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:

80 Responses to “Ultimate Diaper Care and Washing Guide”

  1. 1
    Sarah B says:

    Thanks for the info! I just have a couple questions…Is there a natural bleach you would recommend? Traditional bleach seems to really bother me (and give me headaches)
    Also, I am now finding myself in need of a diaper sprayer. What type would you recommend? I have read mixed reviews about the BumGenius model.

    • 1.1
      rktshot says:

      I have the BG sprayer and am not in love with it. The hanger the sprayer hangs on spins around now making it hard to put it back when you are holding onto a dripping diaper. Now sure how other models compare with this, but you barely have to turn it on and it sprays like crazy. If I don’t pay close attention, it is easy to start spraying the poop around the bathroom!

    • 1.2
      abbyslane says:

      You can try a color safe bleach that uses hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine (as in the regular clorox). For sprayers, we are really excited about the new FLO coming out from Blueberry (due this week), it has a shut off valve right at the nozzle, and it hangs on the side of the toilet :)

  2. 2

    Does it matter WHICH tide you use? My son and I are extremely allergic to Tide in its original fragrance and need everything to be free and clear of dyes and perfumes. Would the Ultra Tide Free & Gentle work just as well?

    • 2.1
      abbyslane says:

      Tide free is good, too! If you are sensitive to fragrance, tide free comes in HE liquid only, but we see many customers having success with it~

      • Leslie says:

        I’m just starting out with cloth diapers (1st baby due in June) and have been seeing so many different things about the All/Tide Free detergents that it’s driving me nuts. We currently have a top loading HE (in our rental) that we cannot use powders in. For some reason it doesn’t do well with powder detergents, and I can’t handle a lot of the dyes/fragrances in most detergents. I’ve been wondering if the All/Tide Frees would be okay for our cloth diapers (currently the stash consists of Alva, sunbaby and BGF).

    • 2.2
      Stephanie says:

      I regularly use liquid Tide Free to wash diapers and liquid All Free as well. I’ve been washing diapers for 13 years now and the first 7 years, we exclusively washed with liquid All Free due to allergies. We still own and use those fitteds and covers from 1999 and thankfully, we haven’t had build up.
      Personally, I’ve found the opposite that the liquids rinse out easier (our allergist also recommends using liquids over powders for those with allergies) but I know some have better results with powder. It can be tricky as water differs from area to area as well as different machines and the different fabrics diapers are made of. I’ve found the main key with any detergent, machine and fabric is to make sure you use enough detergent and make sure it’s rinsed all the way out.

  3. 3
    Katie S says:

    I’ve never dealt with stink issues, but only cloth diapered part time from about the time my son was 18 months until he potty trained, so not long enough for me to encounter many problems. So, being a little inexperienced, this was an incredibly informative and VERY helpful post! Thank you!!!!!

  4. 4
    Amie says:

    Awesome post – thank you! I cannot wait for next week’s post on “come out of the dryer smelling great but stink when peed in”…I’m dealing with that now and am starting to get frustrated!!

  5. 5
    tracy says:

    Shared the link for the sweepstakes on Facebook!

  6. 6
    Cynthia Cantu says:

    So glad to find straight-forward advice!

  7. 7
    -A says:

    You mentioned Rockin’ Green as being a detergent where the 2 TB rule actually applies. Have you found this to be true even in extremely hard water? We’ve been using the “Bare Naked Babies” variety with general success on our family’s sensitive skin. However, occasionally we have a wet dog/fishy smell crop up as well as the some ammonia smells/bright red bottoms. Am I correct in thinking these are caused by opposite problems of too much/too little detergent? If my wash routine doesn’t change why would this occur?

    • 7.1
      abbyslane says:

      Rockin Green users report to u success with anywhere from 1 tablespoon to 4 tablespoons, so there is a wide range of volume. Wet dog/fishy smell is usually indicative of bacteria with not enough being washed out, ammonia is usually too much. Even if the wash routine is the same, there are other variables, most notably number of diapers and content of diapers, if you have 3-4 poopies versus one, 15 diapers versus 22, that can affect things, too. If you haven’t found success with following our warm-hot-double rinse routine and varying the amounts to see if more/less helps, you may need to strip and/or try a new detergent

  8. 8
    Elyse A says:

    I have been using Tide Clear for coldwater. Should I stop using this? Also I usually do a coldwater wash cycle then follow with a hot rinse. Do you think this is sanitizing the diapers enough? So far I haven’t noticed any smells, but there is still staining.

