The Horrible, Stinky, No Good, Very Bad Diapers

{guest post}

Remember me talking about Zachary’s rash?

And the stinky diapers?

I thought I had fixed it. But it turns out I was WRONG.

Oh, boy was I wrong!

Every morning I was reminded just how wrong I was. I would literally have tears running down my face while I would change his morning diaper.

Not because I was sad, angry, happy, etc. But because the ammonia stink coming from his diaper would cause my eyes to profusely water.

Seriously, there were tears rolling down my face. Half the time I wasn’t able to see properly.

If it wasn’t bad enough that I was reminded every morning of this failure, I was also reminded again every time during the day that I changed him.

At first I thought maybe I wasn’t changing him enough. As the mother of 3 children it’s easy to become distracted (especially when one is wild and crazy like my Audrey.)

So I set an alarm on my phone, every 2 hours I changed his diaper. The stink continued.

For sure, it must be ammonia, so I tried grapefruit seed extract and Rockin’ Green’s Ammonia Booster. The stink continued.

Build up? I bought some Tide. The stink continued.

My diapers were coming out out of the dryer smelling great. But as soon as he peed the stink continued.

More water, less detergent. The stink continued.

More detergent? The stink continued.

And to make maters worse this stink was also causing my poor boy to break out.

I was throwing everything I knew of at it, and it wasn’t making any difference!

I bought some Huggies and spent the next week stripping diapers in Dawn soap and boiling water.

Overnight soaks in Bac-Out, Ammonia Booster, Tea Tree Oil, vinegar. Separate and together.

I thought for sure I’d fixed the problem. There wasn’t the faintest hint of ANY smell when those diapers came out of the dry.

And then he peed, and the stink continued.

Were my diapers old? My bumGenius 4.0 were about 2 years old. But their absorbancy was fine, no problems there. It was that blasted stink that needed to go!

I asked a cloth diaper group how I could solve this problem. Everyone was great and trying to help, but they were suggesting everything I had already tried. And then a wonderful ANGEL mother told me to try a bleach soak or an OxyClean soak.

I’d never heard of that one! I tend to shy away from bleach when it comes to diapers. My children all have sensitive skin, and bleached cloth can be pretty rough with their skin. But I was pretty desperate. So I soaked all my diapers (except my Nana Bottoms and GoodMama’s) in bleach water overnight. Meanwhile I had all my diapers that couldn’t be bleached in a bucket with a couple of scoops of OxyClean.

The next morning I ran a prewash (with the water that had been soaking), ran a cold wash with Tide Free and Clear, then a hot wash with an extra rinse. The diapers come out the same as they always did, no smell.

I put him in the diaper and waited for him to pee. I never thought I’d be waiting for my 16 month old to pee.

Let alone be excited for the moment that that finally happened.

I think I hit a whole knew level of “I never knew I’d…” when I was excited to sniff a peed on diaper. But excited I was, because when I took his diaper off I was not met with the usual cloud of stench that I normally was.

My eyes were dry. Luckily the diaper was not, he had definitely peed!

But there was no smell. The diaper didn’t stink!!!

The diapers that were soaked in OxyClean did just as well as the ones soaked in the bleach. The awesome mama who gave me the advice warned to not soak in both bleach and OxyClean at the same time. I have since switched to only soaking in OxyClean, I haven’t done a bleach soak since the initial soak, and the stink hasn’t come back.

I fill up the washing machine as much hot water as possible (I have a top loader), and then add a few scoops (2-3) of OxyClean, then I add my diapers. I no longer boil the water, because really, that takes forever. And I don’t enjoy taking pots of boiling water upstairs. I soak overnight, and in the morning run a prerinse, cold wash (with detergent), then hot wash with extra rinse. And then I’m done.

I am so glad that I finally found a solution to this stink, the rash that Zachary had been dealing with went away as soon as his diaper stopped having ammonia build up.

Have you ever used an Oxyclean soak or bleach soak to get rid of the stink? Has it worked?

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About Samantha Thyme Sherman

Samantha Thyme Sherman is a stay-at-home mama to three beautiful blessings that she named Sydney (5 years), Audrey (2 years), and Zachary (1 year.) She lives in the Pacific Northwest, and adores the rain. She started cloth diapering in 2010 when Audrey had severe eczema in the diaper area and has been passionate about it ever since.

View all posts by Samantha Thyme Sherman

46 Responses to “The Horrible, Stinky, No Good, Very Bad Diapers”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    I do an wash & rinse extra cycle every other time with my diapers, putting in 1-2 Tablespoons of bleach and no detergent. It keeps the stink away.


