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Treating ammonia build up in cloth diapers

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Photo via http://www.diaperswappers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=373844

Months and months ago I noticed that our cloth diapers just reeked of ammonia after they were peed in. Let me assure you that, if you are nearly knocked out when you dump your dirty diapers into the washing machine, you have ammonia build up. It may just initially smell bad, but, if left untreated, this build up will LITERALLY BURN your baby’s bum. I had never heard of this being a possibility! So, if you have stinky diapers, this post is for you. And, if you plan on using cloth then you need to know the signs of ammonia build up.

After a diaper has been peed in, it should just smell lightly of urine. If it smells of ammonia, then it’s time to start treating the diapers. How do you treat diapers for ammonia build up? I found a couple great websites that were full of helpful info! The first is Pooters and the second is All About Cloth Diapers. These are both great resources if you would like to use a method other than the one I chose. I went with the method I could use without buying any new detergents or cleansing agents because I wanted to start treating my diapers the moment I learned what the heck was going on.

Backstory:

My twins had suffered red bottoms 3 times before I figured out what the problem was. I took my dear daughter (DD) and dear son (DS) to the pediatrician because I thought for sure this was a yeast rash, since it was so persistent. I treated the diapers for yeast (see post HERE) once with tea tree oil, stripping and oxiclean and then a second time with bleach (which you aren’t supposed to use because it decreases the life of the diapers). The pediatrician swabbed DD’s rash to check for yeast and gave us a prescription for a prescription anti-fungal. After we put both kids in hybrid diapers with disposable inserts and used the prescription cream, the rash started clearing up. After having treated the diapers, I thought I was in the clear to start using them again once the rash was completely gone. Um, not the case. Why? It wasn’t yeast! The culture swab came back negative for yeast.

I put DD in cloth again and 3 diapers later she had a serious burn AGAIN. I was very upset. What was I doing wrong? What else could this be, if not yeast? I started reaching out to fellow cloth diaper users on Facebook. After several suggestions that the twins suddenly BOTH became sensitive to our detergent (which I found very unlikely), someone suggested that I boil the diapers. This sounded like a good idea to me. I started boiling diaper inserts (not my AIOs) and continued to research online. The next morning I checked Facebook and found a reply saying that it sounded like ammonia burn. This immediately felt right to me because when I saw how bad the rash was, I thought “this looks like a burn!”. DD had blistered! (See the post HERE for how we quickly healed the ammonia burn/rash.) I then had some specific information to look up. I found the above mentioned websites and began to treat. Since I was already boiling diapers, I continued using that method.

Boiling Diapers:

Use the largest pot you have and fill it 3/4 the way full. Use long tongs to add and remove diapers. After water has come to a boil, slowly add one diaper or diaper insert at a time. (I’m just going to say that this is a crucial point. I got lazy after a few pots of diapers and added too many at one time. The pot boiled over, I had a flooded stove, and the water spilled into the cabinet below onto all my pots and pans and the floor. Then I had to keep two toddlers out of the kitchen, with a hot water covered floor and clean up everything. Spare yourself and add the diapers slowly.) You can boil between 15-30 minutes but if you are boiling anything with PUL I’d go with 15 minutes. Longer may damage/melt your diapers. Pooters also suggests that diapers older than 2 years shouldn’t be boiled because it may damage them beyond repair. I then removed the diapers one at a time and placed them in a metal rubber coated bowl. Make sure your container won’t melt with the heat of the diapers! I then took the diapers over to the sink and placed them in a colander to drip. After they cooled off a bit, I took them to the washing machine.

After boiling I rinsed the diapers in cold. I have a front load HE washer and I will give you the setting I used along the way. After rinsing, I washed the diapers with the Kirkland biodegradable liquid laundry detergent and put vinegar in the laundry softener compartment. I usually use Tiny Bubbles Detergent because it is specific for cloth diapers. If you use a non-cloth diaper specific detergent you can get buildup from the detergent in your diapers that can cause stink and other problems. I set the washer to Hot/Cold, heavy soil, extra rinse, and water plus. After this cycle was complete I added another rinse to total 1 pre-rinse and 3 post-wash rinses.

I REALLY didn’t want to boil my AIOs, for fear that the waterproofing layer would melt. Instead, I washed them separately on the sanitary cycle with Tiny Bubbles Detergent and then washed according to the above directions. After DD had one pee in the unboiled AIO, I could smell ammonia (not as strong as it was before but still). So, I got over my fear and boiled my AIOs, three diapers at a time, for 15 minutes each set followed by the post boil wash routine from above.