    • 8.1
      admin says:

      Staining can be purely cosmetic, do they get better over time?

      • Falak says:

        My son was allergic to all Pamper type dipreas. The first month, I had diaper service. Was glad to get feeling better so I could do my own. They do get a bit expensive. He had a real sensitive bottom (and top).lol I just made sure he had plenty of cloth dipreas and I changed him every time he did anything in his pants. He never even sat with a wet diaper. His skin was to sensitive to take a chance, Besides, I would not have wanted to wear one, why should he?By the time he was walking he wanted to go to his pot. I just showed it to him and let him set on it. He told me when he was ready to use it.Cloth dipreas are a bit of work but It was much better I think.Just make sure you get them washed and rinsed really good. I washed in really hot water twice, and I rinsed them in warm water, twice. I used one of the old fashioned wringer washers.It was a trip!!

  9. 9
    Elyse A says:

    Also I was wondering about getting the diapers PH balanced. I was just looking into some diaper services to see if that would be cheaper than washing at home. I currently use GroVia, Rumparooz, OhKaty and Eco Revolution. I would have to use there diapers and would be a waste for what I have already started. My question is, these Diaper Service sites talk about getting the diapers PH balanced. What does this mean? Should I be trying to do this at home and are there any detergents that will achieve this?


    • 9.1
      abbyslane says:

      I honestly think it sounds a little “gimmicky” to me, I would worry about odors, not the PH 😉

      • Rodrigo says:

        I like the little g brand with the reaulbse cloth inserts However I also use the flushable inserts if we are traveling or I am leaving my son with his grandparents ect just to make life a little easier on them! I also like ! I am not a HUGE fan of s ( all in one’s) just because they seem to be SO bulky under clothes! It may be different if you had a girl and you were CD’ing under dresses ect.. however with a boy you are just putting them under pants and shorts and things! I have never used , but have heard good things about them.. my BEST advice would be to tell you to order maybe one or two of a hand full of different brands to try out then when you find the brand that works for you buy them all up!! Lol that way you are necessarily stuck with 300 dollars worth of cloth diapers that you hate!

    • 9.2
      krishna says:

      I have used one-size and I liked them; however, I didn’t start using them until my kids were older. I don’t know, anruod 3 months probably? Until then, you almost have to use something smaller. The one-size aren’t really going to work the whole time. They will work a whole lot of the time, but not the whole time. You’ll have difficulty getting them to fit a newborn. Now you never know, because it really depends on baby’s shape, not just weight, so you may be fine with them. But chances are you’ll need something smaller at first. You might want to consider disposables for the first few days, just because those first few poops are so gooey and nasty and just yuck. If you want something cheap to get you until the one-size fit, then just prefolds and covers are the way to go.

  10. 10
    Erika says:

    Thank you so much for all of this information. It is so useful for a mamma who is brand new in cloth diapering like me :-)

  11. 11
    Christi says:

    So very thankful for this info as a new cloth diapering Mommy!!

  12. 12
    Rebekah says:

    I’m just starting to use my cloth diapers–one or two a day–and am trying out different brands to see which ones work best for my son before I buy enough to use full-time. For now, I usually only have 1-3 in each load. I have been cleaning his soiled diapers the same way I treat his soiled clothes–rinsing out the poo, spraying with OxyClean if needed, and washing with Dreft (with the rest of his laundry). I know I’ll need to switch detergents and wash separately once I start using cloth but is this initial routine going to mean I need to strip these diapers? Am I doing any long-term damage to the diapers with this? The Dreft does not appear to include softeners and so far does not seem to be affecting absorbency as the only leaking problems I’ve had are with a specific brand of diaper and they seem to be coming out clean.

    • 12.1
      abbyslane says:

      Dreft is one of the worst-performing detergents we see over time, it is loaded with waxy fragrance oils and doesn’t clean well. If it is working for now that is fine, but when you start washing more I would look into a different detergent :)

  13. 13
    Rachael says:

    I read that bleach won’t kill yeast spores, but grapefruit seed extract will. I think we’ve had some yeast rashes (one was diagnosed by the pedi), and I’m eager to deal with it. I’ve used a bit of bleach on occassion, and just got some GSE to use. I’d love to hear your feed back.

