Friday, November 18, 2011

HELP ME, Cloth-diapering Community! You're My Only Hope!

THIS IS AN URGENT MESSAGE TO ALL CLOTH-DIAPERING PARENTS: I am thisclose to never using a cloth diaper again, and I need your advice to fix all my problems. If I can't fix them, these diapers are getting packed away and I will contribute to the landfills.

I have MULTIPLE issues at the moment, but I believe they come back to this:

The diapers REEK. They have in the past, and I have tried to remedy the problem with extra washes, stripping the diapers, leaving outside in the sun, and even adding bleach to the hot wash cycle, with some success, but now they are not responding to ANYTHING.

I believe that all my excessive washing (I am running them through the washer a minimum of FOUR times before I'm like "Meh. They don't smell good, but they smell better.") and adding more and more detergent has led to 1) my diapers breaking down prematurely (I had 12 bumGenius 4.0s replaced by cotton babies because the velcro no longer worked, and I have 12 bumGenius 3.0s that were NOT purchased from cotton babies and have no warranty, but are literally FALLING APART. I will not be able to use them much longer at all), and I hate to admit, 2) A god-awful rash on Josephine's bum the other day. 

Using more detergent (I use Nellie's All Natural Laundry soda  which the cotton babies representative told me was in their top five "best" recommended detergents to use) seemed to be helping with the odor a  bit, but I could never get them completely clean and smelling good. This wasn't a problem early on, but has been happening for a few months now. I stripped and bleached once, and they were back to good as new, but then a month later they were so bad that nothing has been helping anymore.

Here is my routine (which is basically the manufacturer's suggested care):

1. I wash the diapers every other day
2. I do a cold spin and rinse or an entire cold wash cycle, without detergent
3. I follow that with a hot wash cycle with 1/4 the recommended amount of detergent, then an extra hot rinse
3. I dry the inserts on medium and hang the shells to dry

And now, because this no longer works, I have been adding wash cycle after wash cycle after wash cycle, and even stripping and bleaching the diapers, to no avail.

FYI, because J's poo is solid, we just dump it in the toilet, so there is no poo residue being added to the washer. Just in case you thought it might be that. The smell is undeniably urine, and I am fed up.

When Josephine got her rash, which I thought could be from detergent build-up, but the doctor thought that was unlikely, I bought 30 disposable diapers. Unlike when she was young, I found I really liked them, and I liked how dry Josie's bum was, where in her cloth diapers she is ALWAYS wet. We went back to cloth for a week, but this morning when I was washing a load for the bazillionth time and I could smell my kid's diaper even though it was dry, I just gave up and went to the store and bought a big box. I told Jeremy we are disposable diaper people until I find a solution, and that means I need your help!

It will still end up having saved money if we only used the diapers this long (the cost of the cloth diapers is much less than if we were buying disposables for the past year), so if we are over cloth diapers, it was still a win, but I want to keep this going. I like the obvious benefits of cloth diapers, but at this point we are using a LOT of water to wash these things, and I spend ALL day EVERY day just to try to get like ten diapers washed -- that's a huge waste of time and energy, no matter what your opinion is on what my time is worth. However, I feel a sense of duty to make these things last until she is potty trained, like I originally intended, since almost every single diaper I own was a gift from my mother or mother-in-law.

Help me, CD experts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I implore you!


  1. I know absolutely nothing about diapers in general. Cloth diapers always seemed really gross to me (again, not knowing any facts about them), and this isn't helping my opinion. Not that I'll probably ever have kids and have to deal with this problem anyway... I hope you get your answer though - saving money is always a good thing!

  2. Thanks a lot! :P

    Just kidding.

    They REALLY weren't gross for a very long time, and the money-saving? WHOA. If you ever had kids and decided to try them, I assume you would be much better at them than I am!

  3. I have the same diapers. No issues. So my questions are:
    Do you have hard water?
    How do you strip them?
    What do you strip them with?
    Are you willing to try a different detergent?

    I strip with (this is important) Original Blue Dawn (not the ultra concentrate. Which I can only find in random dollar stores. I strip monthly, one big squirt, instead of detergent in the wash cycle, and extra cold rinse.
    We use Country Save. (amazon)

    Wash: cold rinse, hot wash with 1/4 detergent and cold rinse, extra cold rinse. Line dry.

    Some people on my board have gotten rid of stink issues with vinegar and baking soda. Others have switched to Tide (which surprised me but apparently it works)

  4. Nikki

    Thank you SO much for your response!

    1. We do not have hard water; no other water issues at all.
    2. I strip them the same way, only the original Blue Dawn is not available around here, so I use the original joy (non-concentrated). Many people told me they had used it with good results, so I decided to try it.
    3. I am willing to try a different detergent, and Country Save was next on my list, but I am pretty peeved that I have so much of that Nellie's left.
    4. I was really reluctant to try vinegar or baking soda because of all the bg stipulations about using anything other than "approved" detergents. When I called about the ones I got replaced, they said they would not replace any diapers if vinegar, baking soda, or bleach had been used.
    5. I used Tide in the beginning too, and there was no smell, for sure, but it started eating away at the fabric and threads. Also, it built up SO quickly that like 5 days after stripping, I would start losing the absorbability (is that a word?).

