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Attack the Ammonia

I’m pretty sure that no matter how perfect the washing routine, how powerful the detergent or how frequent the washes, eventually we all end up with the dreaded ammonia smell in our diapers. I truly thought I had figured out the perfect combination to avoid the ammonia, but I, too, got hit with what I consider to be one of the two major pitfalls of cloth diapering; the other pitfall being the usually sometimes related repelling/leaking. The following are the methods that I use to rid myself of the ammonia odor and otherwise freshen and restore my cloth diapers.

Stripping is usually the first stop. Stripping involves several very hot washes without detergent to wash and rinse away any detergent build-up. After about 2-3 hot water washes I do a check of the water during the wash cycle to see if the agitation in the washer is resulting in any suds. Once I get perfectly clear, sud-free water I do an extra cycle for good measure.

There is a term that has become quite well-known recently in the cloth diaper circuit. It is “Rock the Soak” and all the kids are doing it! It is actually a very simple procedure of soaking your cloth diapers in Rockin’ Green Soap for a minimum of 1-3 hours and a maximum of overnight. Depending on how much build-up, stink or stains your diapers have, this soak can yield some pretty dramatic results. I prefer to do this in my bathtub overnight with enough water to cover the diapers and about 4-6 scoops of Rockin’ Green. I then hand rinse and follow with a full laundry routine cycle, adding an extra rinse or two to be sure everything is rinsed out.

I have also used OxiClean to give my detergent a boost. I use it after the initial rinse of my laundry routine and before a full wash. I will do what’s called a “Quick Wash” on my washer with 1-2 tablespoons of OxiClean. I always make sure to add some extra rinses at the end of my wash to be sure the OxiClean is out of my diapers completely. I’ve found that the OxiClean helped brighten and freshen up my diapers.

The microterry inserts are definitely the workhorses of my diapers and they bear the brunt of the damage in my opinion. Their purpose is to absorb, right? Well, as they absorb the moisture they also absorb the bacteria and odor. Bleach does a great job of getting rid of all of this yuck. I always do at least 3-4 rinse cycles after a bleach soak. This gets rid of any bleach or bleach smell, while giving my inserts a nice strip in the process

Probably the best method for getting rid of the ammonia smell is the cheapest and most tried and true: line drying in the sun. After using one or a couple of the above methods I will always finish with a line dry to insure that I have wiped out smells and stains. The UV rays naturally bleach while the fresh air works its magic. Oh, what my neighbors must think when they see me smell each and every one of my diapers as I pull them off the line. Little do they know this obsessive mama does this every single time my diapers come out of the washing machine, whether they’re headed for the dryer or the sun.

by Jennifer G. – Blog Contributor


  1. regan said...

    I've been having the stink issues and ordered some of the bumGenius odor eliminator and that stuff really works great! I went almost a whole week without washing and it used to be so bad after 2 or 3 days you could hardly stand to go near it.

    I've also 'Rocked the Soak' and it works pretty amazingly too. That mixed with the BG spray and pail freshener from Rockin Green and this is an odor free house (even in the summer) for up to a week.

  2. thanks for explaining this .. this is something i am just now needing info about.. i love the blog.

  3. Tingaling said...

    I just tried drying in the sun and it really does work! Stains have come out and the diapers seem fresher! I will have to try the Rockin' Green detergent, too!

  4. Ryan said...

    I'm so glad to hear another momma say that she smells every single diaper that comes out of the wash. I think my husband thinks I'm nuts because I smell everything diaper-wise that comes out of the wash before I hang them up to dry. Lol.

  5. I'm asked my husband, yesterday, if we could set up a dry line in the back yard so we can dry our dipes on the line during nice days. He said it'd be easy to do and he'll get it done for me.

    As for smelling the dipes when they come off the line, out of the washer/dryer, etc… I do it, too. Every single one. Because if one isn't smelling fresh, then they didn't get clean.

  6. Leah said...

    Every time I veer off what the BG manufacturer recommends for laundering, I run into elastic issues. I am now paranoid to soak those dipes in anything, especially anything containing enzymes. I do soak the inserts in Bac-Out, which works wonders, but it is time consuming to do the wet pail daily just for inserts. Does the Rockin Green detergent have enzymes?

  7. Shay said...

    Thanks for this post!

  8. fancygrlnancy said...

    I have never used bleach on my diapers.. I'm afraid to. I have used some vinegar in the rinse cycle and I almost always line dry.. lucky here with year round sun! I love to use Rockin green soap to wash too!

  9. Anna said...

    I just wish we had sun so I could put my diapers outside too! In the meantime, I'll continue to stick my nose in every load before transferring to the dryer 🙂

  10. Kelsey said...

    Awesome information, Thanks for the imput on Ammonia!!

  11. Ada said...

    I'm kind of disappointed there was no mention in this post.
    I use vinegar on my fuzzi bunz and my cottons and works fantastic every time. ~2 cups for a medium load diapers, soak, rinse, then wash hot normal.

  12. Ashley said...

    I didn't have a whole lot of luck with vinegar, which as disappointing.

    And also outing myself — I sniff my diapers out of the wash. Since we've moved I've been less than impressed with them. I may try putting them out a bit more. It's just so windy here in KS right now, and we're on the second floor. =(

  13. Melissa S said...

    Thanks for the nice blog post. I have had ammonia smell for a little while now and I've been trying to figure out how to eliminate it. I have been using RG detergent, but think I need to try the "rock the soak." I really want a retractable clothesline too, so I can hang dry my diapers. That sun is amazing on poo stains!

  14. Anonymous said...

    I've read that vinegar only works in soft water. In hard water it reacts with minerals & causes odors.

  15. Tina Oneill said...

    2 words: Charlies soap. Amazing.

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