Pausing cloth diapers

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After using cloth diapers faithfully for almost six years, we have switched to disposables. It is a bit frustrating.

With Samuel, we used cheap prefolds and plastic covers. I later made him some fleece covers, and used that system until he was out of diapers.

With Caleb, I made some Rita’s Rump Pocket diapers and loved that the system was easier than folding and pinning prefolds. Then he started getting rashes that wouldn’t go away. At first, I thought it was related to the materials the diapers were stuffed with. We experimented and changed and nothing really made much of a difference. We tried to keep him changed as frequently as possible but it never really got a lot better.

Anna came along. I made her a couple dozen of her own Rita’s Rump Pocket diapers. We had fewer issues with Anna and rashes so we just concluded that there was nothing wrong with the diapers themselves, and that Caleb must just have a lot of acid in his system.

We saw the doctor when Caleb’s rashes turned into blisters. He referred us to a urologist, who also couldn’t help us. I started reading about cloth diapers again, trying to figure out what the problem was.

It was our detergent. I used homemade with Samuel’s diapers with no problems. But clothes got dingy pretty quickly, so I switched to using storebought for all our laundry. When we added Caleb’s diapers I thought the Free and Clear detergents we were using would be good. In trying to find the cause of Caleb’s rashes though, I found out that the Free and Clear we used the most was one of the worst detergents for cloth diapers because of the buildup it caused.

We switched to Sun powdered detergent after I read this article on the Green Mountain website. Caleb’s rashes cleared up almost instantly. I was thrilled.

Almost as quickly, I started noticing that Anna was beginning to get rashes. To make a long post a tiny bit shorter, it turns out that Anna is sensitive to the Sun detergent. So I made up a batch of homemade detergent again, since it worked so well with Samuel’s diapers. We put the diapers on Anna and started watching her. Within a day, she had a rash again. Evidently she is sensitive to the homemade detergent too. *sigh* We have rinsed and rinsed the diapers, and straight out of the wash, they smell clean. But the way Anna’s skin is reacting, it’s as if there is a lot of buildup in the diapers. I don’t mind experimenting and searching to find a good detergent, but not at the expense of my little ones. We put the kids in disposables.

It absolutely kills me to put a disposable product on them knowing we’re buying it to just throw away. Especially when we have something resuable (that I don’t mind dealing with!) here already. But these rashes have GOT to stop.

I’m going to try to strip the diapers again. We tried it several times but maybe more rinses or something will work this time.

The whole point of this insanely long post is this: Does anyone know of a good cloth diaper detergent that’s not too expensive? I don’t want to spend a ton on the detergent – we might as well use disposable diapers if the soap costs a lot. But there’s got to be SOMETHING out there. Anyone? Help? Please?

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19 thoughts on “Pausing cloth diapers”

  1. Have you tried stripping with dawn dish soap? The few times we’ve had to strip, this is what we used, based on advice from other cloth diapering mamas.
    We use original tide powder to wash our dipes. Expensive, but I only use 1/8 cup for each load in our front loader. So it lasts forever!
    Our wash routine is
    -short, cold wash with no detergent
    -super duty hot wash with detergent and an extra rinse
    -2 washes on delicate cycle with no detergent (because we have a front loader, this is just a way to get more water to rinse our diapers).

    Many people have said that the pre-wash with no detergent got rid of their stinks because the diapers aren’t being washed in poope/pee water.

    I’ve also used a couple tbs of bleach a few times to get rid of anything nasty!

    Good luck! Id hate to have to go back to disposables.

    1. Jenna – we had tried stripping with the Dawn but really didn’t see a lot of a difference. From all the suggestions here, it sounds like one of our big problems is that we didn’t do a short pre-wash cycle with no detergent.

      I won’t try bleach because every other time I have tried it, it eats holes in our diapers. That’s even with a tiny amount, used in the bleach dispenser or in the water beforehand….it hasn’t worked well. I wish it would sometimes though!

      She’s in her first cloth diaper again after the Rockin’ Green. We’ll see how it goes!

  2. Have you tried using white vinegar in the rinse? I use about 1/3 cup with my frontloader, and used to use almost a full cup with the top loader. I use powdered homemade detergent and a vinegar rinse on my diapers, and it’s worked great so far, no smell either (vinegar removes odors and supposedly helps remove soap residue as well). My normal wash is cold rinse, hot wash with homemade detergent, steam cycle, then cold rinse with vinegar added. I line dry the covers and dry the inserts and prefolds in the dryer because I’m impatient.

