How To Remove Odors From Cloth Diapers

How To Remove Odors From Cloth Diapers

Stinky diaper

Help! I Have Stinky Diapers!

These days, cloth diapers are all the rage. They're typically considered more environmentally friendly and economical than disposable diapers, but who wants an ammonia smell or barn smell on their baby's diapers?! Of course, you want them to smell clean!

If your cloth diapers stink of ammonia, it could be your wash routine that's to blame. In this post, we'll explore some of the reasons why your cloth diapers stink, and how to solve the problem.

It could be something as simple as the amount of detergent used or an extra rinse cycle! If your cloth diapers smell, read on...

Why Do Cloth Diapers Stink?

Why?

Cloth diapers can be a great way to reduce your environmental impact and save money, but they can also smell pretty bad. Why do my clean diapers stink?? This is because cloth diapers tend to trap more moisture than disposable diapers, which can create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.

If they are not cleaned properly, they can take on an ammonia smell or barnyard smell caused by the bacteria that grow in the wet and warm environment of the diaper. If not cleaned regularly, this bacteria can cause diaper rash on your baby's skin.

Ammonia Smell

If there is a strong ammonia smell, part of your problem could be urine residue. How do you know if you have urine residue?

Here are a few symptoms: If you have urine smell on diapers fresh out of the wash, your baby has diaper rash (ammonia in the diaper can burn tender baby skin!), and they smell clean out of the laundry, but like ammonia after the first pee.

Ammonia residue usually builds up when you don't use enough detergent or the water isn't hot enough to wash and rinse your diapers clean. If there is too little of either, the urine is diluted, instead of being rinsed away. It's recycled in the wash and dries onto the fabric, causing an ammonia odor.

"Barnyard Smell"

If you have a barnyard stink, it is probably because your diapers are not getting cleaned thoroughly. Barnyard smell is usually kind of a musty poop scent--obviously different people will use the term differently, but in general, that's what it means!

The barnyard smell is often noticed after you've removed cloth diapers from the dryer. This is because the heating process of the dryer activates bacteria particles still in your cloth diapers, creating a strong cloth diaper stink.

A lot of times you won't smell it out of the washing machine, but when they come out of the dryer the heat makes the smell more apparent.

Clean cloth diapers should not smell, period! If you're having issues with barn smell, something is wrong with your wash routine and must be corrected.

Top 5 Tips For Preventing Cloth Diaper Odors

Top 5 Tips
1. Quick Change!

The faster you change your baby's diaper and get it rinsed out, the better. The longer the urine sits on the cloth, the more it will break down, dig in, and cause ammonia odors.

A great way for a quick and thorough pre-rinse is a diaper sprayer that connects right to your toilet so you can use a high-pressure spray to remove all the waste and flush that stinky diaper smell away.

2. Soak It Away...

After the rinsing, many parents choose to let the diapers soak overnight or for at least six hours. This helps to remove any residual urine or feces that may be on the diapers, and it also helps to prevent stains from setting in.

There are a number of ways to soak cloth diapers overnight, but one simple method is to place the dirty diapers in a bucket of water before going to bed. In the morning, simply drain the bucket and wash the diapers as usual. Soaking overnight may seem like an extra step, but it can make a big difference in keeping your cloth diapers clean and fresh.

If you have particularly strong-smelling diapers, such as night diapers, can try spraying the cloth diaper with an enzyme cleaner before putting them in your diaper pail as a preventative measure.

3. Diaper Pail Etiquette

Keep your diaper pail in a cool, dry place. While it may seem natural to keep your pail in the bathroom or laundry room, these areas tend to be higher in heat and humidity, which can affect the environment within your pail. The cooler and dryer you can keep your diapers before wash day, the better.

While you may think opening the pail will just make odors more noticeable inside the home, leaving the lid cracked will increase circulation and reduce smells. Air circulation helps decrease stink. You should also wipe out the pail with a nontoxic disinfectant regularly.

4. Detergent Dilemma

Too much detergent or too little when you wash diapers can lead to ammonia buildup and the smell that comes with it. Overusing detergent can cause detergent buildup and lead to a detergent residue which can actually increase odors and also cause rashes.

Wash diapers with just use the amount specified in the directions. Too little detergent could mean your diapers stink. This can cause particles to remain in your diapers, even after washing. The trick is to find the measured sweet spot and use the recommended detergent amount on the package.

It is also important to use a detergent that is designed for a cloth diaper--otherwise, it might be too harsh on baby's skin.