    • 13.1
      abbyslane says:

      In our research we have found evidence that chlorine bleach does indeed kill yeast spores, and GSE is ineffective on all of the fungal infections, I would say to continue with the bleach (but if it keeps coming back, make sure you are investigating eczema as a underlying problem, and other ways to keep yeast from coming back, including probiotics, more breatheable fibers, etc..)

  14. 14
    .:karen:. says:

    We’ve been using about 1/4 capful of Planet Ultra in our top loader. Should we up it to 1/2 capful? I’m having a devil of a time getting the “poop-stink” out and even though I recently stripped everything with RLR, then boiled inserts, I’m still smelling pee out of the dryer (not crazy ammonia, but still, not clean).

    Also, we do a hot pre-soak but I don’t think my rinse cycle can be altered to anything other than cold. :(

    I’d love to get this taken care of this weekend. Cuz, yuck. 😛 Thanks in advance!

    • 14.1
      abbyslane says:

      That kind of stink is evidence of bacterial buildup, so I would absolutely increase the detergent amount ot the recommended level. I would also strip firstto make sure you start with a clean slate.

  15. 15
    Rachael says:

    I ran into that several months ago. The stink wasn’t too bad, and in fact, it was hubby who noticed it. I’ve played with detergent, upping it and changing it. First, I found using a bit more detergent helped, and now…. yes, gasp…. I’m using a tsp of tide. Yes, tide. A tsp doesn’t leave the diapers smelling like tide, and they seem much nicer smelling now. I have a front loader, and I’m using powdered tide, and using 1 tsp (1.5 tsp if a larger load).

    Hope that helps, Karen. I know stinky diapers are really frustrating!

  16. 16
    Stefanie says:

    All of the above applies to the actual diaper, right? I use BG 4.0 and have no problems with my diapers stinking, etc, but my inserts on the last wash seemed to not get fully cleaned. I made the mistake of loading the washer without putting the detergent in first and sprinkling it on top basically before it started filling up. I use a hot wash and 2 cold rinses, but some inserts seemed to be particularly stinky out of the dryer. I am assuming they were the worst poopy ones and just didn’t get enough detergent from my mistake. Any insight?

    • 16.1
      abbyslane says:

      It applies to everything, if just your inserts are problematic, you may need to wash those seperately with a higher level of deterent or bleach them periodicially~

  17. 17
    MT says:

    So if there are natural detergents (even few) that work..why not?

    The problem I have with Tide & other non-natural detergents is that they don’t list (& don’t have to) their ingredients….I have a major issue with this & putting it on my babies’ skin, esp. their private area. Disposables contain chemicals..why would I want to put chemicals on my cloth, a main reason for making the switch in the 1st place. Just sayin’..you said there IS an alternative, so Why not?

    • 17.1
      abbyslane says:

      Unfortunately over the years we have seen the natural detergents usually only work with regular (monthly) bleach use to disinfect the bacteria getting left behind. They work in that regards, meaning you still have a slow accumulation of bacteria (in many cases), which in our experience exposes children to bacteria problems. Our first concern is what those bacterial infections do to the child (staph and MRSA, impetigo, etc…). In the same way you wouldn’t put a shirt on your child that still had odors of throw up on it after they were sick, you should not be using diapers on your baby that have any odors at all. If you can get natural detergents to work for you without a slow odor buildup that is great, but we don’t advise that if you can use another detergent that cleans the diapers properly in the first place. For those who don’t want to use Tide or other mainstream detergents that is our advice~

  18. 18
    JB says:

    I just got a stock of BumGenius Elemental organic one-size AIO’s at a shower, and I want to make sure I pre-wash them correctly before using. I know I need to wash them 5-7 times to make them absorbent, but should I line dry them between washes, or put them in the dryer? or do I wash without drying in between? Still not clear on that. Also, it says to fasten diaper tabs to the laundry tabs, and I’m not sure which are the laundry tabs. I don’t see any separate tabs besides just the diaper snaps. Any help you could provide would be great!

    • 18.1
      abbyslane says:

      Dryer is fine, I would honestly advise just washing them with the household laundry 2-3 times, then they will get better with age :) Your elementals don’t have laundry tabs, those are just for velcro diapers :)

  19. 19
    Katie Palmer says:

    ok so I want to be sure that I am following this right on what I should do. My diapers are causing chronic yeast rash which at times turns into open skin at times. I have had to switch to huggies because pampers does not do well for her skin either. So I am thinking I need to strip my diapers. hot rinse, 1/3 cup bleach, 2 cold rinse?


