Bleach and Cloth Diapers: A Match Made in Heaven or a Recipe for Disaster?

To bleach or not to bleach; that is the question! Many of us have been there. Something’s wrong with our cloth diapers…there is a stink…or a leak…or maybe a rash that just won’t go away. You try everything…more rinses…a different detergent…not using a particular diaper. Still no remedy is found. Maybe you feel like there is no where else to turn. You’ve researched and asked questions. And then someone mentions bleach…

Hmmm, maybe try it. Why not you think. You have tried everything else. This has to work. Bleach is so strong and has been around forever. It must be the solution.

Let me say that this is my opinion. There are other opinions on the subject of bleach, so do your research.


I know that it works for some people. I understand that there are even cloth diaper manufacturers that recommend an occasional bleach wash. I truly believe that bleach isn’t necessary in cloth diapering. I believe there are better, safer ways to keep cloth diapers clean and baby’s bottoms rash free.

Why is it my OPINION that bleach is bad? Well my heart tells me so. OK you want a real source? An internet search turns up thousands of results both for the safety of bleach and those claiming dire consequences if used. I searched for at least one reliable source to share with you that supports my opinion. Buried deep inside their website, Clorox ™ provided me my answer.

Here is what I found on Clorox’s Regular Bleach Material Safety Data Sheet.


II: Health Hazard data

DANGER: CORROSIVE. May cause severe irritation or damage to eyes and skin. Vapor or mist may irritate. Harmful if swallowed. Keep out of reach of children. Some clinical reports suggest a low potential for sensitization upon exaggerated exposure to sodium hypochlorite if skin damage (e.g., irritation) occurs during exposure. Under normal consumer use conditions the likelihood of any adverse health effects are low. Medical conditions that may be aggravated by exposure to high concentrations of vapor or mist: heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or obstructive lung disease.

In my house one of the big reasons I use cloth diapers instead of disposables is to limit my family’s exposure to unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals. Why would anyone want to use something that is plainly labeled DANGER: CORROSIVE?

Vapor or mist may irritate. Irritate what I ask? I don’t want anything irritated!

Likelihood of adverse health effects are low. I like my likelihood of adverse health effects to be nothing thank you very much.

Not to mention that using something on any sort of regular basis that is labeled corrosive will probably break down and wear out a diaper faster than need be. Don’t we all want out cloth diapers to last as long as possible? Isn’t that another reason we use cloth? I know I want my diapers lasting as long as possible; saving me the maximum amount of money possible.

Purely a matter of my own opinion as there is no conclusive evidence that proves bleach causes cancer. However, there ARE many references to it causing cancer. My Grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1960’s. My family has a firm belief that it was prolonged exposure to bleach vapors that caused it. My grandparents owned a commercial Laundromat. They bleached almost everything.  Obviously cancer is caused by a number of reasons. I for one want to lower my risks of cancer, not raise them.

If you need to disinfect your cloth diapers, please consider using any of these alternatives to bleach and read this: Simple Effective Ways To Disinfect Cloth Diapers. Do your own research. Come to your own conclusions. But I have to ask, is there really nothing safer to use on our cloth diapers? The same cloth diapers that spend the first years of our child’s life in constant contact with their most sensitive parts. How do you feel about the use of bleach?

Sources used:

The Clorox Company, 08/09. April 30, 2014

, , ,

About Jennifer Reinhardt

Jenn is a WAHM to two beautiful little girls. Sophia (4.5 years old) and Norah (4 months). She closed her business, Curves, when she found out she was pregnant so she could stay home with her first daughter. Now Jenn spends her time spreading the love of fluff and sharing common sense answers that help to make cloth diapers easy for everyone.

View all posts by Jennifer Reinhardt

10 Responses to “Bleach and Cloth Diapers: A Match Made in Heaven or a Recipe for Disaster?”

  1. Janelle Says:

    cannot find any actual credible sources regarding using GSE to sanitize water for drinking purposes. The links here are the best I could do:
    This is the link to how much Clorox bleach is needed to sanitize water for drinking purposes:…/disaster-preparedness…/

    1 liquid teaspoon is 96 drops.
    1 liquid Tablespoon is 3 teaspoons.
    Therefore, 1 liquid Tablespoon is 288 drops.

    6 liquid teaspoons is 1 oz.
    Therefore 2 liquid Tablespoons is also 1 oz.

    ^^ All of these conversions are readily available in cook books and through a basic Google search.

    It takes 12 (10-25 drops, Im using 12 because it simplifies the math) drops of GSE to sanitize 1 gallon of water for drinking.
    It takes 6 drops of bleach to sanitize 1 gallon of water for drinking.

    Using this math, and the fact that we know that it takes 1 Tablespoons (.5 liquid ounce) of bleach to sanitize diapers (or any fabric) in 1 gallon of water. It would take 2 Tablespoons of GSE (1 liquid ounce) to sanitize diapers (or any fabric) per gallon of water.

