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Modern Cloth Diapers

Deep-cleaning cloth diapers: what it is, what it isn't, and how to do it

So you may have read our post about ‘stripping’ cloth diapers; it’s where we first introduced our SUDS acronym to you:

grovia_suds‘Stripping’ refers to removing an oily residue from the fibers of your cloth diapers, usually from the accidental use of fabric softener or a petroleum- or fish oil-based diaper ointment or cream. There are washing techniques—namely, the good, old-fashioned dishsoap-and-a-toothbrush scrub—that can be used to remove these oils.

But. We’d like to make a distinction between stripping and deep-cleaning.

Deep-cleaning is what you need to do to your cloth diapers (or, truly, to any laundry) when the last few times you washed them, they didn’t get QUITE clean. You can tell because, well, they STINK.

  • They might smell like ammonia as soon as your baby wets them.
  • They might be in that pre-ammonia stage, when they’ll smell a little, hmmm. It’s been described around cloth diaper corners of the Web as “barnyard-y” and “sewery.”
  • Maybe you weren’t using enough detergent for the load size and soil level that day.
  • Maybe you were using detergent* that’s not effective in your water.
  • Maybe your area is experiencing a mild drought, which can affect the mineral makeup of your water and change the way your typical detergent works.
  • Maybe you didn't get to dump the solid stuff into the toilet right away, and so the load was more soiled than normal.

Whatever led you to this point, it all boils down to one thing: Lingering nasties. Bacteria trapped in the fibers. Deep-cleaning merely requires using a little more OOMPH before returning to a wash routine that is simple and uses adequate detergent and a long enough wash duration.

You have a few options:

  1. Use loads more detergent* this time. This one can be a little cringe-worthy. It’s a little like watching dollar signs fall down the washing machine drain. The good news is: it’s just this once. If you’re using enough detergent from now on, you’ll never need to triple-dose again. And while we normally say life’s too short for overthinking extra rinse cycles, you may want to go ahead and run a couple to make sure that uber-hefty dose of detergent is agitated and rinsed out of the absorbent fibers and can’t irritate your baby’s skin.
  2. GroVia Mighty BubblesKeep Mighty Bubbles on hand for times such as these. Good old Mighty B is formulated as a deep-cleaning laundry treatment! It penetrates fabrics better than a plainer detergent can. You may need to use up to three back-to-back treatments, depending upon the severity of the lingering bacteria problem. Start your Mighty Bubbles deep-cleaning treatment(s) on already-washed diapers. Follow the directions on the packaging.
  3. Bleach. This isn’t our favorite option. Bleach is corrosive and, especially with repeated use, will not be gentle on the textiles or components of your modern cloth diapers. We prefer to advise you to turn to bleach in times of serious trouble, like if you need to sanitize your diapers in the event of a diagnosed yeast or bacterial infection. If the ammonia problem you are experiencing, however, is stinging your eyes and burning your nose, just bleach. Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup in a cool wash on already washed diapers. How much you use will depend upon the load size and the type of washing machine you have. You’ll use less in an HE washer and more in a traditional one. Definitely rinse 2-3 extra times to keep any bleach off your baby’s delicate skin.

*(Note: If your detergent is made from plant oils, it is probably not a good choice if your water is even slightly hard. Eco-friendly detergents are wonderful--and we are quite proud of our salt-based Tiny Bubbles--but they are not always effective at thoroughly cleaning heavily soiled laundry. Use something that cleans well in your water.)

Whatever deep-cleaning method you turn to, when it’s all said and done, make sure you remember 'SUDS.' The goal, of course, is to never NEED to deep-clean again, but particular unforeseen changes to one or multiples factors, like water composition or soil level, that go into your wash routine could require that you do.

If something about your wash routine isn’t working for you and you’re experiencing the persistent return of unpleasant odors in your diapers, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Support staff. We are more than happy to help you! customerservice@gro-via.com and 1-877-899-BABY.

Awful smells are not part-and-parcel of using modern cloth diapers. There is a solution, and it’s almost always simple!

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