I knew this had worked once I put the kids in a diaper and smelled didn’t smell the ammonia aroma from a soiled diaper! No red bottoms! I wish that ammonia build up was talked about more as a frequent problem. I have heard of several moms who happily cloth diapered for over a year, and suddenly had to give it up because of severe diaper rash. I’m thinking ammonia could have been the culprit.

Because of this discovery, I have changed my wash routine. I now, pre-rinse cold (I used to just push the prewash button), wash Hot/Cold with Tiny Bubbles Detergent & 1/2 scoop oxiclean, use the heavy soil, water plus and extra rinse settings, as well as add one more extra rinse at the end. I also wash monthly with the Kirkland detergent mentioned above to prevent buildup. I used to wash every other day but am now washing every day. I read a BumGenius recommendation stating that 12-15 AIOs are considered a full load for an HE machine. Yikes! I was totally overloading my machine! I think I was washing 16 AIOs plus the same amount of inserts AND cloth wipes too! I’m now also soaking the overnight, nap time & poopie diapers in a wet pail with water and a few drops of tee tree oil.

After all this I started asking around to see if any fellow cloth diapering mommas had experience telling the difference between a yeast rash and an ammonia burn. One mom suggested that if you put a cup of baking soda in baby’s warm bath the rash should improve if it is not yeast. If it remains the same by the next morning, then it may be yeast or a bacterial infection. I’d say, if you take baby to the doctor and the doctor swabs the rash, the results will give you the best information. In our case, the swab came back negative for anything. This makes perfect sense since it was an ammonia burn and not a bug of any kind.

It amazes me how much there is to know about parenting, cloth diapering, and life in general. I hope I have made this cloth diaper journey a bit easier on at least one of you! What’s your wash routine? Is it working for you? Share in a comment on this post and help save someone else from reinventing the wheel!

I just came across a great thread to add to this post and I wanted to share! This thread is about washing, detergent and buildup and is REALLY informative. Click HERE to check it out. For my latest wash routine update click HERE.

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64 Responses to “Treating ammonia build up in cloth diapers”

  1. Janelle says:

    Thanks for this post! I didn’t know I had a problem… but I think we do. I reacently made new fitted diapers for DS and expected baby. They don’t smell at all. That’s what got me researching today.

    I use prefolds and wool almost exclusively. My prefolds smell funky when peed in. It’s only very slightly ammonia-ish, more like beef jerky. I don’t know…. Anyway, I’m off to boil my prefolds. Hopefully that will help the smell.

  2. Kcaarin says:

    I used to have terrible problems with the ammonia smell too. (I have hard water which exacerbates the problem) The detergent that seems to work very well is watkins. I get it through amazon. And once a month I use RLR.

  3. Maggie says:

    Great post. Some people are afraid to boil their diapers, good for you for taking the plunge.

  4. Angela says:

    Remember, water boils at only 212 degrees. It’s not likely to melt anything.

  5. Laura says:

    We must be living at the same house. I’m having this EXACT same problem and practically have gone through the same motions. I also wish that I had known more about this issue. I have been happily CDing for 16 months and when this issue hit, I felt totally befuddled. I feel horrible for my daughter’s awful looking bum. Thanks so much for writing this post. I’m off to boil my diapers.

    • janice says:

      @Laura,
      I’m so glad it helped! I’ve been CDing for over 2 years now and I was very frustrated to think that I might HAVE to use disposable inserts for the short remaining time before the twins are potty trained (that’s some positive thinking on my part!). Best of luck. Please come back and post how it worked for you! :-)

      • Laura says:

        I tried boiling, but it wasn’t enough to make them super clean. I bought some Funk Rock and Hard Rock detergent from Rockin’ Green. I used both and turned up the dial on my water heater (I made sure I turned it back down after my diaper mission) Oh yeah! Now those are some clean diapers! Totally worked and I would highly recommended these products.

  6. Chantelle says:

    I’m thinking I may have a slight ammonia build up. With pocket diapers do you only boil the inserts? The shell should be fine? I am gonna give this a whirl! Thanks!

    • janice says:

      Chantelle, yes, just the inserts – as long as the shells don’t have cloth for the ammonia to accumulate in. :-) let me know how it works for you!

