Monday, May 23, 2011

Cloth Diapers, Stinkies and One Mama's Battle with Well Water.

Guest Post by Rebecca Henson

Greetings from Southwest Florida! I wanted to discuss some well water issues that are down here that may be discouraging others away from cloth diapering!

When I first started cloth diapering with my second child, two and a half years ago, we lived downtown with "City Water".   Never once, did we experience an issue with "the Stinkies" or ammonia with our diapers. I had never had to use bleach or vinegar on our inserts.  Cloth diaper washing was just so easy for me in the beginning up to 8 months of the adventure.

When our lease was up at the home downtown we were renting, we moved into a bigger house where there was well water. Unbeknown to us, our water softener system was broken! After 4 weeks- our diapers had the most awful smell because the EXTREMELY hard water. The detergent was not cleaning out the diapers. Still not knowing there was an online cloth diapering community to help me at the time, I had to start trying to figure out what was happening. So, we switched detergents... which was no help at all, so we went back to what we originally used. Soon enough- I figured out more detergent was suddenly better and doing a rinse with vinegar seemed to keep the stink to a minimum. Our cloth diapers went through this treatment for 6 months until we got hit with yeast.

After a good bleaching on all of our inserts in the fall of 2009 (to kill yeast)- I was shocked at how the smell vanished! This soon became my technique to bust the stink once a month. Again, cloth diaper washing became easy and stink free. Well, of course by the time I had it all figured out- we moved AGAIN.

So, "What is the issue now?!" you ask?

When our water softener runs out of salt, our water smells like rotten eggs. This was never an issue at the other house we lived in that had well water, too.

I also noticed, since living in our current home, I am battling horrible stink issues with ANY detergent I use and a "graying" of our inserts. This stink is very different than the stink we have had before. This stink smells like rotten fish.  Even when the inserts are cleaned and dried you can smell it.  I have done 3 or 4 heavy bleachings of inserts within the past 4 months- that is just crazy! I have now had to resort to a pre-wash of inserts only, consisting of 1/4 cup of bleach and 1/4 cup of Borax added to it before I do ANY washing with a detergent.

We now live in a home with a working water softener... but I just figured out within the past few days there is a bacteria issue somewhere.  I have done a lot of research and water that smells like "rotten eggs" means it probably contains hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas.
This gas comes from:
- Decay of organic matter or chemical reactions with sulfur-containing minerals in soil and rock
- Sulfate-reducing bacteria which convert naturally occurring sulfate and other sulfur compounds to hydrogen sulfide gas
- Water heaters
(provide warm environment for sulfate-reducing bacteria to live and the anode within the water promotes the reaction of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas.)

This type of bacteria can generate a slime that can promote the growth of other bacteria, as well as clog wells and plumbing. Hydrogen sulfide gas can also stain plumbing black and can corrode water pipes. I bet this is why bleach and Borax are what is keeping the stink at bay from the cloth diapers for the time being and fixing the graying issue. I have also notice our plumbing in the bathroom clogging up from our sink and shower.

With all this said, "rotten egg" well water is a VERY common problem throughout Florida and I know other states experience this issue, as well. The only way to fix these issues is through disinfecting the source of the problem! To fix water heaters: disinfect with a bleach solution, turn up the heater's temperature to 160 degrees F & possibly removing the anode. If you think it is the well, plumbing or water softener/treatment unit- you must disinfect these appropriately. If you believe it is solely a groundwater issue, then you have to treat it through filters.

Right now, I am trying to target what our source is. I am pretty sure it is our water softening system that has the bacteria in it. The maintenance company for our water system will be out next week to check out the water.

I wanted to bring this to the attention of the cloth diapering community because I do not think people would ever consider this, otherwise. If you have "rotten egg" water- "the Stinkies" are probably NOT from your detergent!  Check for bacteria and it's source, use some bleach and Borax in a pre-wash until you can fix the bacteria issue and keep on Fluffing!

About Rebecca:  Rebecca is a Christ Follower, Blogger and Stay at Home Momma to 3 children, ages 4 1/2 years, 2 1/2 years and 8 months.  She and her family are modern but highly embrace natural living. She started cloth diapering over 2 1/2 years ago.   As a complete cloth diaper advocate, she has started a non-profit, cloth diaper lending charity, in her local area.  She also introduces strangers to cloth on a daily basis. Rebecca has been through major cloth diapering adventures, giving her insight and advice into the world of cloth diapering!


Amy Matthews said...

My sister in law would really like to begin a cloth diapering education/cahirty type thingy in our local area but doesn't know how to get started. How did you do it?

Please Please Please send any info abotu it to or contact my sister in law at her blog,

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this info! I am in NE Florida & have been CD'ing for 5 months. Dipes have just started smelling like rotten fish. We have well water, but it's not the rotten egg smelling kind. It smells/ tasted completely pure! What to try? And is bleach safe to use on all cd's?

Natural Momma said...

Bleach is safe on INSERTS AND FLAT CLOTH DIAPERS. Do not use it on your covers!

Make sure to always dilute the bleach with water before it goes into your washing machine or diaper wash. And make sure you add a second rinse to your wash cycle.

*Also be careful using Bleach on your un-bleached items (natural prefolds & flats, hemp, bamboo etc.) because it will turn them white and bleach them out!

Diane said...

Thanks for this info. I live in a rural area with well water. Our water doesn't stink, but our diapers get the nasty fish smell, too! Most others online attribute the smell to using diaper rash creams that are not CD safe, but I have only used Angel Baby Bottom Balm and California Baby (both CD safe and I used them with disposable liners). I am guessing maybe our stink issue is from the well water? I am going to have to try and figure it out. Thanks again for posting this information!

Powered by Blogger