I had to bleach my cloth diapers

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UGH! I knew it would happen.  On Friday I packed a suitcase for my family of 6 to go stay overnight at my mother-in-law’s house for a family reunion on Saturday.  I changed Sterling’s diaper and tossed it in the pail.  Normally, I quickly walk away but this time I had a lingering thought…

“I shouldn’t leave these here for the next 24 hours because they’ll rot.” Alas, I shrugged off the little voice of wisdom and we all piled in the Suburban.

Fast forward 24 hours.  Once unloaded I immediately remembered the diaper pail.  The smell was nasty.  It was that yummy mildewed dirt smell.

I washed them as I normally do thinking that maybe the bac-out and detergent will spruce things up.  After the cycle finished I opened the lid and smelled “the smell”.  Now any ordinary cloth diaper expert would rewash them because they were obviously NOT clean.

But no, I tossed them in the dryer…maybe it’s just my washer.  Maybe the dryer will kill the smell.  Seriously, I rationalize things like this.  And they make no sense :D

Okay, so you’re thinking “well surely when she opened the dryer and STILL smelled “the smell” she washed them again?!” No. I am no ordinary cloth diaper expert.  Still being obstinate I actually took them inside and put one on Sterling.

I thought, “heck, I’ll get a use out of them, then bleach them.”  I quickly (hmmm…don’t know that I could say common sense came about quickly here) realized how ignorant my “plan” was.  While nursing Sterling “the smell” was killing me.

So, this is how I came to bleaching my cloth diapers.  Another positive to using bleach is the missing stains on my sbish fitteds.  Perfect timing as my mediums just came in today! and I’ll need to pass on the smalls.

Moral of the story: don’t leave cloth diapers in a tightly closed diaper pail to breed bacteria and fungi all because you chose to ignore that little voice!

I love this picture! I just found it actually.  I had no idea I was being photographed while multi-tasking (talking on the phone, cleaning, and holding Sterling…you know typical mommy stuff).

I love the pure joy on Sterling’s face.


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 https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyblessedlashes.

View all posts by Autumn Beck

38 Responses to “I had to bleach my cloth diapers”

  1. Ashley Amigoni Says:

    I have bleached my pocket diapers (microfiber) and rinsed REPEATEDLY but when I put them on my daughter, they burn her bottom quickly. Big diaper rash up and down. So I switch to disposables until I can fix the problem. Instantly when I put her into disposables, her butt heals. What else can I do? It is wintertime here in IL so sunning them isn’t really an option. Thanks! Oh and normally I wash them with Country Save (used to use Rockin’ Green). I bleached them because my daughter had HFM and then I had thrush.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      You could try some GFSE and see if there are yeast spores living in the diapers. Is the rash a burn or sores?


    • Jess Says:

      @ Ashley and other moms that struggle to keep their stash fresh in winter months…

      I have found that living in IL I too have a problem keeping my fluff smelling fresh as it does in the summer since I am not line drying OUTSIDE. I have tried bleach and every popular brand of CD safe detergent (giving each 2 weeks to work) as well as TIDE and GAIN and A&H. I have even tried stripping in RLR. I e-mailed Rockin Green to see if they had any insight and my e-mail fell on deaf ears, or I guess numb fingers ;-)!! But the solution to my CD funk issue was to make sure I rinsed my diapers daily!

      I have a front loader and quite an impressive stash so I do not need to wash daily, even for having twins. If I use every single diaper in my stash I can go 5 days and wash on the 6th, EASY! But I know that washing every other is better so I wash every other day and on the inbetween days I simply but the diapers thru a “quick wash” with no soap and then toss them back into the hanging wetbag and leave them in the laundry room. Then on my wash day I rinse what hasn’t been rinsed yet and then toss all the diapers in for a party in hot water and rockin green.

      Being able to thoroughly rinse the diapers, inserts and wipes has gotten rid of my stink issues and only requires MAYBE 5 minutes of my time in the evening. Even if I wash every 2 days the stink doesn’t return, which is fantastic!!
      HTH :-)


  2. Bobbie Says:

    Okay, I have a few concerns. I am very new to CD, so sorry if I ask something that seems obvious. I am currently using a few diiferent systems. I recently purchased a cd that is made of bamboo and microfiber. I have some laundering concerns. First of all, what materials are considered natural? synthetic? Do different fibers need to be washed seperately due to increased lent production of natural fibers? Do all problem solving techniques (bleaching, hot washes) apply to diapers and inserts made of natural fibers? Thank you to anyone that takes time to help!!!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      natural: bamboo, hemp, cotton
      synthetic: microfleece, suedecloth, microchamois, microfiber, zorb

      all fibers can be washed on hot. there is no need to separate because of lent production…i haven’t really ever noticed any. bleach can be used very infrequently and only when absolutely necessary. check with your diapers’ washing recommendations before using just to be safe.