  2. Kim N Says:

    Do you put the diapers in to soak after they are already “clean” (doing your normal wash routine first) or when they are soiled?


  3. bea Says:

    Hi, THANK YOU for this!

    I’ve been using homemade cloth diapers and pad for my handicapped dachshund, and I’ve read all about how to wash them, and so on. So far, it’s been perfect – no lingering stink, etc. However, after my elderly mother got her power turned off (dementia, bill non-paying, etc.), I’ve been staying for a week there without a working washer. The doggie’s diapers have been waiting until today to wash….My first load didn’t get the smell out! Re-washing with another (commercial, non-clean, detergent) and vinegar, right now. Worried, though, and googled for back up. If they’re still not fresh, I’m doing the oxyclean soak!


  4. Jordan Says:

    I also struggled with stench and rash literally right after getting my diapers. I was using all natural Honest company detergent but it just dint work. My little dolly had bad rash and horrible ammonia smell.I stripped with dawn and now use Kirkland (Costco) regular-just like Tide regular-and I have had no issues but I also use a little bleach occasional. And using every wash right now for hand foot mouth issues.


  5. Jordan Says:

    I also struggled with stench and rash literally right after getting my diapers. I was using all natural Honest company detergent but it just dint work. My little dolly had bad rash and horrible ammonia smell.I stripped with dawn and now use Ireland regular-just like Tide regular-and I have had no issues but I also use a little bleach occasional. And using every wash right now for hand foot mouth issues.


  6. Treva Says:

    Can you do this for all materials, organic cotton, micro,bamboo? I believe my PUL covers are what’s stinky and not my cotton diapers. Maybe I’m wrong?! I just don’t want to ruin my covers. Thank you in advanced. Treva


  7. Amy Spruyt Says:

    I have a front loader, just did a bleach strip about 6 weeks ago in my bathtub. Is there an easier way with a front loader and how often should I be doing it? I use PC green non-chlorine bleach. My diapers just started stinking again and I think my babe has ammonia burn :(


    • Heather Says:

      Amy, I have a front loader and wanted to try this out, so I put all my diapers in my utility tub, which for me happens to be right next to my washer. I just plugged the basin and set them to soak overnight in there, soaking them only in OxyClean. After they soaked, I transferred the diapers to the washer without wringing out the water and continued the process as the post says. I have done it 3 times now. I find that I have to do it about once a month. My babe’s bottom is happy as can be and the diapers come out as fresh as can be without any sign of stink when he pees. So if you have a utility sink/tub, try that. Hope this helps.


    • Tierney Says:

      You’ve generally got to use REAL bleach… like the disinfecting kind with 5.25%+ active ingredient :)


  8. Jessica Says:

    YES! I’ve been having issues, even after using Rockin Green and taking the time to rinse every single insert after a diaper change before placing it in the bucket. This morning was the final straw…my daughter’s diaper was overwhelming! I headed over here planning on spending a while searching for a possible answer and saw this post right away. I’m going to try this now as I needed to wash diapers anyway today! YAY! :)


  9. Britt Says:

    I bleach my dipes every other month since the initial stink issue. I have had no problems with stink nor ammonia sense then.


  10. Vicki Hall Says:

    I’ve never had this problem yet . At least I’ll know what to do if I do I have had problems with diaper covers retaining odors.


  11. Melissa C. Says:

    I find that a splash of bleach in the wash once per month keeps things nice and fresh :-)


  12. Ashlee Says:

    Thanks for the ideas. I just recently started having the same problem and I want to get it fixed as soon as possible.


  13. Athena Says:

    I put one scoop of oxiclean in the pre rinse of every wash. I’ve never had to actually soak or strip diapers due to build up ( I have stripped for yeast boo)because of it. I love oxiclean.


  14. Jenny S. Says:

    Thank you for this post!! An answer to prayer! I’ve always had the impression that CD’s are super touchy and can break down easily with different products. I think I’m learning that that’s not as true as I used to think. I’ve always read that bleach is a no-no but now I am definitely going to give it a try! I was fighting with the same exact ammonia problem for MONTHS! Too many months and it was making my baby break out too. :( I felt so bad and didn’t know what to do. I am now potty training him and that problem is over but now I have baby #2 coming in 2 months and knew I had to figure something out before his/her tender bum uses the diapers.
    Thanks again! :)


  15. Laurel Says:

    I have used an oxyclean soak roughly twice a month for the last 3 years. I’ve never had a stink issue. Dawn is my other must as my mother is a desitin addict! I also rinse several times in our toploader.


