Thursday, January 24, 2013

Myths and Misconceptions: Cloth Diapers Stink!

I've decided to do a series of blogs all about common myths and misconceptions about cloth diapering! If you have any ideas feel free to comment here, share on my twitter, or post to my facebook page any myths or misconceptions you have heard, especially ones that really drive you nutso!
Myth #3: Cloth Diapers Stink
Oh my do I hear this one a lot! When talking to new moms or moms to be who are curious about cloth diapering, the number one question I get is "Well don't they stink?" People assume that they stink when you change them, they stink when you are waiting for them to be washed, and they probably stink after they come out of the wash, just a little. People think that because they are pooped in you will never be able to get them completely clean and they will stink at least a little bit. They think stink is normal, but it's not. It doesn't happen to everyone but if it does happen to you, it can be fixed! It could take a little bit of experimenting, but you can figure out your stink problems and get rid of them once and for all, if you ever have stink issues in the first place! There are two main kinds of stink I've heard of, and that is Barnyard or "dirty" stink, and Ammonia stink. I've also had people who say they are worried about the smell while they store their diapers that are waiting to be washed.
Storage Until Washing
One thing that people think is that cloth diapers must smell while they just sit there waiting to be washed. There are plenty of ways to store your diapers while you are waiting for wash day, and if you experiment around you can figure out just what works for your family! First off, you rinse, dunk, or shake all the poop out before you do anything. See my blog post "So What Do You Do With All the Poo?" to see different ways of getting rid of the poop. So it's not like your diaper is sitting in a bag with poop in it. Some people choose to rinse wet diapers out too, especially if they have had ammonia issues (which we will talk about later!). Then you can either store them in a wet bag, or keep them in a pail. Some people use large zip lock backs instead of a wet bag, or put each diaper into a plastic grocery bag and tie it tightly. Whatever works, works I say! I have done the plastic bag thing while out and about and never ever ever have I smelt the smell through the bag. I've also used a wet bag, which is made of PUL which is waterproof on the inside, and a cute fabric on the outside with a zipper closure. I use both Planet Wise brand and Super Green Label wet bags and have never had a leak or a stinky smell come from either! It might stink for a second when you open the bag, but once you toss the diaper in there, you zip it back up and can't smell it anymore! A lot of people also use pails. You can get a Rumparooz pail liner from Mama's Emporium and a trash can from wherever. The pail liner is washable so you can toss it in the wash with your diapers. I've heard this open air system, where air is allowed to get to the diapers, actually keeps the stink away better than the wetbag system. I plan on trying it just as soon as I can convince my hubby! This is because the air helps inhibit bacterial growth which causes the smell.
Another thing that can help keep your diapers from smelling while you wait to wash is not waiting too long to wash. I wash every other day and have gone as long as three days when the need to wait was dire, but I wouldn't go longer than that, and I would still stick to every other day. If you must wait three or more days to do diaper laundry, rinse all the diapers off after each use, wet or dirty, and I suggest you get some BacOut from Mama's Emporium. It smells like limes and not only is it a great stain remover/preventative, but it will help keep the stink away and make your diapers smell like limes until you wash them. It doesn't hurt your diapers either.
Barnyard or Dirty Smell
The most common smell issue I hear about is that diapers just smell icky after each wash, or maybe not icky, but just weird. If you are washing your diapers and they come out of the wash or dryer smelling like anything, there is something wrong. Something that can be fixed, as any smell issue can be fixed. This one is actually a super easy fix usually. Usually a barnyard smell or a dirty smell usually means there is a problem with your wash routine and/or detergent. Most of the time it means you aren't using the right ammount of detergent and you need more. This is especially important if you have hard water. I've struggled with this because we have VERY hard water and very old pipes. It can also be that you aren't using the right detergent. Different detergents work for different people and it depends on your washer, your water, and your personal preference. I started out using BumGenious detergent but didn't love it so I tried a bunch. I liked Rockin Green till we got very stubborn ammonia issues, so we switched around until we found the one we liked. Remember, liquid detergent doesn't work quite as well as because it doesn't rinse out as cleanly and easily as powder detergents and that can cause repelling issues in your diapers, which you can read about in another Myths and Misconceptions post called "Cloth Diapers Always Leak". Some people find Free and Clear powder detergents such as All Free and Clear or Tide Free and Clear work great. Others find that Cloth diaper detergents work wonderfully and they don't always work for others. I have heard about using original tide on your diapers but as my son has a sensitivity to tide we haven't used it. I've considered trying and making sure it all gets rinsed out but I found something that works so I don't need to bother. I suggest you experiment with different detergents and amounts. I also suggest stripping in between trying a new detergent. So if you are going to stop using what you are using now and try a new detergent, strip first! I have had the best results using GroVia Mighty Bubbles, which you can read about in my review of them. We use 4tbs of EcoSprout detergent in our wash cycles and it has turned out to be great. We had to experiment with going from 2tbs to 3, and then from 3tbs to 4. But once we found the right detergent and the right amount, the issue was no longer an issue!
You may also want to adjust your wash routine. I found what works best for us is a cold rinse cycle, so I'm not washing the diapers in water that has a ton of poop and pee in it, then a hot wash on heavy setting with detergent, and then a hot wash on heavy setting with no detergent to make sure all of the detergent gets rinsed out.
Ammonia is a smell that you kind of know when you smell it. It will smell like a strong cleaning chemical or just very strong urine but worse than that it will burn your eyes and nose as soon as you get a whiff! It seriously burns to smell it! You may also notice a rash on your child. Ammonia is really bad and unfortunately, all to common, especially for overnight diapers because  the urine sits in them longer. Some good things to do to prevent ammonia is to rinse each diaper, even the wet ones, before putting them in your pail or bag. You can also spray each diaper with a spritz or two of BacOut to make it smell like limes and neutralize bacteria. You could also try adding a presoak to your laundry routine. If you already have ammonia however, you will have to strip the diapers to get rid of the ammonia. I had stubborn ammonia issues and I tried everything. I tried a strip with bleach, a strip with RLR, washing multiple times each load, a presoak with detergent, a presoak with RLR, all sorts of stuff. I couldn't get rid of it. Finally I tried GroVia Mighty Bubbles from Mama's Emporium and it worked! If you have a lot of buildup you may need to do it two or three times but these little packs really got rid of our ammonia. Then we changed our detergent and wash routine to what it currently is and we have not had issues since! I'm also finding I have to strip less and less compared to what I was before.
Bottom Line
Bottom line is, cloth diapers do not need to stink! If you are having stink issues, you can cure them! You just need to experiment and find a wash routine and detergent that works best for you, and you may need to strip your diapers. I suggest anyone having any smell issues strip first before adjusting anything. I use GroVia Mighty Bubbles and have never been disappointed with them. Please don't give up if you have stink issues! You can fix them! There are plenty of ways to prevent stink issues though, such as storing them correctly, rinsing diapers well, and using BacOut on every diaper before putting it in the pail or wetbag. 


