Do Your Pocket Cloth Diapers Have the Stinkies?

It is amazing how fast pocket cloth diapers can start stinking. I used fitteds for months and never had this problem.

Coincidentally, when I began cloth diapering my then 15 month old son in 2005, the pocket diapers were the only diapers that reeked of ammonia.

Back then I just figured that’s what toddler pee smells like. Now I realize that the smell is from a buildup in the diapers.

There are many ways to remove buildup from your cloth diapers (all of which I include in The Ultimate Guide to Cloth Diapers). One of the simplest ways is to squirt Dawn dishwashing liquid in your washer. I make 3 big circles of the Dawn in the basin and toss the diapers in.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find regular Dawn. I have Dawn Ultra, the concentrated form, and use it with no problems.

I always check during the rinse cycle for bubbles. If there are any, even small ones, I run a second rinse.

If you suspect that your inserts are still retaining the buildup, run a load with just the inserts and a small amount of bleach. Microfiber is highly absorbent and tends to hold on to molecules very well. Any time you use bleach run an extra rinse. I rinse until there is no bleach smell.

I wash with Dawn about every 2 weeks. Using Dawn is great for Top Loaders but NOT FRONT LOADERS. I have not experimented with this myself but I have been told that Dawn creates too many suds for front loaders and can ruin the machine.

However, if you have a front loader you can still strip your diapers with Dawn. When the diapers are clean, take your pockets and apply a couple of drops to the fleece. Rub it around with your fingers (now you know why I said when they’re clean :D ), thoroughly cleaning the inner microfleece. Rinse the Dawn off in your kitchen sink until there are no more suds. I recommend tossing them back into the washer for a hot wash with no detergent.


About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at

View all posts by Autumn Beck

26 Responses to “Do Your Pocket Cloth Diapers Have the Stinkies?”

  1. chokecherrygal Says:

    I can’t believe noone has mentioned Rockin green in this post line. The vinegar solution only works with soft water. I have really hard water and was vinegaring it up the wahoo and nothing! Read about Rockin Green for hard water, bought it, did the overnight soak and no more ammonia. My microfiber inserts are 6 months old and on a tight rotation, so they’ve seen lots of use. Now I just use Rockin green everytime I wash dipes and the smell isn’t returning…it’s been 3 weeks


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      This post is from 2008. At the time I lived where we had super soft water. And of course, Rockin Green wasn’t born yet ;)


  2. Jenn Says:

    I just bought new diapers Microfibre pocket style and I love them, but they are holding smells in and they are only about 3 weeks old! I just tried the Dawn dishsoap and rinsed them approx 7 times until all the soap bubbles disappeared, now they are outside drying (hope this works).
    I am wondering about the laundry ball that everybody is talking about; is this the fabric softner ball and what do you put inside it?
    I also am wondering if it is safe to clean the diapers with Dawn everytime you wash the diapers?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      The laundry ball is not the fabric softener ball. Search it on my site and you’ll find that I don’t recommend them :) I would not use Dawn every time as it will lead to buildup. Soak your inserts in vinegar overnight then wash them. See if this helps.


  3. Lindsey Says:

    We have major issues with stink on our microfiber inserts and the microfleece/microsuide linings of our FB and BG (and homemade pockets). I have tried EVERYTHING at some point, it seems…I switched to Charlie’s Soap recently, followed their stripping/maching cleaning instructions to the letter, and everything was great for about 2 weeks. Now they stink again. Not as ammonia-y as they used to, just smelly/poopy. Straight out of the dryer, they smell…especially if it was a diaper that had been pooped in. I am so fed up!! We have no sun, so that’s not an option at this time. :-P The Charlie’s wash routine involves only a water softener (Borax) and vinegar…maybe I should start using Dawn again? Or bleach the inserts? We do have hard water. Ugh, just so frustrating…hoping something on here helps!


  4. Autumn Beck Says:

    Cassie, what type of covers are you using? It sounds like you have some ammonia salts built up in the fibers of the diapers. I would do a vinegar soak. In the search box above type in “vinegar soak”. Borax is safe to use on cloth diapers.


  5. Cassie Says:

    My prefolds and covers smell. My hubby complains about it when we go to pick up our 3 month old after a nap. Is it normal for them to stink so much even through the clothing and all? They don’t smell when they’re clean. And I use borax to get deep clean them ever now and then… is that safe?


  6. Ashley Zertuche Says:

    Wow I am so glade you wrote about this problem I was starting to think about switching to disposables cause I cant take the smell anymore! its live every morning when I go get the kids room stinks so bad from the stinky diaper from the night before. I am really going to try the Dawn and pray to God it works! thanks


  7. AJ Says:

    do you have to use dawn or can you use any dishwashing detergent like palmolive?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      A quick Google search of the ingredients for Dawn and Palmolive was quite revealing! I would not use Palmolive after seeing all the ingredients: Water , Ammonium C12-15 Pareth Sulfate , Magnesium Isododecylbenzenesulfonate , Lauramidopropylamine Oxide , SD Alcohol 3-A , Sodium Xylenesulfonate , Sodium Chloride , Fragrance , Pentasodium Pentetate , DMDM Hydantoin , Sodium Bisulfite , D&C Orange No. 4 (active ingredients: Triclosan 0.12%).

