Cloth Diaper Laundry Troubleshooting

Sometimes it happens. You thought you had a great cloth diaper care routine going, and then suddenly you have a problem with stinky cloth diapers. Who do you turn to?

Cloth Diaper Discussion Forum Questions

Many of us turn to cloth diaper discussion forums for answers. It sounds like a great idea – hundreds of other cloth diapering moms gather there – someone’s bound to have the answer to your question!

However, there’s this thing about people. Have you ever found yourself in a (real-life) conversation where another person is talking and you don’t even hear her because you’re too busy mulling over what you’re going to say next? That’s me more often than I’d like to admit! It’s human nature. We’re kind of self-centered like that.

So what I often see happening in cloth diaper discussion forums is that someone poses a vague-yet-urgent question such as, “Help! My diapers stink! What do I do to fix them?” 

Next thing you know, tens or even hundreds of responses flood in. All of them are from well-meaning fellow cloth diaperers, of course, but they are all over the place:

  • Use a different detergent!
  • Use more detergent!
  • Use less detergent!
  • Try oxygen bleach!
  • A vinegar rinse worked wonders for me!
  • Strip the diapers with Dawn!
  • You need RLR!
  • Chlorine bleach is what you need!
  • Soak them in Funk Rock!
  • Get some essential oils!
  • All you need are a few extra hot rinses!

I can imagine it’s a little overwhelming for the person seeking advice to be inundated with so many different options. So how can you phrase your troubleshooting questions in such a manner that you’ll get quality responses that are the most likely to apply to your exact situation?

It’s as simple as this: You just need to be very specific in the question you pose. Make sure you hit three topics – your water, your wash routine, and the problem that led you to ask for help.

Laundry Troubleshooting Reminders

First, it’s important to know some basics about the hardness of water you have. Hardness simply refers to the mineral content of your water. If you have hard water, then some of the laundry treatments that others use (such as vinegar) won’t work for you and could even exacerbate the problem. Here are some ways to figure out your water hardness:

  • Use a water quality test strip.
  • Call your local pool supply store and ask.
  • Check out your city’s most recent water quality report.

Secondly, provide a thorough description of your regular wash routine. If you’re experiencing any kind of problem, that’s an indication that your regular laundry routine isn’t cutting it. Not only do you need to take a few extra steps to deep-clean your diapers immediately, but you also need to tweak your laundry routine going forward – otherwise, your problem will be a recurring one!

Finally, try to be as descriptive as possible about the problem. “The diapers stink” doesn’t cut it! Do your cloth diapers have a “barnyard” or an ammonia smell? Do they seem less absorbent than they were at first, or are you experiencing frequent leaks? Do they seem to be irritating baby’s bottom at all? This information can help people pinpoint the cause of your problem, whether it be ammonia build-up, detergent build-up, hard water build-up, etc.

Showing an awareness of these three areas when you ask for help will (hopefully) weed out the responses that don’t apply to your situation! Have you ever been burned by taking laundry advice that didn’t really apply to your problem? How did it turn out? Leave a comment!


  1. To strip pocket diapers, merely hand wash your pocket diapers with regular dawn dish soap (yes, it’s to be Dawn) – it gets the oils out. Add a little of dish soap to the fleece, either rub the fleece smartly along or use a medium bristle dish brush or hard bristle tooth brush to wash the fleece. flip inside out and repeat on this side. Rinse well, ensuring that the water runs clear. you’ll be able to use this any time you feel that the diaper could also be distasteful. Alternately, you can soak your diapers during a tub of boiled water with dawn dish soap. Rub them along and let them soak within the water with the dish soap till the water is luke heat. Then do as several rinses as is important in your washer to induce the diapers to rinse clean.

  2. ok. hot cold cycle with bigger load size than actual amount of diapers. Free and clear sun liquid laundry detergent, use over half the clear cap full and i have hard water. charlie banana diapers, microfiber inserts and a couple kanga something pocjet diapers also. A kanga diaper hanging pail, i do not close, but put a little bit of baking soda in bottom to help absorb moisture. Diapers smell and look clean and i hang dry the diapers and lately have been machine drying inserts with other clothes because they dont fit on the drying rack. I leave diapers in pail approx three days and wash on third night or 4th morning. Lately after he pees some of the diapers have a horrid farm fish smell though. Its kind of hard to describe and before i wash them the pail and dirty diapers have this smell also. Again diapers come out smelling and looking clean. approx once every few weeks i wash all diapers with a little vinegar and Clorox two.