  20. 20
    meghan says:

    I was trying to strip and got confused and put detergent (tide he) with the bleach and know even after 3 extra washes I still smell detergent any ideas?
    I also was in a hurrying trying to get other diapers clean since these still smell like detergent and but detergent in the prewash should i add some more for wash cycle or just wash on hot now?

    • 20.1
      abbyslane says:

      Smelling the detergent is fine, Tide will leave a scent behind, I wouldn’t worry about that :)

      • Jay says:

        I have read other articles that say diapers should smell like “nothing” when clean and that synthetic fragrances can react with a baby’s waste to create features, chemical burns, etc. What are your thoughts on this? Obviously since you and other diaper manufacturers recommend Tide and other scented detergents they must work, but I wonder about the conflicting recommendations.

        AND this is a great, thorough article.


  21. 21
    adrienne kendall says:

    what is your opinion of biokleen bac-out in the washer load of diapers? (HE machine). I have some, but haven’t tried it yet, and the web has all kinds of conflicting info on how to use it for diapers. Help!

    • 21.1
      abbyslane says:

      Bac Out is just an enzyme based product, since Tide has enzymes, many of our Tide users have no need for it, I would try it without first. If you aren’t using an enzyme based detergent, you may find it helpful as a pre-treat~

  22. 22
    .:karen:. says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! I have had some success, but still not a ton. I’ve moved away from the liquid Planet (only using that for our regular laundry) and am trying finish using up the Nellie’s powder we have.

    Today, as I’m washing my diapers, I still noticed even a bit of residual specs of poop on one diaper… Ugh.. yuck. :( I dump, then rinse in the utility sink, have added in a pre-rinse (no detergent), then 1 scoop of Nellie’s in a 15 or 30 min hot soak, hot wash, and TWO subsequent rinse cycles.

    Yuck, yuck, yuck. I am sunning the rest, they smelled fine, and am running the yucky one back thru with my regular laundry.

    So I should probably be picking up some Tide Free and Clear, huh? :p

    • 22.1
      .:karen:. says:

      Or maybe just Tide Ultra… Blergh… ;p

      • abbyslane says:

        It could be a fluke thing, if it happens on a regular basis then I would say maybe a switch is needed. If it is once in a blue moon, I would wash again and not worry about it if they are otherwise clean~

  23. 23
    shana says:

    From a recommendation of a friend who also cloth diapers, she recommended GSE to deal with stink. I had the issue a couple of times but after putting them in a wash with GSE the smell was gone.

    • 23.1
      abbyslane says:

      GSE is a natural disinfectant and antifungal, it can help if the oil doesn’t interfere with the rest of the routine, but if your wash routine is working there shouldn’t be a need for it`

  24. 24
    Cynthia Cantu says:

    We are having a little bit of stink after drying and a lot of stink with wet ones. I read that I need to scrub my pocket diapers in order to completely strip them. Of course, I read on your post that I shouldn’t use DAWN, but should I follow these guidelines otherwise? Are pockets really different?

    “Stripping Fleece Pocket Diapers
    Synthetic materials like fleece often don’t rinse out very well. This can cause pocket diapers to have an odor and the build up can cause them to repel which will result in leakage. Using diaper creams without using a liner against the fleece can also cause repelling issues. In this case, there is a little bit more labor involved.

    If you find that your pocket diapers need stripping you need to do it by hand. First soak the pocket diapers in hot water with some dawn dish soap for about 30 minutes. Then take a soft scrub brush and scrub the entire layer of fleece both inside and out. Then wash the pocket covers in the washer until you don’t see any soapy residue left in the water.”

    • 24.1
      abbyslane says:

      We don’t recommend Dawn, if you have stink from old bacteria, we do recommend stripping with chlorine bleach, or if you have cotton print diapers, color safe bleach~

  25. 25
    Katie T says:

    So, I’m having some mild stink issues out of the dryer. I use mostly prefolds and BG elementals. Only a few pockets, and I just bought some Thirsties AIOs, but have not yet prepped them. They smell fine when I put them in the dryer, but once they come out of the dryer, the smell funny. Not like poop or pee, but more like a mild wet-dog smell, or like when you’re at the beach and you hang dry your beach towel on the balcony before it gets washed. hope that makes sense.

