Stinky Cloth Diapers - Homewood,IL

Updated on February 28, 2010
J.G. asks from Homewood, IL
16 answers

i love the cloth diapers that my son uses. They seem to wash up fine and i don't smell anything when I take them out of the dryer and fold them. But once they're on him for just a few minutes, they get an odor. I imagine I just need to freshen them up but I have a HIGH EFFICIENCY WASHER so I'm not sure exactly how to proceed. Any suggestions?

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answers from Decatur on

soak them in the machine with a cup of vinegar, then a regular wash cycle with a cup of baking soda. Did the trick for me.



answers from Chicago on

I used Bac-Out - a spray that I would spray on the diapers before putting them in the wetbag. I never had a problem with stinky diapers when using it. You can get it at Whole Foods.

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answers from Cincinnati on

Several things can lead clean diapers to smell - vinegar in the rinse, A&H detergent, too long between washing, soaking in poopy water, hot rinses, too much laundry detergent, dirty diapers not unrolled, polyester, hard water, washing soda, overloading the washer and diaper rash remedies.
Let's talk about these different factors:

1) Vinegar rinse:
Some parents find that if they use vinegar in the rinse water, everything stinks! According to a recent poll, it seems not to matter whether you have hard or soft water, vinegar can still cause or solve your problem. There didn't seem to be more one than the other. Vinegar seems to work in some water conditions, but not others. It could also depend on what other minerals are in your water. For example, there could be a lot of iron in your water, but another family could have higher sulphur.
Your best bet is that if you are currently using vinegar, and have stinky diapers, stop and see if it makes a difference? If you aren't using vinegar and have stinky diapers, give it a try.
If you are using vinegar, 1/4 to 1/2 cup is all you need. Adding too much vinegar might be your stinky diaper problem!
2) Arm and Hammer detergent:
It contains too much washing soda, which is causing problems for many parents with very hard water. Arm and Hammer recently changed their ingredients. Not only are parents suddenly complaining that their diapers stink after washing, but moms of little boys are finding terrible rashes on their baby's privates.
3) Too Long Between Washing:
Diapers really need to be washed about every two to three days. If that isn't possible for you, it would be better if you rinsed out at least the poopy diapers, or used diaper liners. If you are soaking in a diaper pail, make sure to change the soak water every day. If you can only wash once a week, try rinsing even the pee diapers before storing.
4) Soaking in Poopy Water:
If you are soaking un-rinsed poopy diapers in a diaper pail, doing a long soak in the washer, or washing the diapers in the soak water - you are probably soaking the stink right into the diaper fabric! If you are soaking your diapers, don't add your polyester diaper covers. Store and wash them separately.
The best thing would be to rinse out all poopy diapers before putting them into the pail. If you can't, try to wash your diapers every other day, or every day, if possible. Rinse out the soak water before running the diapers through a pre-wash.
5) Hot Rinses:
Hot water not only can set stains, but it can lock in the smell too. Try a cold pre-wash, a hot wash, then a cold rinse to clean your diapers thoroughly.
6) Too Much Laundry Detergent:
Most detergent companies advise you to use way more detergent than you really need. If the detergent is not thoroughly rinsed out, it holds onto smells, and when baby pees - look out! That combination of too much detergent, old urine and new is a eye-tearing knock-out! If this is your problem, run your diapers through several wash cycles, without adding anything to the water. Keep washing till the water runs clear - no bubbles. (No need to dry them in-between.) After you get your diapers completely detergent-free (you may be shocked at how many washes it will take!), cut back to at least half the amount of detergent you were previously using, even 1/4 if you feel brave enough. You only need to break the water surface, not create a mountain of bubbles!
7) Dirty Diapers Not Unrolled:
Do you roll your diapers up into a tight ball, and then toss them into the diaper pail? Unless you take each diaper and "snap" them open as you load the washing machine, they may not be opening up inside the washer. As a result the diapers are not being properly cleaned, through all the layers. This is especially important with thick fitted and all-in-one diapers.
8) Polyester:
Polyester is famous for holding in smells. Check to see if your diapers or covers have polyester in them. Even a small amount can be a problem. Mother-ease diapers and covers and Bummis Super Industrial Wraps are often the stinky diapers and covers in question. Here's what Betsy, manufacturer of Bummis, says: "We advise people with stinky diapers and covers is wash them with a hydrogen peroxide based product - it neutralizes the acidity which is the main problem with stinky diapers and covers. Older kids have really acidic urine - and it stinks!! Vinegar is acidic as well, so it will only exacerbate the problem."
9) Hard Water:
Dr. Bonners, or other vegetable-based soaps don't seem to be working for some with very hard water. Many users have complained that their diapers are just not coming clean! It seems that some with hard water need to avoid vinegar in the rinse water, and find that baking soda works better for getting rid of smells. According to a recent poll, vinegar can still cause or solve your problem, so you will need to experiment. (See Vinegar above)
10) Washing Soda:
This may only apply to those with very hard water, I have heard over and over that washing soda will ruin your diapers. If you feel you must using it, just 1/8 to 1/4 cup per wash load is all you need. Baking soda works great for helping odors and freshening things up.
11) Overloading the washing machine:
Make sure you aren't overloading your washer. Those diapers need lots of room to move around to get clean. An optimal load is 24 diapers, plus any wash-able liners, doublers and cloth wipes. Too many diapers stuffed in there and your diapers just won't come clean.
12) Diaper Rash Remedies:
Desitin diaper cream contains cod liver oil and is often the culprit when diapers smell fishy! Penaten, plain zinc oxide or Balmex works great. Plain zinc oxide doesn't stain or create stinky diapers, and it will wash right out.
If you already have a problem with Desitin damage on your diapers, soak in the diapers in a strong detergent solution for a few days. Then wash with detergent and 1 cup of baking soda. Dry your diapers in the sun for a day or so, and wash them again as you normally would.