  7. Carissa says:

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!! OMG I have been having this problem for about 2.5 weeks now and my daughter has been in pampers, because every single time i put her in the cloth she get blisters and starts convalsing from the pain, the pot is on to boil, you might have just saved us from going to pampers!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

  8. Kimberly says:

    Sounds like my problem now! Little girl got a horrible rash after a bout of sick poos and it just would.not.go.away….and I figured out that it was because of the ammonia buildup on her diapers. The smell is god-awful. Now that her rash is healing up after putting her in disposables (that I had left over from a two day diaper strip-a-thon) for the last couple days, I think I’ll make this my weekend project and see if it helps!

    btw, ammonia smell is bad, and about ten times worse when you’re pregnant. My husband almost made me stop touching them. I still have some dirty diapers…would you recommend giving those a quick wash before boiling? (Some have poo on them still.)

    • janice says:

      @Kimberly,

      I would wash them before boiling them. Otherwise you will need to wash your pot and start a whole new pot of water for the next boil. It takes several loads to get all the diapers boiled since you can only boil a few AIOs or 10ish inserts at a time. I added a bowl full of water after each load, brought to a boil again, and then added the next batch of diapers. :-)

  9. I think some of my inserts are starting to have ammonia build up cause it still smells a little like pee when they come out of the wash- mainly the overnight inserts. Better get to boiling!
    Wonder what it is about the boiling that helps!

  10. debbie m says:

    Thanks!! I boiled my help inserts. Will do the same for the microfiber and my AIO’s. I will try RLR, too.

  11. Kristin says:

    Omg SO glad I saw this post! My daughters diapers smell horrible after she pees just once. I have been thinking about going back to disposables even though id much rather do cloth, so happy I came across this cause it sounds like my exact problem. Going to try to boil them and wash like stated above and hope it works =)
    Also wondering is there anyone here that makes their own det (I use the duggar recipe) and washes their cloth diapers in that?
    Also I use disposables at night cause my daughter leaks through the cloth, I use bumgenius AIOs and I have tried to add additional inserts to the point that her diaper barely closes and I still get leaks! It there another type of diaper or brand of cloth that is meant for nighttime and heavy wetters?
    thanks for any help =)

    • janice says:

      @Kristin,
      I use GroVia AIO’s overnight with either an extra bamboo or gCloth insert. This gets us through most every night! My kids sleep 12 hours. There are nights when they have had too much water before bed and NO diaper could hold all the pee, but these are great 99% of the time. I have also used biodiapers from GroVia with a small gDiaper disposable insert for a doubler. This makes it through the nights when we are out of cloth for stripping, boiling, or rash healing. :-)

    • Brandy says:

      I use a homemade recipe from theecofriendlyfamily.com It’s similar to other detergents, it just uses oxiclean free instead of soap. I’ve been using it for about 6months.
      For nighttime heavy wetters… I use a prefold (I use mostly prefolds because they are simple and easy to clean!)snappied with one bamboo insert folded in wetzone with a fleece liner (keep the bum dry) with an aristocrats wool cover! (just recently he started nursing NON STOP through the night, so I added another bamboo insert on the OUTSIDE of the prefold before I put on the wool.) Works great! On vacation he soaked through 2disposables a night… HEAVY wetter!

  12. Karen says:

    I boiled the pee (haha) out of my diapers before too. Some people thought I was crazy, but I could literally see the pee in the water.

  13. Julie says:

    Thanks for the post! I think ammonia from detergent residue build up is a lot more common than most moms realize. I find that different detergents work in different water better for some than others It’s always a good idea to try something different when you end up with a problem, sometimes just switching things up is all it takes.

  14. .:karen:. says:

    Thanks for this. This past week has been almost unbearable for the smell. I’ve done brief strips w/ Dawn or Calgon or RLR in the past but it’s been a while. We’ve been CDing since DD was born 7 months ago plus some of the inserts were used in her older sisters cloth pull ups & had never been stripped. I’m still a little nervous about boiling PUL (have heard conflicting info on this one) so I am currently stripping those in RLR while I boil my mf inserts & cotton prefolds (these were the stinkiest!!) So far, one batch is boiled & I was left w/ yellowish water. *blech! Been seeing a lot of people talking about boiling diapers lately too. Here’s hoping this works! :)

    • janice says:

      Karen,
      I hope it works for you! I still have yet to have any issues with my boiled diapers with PUL. No de-lamination, just excessive wear because I don’t line dry my AIO’s. It’s tough to be able to buy enough AIOs to not have to worry about the extra time it takes to line dry when you have 2 or more in diapers!