  3. abmama Says:

    Can I just say how HUGE Sterling has gotten?!? He's absolutely adorable!


  4. Sarah D Says:

    jc17……i bleach every once in a while. if you do this carefully, you can bleach colors. If not, look back at some of Autumn's other posts on washing. I have used all of her tips and find them helpful. Dawn works wonders.


  5. Heather Says:

    I never bleached my diapers, but the (hemp) inserts started getting a killer embedded stench. My mom asked how I wash them and was HORRIFIED that I didn't use bleach. She always bleached our diapers, and we each had exactly one day with diaper rash, the day before cutting the first tooth. Now I always bleach the inserts (I think repeated bleaching would destroy pockets; I only bleached the one I got secondhand, once). I always air them well (line dry), since chlorine evaporates


  6. Liz Says:

    I know that “smell” all too well. When we were on vacation, we had a washer but a top loader and within a few weeks the diapers were unusable (I just couldnt get them clean!). I waited to get home with my HE, a new detergent and sunning my diapers.

    I always wondered if my diapers were getting really clean. I read how moms would complain about smells but after that “smell” I definately know the difference! I LOVE the smell of clean diapers!!!


  7. jc17 Says:

    I have occassionally had the same problem w/ my fleece diapers and some of the fitteds we have. I wash religiously every 2 days, so I was baffled as to why 2-3 times I have had mold/mildew on the diapers. Not all of them in the bunch – just a few. Oxyclean did NOT take care of the problem for me. I put a towel into the pocket of the fleece diapers and blotted out the stains with a Q-tip and bleach. I haven't figured out what to do about the fitteds, which are colored and have several layers to them. Anyone have suggestions?


  8. Candace Says:

    I was getting a little worried there as mine sit in a pail overnight, but I understand now when you say that the lid wasn't opened and they were tightly squished. I'm so excited, we're buying a house and next month I can line dry! But I've never bleached my diapers and they are starting to seem just a bit stinky when he pees so next wash is going to be a super good wash. Whether I use bleach or just strip I'm not sure, but it's nice to know that there are those that do bleach!


  9. popelix Says:

    Just curious, was the stinking diaper a synthetic one, fleece or microfibre fabric? My impression is that it’s worse with something else than bamboo or cotton. I also use a closed lid diaper pail.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      This went in the spam folder, so sorry! 90% of Sterling's diapers at the time were bamboo or cotton. But I do agree with you that in general the synthetics stink more often.


  10. Emilee Says:

    I’m confused as to why they got so nasty so quickly. I wash mine every 2-3 days and thus, they sit in the pail for 2-3 days without being opened or washed and they smell great when they come out of the wash. Do you usually wash every day?


  11. BoysMommy Says:

    I am currently battling “the smell” oxy clean didn't get rid of it. I'm scared to try bleach. BG says not to use vinegar. What shall I do?


    • MommmieOfThree Says:

      Dear BoysMommy,

      I’m not shy at using bleach – I think it’s wonderful stuff. Can’t live without it. I’ve bleached lots of things that aren’t suppose to be bleached with good results. Just don’t over do
      it. It’s better to add just a little more b/c it didn’t quite do the job than being careless and you can’t undo what was done. Rinsing in plenty of fresh water is a good rule to follow. Good luck
      on discovering how good age old bleach can improve the quality of life by ridding the bad guys
      from our lives. JustAnotherMom


    • Lori Says:

      A 'natural' bleach (though I love good, old-fashioned clorox!) is lemon juice (squeeze one!) and then sun…bleaches and smells divine! Old great-grandmother trick…if it is a smell AND stain, try lemon juice with salt (kosher is best) and sun. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't tried it!


  12. jennifer h Says:

    CUTE photo!!! Ditto to the above question :)


  13. ncmeg1118 Says:

    What type of bleach do you use? Oxyclean? It is is safe to use on AIO like BG's?