  1. If I had babies now I'd use cloth. My babies are 18 and 15! There weren't as many awesome cloth options as there are now.

  2. I LOVE Bac-Out! We go through a bottle every two months (or less), but it's worth it. It keeps the stink down while our diapers are in the pail. I've had a couple of stink issues, but like you're pointing out...there are ways to get rid of the stink...a lot of ways. I've found a good soak in Eco Sprouts or RLR to work great.

  3. i wish i would have known this when my babies were still wearing diapers. Their potty trained now. great info though

  4. It's great info to pass on if you aren't using it anymore! I am glad it's useful to you guys!

  5. Great points! One thing I've found to keep away stink also is don't let them go any longer than every other day without washing. Any longer than that I usually start to get stink and stain issues!

    1. I agree whole heartedly! I couldn't go more than one day without washing, it bothers me too much!

  6. I know for us, even a few days without using Calgon in our wash cycle leads to terrible stinkies. It took almost 2 years to find that out, but once I did, no more stinkies! It made such a difference.

  7. I have never had a problem with stink. I first do a cold water rinse with 1/2 tablespoon of Dreft. Then I was with Rockin' Green, hot with cold rinse. Then I dry in the dryer and hang the shells. I use Best Bottom Diapers.

  8. Great list of myths and debunking them!

  9. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the best virtual strippers on my taskbar.