    So if….
    Standard washer:
    small load 1/3 cup bleach (3oz) = 2/3 cup GSE (5-6 liquid ounces)
    medium load 1/2 cup bleach (4oz) = 1 cup GSE (8 liquid ounces)
    large load 3/4 cup bleach (6oz) = 1.5 cup GSE (12 liquid ounces)
    HE washer:
    small load 1/4 cup bleach (2oz) = 1/2 cup GSE (4 liquid ounces)
    medium load 1/3 cup bleach (3oz) = 2/3 cup GSE (5-6 liquid ounces)
    large load 1/2 cup bleach (4oz) = 1 cup GSE (8 liquid ounces)
    1/4 bathtub 1/4 cup bleach (2oz) = 1/2 cup GSE (4 liquid ounces)
    1/2 bathtub 1/2 cup bleach (4oz) = 1 cup GSE (8 liquid ounces)
    3/4 bathtub 3/4 cup bleach (6oz) = 1.5 cup GSE (12 liquid ounces)
    Separate vessel:
    1 TBS bleach per gallon of water = 2 TBS GSE per gallon of water (1 liquid ounce)

    Prices available at
    Clorox bleach $3.50/121 ounces = $0.03 per ounce
    GSE $10.87/2 ounces = $5.44 per ounce

    1/2 bathtub would cost $0.12 for bleach
    $43.52 for GSE

    AND –

    The truth about GSE: (1)

    There are much more harmful chemicals in GSE than in bleach, including “Methyl paraben (can mimic Estrogen), Triclosan (can cause allergic contact dermatitis) Benzalkonium chloride (disinfectant, skin and eye irritant) and Benzethoniumchloride (disinfectant, skin and eye irritant only permitted in rinse off products as prolonged contact with the skin is harmful).” (1)

    The other link I had given you mentions a 4% dilution… that works out to 51oz in a 20 gallons of water… want me to cost that out for you??$7.96 for 2oz at = $203 for 51oz…

    At a 1% dilution (for headlice) it would cost $48.38 in 20 gallons of water…
    pubmed for the 1% dilution

    For both sides of the argument WITH links for people to their own research.


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Thank you so much for providing all this info. I just want to state one last time, this piece on bleach is my opinion. My main reason for writing it is not because people use bleach at all, but instead because many use bleach too much. Some people use it every time and use more than they need to. While I prefer no bleach I understand that not everyone agrees with me.


  2. Landon Says:

    Hi! I would like to offer my two cents…might only be worth a penny :)
    I used cloth diapers on our son until he was potty trained at 2.5 years. I only used Melaleuca laundry detergent, their whitener/brightener and the occassional softener. I never, ever ever had a problem with smell, absorbency, skin issues with our son, NOTHING! It’s very effective and very safe. the only time he ever had a rash was actually a urine burn from sitting in a wet disposable diaper on a car ride. after which I tried numerous concoctions to relieve his rash and nothing worked. then I decided to use Melaleuca’s Melagel which has tea tree oil suspended in a neosporin-type gel. Worked like magic instantly! Did you know that tea tree oil is being used in burn treatment centers now? Yes sirreeeee!!!


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Landon, Thank you for taking that time to share the information. I have always heard excellent things about Melaleuca. And yes, TTO is amazing for many things!


  3. Andrea Says:

    Ehh…. I’m all for the occasional bleach use. In fact, I usually do a bleach soak/wash once a month. I have come across a fair amount of research on some of the natual methods of disinfecting diapers that say those natural methods are bunk or really not as effective as one would hope. It’s hard to know what to trust in regards to GFSE and Tea Tree Oil and so on… but I KNOW that bleach will do its job! I dilute it carefully and keep it well out of reach of kids and pets. I also take pretty good care of my cloth diapers, yetI realize they will wear out eventually. Afterall, they get used far more often than other clothes – and they are always heavily soiled with urine and or poop, and they are washed every other day. My CD stash is boring… mainly cotton prefolds and PUL diaper covers. This means that I won’t come undone or even shed a tear if a diaper doesn’t last as long as it could/should. It also means that I can get my natural fiber diapers cleaner without resorting to bleach as often. I use mainstream detergent too. No looking back! I heart clean diapers and a rash free baby!


  4. Amye Says:

    You are against bleach but use Tide. I encourage you to use when searching for safe detergents/ disinfectants. There are links to cancer and others reproductive issues from the dioxins in tide out there to research.
    I don’t think I would want to use anything but bleach initially on used diapers it’s worth the one time wash to get ride of any harmful bacteria or yeast left in the diapers. Many additional hot washes will strip out any left over bleach I would think.


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Amye, That is a great question. One that I would ask myself. Allow me to explain. I do a lot of research on everything I use. One point that I try to stress is that I don’t knock on anyone for doing something one way while a do it a different way. This is the first time I felt called to write about something that I knew would be a little controversial. Yes, I am a tide user. Yes, I don’t love bleach. I used 7 different ‘safe’ detergents that all left my little girl red with rash. My diapers were not getting clean. Are there gentler detergents than tide? Yes, However to stay in cloth, which I feel is important, I have found Tide to be the only thing to work. Cloth Diapering and being healthy conscious aren’t an all or nothing thing to me. I think we as parents have to make informed decision based on all our own situations and just do the best we can. For myself and my family, I draw the line at bleach. But I understand that there are people that use it and that is ok. I just recommend against it. Thanks for commenting. I really do appreciate it.


  5. Ashley Says:

    :( The link didn’t work for Simple Effective Ways To Disinfect Cloth Diapers. I just bleached my diapers that I bought used… last night! I’m not going to stress myself out about it and didn’t plan on using it regularly, but I’m glad that you posted this. I rarely, if ever, use it for anything, because I’ve heard it’s not good for the balance of our septic tank (among other things). Can you repost the link so I know a safer way to disinfect used dipes?


  6. Bekah Says:

    I’m with you!!! Plus, I’ve ruined clothing in the past, so I simply don’t trust myself with it! I don’t like even having it in my home, as I’ve gotten rid of all other harmful chemical cleaners. I like knowing that even though my cleaners are stored out of reach, none of them would cause much harm should my daughter accidentally get into them!


Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Sharing is caring!