your belly or chest to wear them/hold them, nothing is pushing up on the stump.

In years of doing this, we have never heard of one customer run into any infections/irritations with their baby, but we do hear from customers who had stump issues with using diapers that fit under them. (Also, remember even if your fitted fits nicely under the stump, by the time you put a cover over it, it will likely rub on it).

This isn’t to say many people use cord notch diapers and are problem-free, most are, but it is enough for some babies to cause problems (again, not on many, but a few), or hold new parents back from using their newborn cloth that we wanted to chat about it a little :)

Stephanie, Abby’s Lane

Ultimate Diaper Care and Washing Guide

by shethinksmedia

Part 1:  Washing Cloth Diapers

(Added 01/30/12)  What follows below is some updated information with past articles put into one article. This week we are tackling washing problem number 1:

My diapers stink out of the dryer, or stink like stale urine once freshly peed in.

I would like to begin this article by saying
1) If your wash routine is fine, disregard what I write below. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
2) What I am writing about below is what we see working for the majority of our customers, there will always be examples of a wash routine being very different but it will work for that customer, however we feel the need to put into words what we see working for most of our customers who cannot get their diapers clean.
Clean diapers are more than just a “want”, if you have stinky diapers you have bacteria lingering behind, which can cause skin issues that can be troublesome to fix.

Wash problems generally fall into two categories, tonight we are tackling the problem of the diapers smelling out of the dryer. This is usually caused by one of two problems
1) Wrong detergent   or   2) Not enough detergent.
Let’s start with number one, the wrong detergent. Here are some cliff notes for choosing a detergent:

  • Powders generally rinse out easier than liquid
  • The more natural the detergent, generally the less effective it will be with very few exceptions
  • Free and clears, especially liquid ones, can be notorious for buildup.
  • Mainstream powders and liquids are *fine* to use, you do not have to use a cloth diaper detergent to get your diapers clean.

Over 9 years of troubleshooting wash issues with thousands of clients, and our own 6 babies, we find one detergent leading the pack over and over again. Tide.
Tide? Before you shoot the idea down completely, take a peek at who else recommends Tide:
Fuzzi Bunz (recommends Tide Free, over 10 years in the business):
Tiny Tush (over 10 years in the business):
Rumparooz (over 5 years in the business):
GroVia (over 10+ years in the business):
And for giggles, back when we opened in 2004 we started to advise Tide:



That being said, if you hate the idea of Tide, try another mainstream store powder, even a generic one if it fits the budget better. Worst case scenario, you strip and start over.

The second part of this equation is using enough detergent. Unless you are using Rockin Green or Thirsties super wash, 1-2 tablespoons will not cut it. You have to use enough detergent to get them clean ( I use to the 3 line on my Tide powder ultra scoop for a load of diapers).
On January 24th, Bummis (over 20 years in the biz) had on their Facebook page:

Had a wonderful discussion with Steve “the detergent guru” again. We discussed how many people recommend using so little detergent and recommend Dawn to strip detergent residues from “suede cloth”, microfiber and other synthetics.

He does not believe it is a “detergent” residue that is causing repelling or stink in these synthetics. He believes what is really happening is that consumers are crea…ting a self-filling prophecy by not using enough detergent. This leads to microscopic soil being left behind. In fecal matter there are oils/fats from digestion. Polyester loves fats and oils and forms a chemical bond with them. If you are using too little detergent to release this soil, you will then get a microscopic build up of oils on the surface of the fabric eventually causing it to repel or stink.

While great at releasing grease on solid surfaces (think dishes) Dawn is not super effective on fabric. Hence it would work with a mild build up of oils causing repelling/stink but not on all cases. Best to avoid oily build up by using enough detergent to release oils from synthetics and enough rinsing/water to get rid of all detergent/soils left behind in the wash cycle.

Make sure you are using enough, remember that seeing suds does not mean you are using too much. Some detergents are more sudsy than others, unless you have odors with the diapers out of the dryer or once freshly peed in, don’t sweat the suds! Really, if you don’t smell anything, don’t lift the lid, don’t even peek at the rinse cycle. If they smell great out of the dryer, and once freshly peed in, don’t worry about suds.

