How To Remove Buildup From Your Cloth Diapers

June 18, 2008

Washing Cloth Diapers

Build-up in diapers can manifest in a number of ways, all of them unpleasant. If your diapers are leaking, stink of ammonia every morning or your baby has rashes then you have a build-up problem.

Here are a few products available that will remove the build-up in your diapers and restore them to their original functioning capacity. Follow the directions on the bottle as to when and how to add the additive.

RLR by Cadie: Not a bleach, blueing, or detergent. Removes dried-in mineral deposits and detergent residue from clothing. RLR can be purchased in some Walmart stores and online.

Bac-Out by BioKleen

: Contains no phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, butyl, glycol ether, SLS, SLES, DEA, MEA. No known carcinogens, mutagens, or teratogens. No materials listed by the ACGIH as hazardous. “The safest and most advanced stain and odor eliminator on the market. Contains live enzyme cultures that attack organic waste and odors until they are gone. Removes stains and odors in carpets and washrooms. Gentle to skin. Biokleen.”

Laundry Ball (Water Deionizer): I love writing this blog! Every time I write I find a great product to try out. The Laundry Ball is my next purchase. To sum up the websites description, the Laundry Ball deionizes the water. Ionized water allows for dirt (poop) to be attracted and stay in the fabric. By deionizing the water and changing the charge of the water the dirt becomes attracted to the water therefore being released from the fabric. My favorite part of this product is that it will clean my washer. I have read a horror story or two about the buildup in our machines!


: Sport-Wash rinses completely. Nothing is left on your clothing to clog the pores of your fabric. Cotton, wool, and synthetic materials and left completely clean. The total rinsability of Sport-Wash leaves nothing behind to smell, clog, or radiate UV glow from brighteners. Contains no phosphates, brighteners, or fragrances. Safe for sensitive skin. Sport-Wash eliminates the rash, redness, and irritation you’ve suffered through with other detergents. No more itchy, irritated skin. I purchased my Sport-Wash from Kroger. I have been happy with the performance of Sport-Wash.

Vinegar: In addition to being a great natural fabric softener, vinegar facilitates the release of build-up in your diapers. If you have hard water, the vinegar can combine with trace minerals in your water supply. This will cause your diapers to stink (um, that’s what we’re trying to fix!) to high heaven once peed on. In the case of hard water the other additives would be more advantageous. If you have normal to soft water use no more than 1/2 (I stick to 1/4) cup in your rinse cycle. The downy ball works great for this.

Since I have started using Crunchy Clean detergent my diapers have not had stink issues. In my case it is because of the soft water mixed with heavy detergents. This was a recipe for buildup.

If you are thinking that cloth diapering isn’t for you because of rashes, stink issues or leaks try these first. You’ll be surprised at how clean your diapers will feel and smell. I know I was.


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

20 Responses to “How To Remove Buildup From Your Cloth Diapers”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    So do I use it in a soak or in a wash? I’ve read mixed opinions. I’ve tried a few other things and nothing is working. My diapers don’t smell terrible or leak but every time I put them back on my son he gets so red:( I’m getting very frustrated and sick of buying disposables. Thanks for any advice you can offer!


  2. Rebecca Says:

    How much bac out should I use? I have very soft water.


  3. Shauna Says:

    Had my 2nd child in December and decided to move to cloth diapering this round…. I purchased luv your baby one size fits all pocket diapers and ( they worked great while I used them for cloth diapers covers only. (I did this because he is so small and I wanted to make sure the fitted part around the legs and waist were not bulging and going to leak. Now we are moving toward just using the pocket diapers without the cloth diaper but utilizing the inserts and I am having trouble with leaks. I have an HE washer and I have wahed all of the inserts and covers seperate. The covers I washed about 7 time with cold rinse and the hot water wash and minimal deteregent (I have purchased lil’ outlaws detergent- and we now use it exclusively for all of our clothes) and the outer cover was not absorbing (PUL with cotten lining) but the water was simply sitting on top of the lining. I used RLR and it seemed to work right afterwards, but after one wash there seems to be the same issue again- where the water sits on top of the lining and will not absorb. Help- with my stripping issues… not stinky issues- should I just try to contiinue to wash in hot water- or should I try the dawn detergent/ scrub the lining technique? HELPP!!!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Shauna, are you using fabric softener or dryer sheets with your regular laundry? I sounds like your washer and/or dryer are affecting the diapers each time. Try stripping you washer w/ some bleach. I would use dawn on them to remove any oils embedded in the lining.


