If your cloth diapers smell like ammonia as soon as your baby pees, or they are causing redness on your baby's skin, you may have an ammonia build-up. Buildup can also cause a weird skunky odor or even make diapers smell like they are messy as soon as they are wet.
*Note: Manufacturer's recommendations for washing cloth diapers vary, so please be sure that you follow their instructions to maintain your warranty - most have great customer service departments who are happy to help.*
Ammonia buildup on cloth diapers is usually due to one of three things:
1. Detergent buildup in the diapers. This is usually caused by using too much detergent or not the right kind of detergent. While many people have good luck with Tide or other mainstream detergents, for others these detergents cause buildup or rashes. Most detergents contain optical brighteners, enzymes, fabric softeners and other chemicals that build up on diapers. Stripping the diapers (info below) and changing detergents usually solves this problem. Two detergents I use and love are Allen's Naturally and Rockin' Green Soap. Both are inexpensive and rinse very cleanly.
2. Mineral buildup in the diapers. If you have hard water, minerals can build up in the fabric. Using a mineral remover such as RLR laundry treatment can help. Vinegar in every wash doesn't seem to solve this for most families and can be rough on your diapers. What has worked for us and for many of my local customers is this: fill your washer with the hottest water you can, add 3-4 cups of white vinegar, then add clean diapers. Soak overnight, then run a short wash cycle with just a little detergent.
3. Your diapers may not be getting clean enough. Sometimes adding a little more detergent is all you need. For others, you may need to change your wash routine. What works best for us is a cold rinse, followed by a hot wash with 1/4-1/2 the amount of recommended detergent, then two rinses. If stripping the diapers as described below does not help, you may need to increase the amount of detergent you use or switch detergent.
How to strip cloth diapers in a top loader washing machine:
* Wash diapers as usual. No need to dry them.
* Add 1-2 Tablespoons of dish detergent (blue Dawn works best) to your washer and wash diapers on hot. Soaking for a few hours can help too. DO NOT add extra detergent or use more than this amount, you will find yourself in a bad sitcom episode as you scoop up acres of bubbles.
* Rinse, rinse, rinse the diapers until there are no bubbles left when the machine agitates.
In a front loader, you will likely get way too many bubbles if you try this. So, soak the diapers in a sink, bucket or bathtub in a little dish detergent and hot water. Then rinse them as well as you can. Then run a hot wash cycle with no detergent and repeat until there are no bubbles left.
Sunlight is a great way to help keep odors and stains at bay. So line dry your diapers from time to time or every wash if you can.
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