    • jessie Says:

      Rinsing with plain water and applying a coat of coconut oil works as well or better than desitin for us. I like it because it washes right out of the diapers.


  16. Katie Says:

    will oxyclean baby work the same as regular oxyclean? Also I have a top loader, HE, low water washer. Would you suggest I use the super wash cycle which is for towels and jeans and allows for maximum wash time or the bulky items cycle which is for sheets, jackets, and comforters, and starts out with highest water level?? thanks!


  17. Erica Says:

    This is great to file away – from my reading I couldn’t figure out whether oxyclean is safe for CD – I swear by it for my towels and sheets that have stains!


  18. Gercia Says:

    I wash diapers by hand. and as it was with the same problem of bad odor absorbers even after cleaning. I found a product called STERINAPPY which comprises 2.5 Sodium Dichloro Isocyanurate, I fear that much damage to the diapers, I decided to risk it. first did a wash with hot water, then put his dry smell remained the same night put to soak in hot water with two spoons of Sterinappy, the next morning did her washing. this time the inserts are not completely dry, but surely the smell went away. someone here already used something with this composition 2.5 Sodium Dichloro Isocyanurate?


  19. t Says:

    I tell others in my cd groups to oxiclean F&C soak or a small splash of bleach every so often. Its always worked for us.


  20. Nicole Says:

    I couldn’t click on the link to read this blog fast enough! The stink has continued for months at our house now. I use Tide all the time with my diapers. My iron ridden well water is hard to combat. I boiled, bleached, did several hot washes without detergent, tried vinegar, and hung them out on the line for hours of hot sun, but nothing was working! I will have to give the Oxy Clean soak a try. Thanks for this post…I’m beyond desperate and feel completely crazy every time I sniff a peed in diaper. :)


  21. Katie Says:

    I have the same trouble with my overnight diapers that I stopped using them too and am using disposables at night. I WIll try this though. Thank you. How much tide free and clear do you use in your top loader? I have a top loader HE low water machine which I think makes washing cloth diapers a lot harder. Also are you using regular oxy clean or the oxyclean baby? My top loader locks too and will only do a timed soak so I can’t soak overnight either.


    • renee Says:

      I feel like I could have written your post. We’re in the same situation, hopefully the oxyclean soak will help us both. I found that after the soak water fills you can pause the cycle. It unlocks the door but the water stays until you resume the cycle. I started doing a 20 min soak before washing because it makes the diapers weigh more and tricks the washer into using more water in the wash.


  22. Jenny Says:

    Are you using regular bleach or color safe bleach? And how much do you use in a soak? Sorry if that was a stupid question. Any ideas on how to do this in a stupid HE front loader?


    • Samantha Thyme Sherman Says:

      I just used regular Clorox bleach, 0.5-1 cup of bleach, and water level on the highest it can go. I’m not sure how to do it in a front loader, does your machine have a spot to put bleach and it will add it?


  23. Lisa Says:

    I’m going to try this with my 2 new S’bish overnight bamboo fitteds that got the ammonia stinks as soon as I started using them! I was so disappointed because they were my first S’bish and I couldn’t wait to love them!!!! So while I love them for the absorbency, the smelly morning had left much to be desired. Thanks for the advice!


  24. Céu Says:

    RLR didn´t work too??


  25. Amanda Says:

    Anyone with a top-loading (locking) HE washer have a work around for soaking longer than the washer’s presets? No matter what I try it won’t let me soak longer than 69 minutes.

    I use a scoop of Oxi in each diaper load, but a full soak from time to time sounds like a good idea.


    • t Says:

      Soak in a bucket/plastic tub by the washer overnight. I learned a HE soak Iisnt the same as an ol’ school washer soak. HTH


  26. Katie Says:

    I use bleach from time to time, even in my first rinse cycle. Definately helps.


  27. Hope H Says:

    Thanks for this. I spent a week washing an rewashing dipes and they still stank. Gonna grab some oxy clean on the way home and try that.


  28. Karen Says:

    I use bleach from time to time. I have to do several HOT washes with nothing but water after a bleaching to get all the bleach out but it works great. I do it every 2 mo or so and never have stink issues since I started the occasional bleach.


  29. dancinglady Says:

    I have used bleach from time to time when nothing else has worked. Even if it does wear my diapers out a little faster, I feel it is worth it. I wouldn’t want to wear something stinky and I can’t in good consciousness put it on my baby. BumGenius recommends a 1/4 c bleach wash on occasion.


