Saturday, May 8, 2010

Battling the Ammonia Beast

Cloth diapers are so easy to use, but there is one really tricky spot that I often am asked about: ammonia in toddler diapers. This is a tricky beast with no single solution, but lots of things to try. We dealt with ammonia in our daughter's diapers and I tried everything, even ruining a batch of diapers in my experimentation. Assuming your detergent choice is good and your wash routine is appropriate, there are several tips that can help with ammonia. Here's what I found helped us the most:

Try soaking for 15 minutes with Oxyclean. You can soak a little longer, but no more than 2 hours since soaking can be hard on the PUL after awhile.

You can use Bac-Out. We found Bac-Out was the solution for our ammonia issues when our daughter was that age. The best results were with spraying it directly onto each insert and diaper when we put it into the diaper pail. But that got tedious after awhile, so I tried soaking for 15 minutes in the washer with the lowest water setting and 1/4 cup of Bac-Out. That helped a lot, too, though I went through the Bac-Out faster. Some moms have found success with diluted Bac-Out to help it last longer...50% Bac-Out and 50% water.

You can bleach inserts, but I wouldn't bleach the diapers themselves unless you're completely desperate. Bleach is really hard on PUL. You won't notice any difference right away, but months later tiny pinholes will appear in the laminate, then it starts to crack. I found that out the hard way, not once but twice! Bleach voids the warranty of Knickernappies diapers, but is fine to use occasionally for inserts (1/4 cup is what we recommend for inserts).

If you can sun your diapers, that helps some with ammonia and works wonders on stains. Wash diapers as usual, then lay or hang in the sun to dry. Diapers don't have to be outside, it works in a sunny window or car dashboard, too. It doesn't even have to be sunny. I've "sunned" diapers on rainy days. Still works, just takes longer. I think it's the UV rays that naturally bleach out stains and disinfect.

I have heard of moms having success with baking soda, or vinegar, or essential oils in the wash. These did not work for us and will void the warranties of some diaper brands, so be sure to check warranties before you try anything in your wash besides detergent.

Again, all of this assumes that you are using a good detergent and wash routine. We'll discuss detergents and washing routines in future posts.

Have you battled the Ammonia beast with success? Share your tricks with us by commenting.

by Heather Hicks and copyright. All rights reserved. CDO, LLC 2010


Anonymous said...

Rocking green is amazing!!!! before i switched i used tide never no stinkys :)

Emily said...

I just finished this month long battle with my two year olds diapers. I tried EVERYTHING! The ammonia was so bad it was burning his skin. Here is what finally worked for me:

Cold wash, cold rinse with 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser

Hot wash, cold rinse with 1/4 detergent cup arm and hammer sensitive and 5 squirts of bac-out

Extra cold rinse

Katrina said...

I am battling it... I have tried stripping, using different detergents, etc. So far, I think the maggies soap nuts liquid detergent has worked pretty well at getting out the ammonia!

Secret Mommy said...

I run a cold rinse with 1/4 oz. of Allen's Naturally, run a full long hot wash with another 1/4 oz. Allen's, and then run 3 extra rinse cycles on hot. Never have problems with stains, ammonia, build-up, repelling, etc. I have a he front-load washer, so all these cycles sound like a lot, but together they use about the same gallons as the older top-loader at my cabin uses in a single wash. Oh, to cut down on time for all these cycles, I turn off the spin until the very last one. Saves 10 or 15 minutes per cycle.

Sarah R said...

I literally just did a post on my blog about sunning diapers! How funny.

It seems that extra rinses help with ammonia. As long as the diaper doesn't stink immediately after the baby/toddler pees, then it's okay in my book. I have definitely smelt some ammonia when I am dumping my diapers into the washer, but they come clean and don't stink when she goes. When my son was cloth diapered, we had issues with it smelling skunky as soon as he would pee and we never did figure out a proper wash routine to fix it (wasn't with KNs).

I have also heard that washing more frequently helps prevent odors, and this is especially important in the summer when it's warmer (or if you live in a warmer climate).

Oh, and our favorite detergent here is Lulu's Glamour Wash. It rinses clean, doesn't leave bubbles, and we haven't had any problems with buildup. I also add some Calgon Water Softener to the wash because we have pretty hard water here (and we don't have a softener).

Heather said...

Laugh - "the old diaper trick" for ammonia is to wash with ammonia (not bleach). It strips the oils from the feces and helps to break down and remove the proteins. I do this every once and a great while in a hot wash. *All* my diapers get a cold, no-soap wash with a vinegar rinse before the hot wash cycle & the stinks are few and far between.

SeƱora Newbie said...

I had terrible ammonia issues. I read the blog from July about using bleach once a month since natural detergents don't sanitize dipes. I used 1/4c bleach in a super-sized load. I did not soak in it. I immediately did a strip to remove all residue from the bleach. I helped for sure. Now my KN are leaking at the legs (through the PUL) when the insert gets really soaked. I can't use them at night at all anymore since they leak through the PUL. I am now finding out that bleach will ruin the PUL! I'm wondering why they would recommend bleach on the KN blog when they claim it will ruin your dipes! I have inspected the PUL and it looks amazing. Could one cycle with 2 oz of bleach really have permanently ruined my pockets? I have thirsties, grovia and BGs and all the rest are FINE!!!

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