Dealing with Stinky Cloth Diapers

When Eliana was a wee baby, I used cloth diapers and took good care of them. Every two-to-three days I would wash them and sun dry them. Fast forward passed cloth diapering a toddler to now, and you will find at least one week old dirty diapers in their wet bag, waiting to be washed. Today, I will go through the steps on how to treat stinky cloth diapers.

Treat Stinky Cloth Diapers

You guys, I don’t have my laundering habits together. When I can start to smell those dirty diapers, I know it is time to wash them. Actually, at that point, it is way passed the time I should have washed them. A normal three-cycle wash won’t do the trick to get that built-in stink out, so what will?

Soak Cloth Diapers

One way to help get the smelliness out of cloth diapers is soaking them, preferably overnight. It is as easy as throwing them in the wash, filling it up, and walking away. When morning comes, add your cloth diaper safe detergent, and wash as you normally would. In case you are wondering, my usual cloth diaper washing routine is a warm wash followed by two hot washes with Econuts.

Wash Stinky Diapers for Longer

If you happen to have a washer that prevents you from soaking, or just don’t have the time to wait overnight, you can instead add extra hot cycles to your washing routine. In this case, two extra cycles normally does the trick for me. You’ll easily be able to tell if the stank is gone the minute you walk into the laundry room. Yes, I just used the work stank.

Hang Dry Cloth Diapers

The sun is not only great at bleaching out stains, it is also amazing at leaving diapers smelling fresh. My backyard is a stinky chicken paradise, but my diapers still manage to leave the clothesline anew and fresh. If I get diaper laundry started early, even my microfiber inserts will dry on the line during a sunny day.

Strip Cloth Diapers

If after all of this, you still have smelly diapers, then it may be time to strip the diapers. There are various ways to do this; one is running hot cycles until any built up soap is washed away, another is using bleach, Dawn dish soap, or RLR Laundry Treatment. Although there are more ways to strip diapers, I have successfully done so using those methods.

Keep in mind that if you have hard water, stinky diapers can be very common without a laundry additive. Some water softening additives are Calgon, Oxi-Clean and RLR. To find out if you have hard water, refer to this site.

So if you have stinky diapers, rest assured that they aren’t permanent. And although it is best to wash them every two-to-four days, not washing them in two weeks or more won’t be the end of the world, trust me.

How long have you gone without washing cloth diapers? Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for treating smelly diapers?

PS: The cloth diapers I use the most are BumGenius One Size Pocket Diapers. They’ve served our family well!

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  1. lol I was the same way with my first daughter…fast forward to baby #2 and I've been good at keeping my wash schedule but I know there are gonna be times I leave them for longer than they should be. We are currently in Germany and the water here is super HARD!!! I've had to strip my diapers more than ever. I love using Dawn to do it. I just add an extra hot wash or two depending on how tough the ammonia is. But it is refreshing to know I'm not alone in my diapering habits 🙂

  2. It is refreshing! Sorry to hear about Germany's super hard water!

  3. vee says: Reply

    We just recently had the problem of leaking overnight…every night. Very frustrating! I did some research and learned about this build up problem that blocks the absorption. I started adding a splash of white vinegar to my wash cycle. Problem solved. Thanks for your post!

  4. That sounds like an easy fix, thanks for the tip!

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