The best routine we have found for diapers is

-Warm or hot pre-rinse (see notes below)
-Hot wash with good amount of detergent (not the sanitary cycle, your regular hot cycle, your water heater should be set to 120 degrees F)
-2 cold rinses. Your machine will do one automatically, add another if you can.

For years we actually advised doing a hot pre-rinse, the reason for hot being that many water heaters didn’t get up to 120 in the pre-rinse, so setting it to warm gave you room temperature water, setting it to hot gave you the higher temperature that is needed. In recent years with more sophisticated machines, we are adjusting our advice to say warm pre-rinse, not hot or cold.

Bummis recently had this article as well for some of the science behind the warm prerinse:

In our practical experience and lots of testing with our customers, we found the cold pre-rinse set in stains and make it much harder to wash the fresh feces and urine out of the diapers. Switch your pre-rinse, see if it helps. If your water heater doesn’t get very hot, consider doing a hot prerinse to boost those temps a little.
If you don’t have the option for a warm or hot pre-rinse, you can do a little trial and error to see if your water conditions make it better to skip the pre-rinse completely ( I would advise using a diaper sprayer to rinse the poopy diapers individually before going in the pail if that is the case), or using a cold pre-rinse. Depending on how “pre-cleaned” the diapers are from your sprayer, many customers found they could eliminate this step completely, however if you don’t have that option or are running into issues getting them cleaned, opt for the cold. I would say for HE machines, go with the cold over opting out of the prerinse, if your machine is water efficient using as many rinse cycles as you can will help in the water-efficient wash cycle.


Bummis recently had this article as well for some of the science behind the warm prerinse:

In our experience, the cold prerinse set in stains and make it much harder to wash the fresh feces and urine out of the diapers. Switch your prerinse, see if it helps. If your water heater doesn’t get very hot, consider doing a hot prerinse to boost those temps a little.

Stripping: We are going to cover how to strip the diapers.
Stripping refers to an action of doing something to the diapers to disinfect or strip them from detergent buildup, ointment buildup, old feces or urine buildup, fabric softener, basically anything that is hindering absorbency. Today I am going to review what does need to be stripped versus what doesn’t.
Many times, truly most times, when a customer thinks the diaper needs to be stripped, it is actually a scenario where more absorbency is needed, or the fit is incorrect for the baby. You do NOT need to strip if:

  • The diapers leak, but more than 30-60 minutes has passed
  • The diapers leak, but the entire diaper/fitted or insert is wet
  • The diapers leak but do not have odors to them

If you are having leaking but find that the above fits, you likely have an absorbency or fit issue, not a need to strip. Very, very rarely will buildup occur without an accompanying odor. If you have enough buildup left to hinder absorbency, you will be trapping old feces and urine, and it will stink. What may be a cause a need to strip is:

  • Odors out of the dryer, or once freshly peed in.
  • Leaking within the first few minutes of the diaper being on.
  • Leaking and the diaper is wet in spots only.
  • Use of creams, and you can see and smell spots where ointment has been.
  • Use of the wrong detergent, this is also evident when you take the diapers out and they have a sticky or tacky feel to them, almost like they are coated with something.

I like to highlight the odor key in all of this, remember you cannot ever mask the smell of poop. You can spray perfume on it, put bleach spray on it, it will smell like perfumed and bleached poo. It is incredibly rare when we see buildup not accompanying odors, it can happen, but really is very rare. If you suspect buildup and do not have any odors, we will first go the route of more absorbency/checking the fit. If you strip and it is an absorbency or fit issue, you won’t solve anything and be right back where you started with leaky diapers.

I do want to throw one more tidbit in,I see websites promoting the “water drip test” to see if your diapers are repelling. The idea being you dribble a few drops of water on the diaper, if it doesn’t sink in right away the diapers need to be stripped. The truth is I can do this on my perfectly fine pocket diapers and you won’t see it sink in, the pressure of the baby against the diaper pushes urine into it, so don’t rely on that test to see if you have buildup and need to strip.

There was a method that was very popular a few years ago in stripping, and I sincerely hope it has completely died out but I know some still recommend it. It involves using your dishwasher to strip the diapers. Now, this is a fire hazard, and will render your snaps and elastic pretty useless, so under no circumstances should you ever put your diapers in the dishwasher, please please please.

