Saturday, February 6, 2010

any cloth diaperers in the house?


Baby Jack in a Bumgenius 3.0 April 2009

Baby Jack in a trifolded prefold and Bummis cover May 2009

Looks like some of you are clicking over from Pinterest. I'd kind of forgotten about this post until I saw the traffic headed this direction. Welcome!! You should know, though that I found that vinegar and oxiclean did not turn out to be a long term solution to our ammonia problem. Click here for my revised advice on cloth diaper ammonia (we've been ammonia free for 6 months now!!)

I'd be happy to get into a discussion of why and how we cloth diaper later, if anyone is interested, but this post is for those who are already using cloth. If you know any cloth users, send them this way-- I promise they'll thank you.

The bane of our cloth diapering experience has been persistent ammonia build-up in our microfiber inserts. It usually builds up gradually and is easy enough to take care of with a monthly good strong vinegar soak (inserts only). Well, recently all three of my boys were sick with croup and we took a couple of weeks off from using cloth diapers-- I had too much to do taking care of sick kids to keep up with diaper laundry.

Trouble is, we had a pail full of urine-soaked diapers that sat unwashed that entire time. When we finally washed them and put them back into rotation, we found ourselves with a horrific, knock-your-socks-off ammonia odor every time Jack peed. I tried our go-to vinegar soaks and they had absolutely no effect. None. I actually thought we'd reached the point that we'd have to suck it up and buy new inserts.

I did a little research on the interwebs and found a 39 page thread on discussing the use of a vinegar and oxiclean soak for ammonia stink. I figured I had little to lose at this point, so I gave it a shot. Lo and behold, it worked like a charm.

The magic is in vinegar and oxiclean. Apparently, when you combine acetic acid and peroxide, you get peracetic acid-- used in industrial applications as a super disinfectant. Vinegar is a weak form of acetic acid and oxiclean is a weak form of peroxide. So when you combine vinegar and oxiclean you get a pretty weak form of peracetic acid. It will foam like crazy-- kind of like when you combine vinegar and baking soda-- and some people have even said that theirs gets hot (mine never did).

To use it on my diapers, I put all of my (washed) diapers in the diaper pail and added 4 gallons of vinegar, enough water to barely cover the diapers and 3 or 4 scoops of oxiclean-- enough to get a good foaming reaction and then let it soak overnight. I found that all the diapers floated up to the top, so I used a yard stick to agitate things a bit before I let it sit. I did this outside, for ventilation's sake, but if we ever have to do it again I'll put the pail in the bathtub (to catch overflow) and leave the vent fan on. The only fumes I noticed were the strong vinegar smell. The next morning, I dumped it out into the bathtub and rinsed as much as I could there and then transferred the diapers and inserts to the washer for more rinses. You might want to wear rubber gloves at this point. I didn't, but it really dried out my hands. It took about 6 rinse cycles in my washer to get all the bubbles out.

This whole process might seem like kind of a pain, but the results were 100% worth it. My inserts are acting like they're practically new again! They are bright white (had been a bit dingy due to our hard water), have absolutely no stink issues anymore and absorbency is still great. From what I've read, the effects are pretty long lasting-- possibly 6 months. The elastic, aplix and PUL on my diapers is holding up fine too, but if I did it again, I think I'd only do the inserts-- they seem to be where the ammonia build-up was.

And all I have to say about that is Hallelujah, people.



RyanSarahN said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll have to give this a try, looks like I need to buy some oxiclean. we are casual cloth diaperers, I always have disposable on hand and don't give myself a guilt trip when I fall back on them. While I really like the flexibility, it does lead to longer periods in-between washes and i've had some smell building up.

Liz said...

Thank you so much! I was just starting to notice that smell in my son's diapers (only a few months into cloth diapering!) and didn't know what to do about it. And what perfect timing, I just bought some Oxiclean the other day! Now if only I had bought more vinegar at Costco yesterday I would have been all set!

Keri said...

Great idea! I will be trying this when the time comes! I add a scoop of oxiclean to every wash load as well as I pour vinegar into a downy ball and throw it in. So far we haven't had any stink issues!

Shanna said...

I use a laundry soap that has tea tree oil in it and ever since I started using that I never get the stinky diaper issue and I never have to use bleach for stains.
My girl has reactions to Oxyclean, even when I use half the recommended amount and do a triple rinse.
I am hopeful that by summer we will be done with diapers though as she can go all day at the babysitter's without messing her diaper, all on the potty, but still likes to pee her pants at home. ;) I suppose though that 25 months old is pretty early to be totally potty trained.