Part II: Protocol for stripping away the stink from your cloth diapers

January 01, 2015

Keep in mind that treating your diapers can be hard their natural fibers. If you're patient, issues with smelly or crunchy feeling diapers can often be solved by simply running a 2-3 hot water washes WITHOUT detergent. This is my preferred method. This will help wash away the funky build-up of minerals and detergent. If you've already tried that and are looking for a sledge-hammer to rid your diapers of stinks then try the following:



  • A water softening treatment: 1 packet RLR laundry treatment or Calgon water softener (liquid or powder; I use 2/3 C powder)
  • An ammonia/bacteria treatment: 1/4 Cup Rockin Green Funk Rock or 1/2 Cup Bac-Out



  1. Fill your bathtub with hot hot water...even add some pots of boiling water if possible. An easier but sometimes less effective alternative is to simply run a HOT cycle in your washing machine on the longest lasting cycle setting (heavy-duty); If you have a top-loader you can even stop the washing machine mid-cycle to allow more time for soaking. Add the following to your tub/washer:
  2. Add 2/3 C powdered Calgon (or RLR packet) and 1/4 C Funk Rock (or 1/2 C Bac-Out) and mix by swirling the water around; use a wooden spoon if the water is too hot to touch
  3. Add the "clean" diapers and swish them around
  4. Soak for at least 2 hours; agitate and add additional hot water ever 30-60 min (Some people just do an overnight soak and finish in the morning; just keep the bathroom door closed if you have little ones cruising around)
  5. Transfer the diapers to the washing machine if they're not already there
  6. Run a Rinse Spin Cycle
  7. Run a hot water wash with NO detergent
  8. Repeat step 7 to ensure you have rinsed out all the build-up and laundry treatments



  • You probably don't have to use both a water softener and an ammonia treatment depending on what your smell issue is. If you're unsure of the cause then you can use both to save time and water usage. If you prefer to use only one I would try the water softening treatment since this should be good for general build-up whether it be minerals, ammonia or detergent.
  • If you are having repelling issues due to the use of diaper rash cream/balms you may need to add a teaspoon or two of original Dawn or 7th Generation Free and Clear dish soap to the hot water soak. If you do this, be sure that you aren't seeing any soap bubbles in the rinse water after the final rinse in step 8. There are often agitation bubbles (especially in a front loader) so don't get them confused with detergent bubbles or you'll be rinsing forever.


  • Try not to let urine completely dry into the diaper. You can either use a wet pail or use a dry pail and launder frequently. I use a dry pail and launder every other day.
  • Be sure you're using a pre-wash. If that isn't working some people have great results by running a hot wash with no detergent as a prewash.
  • Every 2-3 weeks use a little water softener (~1/2 C powdered Calgon; directly in with the powdered detergent)  with an extra rinse or two to ensure it gets rinsed out of the diapers
  • Think about rotating in some Bac-Out or Funk Rock every few washes for maintenance; a common practice but I haven't actually had to do this.
  • Everyone's situation is different so you may have to experiment a little