Another popular method is to put Dawn dish soap in the washing machine. We don’t recommend this either, your washing machine wasn’t made for dish soap, it is high sudsing and can clog the hoses. If you have a new washer under warranty you could void it. We have had customers who used Dawn, and when their machine broke and the repairman came, it was very easy to tell soap had been used, and the warranty was voided, so please take note of those problems if you go the Dawn route.

What is safer for you and the machine, is to bleach the diapers if you have buildup. 1/3 cup of chlorox in the detergent cycle with clean cloth diapers, and hot water, will take care of the problem. If you have cotton print diapers, dyed fitteds or prefolds, or cotton outer wet bags, you can use color safe bleach. That is the best method to strip, and safe for your machine. For disinfecting purposes, color safe bleach may not be appropriate as it uses hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine to bleach, but for residue purposes it can work.

Make sure the diapers have been washed and dried, if they are soiled the bleach won’t do much. Once in a blue moon bleach is fine on your diapers, it is when it is used on a regular basis that you see premature wear and tear, just like you would on your clothing. PUL is dye fast and will not bleed from bleach.

Next week we will chat about the problem of “they smell fine out of the dryer, but stink when freshly peed in” issue, since hopefully we have conquered the “they smell out of the dryer” issue.

Don’t just “put up” with stink, doing so can lead to health problems and rash problems that you don’t want against your child’s skin. If your toddler threw up on a tee shirt, you wash it and it still smells like puke, there is no way you would put it back on the child. Diapers have to be treated the same way, (except even worse because you are putting old poop and urine back up against their genital areas). Don’t tolerate stink, truly, shoot me an email and we will figure it out!

We don’t stand to profit on your smelly diapers, most of our customer service is in regards to fixing wash routines. My first goal is to make sure your baby’s skin is healthy, and my secondary goal is to make your wash routine easy. When you have to do 3 wash cycles or add more ingredients than you do making cookies, it really sucks the fun and ease out of using cloth diapers. With those two goals in mind, we are always working on trying to get as close to a uniform wash routine as possible. If you still have odor issues, email me with a “tried it, still have stink at x,y and z” and we will troubleshoot what needs to change.

Part 2:  Dealing with urine, ammonia and other strong mystery odors.

(Added 02/06/12) This week is a comprehensive look at the “my diapers smell fine out of the dryer but smell like stale urine once freshly urinated in.”

This is one of two problems, too much detergent, or not the right detergent to begin with. Make sure you read our first article to see if your detergent is the right kind (powder over liquid if possible, not a free and clear if it can be helped, not the more natural detergents).

How to tell if you are using too much? Remember, last week(part 1) we said “don’t sweat the suds IF you have no odors issues”, and we stand by that advice. If everything is fine and smells like clean fabric, don’t worry about checking for suds at any point in your wash routine. However, if you have this problem of stink when peed in, check your suds. To do this with a front loader, clean the diapers as usual, then do a hot wash cycle with no detergent and then…

  1. If you have an HE machine, look at the glass during the wash cycle, do you see bubbles coming out?
  2. If you have a top loader, wait until you hear it going in the wash cycle (past the filling stage, then you hear it agitating everything around), then open the lid. Do you see bubbles formed (give it a minute or two to get washing)

If you see some soapy bubbles (not just little air bubbles from swishing fabric around), then you may have buildup. There are a few ways to strip diapers with this kind of buildup:

  1. If they aren’t too bad (and hopefully you can catch this early so you don’t get a lot of bacteria built up), doing 2-3 wash cycles with just hot water on CLEAN diapers (make sure you wash them first and then do this), should strip out the residue. Don’t do any cold pre-rinses, try to hit them with as much hot water as possible.If they are really stenchy, you may need bleach to strip them. Again, that link above has proper stripping techniques, please do not use Dawn dish soap to strip.
  2. Once they have been stripped of the detergent buildup, reductions in detergent are needed or a new detergent. IF you have very soft water, you CAN use an HE detergent in a regular machine. You can never use regular detergent in an HE machine, but you can use HE detergent in a regular machine with soft water, it is formulated to be low sudsing for HE machines, and will rinse easier. You have to be careful with detergent levels, too high and you get buildup, too low and you will get that bacteria left behind/stink out of the dryer problem. If you want help finding the right level of detergent or the right detergent, give us an email at AbbysLane@aol.com

Part of this problem also embraces ammonia. Old detergent buildup can trap old feces and urine, which can lead to ammonia odors. That being said….  There are two times when ammonia can be normal:

  1. 1) in the diaper pail, when you lift the lid, ammonia wafting can be normal.
  2. 2)in the morning diaper. When a diaper has been on for 8+ hours, it can smell of ammonia in the morning.