    I share a washer with my in-laws. They have a top loader, HE machine, and they use homemade detergent. I use All (technically Kirkland – the Costco version) Free & Clear for all our laundry, since I have sensitive skin. I also use this on the diapers. I’m just recently having the stink issues after doing this for four months. Bear with me as I share a bit here.

    About a month ago, my mother-in-law noticed a couple of her kitchen towels felt slimy after they’d been washed. I asked her if she was using a smaller amount of her homemade detergent since she has an HE machine. She said no and asked why. I explained about the lower sudsing HE detergents bc the machines use less water. We ran those towels through with no detergent and lifted the lid at one point and saw suds. This led me to believe there is soap buildup in the washer. As a preemptive measure, I bought some RLR and stripped all my diapers once they were clean. They didn’t smell after that. But now they’re back to having just a slight off smell.

    Any idea what could be causing the smell? Like I said before, it’s not super strong, and it’s not a pee or a poop smell. I started using a little more detergent to make sure I get all the waste off (still not a full cap, though, since my prefolds recommend only using half the amount called for), and I always have done an extra rinse. And I set to the heaviest soil level, so I can get more water. Warm pre-wash, hot cycle, 2 rinses. I’m assuming the rinses are cold, not sure how to check that on this machine. Also, I bought organic, unbleached prefolds for a reason, so I’d love to find an alternative to chlorine bleach. Thanks for the help!

    • 25.1
      abbyslane says:

      If it is a wet-dog smell, my guess is mildew combined with detergent buildup. Is your detergent liquid or powder?

      • Katie T says:

        liquid. but it doesn’t smell that way going into the washer or into the dryer. I’ve noticed some of our clothes smelling that way, and I’m wondering if it’s our water. Sometimes the tap (even after being filtered by a Brita pitcher) tastes funny in the summer when it the lakes get really hot and we have this algae thing. and it’s not every diaper in the load, either. Last wash cycle I kept rinsing them until I saw no suds (was only a couple extra rinses), so there may have been a little buildup. I wash every other day bc I had a mildew problem early on when I waited too long (ruined a couple prefolds), but I don’t let it get that long. i just really don’t want to use chlorine bleach. And I’ve sunned them on occasion, but even that was weird one time, in that the ones that went through the dryer smelled fine and the ones on the line got that wet-dog smell. and they hadn’t been rained on or left out several days. it was super weird.

  26. 26
    emily says:

    You say to use up to line 3 on the Tide powder cup for the wash cycle. How much do you put in for the pre-wash section. My washing machine (He Front Loader) manual says to use half the amount. Does that sound right? THANKS!

  27. 27

    […] Ultimate Cloth Diaper Care Resource Page by Cloth That Counts.  This page is written by Stephanie of Abby’s Lane.  It covers everything from the basics of how to wash cloth diapers to troubleshooting some of the most complicated issues.  Got Ammonia?  Rash?  Weird smelling diapers?  Repelling?  This blog post is one of the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen.  Definitely should be bookmarked! […]

  28. 28
    Pearl Spinharney says:

    I have one size bum genius, and I thought I needed to wash and rinse cold… do I need to wash hot?? I didnt want to ruin the outside cover… thank you so much!!

  29. 29
    Kaitlin says:

    Hi, I found this helpful, but I’m wondering if maybe this thing I’ve been thinking is a rash is a burn, but I’ve never heard of an ammonia burn from cloth! Can you email me and maybe we can sort this out? I’ve been pulling my hair out for weeks trying to figure this whole thing out. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

    • 29.1
      abbyslane says:

      Hi Kaitlin, you can reach us at AbbysLane@aol.com, let me know your diaper choices, wash routine in detail, and if you have a picture of the rash (with a wipe covering the baby’s privates), attach it as well~

  30. 30
    Jenn G says:

    Love this post! I’ve never seen any info like it but it seems to make sense. I am currently using Allen’s detergent (and have been for a while) for my diapers and it works great, but I wash everything else with Seventh Generation detergent. Do you have any experience with using SG detergent on Diapers?