  15. [...] see my post on Ammonia Build up for another reason your little one might be getting a horrid diaper rash and for my latest [...]

  16. Audi Dewit says:

    Thank-you! I have ammonia issues like crazy (front loader, hard water) I have soaked tons of times in rockin’ green and funk rock, but it didn’t help me much. I had the same diaper rash burn too with my ds… It made me feel guilty for using cloth (wierd I know) but it cleared up when I put used sposies… I also mistook it for yeast! I gave up and bought new cloth diapers (he was growing out of his and they weren’t a stay-dry type so I bought new pockets and the rash did go away, no wonder) Anyways I tried stripping them with lots of hot water, but they still stink. Like eye-watering when I throw the load in the wash. So I am going to borrow my MIL’s HUGE stock pan and get boiling! I’ll let you know if it helps!

    • janice says:

      I’m now using Rockin Green Funk Rock to keep the ammonia at bay with Charlie’s soap and water softener. I also add two heavy wet towels to the wash cycle and this has made a difference!

    • Audi DeWit says:

      It definitely helps! No ammonia smell at all left.. (I changed the water with each new batch of inserts) Smelled up my house a little hahaha!! Works better than rockin’ green for me!

  17. natalie says:

    i am having major ammonia problems that I can’t seem to get rid of. I have tried stripping, bleaching, switching detergent, adding calgon, nothing is solving the problem. my son is getting a rash from it now too, so I am starting to get desperate. I don’t want to use disposables, but if I can’t get rid of this I’m going to have no choice….I’m not going to keep putting diapers on him that he’s reacting to.

    sounds like the boiling may be my best bet to finally kick the ammonia. however I’m hesitant because my stash is all aio’s. your post was very encouraging to read for this reason, but before I do it I just wanted to check and see if yours have snaps or not. I’ve heard you can’t boil aio’s with snaps because they will melt

    • janice says:

      Natalie, My AIOs are mostly GroVia brand with snaps. Have you done a soak? I bought some fish tank ammonia remover after reading a couple posts about it. After a wash, you soak your diapers in a pail with some fish tank ammonia remover. Here is the link to the post with specifics. I need to update my post with this info. http://charsworld.com/2010/06/ammonia-is-gone/. That is another option if boiling is too intimidating. I have heard from many moms that use prefolds/flats that a regular boiling (once a month or every other month) keeps their diapers in tip top condition without excessive wear and tear. Have you considered trying prefolds for nighttime/naptime only? This is what I currently do. I also rinse my prefolds in the morning so that the urine doesn’t sit in the fabric and fester.
      If you boil your clean diapers, I think this will give you a nice clean slate with your diapers. Then maybe you can do a strip or just an extra wash every other week to keep the buildup from returning. This all depends on your wash routine though. I’d love to work with you and trouble shoot your wash routine so that this doesn’t continue to happen. :-)

  18. natalie says:

    Janice, I would really appreciate your help. I looked on your blog and didn’t see a contact button. you should have my email from me commenting on here, so whenever is convenient if you could send me an email I will reply with what I’ve done so far. again, thank you so much!!

  19. Audi DeWit says:

    Wondering if anyone tried the fish tank ammonia remover? I have been trying to use my Ai2′s but my son keeps getting burns. I’ve boiled and then washed and used them two or 3 times and he’s already getting burned :( Pockets he’s fine with, and the smell overall isn’t all that bad. Only when I’m doing the diaper laundry do I really smell the ammonia.

    • janice says:

      Audi,
      I’ve had success with it and another reader has had good luck with the fish tank ammonia remover after one soak in it, a stripping, another soak and another wash. Are you rinsing nap time and night time diapers right after they come off of baby? I have had a huge decrease in ammonia issues after starting a routine where I rinse after nap and night time. Please email me if you want to further trouble shoot Audi!

