Cloth Diaper Kids Blog

FuzziBunz cloth diapers and other green baby products


Ammonia & Cloth Diapers – What It Is And What To Do About It

Ammonia smell and cloth diapers can sometimes seem almost synonymous.  Seems like everyone these days is complaining about it, having a rash from it or dealing with smells from it.  What is this epidemic and how do we fix it?

We’re glad you asked!  There’s a number of things you can do to get rid of ammonia in your cloth diapers and keep it gone for good.

But first, let’s clear something up.  Do you really have ammonia in the first place?  Sometimes ‘ammonia’ is a blanket term people mistakenly use to  label any smell or rash when it comes to cloth diapers when in reality ammonia is really a very specific thing.  Ammonia is different from smelly toddler pee, different from strong concentrated urine smell and different from a ‘barnyard’ type aroma.  Ammonia is a super strong, knock your socks off, your eyes will literally be watering, burning in your nose kind of smell like nothing else.  It is an unbearably strong smell and if present in your diapers can cause a very bad rash on babies very quickly on every bit of skin touching the wet diaper.  Ammonia is most often present in nap or overnight diapers that are on the bum for long periods of time.

Okay, with that said.  Do you have real ammonia?  If so, read on.

What’s happening anyway?  Where does the ammonia come from?
Great question.  Time for a chemistry lesson.  Ammonia comes from the break down of urine.  So, some ammonia will always happen when you’re leaving wet diapers in a wet bag between washes.  That’s not a problem in small concentrations.  But a few things speed up the breakdown of urine to ammonia (like heat, a closed diaper pail and bacteria).  What ultimately happens though, is that the soiled diapers are not being completely cleaned in the wash and that biological residue (I mean pee and poo) that didn’t get fully washed and rinsed away reacts with minerals in the water and with new urine and feces when they go back on the bum creating the recipe for those nasty rashes.  Eeew right?

So, logically, what do we need to do?  Get the diapers clean at wash time!  How do we do this?  First, we need to deal with the ammonia ASAP.  Funk Rock is a product specifically meant to neutralize ammonia.  Strip your clean diapers using Funk Rock.  Use the directions on the package or the directions here.  Next, and most importantly, you need to change your wash routine to ensure your diapers get fully and properly cleaned at each and every wash to prevent it from coming back.  This means making sure you are using enough detergent and enough water for the size of your diaper load.  We can always help you with troubleshooting here, but generally this means switching to a better detergent and/or often using more detergent.  Calgon can sometimes also be useful to help soften water and increase the effectiveness of the detergent in areas where harder water is of concern (ie. most of Canada unless you know for sure you have soft well water, a water softener etc.).  Calgon can be purchased in the laundry aisle at most supermarkets and should be used at a rate of 1/4 cup added along with the detergent.

Next, some things that will help keep ammonia at bay once you get rid of your acute case:
1) Keep your wet bag away from direct sunlight and heat.  Heat hastens the decomposition of urine to ammonia.
2) Wash your diapers every 1-2 days following this wash routine.
3) Have an open diaper pail or keep your wet bag unzipped and open to the air.  Wet diapers that dry out won’t smell as much as they wait for wash time.  Soiled diapers that are very wet and closed-in stew in the humidity and breed bacteria which makes ammonia worse.  This situation is also hard on fabrics and your diapers will break down sooner.
3) Rinse diapers before putting them in the wet bag between washes.  This can help a lot by diluting and removing some urine prior to washing.  Less urine = less ammonia potential.  Even if you only rinse nap and night ones you’ll notice a difference.
4) When you wash your diapers use a cold initial rinse before your hot wash with detergent.  Heat encourages ammonia, so cold on that first rinse is better if you have the option on your washer.
6) Keep baby hydrated.  The more diluted the urine, the less ammonia can be created in the first place.

Keep these things in mind and ammonia problems will be a distant memory.

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Washing Diapers 101 – The Best Way To Wash Cloth Diapers

Washing diapers should be simple.  Really.  You shouldn’t need lots of special rules or excessive rinsing or stripping to keep your diapers clean and functional.  Follow these quick and easy steps to worry free cloth diaper washing.

#1) Rinse – Do an initial rinse or short wash cycle without detergent.  Cold or warm is fine.

#2) Wash – A HOT wash with detergent.  Use the proper amount of detergent for your load size and type of washing machine as recommended on the package regardless of whether you use a commercially available brand or a cloth diaper specific brand.  What detergent should I use.