  4. sarah Says:

    I use BG diapers, and the inserts can start to stink really badly very quickly, I boil mine or toss them in the top rack of the dishwasher with NO detergent.. Some people dont like the dishwasher idea, afraid of fires, if you turn off the heated dry theres no problem at all, just stay close by.. I also found that pouring boiling water into the washer helps.. I didnt have time to boil the other night, the stench had returned, I decided a cold soak in the washer over night no detergent added, then 2 rinses after then a hot wash with detergent would work, and it did.. You just have to find what works best for you.. I also went to citrasuds, its a veggie and fruit based detergent with no additives.. GOOD LUCK!


  5. Tina Says:

    I have been dealing with stink issues for a while now and was almost ready to start over with new prefolds. That defeats the purpose of being less wasteful, so I am going to try Bac Out. Thanks for the informative article.


  6. bianca Says:

    Hi i would like to know what is another natural alternative to removing cloth diaper buildup if you have no access to these particular products? Would boiling the diapers work? If so, how hot should my wash be? thanks!


  7. Shannon Ropp Says:

    No I don’t use crunchy clean on all my laundry. I also have kirklands free and clear for our reg. laundry. and Ecover delicate wash, that I bought for my diapers before c.c. I will give the environmentally friendly a try,,Thanks!


  8. Shannon Ropp Says:

    I was hopeing that bac out would solve my stink problem. But it gave my DD the worst rash you cold imagine. I used it in the prewash, then Crunchy Clean in the wash, then extra rinse. I have an HE machine, and I think I have hard water. Anyone have any suggetions???!!!!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Do you use Crunchy Clean on all your laundry? If not try using “normal” detergent on your diapers. After a couple of weeks of using Crunchy Clean I find that my diapers get a buildup. In my opinion, the diapers aren’t getting as clean as they should. For hard water the only adjustment I needed to make (in Feb. we moved and went from soft to hard water) was to add more detergent. If all the bac-out isn’t washed out it will attack the dirty skin b/c it contains enzymes. If you have a Costco by you, I have been using the environmentally friendly kirkland detergent for 3+ months now and think it is the best detergent I’ve used (and we’ve used about 20 lol).


      • Jessica D. Says:

        HI Autumn,

        I’ve been CDing for 3 months. And my DD developed a horrible, horrible rash. Her pediatrician thought it was a yeast infection and after 3 weeks of Lotrimin I wasn’t convinced since it’s only marginally better. Around this time my diapers started to have a strong ammonia odor, after researching this issue I think she has ammonia burn, which I feel terrible about! I have stripped all my diapers, but want to avoid in the future. I was using Crunchy Clean – cold wash (scoop of cleaner), hot wash (scoop of cleaner), cold rinse. (My diapers have poop stains after each wash have to sun them each time – but that’s another issue). It seems like after writing this post you decided you didn’t like Crunchy Clean – do you have any suggestions? We have soft water – I’m a little desperate – need to fix this issue!


        • Autumn Beck Says:

          Hey, Jessica. Do your diapers smell after coming out of the dryer- either dirty or like ammonia?
          You can try the CC again except using more of it and see if that helps or you could grab a mainstream detergent to give them a deep clean. I would do 2 or more rinses after doing this since you have soft water. Another advantage of soft water is being able to do a vinegar soak. You wouldn’t do this often but it is great for breaking down ammonia salts and buildup in the diaper.


  9. Amanda Says:

    I use Bac-Out in my HE machine with no problems. :)


  10. Autumn Beck Says:

    I don’t see why it wouldn’t work with an HE. Nothing comes out of it. But I would just send an email through the website asking to be sure.


  11. Amanda Says:

    I too am wondering if these are HE machine safe? I have a HE machine that is about a year old and do not want to cause problems with it.


  12. Shelby Says:

    I was just curious…are any/all of these safe for an HE machine? I think I’d like to add one of these in our cycle, BEFORE we have problems. Thanks!


  13. Autumn Beck Says:

    Thanks, Susie! I’m glad I wrote it too for my future reference! I find something new every time I do research.


  14. susie Says:

    Awesome list.. I wish I had a list like this when I had needed it! I have bookmarked your post for passing on to friends. Thanks!


  15. Mese Says:

    Hey, Autumn!

    Have you ordered your Laundry Ball yet? You interested in saving a buck or two and going together and buying 2?

    I’m really liking the Crunchy Clean, too.


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