  20. Michelle says:

    Hi! OK – so let me get this straight… If I’m going to boil my inserts… How do you MEGA clean the pocket diaper.. I mean they aren’t AIOs, but they still have that thin layer of cloth as the pocket for the insert. How do you ensure that’s clean? Just by a high temp wash in the machine? Also, aside from the lack of ‘organicness’… does washing with Tide cause problems in CDs? I’ve read on the actual diaper brand sites and about 50% of them say Tide is perfectly fine. What are your opinions, since I see some seriously experienced CDing mamas here.

    • janice says:

      Michelle,
      You can use bacout on your pockets/covers. That will disinfect them.
      From what I have heard, Tide works great for cloth diapers. I think many of us try to avoid it because of some of the reasons we started using cloth diapers in the first place. Tide is not an environmentally friendly detergent. It also has chemicals in it that many would like to avoid, just like we want to avoid the chemicals in disposable diapers. I completely understand using Tide if you have been unsuccessful with other detergents. I really struggled to perfect my wash routine. I now believe that most of the detergents I tried would have worked much better if I had added a water softener and towels to my wash. I haven’t tested this theory though, and I am happy as a clam with Charlie’s soap so I’ll stick with it!
      I hope this helped! :-)

    • Jen says:

      I got 2 years worth of stink out of my pocket diaper fleece (Fuzzibunz) by soaking them for a few hours in hot water with oxyclean. Then just rinsed them and they smell brand new.

      • janice says:

        This is great to hear Jen! Remember that ammonia is tricky though. While that may do the trick for bacteria stink ammonia can still linger and shows up again as soon as the diaper is peed in again. I doubt the fleece will hold on to it like microfiber or other absorbent fabrics though. Just a reminder for other readers, this type of soak (where you soak a cover with PUL/TPU and/or elastic) is fine on rare occasions but will greatly decrease the life of your diapers if done on a regular basis.

  21. [...] you’ve dealt with ammonia buildup in your diapers (see my post HERE for how to get rid of ammonia), how do you keep it from coming back? I learned a few things while [...]

  22. Ramana says:

    I boiled about halg my inserts before i read this, do i think it matters i only let them boild for 5the min then rinsed them in cold?

    • janice says:

      It depends on how much buildup you have. You can either reboil for longer or just wash them and see how they smell after baby wets them. If you still smell ammonia they’ll need more treatment.
      Please let me know how it goes! Your experience will surely help others! :-)

  23. [...] Boil your diapers. I have never tried this method but there is a great post on it here. [...]

  24. Danielle says:

    Janice – Thank you so much for this information! I’ve been cloth diapering for 7 months with no issues and then one day the ammonia smell appeared and would NOT go away. I stripped the diapers, tried a bleach wash, a vinegar wash, multiple hot washes and a different detergent – none of which were successful.
    Each time I put the cloth back on my little girl she had a scary rash within minutes and the diaper reeked.
    After reading your post I was skeptical that something like boiling would work. Since I’d tried everything else and was about to give up on cloth I figured I had nothing to lose. Well, we’re on day two and so far no rash and no ammonia smell! Hooray!
    I’ve also changed my wash routine, as you recommended. For me, it seems the additional detergent and 3-4 extra rinse cycles at the end did the trick.
    I had no idea this was such a common problem and you saved me from permanently switching to disposables! Thank you so much for your advice and tips!

    • janice says:

      Danielle,

      I’m so glad the post helped you!!! Ammonia can be very frustrating and I’m glad you found a new routine to keep it at bay. :-)

  25. crystal doyle says:

    We’re majorly struggling with ammonia build-up. My poor baby’s butt is sensitive enough. lol
    Here’s my routine….i rinse every pocket and insert as soon as it comes off, and put it in the diaper pail. Every other day, I wash. I do a cold rinse, with spin. Then a cold rinse, with no spin. I have an HE front loader so I like for them to be good and soppy and heavy. Then I do a hot/cold wash, using All Free and Clear. I have to use this detergent b/c it’s the ONLY detergent that doesn’t cause my sons eczema to break out and bleed. :-( Anyway, it’s a hot/cold wash, heavy soil, extra rinse. Then I run through 3-5 more rinses, or until I see no more suds.
    I’ve tried the fish tank ammonia remover soak…..all night. So 14 hours. It worked for a week.
    So, now I’m on the trying the boiling method. I’m going to boil my “clean” inserts and see what happens. I’m curious though……I’ve read that ammonia build-up is from using TOO MUCH detergent. But then I’ve also read it’s from NOT using ENOUGH detergent. Any insight?