* Toss those stinky diapers right back into the washing machine!
* Wash them through several washing cycles with nothing added, till the water runs clear - no bubbles. No need to dry between cycles.
* Dry your diapers - outside in the sun if at all possible... all day long is good!
* If they smell wonderful again, then simply follow the Let's Keep It That Way! washing method below next time you wash your diapers.

Diapers still stink?? Or stink when baby pees in them?
* Load those stinky diapers back into the washing machine, set to PRE-SOAK and leave the diapers to soak in 1 full cup of baking soda and COLD water for 2-3 hours, even overnight if you can. If you don't have a pre-soak setting on your washer, set to the shortest cycle and simply leave the lid up, it won't begin to agitate.

* Close the lid, and let the rest of the Pre-soak cycle run through, and start a fresh wash on the longest cycle, with HOT water, at least 140 degrees F. If you can't change the setting on your hot water heater, boil some water on the stove, and add. Watch out for little ones, if you do this!

* Add just 1/8 to 1/4 cup of your normal detergent, and set your machine to COLD rinse.
You can try adding Oxygen bleach, or Hydrox II. It will not damage the diaper fibres, but will help dis-infect the diapers.
* Dry your diapers - outside in the sun if at all possible... all day long is good!

Let's Keep It That Way! washing method:
* Wash your diapers every 2-3 days. Rinse poopy diapers before storing, if possible, or use diaper liners.
* If soaking diapers, change the water every day, and rinse the diapers out before starting your wash-load.
* Make sure to separate out your diaper covers, and wash separately with baby's laundry on warm. Many of the products used to clean diapers can affect the waterproofness of your diaper covers - such as bleach, borax, or vinegar.
* Load the diapers into the washer, making sure that every diaper is unrolled. Give it a good shake to be sure!
* Set your machine to Pre-soak, with COLD water. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda. No detergent or soap in this cycle! Let the cycle run through.
* Set your machine to the longest cycle, with HOT wash, COLD rinse. Add just 1/4 cup of your detergent - or at least 1/4 of the recommended amount on the packaging.
* If you want to use vinegar in your rinse, use no more than 1/2 cup, and run through one more rinse cycle of just clear water.
* Dry diapers thoroughly in the dryer, or hang to dry in the sun.

I hope that helps. PS the web site is a great resource for other questions on cloth diapers :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

You already got a lot of great suggestions... one last thing if all else fails:
I have (gasp!) used bleach on my diapers in the past, when I either didn't have the time or patience to deal with the repeated washing to strip them (our washer sucks so it takes forever). I throw them in a bucket with a mild bleach solution for a quick soak, dump and then wash on hot with an extra rinse. I have done this maybe once every 4-6 months.

It works great on both microfiber inserts and cotton prefolds, but DO NOT EVER throw the covers into a bleach wash with them (you will have to wash the inserts or prefolds seperately). If you have all-in-ones this will not work. Bleach will ruin the watertight fabric.



answers from Chicago on

Depends on what kind of cloth you are using. If it is cotton prefolds, I wash them on with vinegar and let them soak a while before the regular washing and this seems to get the lingering smells out. If they are more like the all in ones/microfiber, I have heard that the most important thing for smells with them is to make sure you get ALL the detergent out. So do extra rinses after they are done washing and make sure you don't use much detergent.



answers from Minneapolis on

We used a micro fiber all in one diaper with cotton inserts.