  30. Anastasia Says:

    I soak Oxiclean for an hour and never more because I DID leave some towels in overnight and the stains were bad. Oh the Oxiclean got those stains alright but they were so deep the material was rubbish afterwards. Now the only time she’s smelly in the a.m. is when she didn’t drink enough the day before.


  31. Bri Sherman Says:

    I heard from a friend that you were not supposed to use OxyClean with cloth diapers because it affected the absorbency…thoughts??


  32. Lucy L Says:

    Thank you so so so much for posting this! I have had issues with our overnight diapers stinking ridiculously when wet, smelling fine after the wash, but immedidately back to the ammonia smell. Thought I was working in a grandmother’s hair salon with all the ammonia. I have fallen to use disposables at night only and CDs during the day. Definitely trying this tonight and hoping we can go back to CD at night, too.


  33. Andrea S Says:

    This is good to know. I’m new to cloth diapering. My baby girl is 3 weeks old today. She has had a little diaper rash (sometimes better, sometimes back again) pretty much since she was about 24 hours old. The first week she was in disposable dipes. Then cloth during the day and disposable at night for almost another week. Then, when the rash was it’s worst, no more sposies – only cloth. Now I rarely use my giant stash of cotton prefolds alone in her diapers – she almost always has a microfiber soaker pad in there too or something extra to pull the moisture away from her sensitive little bottom. We don’t have a ton of these extra inserts, so I wash daily and don’t mind that. What I’d like to know… does cloth diapering always have big hiccups like this, or like yours in the blog? I would hate to have to trouble shoot 90% of the time. I want it to be almost brainless – seems like it should be. Is cloth diapering so complicated?


    • Anastasia Says:

      @Andrea S. In the End it’s all Laundry, you find your “bag of tricks” and for the most part it IS brainless. For me and Autumn there is a few extras going on. I personally have to use cloth (I know TMI) and because of the reasons why my babies are automatically put into cloth as well. You have already partly found out the reasons for both. But the very sensitive (and in my case very pale) skin comes with those headaches. Also diapering in cloth has changed over the years. My oldest will be 16 soon, that’s a LOT of “technology changes” over the years and even I have to get caught up. (My baby is 3) The newer fabrics don’t always like certain things but also manufacturers like to have guarantees on their products because they ARE more expensive. 16 years ago bleach was the norm, Oxi clean was new, Vinegar was standard, and I could go on. I EXPECT the fabric to wear out, it’s life. I DO NOT expect 24 diapers washed several times a week to last 2 years (I used to have dozens to wash once weekly) But they CAN if cared for properly. (as per the warranty) And on and on it goes. Laundry, just the basic jeans and t-shirts kind has changed as well, so it makes sense that this does too. (I have a military family, oh the headaches) Always remember what you learn here you can carry back to your regular laundry as well. And will keep it longer. It works both ways.


    • Sandra Says:

      Oh my gosh! I feel the same way! Cloth diapering is so complicated… Don’t do this and always do this… I almost gave up after 1 weeks cause it was so overwhelming. It’s been about 1 month now and I feel like after hours and hours of reading and research, I am finally more confident. I pray I don’t have issues like this because I will for sure give up. My local CD store recommends 1/4 cup of bleach once a month. I also hand wash poopy diapers to make sure there isn’t any hidden poo in places. So far so good but I’m only starting out and my baby is 8 months old.


  34. Stephanie Says:

    I’m going to try the oxi clean. I’ve had to use bleach before, and it rapidly increased the aging of my diapers. (I use prefolds in homemade pockets) I had prefolds that only lasted less than 2 years while I was having to routinely bleach (something like once a month). Then we moved and the smell went away, i was hoping it was going to stay gone, but it’s come back. I was dreading starting the bleach routine again, but this gives me something new to try! Thanks!


  35. Jill Says:

    i was bleaching microfiber and running 2 giant loads with tide and on and on…

    and finally I put flats in the diapers. I am down to rinse/wash/2xrinse and done.

    not 2 heavy washes and 6 rinses… so.. there is that. sometimes, microfiber just stinks..


  36. Kathie Says:

    What CANT you put in the oxyclean bath? We have a zillion diff brands/kinds of diapers. Bamboo, cotton, fleece, etc.


    • Bri Sherman Says:

      I’m not cloth diapering yet…but trying to get educated before our baby arrives. A friend of mine said she couldn’t use a certain laundry detergent recipe because it contained cxyclean, which affects the diapers absorbency??


  37. alicia Says:

    we are about 9 months into it, and really struggling with stench. i haven’t tried my switch to ecosprout yet… but currently doing an RLR wash/strip, AGAIN. if the detergent change doesn’t work… i will go straight for the oxiclean. thanks for posting!


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