  14. anastasiadenton Says:



  15. Cindi @ Rustique Art Says:

    Okay, she’s married to a Chiropractor and holds a cell phone like that! Her mother would cringe!
    Although I no longer cloth diaper b/c my babies are all grown…some extra advice to those that really dislike the idea of bleach…the sunshine ((especially this time of year in Texas)) will remove the smell of mildew also. If you have the time to leave them out for the whole day in the intense sun…it works. I had inherited a handmade doily from my grandmother and it could not be bleached but it had been in a closed up chest that had been rained on and there was the smell of mildew. I washed and just sat out to dry. I have to tell you, it did take a couple of days but it did work.


    • anastasiadenton Says:

      We're currently living in Damp, Dark Europe right now. (sigh) I MISS Arizona & the sunshine, especially when it comes to my dipes. (Can you say fast drying, lol) We DO get sun here, but also lots of high winds & storms & & &…… I just miss being able to predict rain by knowing when Monsoon season is.

      I “bleach” in order of most natural to most “Deadly, lol, if you get the drift!


  16. beehiveof8 Says:

    Yup… BTDT sort of thing! Great pic of Sterling!


  17. Lisa Says:

    LOL! Living in the state of denial, eh? Well, I do bleach ours every so often as our baby is prone to wicked yeast rashes and I need to make sure they are bacteria free as possible. So far, it hasn’t seemed to hurt them. I love the pic of Sterling! So adorable!


  18. Nichole Says:

    Hi, I use a regular laundry basket for my toddler’s coth diapers but was going to buy a carbon filter special pail for when my baby arrives in Nov. I didn’t realize you didn’t leave them in the pail with the lid closed until they are ready to wash, every 3 days or so???


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I wash every other day but the pail is often open or regularly opened. This particular pail was full and had already been sitting there 2 days. There were other components like the fact that we turned the AC up to 80 when we left, it was in a closet and the diapers were very squished together. Perfect place for things to grow ;)


  19. Randi Says:

    I bleached my diapers for the first time a couple weeks back and I was thrilled with the result. I had a lingering odor living deep within a diaper I had gotten off diaperswappers that was spreading to all my others diapers in the laundry. They all cleaned up nicely and came out smelling great! Plus, I know they are disinfected and free of “living” things!! I did this because THE Charlie from Charlie’s soap recommended to a friend (HE answered the phone when she called, haha) that she use bleach every once in a while to disinfect since no detergent can actually disinfect diapers/laundry. I tried it and then rinsed A TON and everything turned out great!


  20. markella Says:

    Dear Autumn,
    hi! I’m Markella, mother of 3 (9,8&61/2 yrs) and due to November 4th to give birth to my 4th! Working in ecofamily (greek online shop) for the past 11/2 yr I got to know cloth diapers and look forward to use them to the new coming baby. Actually I subscribe to your site but until today I didn’t have the time to really READ (or better “study”:) your newsletters. Well, down to your new post : I am SOOO relieved to realise I am just a “normal” mother when ignoring the little voice because…(all the reasons we know!). And yes, I hope I’ll practice cloth diapering without ignoring the smells (besides, there are too MANY others to notice and complain until it’s gone!). Wishing you all the best, lots of courage and patience ! Markella


  21. MiksMom Says:

    We travel a lot but usually just for a few days at a time. While I always have the bulk of the dipes washed the night before we go, there’s always the overnight and a couple of morning dipes wet before we leave. I usually just ‘hang dry’ those over the edge of the diaper pail. I can’t imagine the horror in finding mildewing dipes! Icky! Although, did you ever see the nasty pics on diaperswappers of the nasty, nasty mushroom dipes!!!!


  22. fentonslee Says:

    i almost never even use a lid on my diaper pail. i find that they smell far less if i don’t.


  23. Yara Aguilar Says:

    wait… huh? one night in a diaper pail & your diapers, um, rotted? How in the world….
    I think I must have missed something……
    I always leave my diapers (well some of them) in a closed diaper pail (and by that I mean trash can with lid) (the rest are just in a wet bag on the doorknob of the bathroom upstairs now) for much longer than overnight. 2, 3, sometimes even 4 nights.
    I will admit I had (ewww gross gross gross) maggots ONCE a day or 2 after I saw a fly leave the diaper pail (shudder) but other than that….
    but at least you reminded me, if the diapers smell, rewash ; )


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