So I have to be honest here, while I was writing my cloth diapering series I was really questioning my resolve to cloth diaper. You see, after we moved into our apartment and began washing our clothes with the new HE front loader washing machine, my diapers started to get a stinky funk.
I tried stripping them with Dawn. The first few times I did this it did seem to work for one or two washes. Eventually though even Dawn didn’t help. I tried switching to a homemade detergent. It did not help either. In fact, the problem got worse.
The last few weeks the funk has been so bad I can smell it when I pull the diapers out of the dryer and when I pull a clean diaper out of my baskets to put on Bean. It wasn’t horrible. I would just get this whiff of something funky. It did get horrible though after Bean would wet her diapers. It seemed to activate the smell, whatever it was, and make it about 20 times more potent.
I finally decided to do some research on the subject to see if anyone had experienced this before and what they had done about it.
First strike against me was the diapers I had chosen. Not necessarily just the bumGenius brand, but the microfiber inserts. Admittedly this kind of ticked me off. One of the things I absolutely loved about the microfiber inserts is that they are super absorbant and they wick away the moisture from my daughter’s skin. I guess the microfiber is more prone to buildup though and the same great absorbtion powers it has tend to make it hold onto smells.
Second strike against me was my homemade detergent. Since the detergent recipe I was using was soap based and actually a laundry soap not a detergent, that was causing buildup and soap scum in my diapers.
The third strike against me was the HE washing machine. Tons of people had complained on message boards about how the low use of water that these machines are prided on just wasn’t rinsing their diapers effectively. That seemed to make sense to me since I never had much of a diaper funk problem with our old machines and when I did, a wash in Dawn took care of it for at least a couple months.
So what to do? Most of the recommendations I saw explicitly went against the manufacturers guidelines for my diapers. I was frustrated. I didn’t want to risk ruining my diapers, but I also wanted to get rid of the funk.
The detergent problem was the easiest to fix, I just switched to a store bought HE free and clear detergent. While it meant no longer spending pennies per load, I decided it was worth it not to have stinky diapers. However, a detergent switch alone was not enough to get rid of the built up funk smell that had accumulated over the past three months since our move.
Another suggestion was to rinse the diaper inserts out in the sink prior to loading them in the washing machine. This seemed like it would probably help over the long term once I got rid of the initial funk, but it wouldn’t do anything to get rid of the current smell. I was right. I noticed that I was able to rinse quite a bit out of my diapers in the sink, but the funk remained after a wash.
Since several people had tried some of the things that went against the manufacturer’s guidelines with success, I definitely felt more confident about trying them. It meant that I was voiding the warranty, but I had already tried all the things that the manufacturer recommended without success. These suggestions were to add vinegar in a Downy ball to the wash, add bleach to the wash, and soak the diapers in an enzyme cleaner like Bac-Out. Two of these suggestions I was not even willing to try: bleach seemed like it would be too harsh for the diapers and I was afraid that the rinse problem I was having with my front loader would not get the bleach or the enzyme cleaner completely out of the diapers which meant that it could cause burns on Bean’s skin. That left the vinegar.
For those of you that are curious, there is actual science behind the vinegar. The thing about urine that stinks is amonia, which is likely part of the diaper funk smell I was experiencing. Amonia is a base, vinegar is an acid. Mix the two and they neutralize. Unfortunately though while it did seem to improve things, it didn’t completely get rid of the funk.
What I really needed was something that would strip my diapers so they would be like new again so I could put into place all the newfound suggestions that would prevent the diaper funk. One of the many suggestions I saw was to use blueing instead of bleach to do this. Once again the area that I live in, while very nice, failed me. I went to four different grocery stores looking for blueing and was unable to locate it. I don’t think I ever went to a grocery store in Bakersfield without seeing that stuff in the laundry isle. It is a bit of an old fashioned laundry trick though, so I guess not so many people use it anymore.
During the process of my research I also found out that OxyClean has a ton of fillers in it that cause buildup on the diapers too. Thankfully I was able to find another oxygen cleaner that has simple ingredients called OxoBrite and it was available at my local grocery store. I decided that I would try soaking my next batch of dirty diapers in a strong soak solution of OxoBrite and if that didn’t work I would order some blueing online.
First I washed the diapers one time in the washing machine with my HE detergent and a Downey ball of vinegar to get rid of most of the dirtyness. Then I filled my 5 gallon former laundry detergent making bucket with 2 gallons of really hot water and 8 scoops of OxoBrite. I put all the diaper inserts into the bucket and filled it with more hot water. I stirred it from time to time. The inserts blew up like balloons as they soaked up all the liquid in the bucket. I left them to sit for several hours yesterday while we were out at the Dodger game.
When I came back the first thing I noticed was just how bright white the inserts were. I rung them out and tossed them back in the washing machine for two more rinse washes. When I opened up the washing machine door I immediately noticed that I didn’t get that slight funk whiff that I normally got. When I dried them it was the same thing. I just smelled hot fabric.
So I think I have finally solved my problem. I don’t think I’ll have to do this every time I wash my diapers, but maybe every once and awhile when and if the funk returns. Anyway, I share this in case any of you converts run into the same problem.