January 27, 2010

Stinky Diapers—Troubleshooting when Cloth Diapering

You all should know by now that Cutie Tooties is my favorite source for cloth diapers and supplies.  Sunny, the store owner and my cloth diapering guru, has written this guest post for today.  Please be sure to read through to the bottom for information on her upcoming class.  If you are local you can find her store at 5807D Kingston Pike, Knoxville,TN 37919.  The phone number is 865-249-7012.  Her website for mail order is found here.  Thanks to Sunny for this great information!

Stinky Diapers

First thing: Cloth Diapers SHOULD NOT STINK!

If your child's diaper stink even when clean, there is a problem. This is not normal. If your child's diapers stink strongly of ammonia (knock you over stench) after your child urinates once, there is a problem.

What causes odor in cloth diapers?

A few things can cause odor in cloth diapers, but in my experience the most common problem is detergent related. If you are using a "FREE" or "Free & Clear" or "Sensitive Skin" detergent on your diapers STOP immediately. Often these detergents will cause burn-like rashes on a baby's bottom, but even when this is not the case traditional free and clear detergents will cause buildup on your diapers as a result of optical brighteners. This buildup is no visible. You will simply find that one day your diapers start stinking or leaking, or both out of the blue and no amount of washing fixes the problem. The solution is to strip your diapers, which is not fun. Here is one method of stripping: replace your regular detergent with 1/4 cup Calgon® water softener (found at your local grocers) or 1-2 Tbs Dawn® or Ivory® dish soap. Strip your diapers as often as needed, but not at every wash as it is a bit harsh for your diapers and your baby's skin. Once you have stripped them, PLEASE change detergent, or you will be back in this shape again. When I was using a Free and Clear detergent, I had to strip my diapers once a month.

Other Possibilities:  Diapers simply aren't getting clean.

***Exclusively Breastfed Baby's Poop can go into the washer IF AND ONLY IF the washer is a top-loader (not high efficiency) AND you soak all diapers in the washer for 20 minutes before closing the lid on the initial rinse cycle. Then do hot wash, plus extra rinse.****

If baby gets even a drop of formula or solid food (cereal included) all bets are off, and ALL POOP MUST GO IN TOILET.

If you have an HE (High Efficiency/Front Loading) washer, ALL POOP MUST GO IN TOILET.

Leaving any poop on diapers in these circumstances will likely result in odor and significant staining.

How you get the poop into the toilet in these situations is up to you. Some people simply dunk the diapers in the toilet. Other people scrape the poop off with tissue or a dedicated spatula. Many of our customers use flushable liners to ease in the removal of poop from diapers. The last option though is my favorite and really is the best choice for those with an HE washer. It is the Diaper Sprayer. Using the diaper sprayer after a diaper change will allow you to skip the pre-rinse cycle, and go straight to the hot wash followed by a cool rinse. Saving the pre-rinse step will also mean saving water as well.

Maybe your detergent is just too mild.

It has been my experience that using some of the milder, more Eco-friendly detergents such as Seventh Generation on cloth diapers over a length of time can lead to odor. Other "Laundry Soaps" such as some homemade laundry powders and Charlie's Soap can have a similar effect, AND cause some serious rashes. I am not against any of these products, but if you find that your diapers are smelly, just realize the diaper is not likely the problem. It's what you are washing it in. Again, your diapers need to be stripped and detergent changed.

Detergent Suggestions:

Mainstream: Tide (regular, not FREE or Mtn. Spring) or Arm & Hammer Essentials (Green Liquid-not Sensitive Skin)

Eco-Conscious & Widely Available-Biokleen with Grapefruit Seed Extract. (Warning: Enzymes in this detergent can irritate skin for some)

Scent Free & Eco Conscious: Bumgenius, Tiny Bubbles & Thirsties Pre-wash & Super Wash detergents. All of these detergent options are available at Cutie Tooties.

Could Be Your Washer

It has been my experience that customers with HE washers, especially those who use AIO cloth diapers, tend to have more odor issues than people who use top-loading washers. The reason? The sewn-in soakers in AIO's get ALOT less water, agitation and exposure to detergent in an HE than they do in a regular washer. The result? Stink.  The solution? There are a few. As I mentioned above, a diaper sprayer is a huge help. It allows your washer to simply sanitize the diapers, which an HE is very capable of. You can also add a couple of towels to your cloth diaper load in order to trick the washer into filing with more water. In addition, you can add a pre-soak option to your wash routine. This would mean pre-soak/hot wash/ extra rinse, then dry. Another option is to use the Thirsties Pre-wash, which addresses bacterial and odor issues.

I've done all of this and my diapers still stink!

A few questions for you. Did you buy your diapers used? If so, you may have inherited someone else's stinky problem. Buying used diapers means that often you don't know what they were or weren't washed in. If the previous owner washed with bleach, fabric softener or a free and clear detergent, she may have ruined the diapers before you ever got them. To compound this problem, the diapers may have been boxed up and put in a hot attic for a time. This simply bakes the odors in and makes them almost impossible to remove.

Are you getting the poop out of the diapers as soon as you can after changing baby?

If you allow the poop to sit in the diaper for a long period of time before getting it out, you are more likely to get odor and staining. Be sure to get solids out as soon as you can.

How often are you washing your diapers?

If you aren't washing your diapers every other day, you may run into more odor. Every third day for washing is my absolute limit. If you go 4 days or longer, expect odor, mold, mildew, fungus and heaven only knows what else. At this point you have a science fair project growing in your pail, and truly it is a sanitary problem. SO please, wash AT LEAST every 3rd day.

What kind of diaper cream/salve are you using?

If you answered: Desitin, Boudreaux's, A & D, Aquafor, or any other petrolatum or Zinc based ointment, that may be your problem. These ointments will ruin your diapers. They are likely to be leaking/repelling soon if not already. Attempt to strip them (good luck). Sometimes that stuff won't come off at all. If you are able to get them back to even, PLEASE use a salve that is meant for cloth diapers. You want something that is Olive oil or Grapeseed oil based. We carry several options: Magic Stick, Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Northern Essence, & Punkin Butt.

Do you have well water or hard water?

Some customers have reported more odor and diaper wear and tear with hard water and/or well water. A few have reported that using Calgon water softener in the wash helps. Vinegar is also an option.

Last Few Tips

**Try laying your diapers out in the sun for an afternoon to allow the sun and fresh air to freshen them.

**Try adding 1/2 cup Vinegar to your rinse cycle.

**Consider adding Pail Powder to your pail after tossing each dirty diaper in. Pail powder makes your pail smell better and gives your detergent a boost too.

Hopefully this will offer some help for your stinkies. Please know you can call or email me anytime. I am happy to help you troubleshoot. Cloth diapering should be easy.

February Cloth Diapering Class

When? Thursday 02/11/10

What Time? 6:30 p.m.

Cost? $10/person or $15/couple

During this class I will show you how to fold prefolds, and use snappis. We will discuss the brands and types of diapers that we carry at Cutie Tooties covering the pros and cons of each. We will go over one-size versus sized diapers, and discuss the benefits of each type. We will talk about detergent and washing routines, avoiding rash and odor. Of course I will answer the ever popular question: "what about the poop?" I will also cover cloth diapers 'on the run', so that you can confidently use cloth all of the time, even when out running errands. Finally, we will talk about money-savings over disposables, because who doesn't want money in their pocket.

To RSVP for the class, email me or call: 865-249-7012

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