    • janice says:

      Crystal, so sorry for your struggles! Poor baby bum! :-(
      I don’t have studies to give you hard evidence for an answer. I’m gonna guess and say that if bacteria can cling to detergent build up then its very possible that ammonia can as well. If you are doing several rinses and you watch your last rinse cycle to confirm that there are no soap suds, then it probably isn’t detergent buildup. I can’t say that there isn’t some kind of buildup from the detergent because I don’t know what All is using for optical brighteners. (PS I know you said it was the only detergent you could use, but have you tried Charlie’s or EcoNuts?)

      It may be that you aren’t using enough detergent. How much are you currently using? Do you have hard water, soft water, and do you use a water softening agent? Hard water requires much more detergent because the soap attaches to the minerals in hard water instead of working on your soiled items in the wash.

      Let me know how it goes and if this was helpful! We can trouble shoot this until we get it fixed! :-)

  26. Caitlin says:

    Hi Janice, I know I’m a year late to this post, but somebody just gave me the link and it is definitely speaking to me! My 10 month old boy has gotten some BAD burns on his poor hiney in the last week and a half. I hear of so many different techniques to strip diapers, I just don’t know which ones to go for! I have Bum Genius 4.0 pockets, BG Organic Elementals and Swaddlebees AIOs. We have an HE front loader and use Lulu’s in the Fluff detergent. We’re also unlucky enough to have relatively hard water. I always do a “quick wash” cold cycle, a hot wash heavy duty cycle, followed by an additional rinse, but sometimes do a “quick wash” hot cycle as my additional rinse. I have on occasion used the sanitize cycle, even though I know it’s not generally recommended. Is it my understanding that I can not boil the BG 4.0 pockets, just the inserts? Unfortunately, I’ve run the pockets in the sanitize cycle several times. Hope I haven’t ruined them. I didn’t notice a difference! I’m in the middle of a turbo washing routine, with a splash of bleach I added to the first cold wash. I’ve never used it before. I’m hoping this helps, but guess I’ll be boiling them if it doesn’t! I do rinse every single diaper, so the pail is pretty heavy when I put it in the wash. I’m wondering if I should forgo a pail liner and just fill my diaper pail with water and some sort of soaking solution? Oxi clean or something? Thoughts?

    • janice says:

      Caitlin, have you done an overnight soak with just the inserts? I’d try soaking them with detergent, water softener like Calgon or RLR or Charlie’s Laundry Booster. GroVia has a nice product I’ve used also called mighty bubbles.
      After you get the ammonia out (which may take a few treatments depending on how much is built up) try a presoak in a bucket or large sink with a tsp of detergent and water softener before every wash. Soaking for an hour before washes like that eliminated ammonia buildup in our house! (Along with rinsing the overnight and nap time diapers on waking that is…)
      Let me know either here or by email if you want to trouble shoot further or if you can’t get a fix down! :-)

      • Caitlin says:

        Thanks for the reply! No, I have not done any type of soak. I just ordered a bunch of RLR packets. Only 1/3 rd of my stash are inserts, the rest are all AIO’s (BG’s elementals and Swaddlebees). Should I not soak them? I feel like the biggest culprit of my son’s ammonia burns are the BG Organic Elementals because they HOLD. SO. MUCH. PEE. I always used them as overnights. They probably have the most build-up. He’s been wearing disposables for the past few days since we were out of town and our diaper sprayer button broke when we got back! Waiting to replace it before we try out the hopefully ammonia-free stash of diapers I stripped last week!

  27. [...] RLR or Charlie’s Laundry Booster if you use Charlie’s Laundry Soap). See my post HERE for treating ammonia [...]

  28. Adrienne says:

    Thank you so very much. I have not yet boiled my diaps but will probably tomorrow. I was actually shocked to come by your post. I had had problems with the ammonia smell after babies had peed in diaps before but just thought that was life. And I eventually quit cloth diapering because both our girls (1 and newborn) had such terrible burns my hubby had had enough. We are on our way to twins now with two still in diaps I knew we had to cd again and we are but the ammonia smell had come back. Just looking into twin stuff I found this post and man am I glad I did! I posted it on our city’s cloth diapering Facebook page. Thank you so much again!!

    • janice says:

      I’m so glad it was helpful! :-) let me know if you run into any issues with cloth and I’ll try to help!