#3) Rinse – This additional rinse is somewhat optional as all wash cycles are followed by a rinse anyway.  So, this ends up being a rinse on top of that rinse.  It’s generally a good practice to make sure all detergent residues are gone, but, if you don’t do one and you aren’t having smell, repelling or rash issues, then don’t worry about it.

*The above applies to any washing machine whether it be a top loader, front loader, high efficiency (HE) machine or not.

There you have it.  Easy peasy.

IF you have leak, smell or rash issues then reference the linked articles to troubleshoot or contact us for help 🙂


My Cloth Diapers Smell – How Do I Fix Them?

When it comes to cloth diapers, there are different smells and different ways to deal with them.  But one thing that holds true in all situations is that your diapers are smelling because they aren’t getting clean enough in the wash.  Here’s how to fix them and how to tweak your wash routine so it doesn’t come back.

Diapers smell like a ‘barnyard’
If you have a smell that’s kinda like a barnyard (sorta poopy and gross) it generally means you need more detergent.  You are either using a detergent that isn’t strong enough to deal with dirty diapers or not enough of it.  Use the proper amount of detergent as recommended on the package for the size of the load you are doing (regardless of whether you’re using a mainstream commercially available brand or a cloth diaper specific brand).  Bigger load needs more detergent.  Have you added water to your load or increased the water level?  Then increase your detergent accordingly.  You need the proper ratio of detergent to water to clean properly.  Diluted detergent or incomplete rinsing = poop residue left on your diapers = barnyard smell.

Note: changing to a different detergent (Tide or Charlie’s Soap is great) or adding a water softener like Calgon (1/4 cup in with the detergent) to your wash can also help if you have harder water.  Remember, detergent that works well for one person won’t necessarily work well for you.  Water quality, type of washing machine, diaper fabrics and style (prefolds vs. pockets vs. all in ones) can all play a large part in finding a wash routine and detergent that work to achieve proper cleaning.

Diapers smell strongly of ammonia
If you have ammonia issues, see our post on how to deal with it here.

Still have questions?  Contact us or get in touch with the manufacturer of your diapers for more troubleshooting advice.


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Baby Break Out – My Poor Little Niece

Does your baby have sensitive skin?  My niece does.  But who knew?  Sensitive skin doesn’t run in our family, she isn’t particularly fair and she doesn’t have any specific allergies that we know of.  But for some reason little Lainey Bug has had raised red itchy patches all over her body since shortly after she was born.  She was constantly wiggling and trying to scratch herself and was a poor sleeper due to discomfort.  Thinking it was eczema, her parents took her to the pediatrician who said, no, it wasn’t eczema, just ‘sensitive skin’ and to stop using all products on her skin.  Then she gave them medicated cream.

Not wanting to use medicated cream unless it proved necessary, they stopped using their highly scented commercial laundry detergent, the hypoallergenic Live Clean Baby Wash and Johnson & Johnson Baby Lotion.  But then they were unsure of how to keep Lainey’s laundry and skin clean and they asked me for help.

I suggested Charlie’s Soap for her laundry.  It’s biodegradeable, non-toxic, cloth diaper safe and great for all skin types (not to mention free of artificial fragrances).  Plus the company has been around for over 100 years.  How’s that for a track-record?  Then I switched them onto the Delish Naturals’ Skin Care Line.  Safe, effective and great for the whole family, Delish Naturals’ products are handmade in small batches right here in Canada so we know exactly what’s in it and time and time again it has shown how great it is for a baby’s skin with nourishing natural ingredients.  Lastly, we made sure she was in cloth diapers – free from carcinogens and plastics and more breathable for her bum.

And what happened you ask?  Well she’s better of course!  The red patches are completely gone, the itchiness has subsided, she no longer squirms and fusses and she started sleeping better.  How long did it take to see a change?  3 days.  Just 3 days.  Sometimes I think we take for granted how delicate the skin of a little human really is.  And even if your baby doesn’t have ‘sensitive skin’ it’s nice to know the products you’re putting on them are the gentlest there are right?

This is why we carry Charlie’s Soap and the Delish Naturals Skin Care Line.  Not because they make us lots of money, not because we get a kick-back from a big multi-national company, but because they’re safe, they’re effective, and they make my niece feel better.