We regularly washed the diapers once on a cold wash (to get the poo out) and then on a hot wash with a tiny amount of All Free and Clear soap, a 1/2 cup of baking soda, and 1/4 cup of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser.

Once every 8 weeks or so, we would "strip" the diapers by washing on cold like normal and then turning up the water heater and washing on really hot with a tiny amount of DAWN dish soap.

We always dried the diapers in the dryer....but if possible put them in the sun to dry (hard to do in MN!).

Baking soda takes care of the odor. Vinegar kills the bacteria. Dawn strips out detergent and other residue. Sun drying also kills bacteria and whitens any stains.

We always dumped the poop into the toilet and then put all of the diapers in a cloth bag in a closed trash can between washings. It was not a wet diaper pail. This will destroy your diapers and make a much worse smell.

Good luck!



answers from Chicago on

When our cloth diapers did this, we had to strip them with RLR. I tried stripping them with Dawn, but it just didn't do the trick. As soon as we'd put them on the kids, and they'd pee in them (or even heat them up with their body heat) the diapers would stink like crazy. RLR was the ONLY thing that worked.

I buy mine from here -- there is free shipping on RLR.



answers from Chicago on

Try stripping them by washing in HOT water until you have no more suds in the rinse and then change up your detergent. We were having stink issues and I bought some O-Nature-L detergent and it went away (had been using Charlies). After a few months I noticed the started to smell a little, so I changed again and the smell was gone. I had tried everything else...



answers from Chicago on

Hi J. G.,

I use some tea tree oil (a natural antimicrobial) when I wash my diapers (in an HE machine). I do a cold rinse (I throw a few drops of TTO into the machine with the diapers), then a heavy wash cycle (w/ 1/2 the normal amt. of soap), and an extra rinse. To make the diapers smell extra fresh, you can let them dry in the sun (any amt. will do -- through a window is fine), or sometimes I add a few drops of lavender essential oil in the last rinse/dryer. (Don't use dryer sheets -- they can mess with absorbency of your diapers.) Good luck!




answers from Tampa on

I was going to give you a link to pinstripes and polka dots but I see the first poster was ahead of me. :)



answers from Gainesville on

Couple of things you can try-what are you using to wash them? Make sure it's one of the approved detergents for cd's. Also, make sure you are using a very small amount like a tablespoon per load. And make sure they get an extra rinse cycle with hot water. If you have hard water try adding calgon water softener once a month. It may just come down to needing to strip them. and get into a good care routine using your HE washer. You can find info on it here:



answers from Chicago on

Check out this web site they have better cleaning products and safer for the environment. I am using them and they seem to get rid of the odor from stinking clothes and bibs so I'm sure it will work for cloth diapers and they have high efficiency detergent.

A. Brewe
Proud Member of Internet Ceo Moms working from home
Wheeling, IL


answers from Chicago on

You don't mention what kind of diapers you are using, but I have had (and know many others have had) issues with Bum Genius getting a bit smelly over time. They do sell a cleaner that you can buy that is supposed to help with the smell. I think it's just the kind of material they use that really traps odors, because I use Charlie's soap (no build up), have stripped them, used backing soda AND vinegar. I didn't like having to do it, but the only thing that worked for me was bleaching them every now and then, and it would only work for a while.




answers from Chicago on

If you have hard water, it can also lead to odor build up. Chicago water is rated as somewhat hard. I use Calgon water softener in my HE washer to reduce the odor that can otherwise build up. I also use the sanitary (3 hour wash, ugh!) setting to "strip" the diapers of all soap buildup if I notice any odor.



answers from Washington DC on

Sunlight. My mom used old fashioned cloth diapers over 40 years ago and the best oder killer is hanging them out to dry in sunlight. The UV rays take care of it.



answers from Chicago on

sounds like you have some buildup. I would do a couple of wash cycles in this order - to get them REALLY clean. (you may have to do this once per month or two to keep them that way)
1. Short cycle with cold/cold. optional addition of some baking soda or borax. Use extra water if you can.
2. Long cycle of extra hot/cold. use plenty of soap. it's ok if it doesn't all rinse out (it probably won't) because you're going to do another wash after this.
3. Short cycle hot/cold with about 1/3 c vinegar in the fabric softener bin and about 1/4 c bleach in the bleach bin (this won't ruin your diapers, believe me. Don't do it all the time but every month or two is fine). Don't add any soap to this one - you will probably still get suds because not all the soap will have rinsed out from #2.

Then dry. This should do it.

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