Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cloth-Diaper Laundering Questions?

I've been noticing that our Little Man's cloth diapers smell – especially when he's wet.

The BumGenius diapers smell the worst. In all fairness to them, we use them on the longest stretches (nights and naps) because they hold most and best. (I've listed the variety of cloth diapers we own and use in an earlier post.)

I'm wondering...

Does "hard water" cause cloth diapers to keep a residue (of ammonia)? The diapers do smell like ammonia. The water here at the house (where we've been staying for two months and will be for another month) comes from an underground spring; it's referred to as "mineral water" and leaves white chalk-like deposits on sinks, etc.

What do you do if you don't have a "sanitize" option for wash cycles? What do you do if the washer doesn't even fill with hot water? The water in the washer here is heated as diapers sit in it. As you might imagine, a hot wash cycle takes a very long time! Could my using the quicker setting at times (with warm instead of hot water, for instance) be contributing to some kind of build-up?

Here's my cleaning routine:

We rinse the diapers right away and put them in the wet bag. We wash them (at least) every other day. We start the laundering with a cold rinse (and often two cold rinses). We wash (using Charlie's Soap) in hot water (but, as stated above, the water gets heated in the washer). The wash cycle is followed by two cold rinses. We usually dry the diapers in the dryer, but I do line dry them when our schedule and the weather permit.

We've never used bleach, fabric softeners, or any other items forbidden for cloth diapers. Once in a while, we have spot treated poo stains with Spray & Wash or an equivalent. And we have used diaper rash cream sparingly and with a barrier.

Any tips?


  1. I haven't solved my smell problem, but it has improved. I started noticing they were smelling bad, and everyone says it's detergent build-up. That's not what they smelled like, but I finally took "their" word for it. To get my water hot enough, I heated large pots on the stove. I dumped in boiling water. The first couple of times, I was surprised at how bubbly the water was after 2 hot rinses. I've since cut down on detergent (like I use about 2 teaspoons) and I do a boiling water rinse (or 2) every time. I don't always begin with a hot rinse. Warm or cold usually as long as the wash water and later rinses are hot.
    And dry thoroughly whichever way you dry.

    Hope you get it figured out! Miss you guys.


  2. Thanks so much, Andrea. Your tip from the front lines is invaluable! ;o)

    I'm working on some *very* hot rinses right now...

  3. I would DEFINITELY recommend that at some point you get some HOT water on those diapers. Can you boil a pot of water and pour it in right at the beginning of the wash cycle? That might help disinfect and get out the ammonia.
    Also, reconsider what spray & wash solution you are using. That could be sticking in the diapers and causing buildup.

  4. Thanks, Julie! I've been working on HOT rinses. It's probably too early to tell (only two or three washes later), but I think I'm beginning to notice a difference...