Remember, our bodies cannot tolerate ammonia internally, so we convert it to other byproducts. When urine leaves our body and meets air, it will start to convert back to ammonia salts (with or without bacteria present). If your baby pees early in the night, that is 8+ hours of urine salts sitting in a nice, warm, moist environment, so it will smell in the morning. Adding absorbency to break down the concentration will help, but especially as your baby ages that morning smell is normal. If your diapers smell fresh out of the dryer, and do not smell of stale urine within the first hour of being worn, your wash routine is otherwise fine.

Ammonia burn or chafing is *never* acceptable, it is something we work with many customers to fix, usually by fixing the wash routine or increasing absorbency/breathability depending on why the child is sensitive to the urine.

Ammonia isn’t present in urine until it leaves the body and meets air. The Urea that it is converted to internally is sterile until oxygen will start to convert it to ammonia, bacteria doesn’t always have to be present. We have had many customers who had ammonia odors in disposables they used, which obviously didn’t have detergent buildup and hadn’t been in play with bacteria long enough to build it up. There are lots of factors that can cause that “ammonia” smell, some will never encounter it at all unless these factors are in play. Heavy wetters will be more prone to the odor, if you have had a light wetter versus a heavy wetter, you know the difference between the volumes. When you start adding half an ounce of urine to each diaper change, or more, you are really increasing the urea output. Toddler urine is more complicated as well, more going into it, more coming out.

Additionally, if your baby pees when you put them down and it is a big one, you are getting several hours of a head start on this whole process, so the odors will be much stronger.

Imagine peeing on a tee shirt (fitted/prefolds), wrapping it in a plastic bag (cover) then leaving it for 8 hours, it would stink to high heaven when you opened the bag, on the flip side, if your had your 2 month old pee in a little tee shirt and did the same thing for 3 hours, the stench wouldn’t be nearly as much, hence the volume/concentration/age factors.

For the pail, it can vary based on lots of things, if you keep an open pail in a broom closet and wash toddler diapers every 3-4 days, your odors will be very different from a closed pail in a larger ventilated room washing every 1-2 days. Clean diapers will still do this in pails, it doesn’t matter how clean they are going in, if you have the right combination of volume and age in urine, it can produce the same effect. Additionally, remember a closed lid pail isn’t airtight, unless you vacuum seal it after each time you put a diaper in, you allow lots of air flow in the pail to open and close the lid every 90 minutes to a few hours, plus the lid itself doesn’t seal air out, so it is fine to have a closed-lid pail (this is beneficial for other reasons than containing odors, like keeping out bugs-yes it does happen-and exploring little children)

Nothing that harms a baby’s skin is ever normal, and needs to be corrected. If the wash routine is otherwise fine and you have stripped the diapers, sometimes increasing the absorbency does the trick, breaking down the concentration of urea leaving the body makes it less volatile on the skin. For some, they need more breathable options, since air still gets into PUL diapers you never have an airtight diapering system, but for some babies the extra air flow to their skin is what it needs to tolerate that old urine breathing back onto their skin.

For some babies, you need to explore eczema and other skin sensitivities, if you have skin that is already compromised to begin with, adding urine breathing onto it for 8+ hours is too much. Middle of the night changes, eczema ointments,other options can help. For “yeasty” babies cornstarch is great as a preventative measure (not during an outbreak, as it will feed the yeast, but on healed skin to prevent it is great), plus lots of air flow/naked time so the fungus has a hard time growing without the moist and dark conditions.

We relay this to our customers who have perfectly fresh diapers out of the dryer (meaning nothing bacterial is left behind from feces), and the diapers do not smell of stale urine when freshly peed in (indicates buildup and need to be stripped), and the only time they smell the ammonia odors, or “strong urine” odors is in the pail when they lift the lid to toss in a newly soiled diaper, or the morning diaper on from 8 hours prior. Remember, rashes or burns are not normal, please email us if you need help with these issues!

Some fun urine resource sites-LOL:

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