Note: it's best to avoid scented products. Scented products can attempt to mask the bad odors, but they can also cause irritation. It is best to avoid scented products altogether. A weak or homemade detergent may not thoroughly clean at each washing.

5. Here Comes the Sun...

If you are able to, hanging your baby's diapers outside in the sunshine and fresh air is a great way to eliminate that ammonia smell. The sun is a natural disinfectant, stain remover, and whitener. The sun's natural ultraviolet rays kill bacteria and help to disinfect the diapers.

Note: You can also let your diaper pail dry in the sun to help with odors.

If hanging diapers out to dry doesn't work for you, try adding a few drops of lemon essential oil to your dryer cycle to help with odors.

To Bleach or Not To Bleach? (That is the Question)

There seems to be a bit of controversy about whether or not to bleach cloth diapers--as with anything, experiment with both bleach and non-bleach solutions and see which one works best for you.

Although it is possible to buy bleaching agents specifically for cloth diapers, it is often just as effective to use a more natural bleaching agent, such as lemon juice or vinegar.

For a small load of diapers, add 1/4 cup of lemon juice or vinegar to the wash water. For a large load, add 1/2 cup. You can also add a cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to help remove any lingering smells.

If your diapers are very stained, you may need to soak them in a solution of 1 part lemon juice or vinegar to 10 parts water for a couple of hours before washing. Once you have bleached your diapers, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove any residue.

It's just as easy to make your own bleach solution too. Simply mix one part bleach with 32 parts water, and soak your diapers for no more than 30 minutes. You can then rinse them in cold water and allow them to air dry. When used properly, bleaching can help to keep your cloth diapers looking like new.

Should I Strip Cloth Diapers?

How to strip

Stripping cloth diapers is an efficient way to rid them of any smells or buildup that may occur. If your cloth diapers are not absorbing, they are probably in need of stripping. Stripping diapers is the process by which you remove all buildup and residue (and hopefully diaper smell) from your diapers.

To strip your diapers, start with clean cloth diapers. Set your washer to its highest wash setting and wash using NO detergent and HOT water. Once your diapers have finished washing, run a rinse cycle in HOT water (not warm water!). Repeat rinse cycle until no more bubbles remain.

Quick Strip Tips:

Some moms swear that Dawn dish soap really helps to strip your diapers and helps remove that ammonia/urine smell--add one tablespoon to your diaper wash.

You can add a packet of RLR Detergent for the "RLR Diaper Soak" technique to strip cloth diapers. With RLR, you will add one packet for every 30 diapers you are stripping to a bathtub or top loading washing machine filled with hot water.

The diapers should be agitated slightly, then left to soak for at least six hours. When you are done, run the water through several hot rinses with no detergent until most of the bubbles are gone.

You can make your own diaper soak solution by mixing 3 tablespoons each of Borax, Calgon, and washing soda. Note: Washing soda is NOT the same as baking soda--it is sodium carbonate (or soda ash), a natural cleaner and a powerful water softener.

Testing...Testing...

The minerals in hard water can build up in your cloth diapers, causing detergent to work less effectively. This means your cloth diapers stink and ammonia is trapped in them. Finding out if you have hard water is easy!

You can purchase a water testing strip online or at a hardware store or even use a strip that tests the water in fish tanks. The test takes less than 10 seconds to perform and can save you a world of headaches.

If the test strip identifies hard water, you might want to add a water softener, such as Calgon or Borax, to your wash cycles to keep the stench away.

Water softeners will help prevent mineral buildup in your diapers and allow them to be properly cleaned in the wash.

Note: soft water usually requires less detergent--more detergent will cause too many soap suds so you might have to experiment a little to find the perfect amount and avoid detergent buildup.

Fabrics Softeners?

Another reason your cloth diapers stink could be the product you're using to remove the odors. Items such as fabric softeners can leave a film and trap odors. They cause buildup that prevent the detergent from getting to the cloth diaper. Does your detergent have fabric softeners added? You might want to check!

Smelly Diapers Are Dirty Diapers

Remember, if your cloth diapers stink, it is often the first indication of improper washing. Trying to cover that warning sign with scents and perfumes means your baby will probably end up with diaper rash and the cloth diaper odor will continue until your wash routine has been remedied.

In Conclusion

If your diapers smell it can be a challenge, but it is not impossible to get rid of. With the right products and washing routine, the ammonia smell will be gone and you can have fresh-smelling diapers in no time.

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