How I Saved My Cloth Diapers from Ammonia

Cloth diapers ammonia

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So, you want to do the right thing when it comes to diapering your baby: cloth is eco-friendly, budget-friendly, and healthier for your little one.  You don’t even mind that you’ll have to clean the poo off and wash them several times a week.  You’re a natural momma; you got this cloth-diapering thing down!

Then you learn that cloth diapering is an adventure.

I have gone through several “stashes” trying to find the perfect set-up of cloth diapers.  We started with pockets with microfiber inserts.  I hated everything about them: microfiber does not do great in hard Texas water, nor do I enjoy stuffing or unstuffing pockets.  Then I got cotton prefolds with PUL covers.  I was in love!  I really, really do love prefolds.  After about six months, we started having terrible ammonia build-up and nothing I did removed it.  Finally, a friend suggested I ditch the PUL in favor of wool.  I did that and boiled all of the prefolds to strip them.  It worked great and our ammonia problem was gone… for a while.

Eventually, the ammonia came creeping back and I was so incredibly frustrated.  If you’ve had ammonia problems, you know ammonia doesn’t just give your baby a rash, it leaves burns on their tender little skin.  That was heart-breaking for this momma!  Just as I was ready to throw in the towel (or the prefold, as it were), I decided to do a little more research to see if I could save our cloth.  I came across lots of suggestions and tried pretty much all of them, so I’m not sure exactly which step got rid of the ammonia or if it was all of them combined.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Vinegar is a huge (HUGE) no-no in hard water.  Hmph.   I had been using vinegar as my detergent for as long as I can remember.  This is likely what caused the ammonia in the first place.

2. Once you have ammonia build-up in the diapers, the uric acid crystals stay in the diapers, and every time your kid pees, it reactivates those crystals, which instantly turn to ammonia.  Regular washing of the diapers does not remove this uric acid.

3. Hard water may take some additional product/s in order to get the diapers thoroughly cleaned each load.

Here is exactly what I did to strip the ammonia from my diapers:

1. Two cold rinses.

2. One hot and heavy wash with Rockin Green Hard Rock and Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer and BLEACH in the bleach compartment.  (I had to go out and buy bleach for this specific purpose.  That was hard for me to do because I really feel it is pretty nasty stuff!  I found it to be necessary to use bleach in this case.  I used regular bleach, not color-safe, and it didn’t leave any bleach stains on my colored diapers.)  Finally, I also put a capful of Calgon in the wash, as it is formulated to break down hard water.  I added an extra rinse to the cycle, for two rinses at the end.

3.  Two more rinses.

4. Another hot, heavy wash, this time with Grapefruit Seed Extract (which kills bacteria).  I used about 1-2 tsp.  I also used the Rockin Green products and Calgon again in this wash, and again added an extra rinse for two rinses on this load.

5. 2-4 more rinses.  (I know I did a total of 8-10 rinses).

6.  Hang in the sun to dry.  The sun naturally bleaches the diapers and removes bacteria.

How I wash my diapers now that they are free of ammonia:

1. I rinse overnight diapers before putting them in the pail.

2. I never, ever use vinegar!  (I will resort back to the bleach on occasion if funk ever starts to build up again, but never vinegar!)

3. I use 1 TBS each of Hard Rock and Funk Rock per load, as well as a capful of Calgon.

4. My load is as follows in our HE washing machine: cold rinse, hot, heavy wash, followed by an extra rinse for two rinses.

5. If the weather is nice, I like to hang them in the sun to dry, otherwise, we do fine with the dryer.

That’s it!

What’s your top tip for keeping cloth diapers clean and free of buildup?

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3 thoughts on “How I Saved My Cloth Diapers from Ammonia

  1. I am 5 months with no ammonia yet. I never wash hot. I treat my front load samsung with CLR every 3 to 4 months as it is (west texas calcium build up is bad for washing machines). I never wash warm water… Regular wash, cold/cold, medium spin, high soil, extra wash extra rinse. All free and clear detergent (I eye ball it). No rashes, no ammonia, no issues.

    CLR is cloth diaper safe (but I run an extra rinse just to be sure).

    I am worried it’s coming some day though. :/ We’ll see. My baby is 7 months old (going on 8). Thanks for these tips. I’ll keep this bookmarked when it does. XD

  2. Saving this for later! We’re planning on cloth diapering with baby brother. Have you ever used flats? That’s the direction we’re heading. Any tips? You should do a more in dept post on how you cloth diaper. Do you make your own? I have several expecting friends that would love some info from a pro. 😉

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