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The Stinkies and How We Cope

One of the common misconceptions about cloth diapers is that they stink more than disposables. Generally, cloth diapers that are thoroughly washed on a frequent basis do not stink. However, particularly with the super-absorbent, wicking, man-made materials used in many modern cloth diapers, there is the propensity for build-up - of soap, bacteria, whatever. And build-up leads to stink. If you read the cloth diaper message boards there are pages and pages of problems, ideas, remedy suggestions, complaints, and so on. The problem is that not every stink is created the same. Your hard water may be the culprit, or you may be using too much soap, or not enough, or the wrong kind. You may need to add vinegar to your rinse cycle, or stop adding vinegar, turn up the temp. in your hot wash, wash more frequently, or spray off poopies before putting the diaper in the pail. You can try bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or oxy-clean. What works for you might not work for someone else with different water, soap, or diapers. So, if you are wondering what to do because your diapers are not smelling quite right (either they smell faintly when they come out of the wash, or they smell too strong once wet by your child), know that you are not alone and there is a solution out there, but it may take some experimenting to find it.

So, you may ask, have Mommy and Sweet Pea ever experienced this diaper stink problem? Nah. Well, maybe every once in a while. OK, OK, we have had on-and-off problems for the last couple of months and I hadn't taken the time to really work on it. After our babysitter started putting the wetbag out on the back porch, I realized we really needed to deal with it. I did some research and found a lot of great ideas.


DiaperSwappers of course, borntolove.com, and the Cotton Babies blog all have good information on dealing with stinky diapers. I'm not going to repeat all that they have to tell you. Instead, I'm going to share how we have dealt with our particular stink issue.

Our brand of stink was an ammonia smell coming from the diapers as soon as Sweet Pea wet. Based on my research, I found that this was probably caused by bacteria within the diaper inserts that was not getting completely washed away, and reacting with the urine. Our diapers smelled clean coming out of the dryer, but terrible once wet.

  1. First, I stopped using Arm and Hammer powder. I read that they changed the formula to have more washing soda than it used to. 
  2. Next, I did a wash cycle with hydrogen peroxide to eliminate bacteria hiding in the diapers. I have used bleach in the past but it only worked for a couple of wash cycles and I found I was using it more often that I liked. Hydrogen peroxide also kills bacteria, but is not as harsh as bleach.
  3. Then I added white vinegar back to my initial rinse routine. I had run out a while ago, and didn't buy any more when our diapers seemed fine for the next few loads. However, I think the vinegar really does aid the rinse-out process for us and am glad to have it back in our routine. Besides, it's only $2.00 for a big bottle so there's not much to lose. 
  4. Finally, I have started adding a pot or two of hot water (boiling or nearly boiling) to the wash cycle, every couple of washes. Hot water helps to kill the bacteria, but I didn't want to turn up our water heater since Sweet Pea loves to turn on faucets right now. Some people have even boiled their diapers when they have encountered really bad stink issues but that sounded like a lot of work to me. 

So far, the above methods seem to have knocked out the ammonia, and the diaper pail is back in Sweet Pea's room. For a while, we were keeping it in the bathroom. I am glad to have it back in her room right next to the changing table, and still be able to walk into the room while breathing through my nose!

What's your experience with diaper stink? Does it ruin the cloth diaper experience for you? Have you been able to successfully avoid it or combat it?

Comments

  1. Just putting mine in the sun for a day or 2 does the trick for me. Sunlight kills bacteria... no chemicals or extra process, and it's free! They don't have to dry in the sun, or even be wet. Often I stick them outside when they are already dry (especially in the winter).

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