  31. 31
    elizabeth medlang says:

    how many diapers do you wash in a load? i wash 10-12 at a time in a top-load HE. should i be using at the 3 line, too? just started using tide

  32. 32

    […] and this: http://www.cloththatcounts.com/?p=997 I also add about 10 – 15 drops of GSE (grapefruit seed extract) to every wash as well. I really […]

  33. 33

    […] for talking about washing and stripping diapers, which has been a great help! There is a good deal of great information in this, so read it […]

  34. 34
    Andrea McNeil says:

    I recently read the referenced Bummis post on warm prewash and noticed it mentioned using Oxy bleach for “hygienically clean” diapers. Is this something we should do every wash even if diapers smell clean out of dryer? Is this product called oxy clean?

  35. 35

    […] EC I will be using cloth diapers, so here is a page I found about cloth diapers and cleaning them. http://www.cloththatcounts.com/?p=997 Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like […]

  36. 36
  37. 37

    […] The Ultimate Diaper Care Resource Page […]

  38. 38
  39. 39
  40. 40
    Amanda Stano says:

    Wow WoW WOWWW! This is seriously everything I would ever need to ask in one post. No need to scramble around through different pages to find exactly what I need! THANK YOU! I will be bookmarking this one!

  41. 41
    ABP says:

    Perhaps you can help me troubleshoot:
    I just want to wash my diapers and use them. I was afraid this would happen and it has. My routine is not working. I’ve been CDing for 1-2 months with a now 2 year old. But I think ammonia is hurting my child’s skin and microfiber inserts just don’t smell clean (if I really smell them up close or out of the dryer).

    Here are the details:

    — I use Country Save detergent.
    — I have only 11 diapers and wash about 6-10 per load every 3 days.
    — I first rinse the diapers first.
    — I wash on hot with anywhere from 2 T of Country Save to the full scoop (~1/4 c) and neither has made a difference.
    — Then I rinse by doing a full wash without detergent.
    — This whole time my washer water level is set to “Medium”
    — Occasionally I toss in other clothes to bulk up the contents for more fabric rubbing together, but I don’t always have clothes I want to wash right then.
    — Our water is on the medium or low end of “Hard water” so it’s hardness is not a huge issue as far as I can tell.
    — I’m not opposed to bleach and I have bleached a couple of times (mainly when I’ve gotten new-to-me-used diapers)
    — Sometimes my child’s diaper stink like ammonia right away upon diaper change, other times they smell clean and only like fresh urine.
    — My microfiber inserts almost always smell stinky right out of the dryer or after they have sat around dry for a bit.

    If the solution means long term use of extra ‘stuff’ to wash with or frequently rinsing 100 times…then I might have to back out of CDing altogether. But if I can find a simple solution that doesn’t require a boat load of water for a few diapers or spendy detergent, I will continue on! Please advise!

  42. 42
    Jennifer Austring says:

    Ammonia Burns:

    Now that my boy is sleeping through the night more frequently (he is 18mos), we have had three cases of Ammonia burn on his bottom. His night time diapers don’t always smell of ammonia in the morning, but when they do it is pungent! He has always been a heavy wetter. I use three inserts (two organic cotton and one cotton/hemp blend). Some nights he will wake up and I will change him. I have been reading a lot on getting the ammonia out of the diapers, but from your article, it seems that the problem is more the volume that he is peeing at night. I don’t want him to continue getting sores on his bottom, especially because we haven’t ever had an issue with diaper rash! Help!!

  43. 43

    Thanks for these suggestions! I’m cloth diapering my newborn and figuring out a routine for my front loader HE machine has been annoying. I am giving your recommendation a try right now.

  44. 44
    Leslie says:

    I was given some prefold for my newborn stash but no snappis or pins. how necessary are they for a newborn if I have good fitting covers? He will be here no later than Tuesday and I’m concerned about getting some in time if I can get away without them.

  45. 45
    Carly Van Hook says:

    This is helpful! Thanks!

  46. 46
    Johne701 says:

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me &amp my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such wonderful info being shared freely out there. fkeebecdegcg

  47. 47
  48. 48

    Admiring the hard work you put into your blog and in depth information you provide.

    It’s great to come across a blog every once in a
    while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed
    material. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my
    Google account.

  49. 49
    Ashley Archer says:

    My son is 9 months old and I’ve just decided to cloth diaper. This is the best article I’ve read yet on cleaning. Thanks Abby’s Lane for taking the time to write this.

  50. 50

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