For the Mamas | Cloth Diapering 101: Dealing with Issues (e.g. Mold, Mildew, Ammonia, & Diaper Rash)

February 4, 2014·

We are cooking and moving right along with this cloth diapering series! Still so glad y’all are getting a lot out of it and finding it helpful. I really was afraid it would be too much information, but if you are anything like me, then you over-researched… and frankly, there is a lot of “half” information out there. When I would try and find certain things when it came to cloth diapering, I’d only get about half of the information I was really looking for or needed.

Anyway. Here’s your catch up for where we are:

Today’s post isn’t as fun as some of the others, but it’s probably the most necessary…

Dealing with Issues in Cloth Diapering (e.g. Mold, Mildew, Ammonia, & Diaper Rash)

So, if I’m being honest, while 90% of the time, cloth diapering is awesome and easy, there is that 10% of the time that you run into problems and run into inconveniences and it can be a big pain. But let’s be honest, if cloth diapering REALLY was the most convenient and easy form of holding your baby’s potty stuffs, then don’t you think everyone would do it? Right? Right. So sometimes you run into issues, and dealing with them quickly prevents you from having, well, further (or worse) issues. I will spare you pictures of said issues. You’ll have to use your imagination.

I, personally, have dealt with all of these and so I’ve figured out how to fix them… Or at least, this is what has worked for me. 🙂

Dealing with Mold and Mildew in Your Cloth Diapers

I learned the hard way that yes, your diapers can grow mold and mildew. If you think about it, when the diaper gets wet, and then it sits for a day or three in a wet bag or pail surrounded by other damp wet things, mold is bound to grow.

At first I didn’t know what it was… I started noticing little black specs on a few of my diapers (not all of them). So I turned to some of the cloth diaper forums I read (yes, I’m a dork) and other places on the interwebs. And yep… mold on your cloth diapers looks like little black specs. Mildew looks more like a “rash” on your diapers – I actually did NOT have a mildew issue, only mold.

I immediately began FREAKING out. I totally overreacted and was like “OMGAHHHH I’M THE WORST WHY IS MOLD GROWING IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!”

It is not, in fact, the end of the world.

How do you KILL the mold and mildew in cloth diapers?

The ONLY way to KILL the mold and prevent it from growing or spreading is BLEACH. Yes, bleaching your diapers.

I was TERRIFIED to bleach my diapers. But now, I bleach them once a month. There are some people who will say bleach is BAD, but BumGenius (the brand I use) actually recommends using bleach once a month on your diapers. Bleach is pretty much the ONLY thing that will kill the mold.

Won’t the colors on my cute diapers fade if I bleach my diapers?

No, the colors on your covers WILL NOT fade – the PUL covers are dye fast and so the colors and cute prints aren’t going anywhere.

How do you bleach your diapers?

Once I noticed the mold, I ran them through the normal wash cycle that I usually do, but after the hot wash with detergent, I do ANOTHER HOT HOT HOT wash (with boiling water added) and a 1/4 cup of just regular old Clorox bleach. PLAIN Clorox bleach. Then, I rinse rinse rinse rinse rinse! Now, once a month, I just use the bleach in lieu of the detergent during the hot cycle. The key is to rinse your diapers A LOT after using the bleach. Because I’m rinsing so much after bleaching, I’m not worried about the bleach irritating my baby’s bum.

But the black specs are still there even after I bleached my diapers!

Yep, unfortunately, mold and mildew stain. So, while the mold and mildew are “dead,” their stains will still be there. It is going to take a lot of sunning to get it out. Annoying, yes, but don’t worry – the mold is dead.

How do you prevent mold and mildew from growing again?

Try to not go any longer than three days in between diaper loads… two days is really ideal, but no longer than three. Also, if you can, allow some air to ventilate the place you keep your diapers.

Since experiencing the mold issue, we now keep our wet bag unzipped. Yep, we put dirty diapers in there and leave the wet bag open… and we have YET to have a stink issue! And the mold issues are gone. Air ventilation really does help!

Dealing with Ammonia and Stink in Your Cloth Diapers

When pee sits for too long, it turns to this lovely smelling thing called ammonia. And by lovely smelling, I mean HORRIBLE smelling. Ammonia is a common issue in cloth diapering, and it can be fixed!

You will know you have an ammonia issue because as SOON as your baby pees, it will SMELL. Also, ammonia can leave ammonia burn on your baby’s bum and that is NO fun!

There are a couple ways to get rid of ammonia and stink in your cloth diapers… I am familiar with two of them and I have, myself, done ONE of them.

The best way to get rid of ammonia and stink is to strip… your diapers!

And honestly, even if you DON’T get an ammonia or stink problem, stripping your diapers every few months is actually a good idea.

Stripping your diapers gets rid of any detergent buildup, diaper cream buildup, ammonia, stink, mold, etc.

How do I strip my cloth diapers?

  1. I start with CLEAN diapers (so if they are dirty, I run them through their normal wash routine all the way up until I’d dry them).
  2. Then, I run a HOT wash with 1 tsp (I have a front loader, if you have a top loader, use 1 tbsp) of original BLUE Dawn dish detergent. Yes, it has to be BLUE and it has to be Dawn. It can’t be ANYTHING other than ORIGINAL Blue Dawn dish detergent. This is a de-greaser than will help to break up and get rid of all the buildup and gunk on your diapers.
  3. Then, I run a HOT wash with 1/4 cup of bleach (just plain Clorox).
  4. I add a boiling pot of water / pitcher of water to the bleach cycle.
  5. I then rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, and rinse some more until I don’t see anymore suds.
  6. Yes, this is a full day process.

And then bam! Your diapers will come out bright and white and smell clean and fresh!

I have also heard that Rockin’ Green’s “Funk Rock” is great for getting rid of ammonia, too. I am allergic to Rockin’ Green so I have not used it myself.

Stripping your diapers is also good if you’re noticing that they aren’t holding as much or leaking!

Dealing with Diaper Rash

While diaper rashes are less common with cloth diapers, they do happen. If your baby is teething, rashes are common. If you have ammonia issues, rashes are common. Diaper rashes happen and sometimes, even my beloved Motherlove cream just isn’t enough to help the rash situation.

How do you treat a BAD diaper rash when you can’t use “regular” diaper rash cream?

If we have a bad diaper rash, what I do is I will use Triple Paste diaper cream (this stuff is SUPER strong and works like a charm) and I will COAT her in it, and then use a FLEECE LINER inside the diaper. So, I place a fleece liner on top of the cloth diaper and so that sits in between her and the diaper, preventing the non-cloth diaper safe cream from getting on the diaper.

You can buy fleece liners from any cloth diaper store, Amazon, or you could even just get some fleece from the fabric store and cut some liners up yourself. The fleece helps to wick away moisture from your baby’s bum and protects the diaper from the cream. The fleece is not absorbent, so you have nothing to worry about!

And, if that doesn’t work, then yes, sometimes you can COAT baby in diaper rash cream and put her/him in a disposable diaper for a few hours. Although that’s rare – the cream and fleece liner combo is really the best.

So that’s just a little bit about dealing with some of the issues. I really hope I’m not scaring any of you off!! 🙂 I promise the PROS way outweigh the cons. 🙂

Now what about you? Have you cloth diapered before? What issues have you run into? What issues have you run into and not been able to find a “fix” or “cure” for? What questions do you have?