  5. I have been having similar issues with my daughter's overnight diapers. We use Knickernappies Superdos wrapped in suedecloth, in a Flip cover (also made by Cottonbabies). At first I thought it was the inserts that smelled, but after multiple attempts at stripping with various methods, I could STILL smell the urine when I walked into her room in the morning. I finally figured out that it's the PUL in the Flips that's retaining the stink. (I do still strip the inserts every so often, but the PUL really seems to hold onto that stench.)

    What I did (and this probably violates the warranty but I don't care, the smell was THAT BAD) was to soak the covers overnight in cold water with some Rockin' Green Funk Rock and a bit of Clorox 2 color-safe bleach. Then I did my normal wash routine (cold prewash with a scoop of detergent -- I use Charlie's -- followed by a hot wash with half a scoop of Charlie's and a second rinse. Then I hang the covers to dry and dry the inserts on high). Because of the bleach, I also added a third no-detergent rinse just to make sure I got all the bleach out, but I don't do that normally.

    For us, this kicked it. I read somewhere not to use vinegar on PUL because it melts it or something, but I'm not sure if that's true (I did try vinegar on the inserts with minimal success). I can't use Tide because I'm allergic to it, and I don't want to risk it on my baby's diaper area in case she is too, but I *have* heard good things about it from a lot of people.

    Hope this helps some!

  6. Erin,

    Yeah, it is both the inserts and the liners that stink, for sure. I pick them up and sniff them individually (so so so gross). I might have to try your soaking idea.

    Have you used anything other than Charlie's? If you used other detergents, did you then switch to Charlie's and find it better?

    I heard something similar about the liners. Maybe people just use it on the inserts?

    Thanks again!

  7. I've been using Arm & Hammer free as detergent, I see now difference from the Rocking Green detergent. I haven't had any smell issues yet. I usually just do the cold rinse(sometimes 2)and hot wash & dry them in the dryer. (Now that I say this they will start stinking)

  8. I've used Charlie's and Rockin' Green Barenaked Babies. Started with Charlie's, tried the RG during my "try anything to get rid of the stink" attempts, and didn't really notice a difference between the two in terms of the smell. The RG Funk Rock did seem to help the smell when combined with the bleach, but didn't do much by itself.

    If you end up finding another method that works, do share! I'd love to find a non-bleach option.

  9. Hey! My cousin Kate Marcheletta sent me a link to your blog saying you needed some help.

    Do you, by any chance, have an HE front loading washing machine? There are special instructions for those.

    Other suggestions:
    We have a sprayer on the toilet and I spray each diaper, even if its just urine, before I put them in the wet bag. Ringing out the urine helps so its not drying in the diaper. You could do the same thing by dunking them in the toilet and ringing them out before you put them in the pail/bag.
    I wash mine every 3 days. I do a 30 minute presoak with the detergent in, a warm wash (recommended by Grovia, which is the brand of cloth I use) a cold rinse, then a second cold rinse. Dry the inserts, line dry the shells.
    I use Rockin Green with half the amount of detergent the call for. I havent done a strip yet because the diapers don't smell. I really think the prrsoak helps with that.
    Use a larger wash setting. If the diapers are dry going in, they soak up all the water and they don't agitate like they should. Either wet the diapers before you wash them, add more water to the cycle or use a larger wash cycle. This is especially the case in HE washes because they use less water to begin with.
    I know they say not to, but try bleaching the diapers/inserts to get the initial smell out before you start a new routine. I have a friend who is having the same problem you are and she has done this. New wash routines may not work if the smell is already 'burned' in.
    That's all I can think of right now. Good luck finding a solution!!!

  10. Delina -- I hope this doesn't jinx you!! :)

  11. Jen -- thanks to you and to Kate for sending you along.

    No, we don't have an HE. I think the warm soak is going to be part of my solution. Thanks SO much for all the tips!

  12. so, yeah, i don't know what y'all are talking about, but I remember Amalah saying this during part 2 of her recent cloth diapering series---apparently she is talking about two of the same detergents that y'all are talking about, but this is the PATTERN of detergent-use that's working for her?

    "For diaper stink, I strip them every couple months with Rockin Green' Cloth Diaper and Laundry Detergent according to the package directions. (Weirdly, I tried switching from Charlie's to Rockin Green full-time, but the stink just came back faster when I used it all the time. Charlie's keeps them smelling better for longer, but when the inevitable build-up happens, only Rockin Green can de-funkify them.)"


    sorry if that doesn't help.

  13. Lacey,

    Thank you SOOO much for the info and the source! And thanks for retaining that info even though it didn't apply to you! You're a champ!

  14. This goes against all cloth diapering laws, but try using more detergent. I know, I know, but really. I think of it like this, I'm washing something with feces on it, and I'm supposed to use less detergent than I would use for a load without poop?! Also, I use Tide. I'm a CDing rebel! A full scoop of Tide and bleach on the inserts once a month, and we rarely have stunk anymore,


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