Cloth Diapering FAQs

Aug 242012
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At some point in your cloth diapering adventure your love affair with fluff has likely hit a few speed bumps when it comes to odor. I don’t mean the usual odor that results from baby wetting or soiling a diaper. I’m talking about diapers that smell after you just gave them a good washing (what the heck??) or diapers that reek of ammonia right after your baby pees in them.

So what’s causing the abnormal smells? Probably one of these three things:

Your wash routine
Detergent residue (from using too much, using the wrong kind, or not rinsing it out thoroughly)
The kind of water you have

Fortunately, all three of these problems are relatively simple to fix, so you can (literally) make a fresh start!

Problem #1 – Here are a few things to try. First, don’t wait more than 3 days to wash dirty diapers. Secondly, do a pre-rinse/express wash with warm or hot water before your main wash. Add a second rinse to the main wash.

Problem #2 – Try less detergent if you see suds in your final rinse. Try a little more detergent if wet diapers don’t smell good when you take them out of the washer. A change in brand might be in order. You might consider switching to Tide Original or another detergent with high marks from veteran cloth-diapering moms. Avoid Free & Clear detergents.

Problem #3 – Very hard water might benefit from Calgon Water Softener, or a water softening system in your home. Why is it difficult to get diapers clean in very hard water? Because of the high mineral content, most of the detergent you pour in the machine is working on softening the water instead of cleaning the diapers!

When all else fails, try a good old-fashioned diaper stripping. Here’s my method: Load diapers in the washer. Run a pre-rinse with hot water. Run a regular wash with hot water, Dawn Original (the blue dish liquid) – use 1 T for top loaders and 1 tsp. For HE – and up to a ½ cup of bleach. Do 1 or 2 rinses, or until there are no longer any bubbles.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, too. Adding just a “splash” of bleach to your regular wash cycle every once in a while is GREAT for banishing and preventing diaper odor.

Hope you find something here to help fight the dreaded diaper stink. Don’t let it win!


Have you dealt with stubborn stink in your cloth diapers? How do YOU get rid of it?

**Please be aware that using chlorine bleach may void your warranty on some brands of cloth diapers. While Bumgenius actually recommends a monthly bleaching, other manufacturers do not.


Anne is a cloth diapering, home schooling, hobby farming and just all-around busy mother of six, with one on the way in January. She is the creator of the Zephyr Hill Blog and works from home as a professional naming consultant through her business Discovery Naming Service.

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 August 24, 2012  Add comments

  3 Responses to “Stinky Diapers: How to Fight Back!”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I thought bleach was strictly forbidden for cloth diapers and that I had to use free and clear detergents. Now maybe I can finally get rid of that fishy odor that’s always left behind on my dipes. I’ll try a splash of bleach in my next load and if that doesn’t work I’ll use the stripping method posted above.

  2. I’m scared of bleach! Chlorine bleach? I tried peroxide, which is kinder all around, but it faded some of my dipes! I know it doesn’t affect function but I imagine it would affect resale.

  3. This is always a good reminder. I am going to have to try the splash of bleach once in a while because maybe it would help to make those stripping sessions farther apart. And, I did not know about the naming service. Very cool!

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