  29. Shannon says:

    Thank you SO much for this post! I am so glad that I found this. I now know that I have MAJOR ammonia build-up and I’m so hopeful that the boiling method will work for me. My daughter had ammonia burn so badly, and it wasn’t getting better so I had to put her in disposables for a few days while it cleared up, Then I put her back in cloth and it happened AGAIN. Ugh. I’ll be boiling all day today…

  30. KateS says:

    I use 2 wet pails with about 5 gal water in each and 1c vinegar in each (also I have a poopy soaking pail next to the toilet with the sprayer). I have CD’d for all but overnights (so many leaks!) for six months with my 7.5 mo. old DD. No ammonia smell remains in my diapers unless I don’t prewash and extra rinse, possibly because it is rinsed out in the wet pail, which I drain into the toilet before loading the HE frontloader.

    I wonder if some of the buildup is caused by oils in poop accumulating. Polyester microfibre inserts attract grease. I have been using about 1/8c soap, hot wash/cold rinse, occasional borax prewashes and extra rinses to eliminate yellow poop stains from the get go, and this semi strip every wash (hard water) seems to be working because I haven’t had persistent stains or odors.

    Good luck, ladies! Wear rubber gloves when wringing out diaper inserts as you empty the wet pail, or your hands will smell like ammonia. The air in the room with the pail smells comparatively lovely to what I’ve experienced near a friend’s diaper service dry pail. I wash about 25 pocket diapers, wipes and misc items every 3 days in a single load, med-sized front loader.

  31. [...] her diapers to get any funk out if the extra washes don’t seem to do the trick. Here is a good explanation on how to do that and [...]

  32. Katie says:

    After just 3 moths of using cloth diapers, my son got a horrible infection in his penis: pus and blood coming out of it! I was baffled by it, his pediatrician was baffled (said the symptoms were what she would associate with syphillis and other STDs!) Finally we got him to a urologist who immediately told us it was from the cloth diapers. I ditched them for a while for disposable which, along with his antibiotic, cleared it right up, but then I felt too guilty about all the landfill waste. So I found your site, spent the day boiling my cloth diapers and inserts, and so far so good, though I’m keeping my eye on him like a hawk!! Thank you for your information– it was literally the only beneficial thing I found on the web. My only question is how often do you boil them and are you boiling them when they’re dirty or do you wash them first?

    • janice says:

      Katie,
      Hmmmm. While there is a possibility that severe ammonia buildup caused a severe ammonia burn which left his skin more susceptible to infection, I believe it was completely out of line for the urologist to say that this infection was the fault of cloth diapers. I highly recommend that you seek out a local retailer or Real Diaper Circle Leader in your area to help trouble shoot your wash routine with you. Ammonia buildup will not occur with an effective wash routine. For me, I had to increase the amount of detergent I was using, add Calgon water softener and hand rinse our nighttime diapers before adding them to our diaper pail. This won’t be everyone’s fix, because water hardness, detergents, washing machines and wash routines differ from home to home. Reaching out to a local cloth diaper educator will help you determine a wash routine to keep your diapers clean. Cloth diapers are never the sole cause of infections. I commend you for giving cloth a second try, especially after having a healthcare practitioner scare you like that. It is unfortunate that so many health care providers know so little about the use and care of cloth diapers – especially since it was only 60 years ago when cloth was the ONLY diaper choice.
      To answer your question, you should not have to repeatedly boil your diapers if your wash routine is effective. If you have no local cloth diaper resources please feel free to email me your current wash routine details and what diapers you use and I will be happy to troubleshoot with you!

  33. Jen Diamant says:

    Hi Janice,
    I desperately need your help.
    I have a terrible ammonia problem that I cannot shake.
    I have done stripping with hot washes, RLR, rockin green ammonia booster, and finally bleach. I am open to any suggestions because I am at a loss.
    I have 10 AIO swaddlebees and totsbots both with snaps. I have 12 fuzzibuns pocket diapers with snaps and the elastic pull cord. Finally I have 2 bamboo diapers with snaps.
    Please suggest a strategy for me. Can I boil them with the plastic snaps? For how long?
    Thank you very much in advance!
    Jen

    • janice says:

      Jen, sorry for the delay! I always save boiling as a last resort but yes, you can boil snaps. You may need to do a couple/few RLR treatments followed by washes (with detergent) if the ammonia build up is severe.
      What detergent are you using? Do you have hard water?

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