      Dawn contains: Biodegradable Surfactants – Anionic and Nonionic


  8. Samantha Says:

    I use BumGenius diapers and I just pour about a cup of Vinegar in with the wash. (I do a rinse first, then a full wash cycle…) Sometimes when i think about it I do a second rinse, but generally just a regular cycle with a bit of detergent and vinegar and everything comes out smelling like…well…clean…=)


  9. Autumn Beck Says:

    Kim, I do think that inserts with microfiber need to be replaced after “a while”. The lifetime of a mf insert will vary depending on use but when it gets to the point you described it is time to chunk them. You’ve put in a LOT of time and effort trying to strip them, new inserts are well deserved!


  10. Kim Says:

    I’ve used Fuzzi Bunz for 2 years now, and they have started to smell very strong every time my daughter pees in them. I’ve tried various stripping methods to get the stink out (that I learned from your Ultimate Guide, Autumn!). I’ve switched from Tide detergent to Country Save powdered detergent, because I’ve read that much of the smell of diapers has to do with leftover residue from detergents. I have washed both the pockets and inserts together, and I tried stripping them with Dawn liquid dish soap (washing them by hand in my bathtub as I have an HE machine), and I think the pockets improved, but the inserts did not. I’ve also tried sunning everything, but that didn’t seem to help. I have washed the inserts separately and stripped them with both vinegar and bleach. I have put them through the wash with no detergent for several washes just to get all of the soap out, but nothing seems to make them smell better. I am wondering if after a while, inserts just need to be replaced or if there is anything else I can try. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated!


  11. Amanda Muse Says:

    Yeah! I re-washed my pockets and AIO’s with Dawn. I don’t have a hot rinse cycle on my washer so I just did the 1st wash cycle with the Dawn and then did 2 extra hot wash cycles with no Dawn or detergent and made sure there were no bubbles. This time after taking them out of the dryer even my BG AIO’s smelled clean!! Thanks Autumn for the GREAT TIPS!


  12. Autumn Beck Says:

    When I use Dawn I add it to the basin as it is filling up and add nothing else to the wash. I then do several washes and do a “sniff” test. If they don’t smell clean I wash again with a little bit of detergent. I rinse until there are no bubbles.


  13. Autumn Beck Says:

    What type of material is the soaker made of? Is it sewn in? Are these AIOs from a reputable source or were they bought off of ebay? Many moms have been burned purchasing off ebay unfortunately. Diapers have been dissected to show a shower curtain used as the waterproof barrier!! Feel free to email me by replying to the email sent out announcing the blog posts.


  14. Amanda N Says:

    I have some AIO diapers that I have been using for my two children. They leaked at first but after washing several times they stopped. Both children were getting rashes constantly so I tried several of the suggestions that you have posted: Vinager, RLR, Dawn, even bleach because I believed that there must be something living in the diaper. Now my children are getting suffering from severe rashes and the diapers leak worse than they did straight out of the box. Do you have any ideas as to what the problem could be?


  15. Autumn Beck Says:

    The AIOs most likely stink from a buildup. AIOs are notorious for it. I would rinse, rinse, rinse in HOT water. LMK if that works.


  16. Amanda Says:

    I used the dawn by itself and did a regular wash load of BG pockets and AIO’s. They are not leaking just not smelling the greatest!! The pockets came out smelling great!! The AIO’s were better but not as good smelling as the pockets. Any suggestions??


  17. Autumn Beck Says:

    with the laundry ball you can still use detergent or oxyclean. i always add oxyclean.


  18. Rochelle Says:

    I love summer cuz sunning them really is an awesome whitener! I scrub a lot in the winter =P
    I bought the laundry ball, and I have to say that it does work in cleaning and getting the smell out initially. But once they get peed on the ammonia smell comes back strong. Does that mean they still have build up? How do I stop that from happening?


  19. Autumn Beck Says:

    Have you tried sunning them? The sun is an awesome whitener. I would also add some Oxyclean to your wash and a laundry ball.


  20. Jenn Ruse Says:

    My pockets are stinky and dingy. I’ve tried Dawn, and used bleach (although not in a while). Any tips on getting them to LOOK better? These are very well-loved dipes that I bought from Diaperswappers!


  21. Autumn Beck Says:

    Jennifer, on new diapers there can be oils in the fibers which may require several washes to remove. What type of insert are you using? Are the inserts new? Microfiber is one stinky fabric. Your Thirsties AIOs have that on the inside and can definately get buildup. Dawn can be used with all diaper types.


  22. Cyndy Says:

    I recently switched to the laundry ball –since your review–and I will say all of my diapers smell GREAT! I have been using only the ball, no oxyclean or other detergent and they smell, clean! This includes my pocket diapers. I have a front loader, but I will keep the Dawn trick in mind if needed.


  23. Jennifer Says:

    I have 2 questions:
    1 – is it possible to have buildup on new diapers? My new bum genius one size reeks of ammonia when peed on. I’ve washed it maybe twice?
    2 – also do you need to strip aio’s. I bought a bunch of thirsties aio’s based on your recommedation and love, love, love them! Do you ever need to Dawn those too?


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