Love you Lainey Bug!

Baby wipes (even ‘sensitive’ or ‘hypoallergenic’ ones) are one of the biggest offenders we see for babies that have persistent bum rashes when using cloth diapers.  Delicate baby skin often can’t handle the necessary preservatives they have to put in them to keep them bacteria free.  Cloth wipes and warm water fixes that problem and will save you about $100 a year.

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Is Tide The Devil?

Often one of the first questions we get from new Moms considering cloth is, “Someone told me you have to use special, cloth diaper detergent”.  Now, while there are certainly very good reasons to choose a zero-residue, hypoallergenic, biodegradable detergent made to work with cloth diapers as outlined here,  many people choose to use a store bought detergent on the down-low, secretly not telling anyone and wondering whether they’ll burn in Laundry-You-Know-Where.

Okay then, let’s clear this up.  Most detergents, when used in moderation with lots of water for rinsing out residue (preferably in powder form) won’t cause an issue on good quality diapers (wait, did I just say that out-loud?).  Now, I must say, if you care at all about your diaper’s warranty (if applicable), check the manufacturers detergent recommendations as some commercial detergents will void warranties).

HOWEVER, in a nutshell, you want to stay away from super cheap detergents that have lots of wax and fillers and those that have excessive fragrance, whiteners, optical brighteners, enzymes or anything else that’s designed to be left on the fabric after washing.  Reside = buildup = leaky/smelly diapers.  Period.

This is when the issue of Tide tends to come up.  Tide is not an amazing cure-all detergent, but yes, it is a commercial detergent that we do recommend on occasion (so no shame using it).  Tide is sometimes the solution for those with ammonia or smell issues that couldn’t be combated any other way and can work really well in many water types.  Some manufacturers like FuzziBunz even have Tide listed as one of their recommended detergents.  Therefore, if you’re going to go with a commercial detergent, Tide is what you should try.  Look for Tide Ultra Original or Tide Free in the powder form (not liquid) and only use 1/4 of the amount recommended on the package for your diapers.   

Now, keep in mind that since Tide is a mainstream brand it is not specifically made for cloth diapers and does not disclose all of it’s ingredients on the label.  It is not hypoallergenic and some babies will get a rash/allergic reaction from it being in close proximity to the very delicate diaper area.  This is one of the reasons why we don’t recommend it to everyone all the time.  However, it is considered a zero-residue detergent and works for lots of Moms and their little ones.

So, if you’re a Tide using Mama, hold your head up high. Heck I even use Tide Free on my diapers when I run out of Charlie’s Soap…and I own a diaper store lol.

Happy laundering!

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What Accessories Do I Need For My Cloth Diapers?

We have every accessory you will need for diapering your baby. At the very least you will need wipes (either reusable wipes or disposable ones) a portable travel wet bag for storing soiled diapers when you’re out and about and a storage solution for soiled diapers before wash time.  We carry both traditional washable diaper pail liners as well as the very popular and unique hanging diaper pail bags that store the soiled diapers and wash right up with them in the washing machine.

Additionally you will need a cloth diaper safe detergent or at least a store brand with no additives, enzymes, whiteners or brighteners. As well as a set or two of wool dryer balls or re-useable dryer sheets to replace traditional dryer sheets and facilitate drying in a faster, chemical free way.

You may also want to consider the optional but handy diaper sprayer, which attaches easily without tools to the back of your toilet and/or flushable liners to aid in messy cleanups.

Other accessories such as cloth diaper solutions and sprays, additional inserts for extra absorbency, pail shakers to keep the diaper bag fresh till wash day etc. are nice, but optional.

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Can I Use Baking Soda On My Cloth Diapers

Baking soda tends to be used by moms who have odor issues, sometimes in the wash and sometimes sprinkled in the wet bag between wash days.  Depending on the diaper fabrics in your stash, adding a small amount of baking soda to your wash should not hurt anything. It will not likely enhance your washing however if you are already using a good detergent. Baking Soda should not be used as a cleaning agent alone without detergent.

The issues with baking soda come to light when using natural fabrics as it can be slightly abrasive and if your rinse cycle isn’t adequate and any is left on the diaper fabrics, it can be ‘activated’ by the heat in the dryer and eat away at fabrics like cotton and bamboo.

To be on the safe side, help prevent diaper pail odors with the Rockin Green Shake It Up Diaper Pail Freshener instead.