    1. We use it frequently. It’s great as a fabric softener too!

      From what everyone is saying though, I’m starting to wonder if part of my problem is we didn’t rinse enough. We usually did a hot cycle and then an extra rinse – but maybe we should’ve done an extra rinse both at beginning and the end!

  3. We use Nelly’s washing soda. You can get it from It may be a tad on the expensive side, but it took us like 6 months to use the smaller bag. I use 1/2 of what the package says to use. My diapers come out clean, stain and stink free. I wash mine in a cold prewash cycle then a HOT normal cycle with two rinses. Hope has never had a rash until just this week and I figured out it was because Jeremy bless him washed her diapers and put what the package recommends for a normal wash. Detergent build up can cause diaper rash.

    1. We wondered if it was detergent build up too, but as hard as we tried, we could never get rid of it completely.

      I ordered some samples of Rockin’ Green and they came today. I’m just about ready to throw the dipes in the dryer, after doing a long soak in it and two more rinses after that. It sure did smell good! We’ll see how it does tomorrow when I try one of the dipes on Miss A then.

  4. I’ve had a lot of success with Country Save, as did my friend who gave me a bunch of cloth diapers. I’ll only start to see a rash if I don’t change the diaper frequently enough (within 4 hours or less). I don’t change during the night, so I use a disposable then.

    At the first sign of a rash, I’ll put a little lavender oil on my Caleb and usually it’s gone by the next changing.

    1. Leah! How are you?!? You have a new blog! I wondered how you were doing!

      Where do you get the Country Save? I’ve never heard of it before.

      1. I get it from Sprouts Farmers Market… but that’s a western states thing. They’re available at Whole Foods, according to their website:

        I have two blogs now, my quilting one is still up and running too. 🙂 Both dealing with a “slacker poster” owner, I just haven’t been able to get in the hang of routine blogging or quilting since Caleb was born. Can’t be too sorry about that though. 😉

  5. I called my mom and she seconded Heather about Dreft. My sister was (and is) very skin sensitive to everything. It is exhausting! My mom used Dreft for her cloth diapers (she also sprinkled it in the diaper pail to avoid dingy diapers or bleach–and line dry).

    My sister still uses Dreft for her underclothes, 30 years later (sometimes she uses ALL: Free & Clear).

  6. Melody,
    Since I started using Rockin’ Green and washing different I never have stinky problems anymore. I start with a short rinse cycle on cold and no soap to get all the yuckies out. Then I put it on soak on cold but only because I have a front loader and my diapers were soaking up all the water and there was very little left to wash! Then I wash with soap on hot/hot and an extra rinse. When that is done I do another rinse on cold.
    So, it’s 4 steps total(3 for you if you have a top loader that puts in lots of water. The whole purpose is to get the soap buildup out of the diapers and I’ve found Rockin’ Green and washing this way does the job. No more ammonia smell at all. Also, if you get RG, they have a little tutorial on the back of the bag to tell you what to do if you are having stinky problems. I think it’s using 4 TBLS. and letting it soak overnight or something and then washing them a few times.

    1. Faith – thank you so much!!! I ordered a couple samples of the RG this morning.

      So short rinse cycle, cold, nothing added
      Soap wash on hot/hot
      Extra rinse
      Rinse on cold

      Is that correct? It looks like 2 more steps than we were doing, but that might explain our stinkies too..

  7. Hands down either Charlie’s soap or Rockin’ Green. It’s a little bit more but since you use only a small amount(and it works great) it is well worth it. I am still using the same bag I bought for Canaan when he was born and that was almost 6 months ago. Here’s a link to a site having a good deal on R.G. right now.

    Also, how do you wash your diapers? Once I figured out how to wash them differently all the rashy, smelly issues went away.

    1. Faith – the Rockin Green even has samples that I was thinking of buying to just try.

      We wash them first on warm/hot and the longest time with a small amount of soap (about 1/2 the recommended amount). Dry pail. Once that cycle finishes, we run it through a second time with nothing added. They usually come out smelling fresh after that but once they get wet they really stink like ammonia again.

      We wondered if part of the problem is because we use microfiber inserts. But those are away from baby’s skin, so shouldn’t be causing rashes, just stinkies. I also wondered if we were washing too much at a time, so we tried to scale back some. We tend to wash about 2 dozen diapers a load (pocket cover + 2 inserts each, cloth wipes, and a wetbag or two), which completely fills a small laundry basket. If we wash any less, we’d be washing daily.

      On the other hand, Caleb is almost potty trained now and pretty much only wears diapers to bed. So that will dramatically reduce the amount, and should make troubleshooting easier too….

    1. Some. Not that consistently. I was using them all the time for a while, until I discovered that Stephen was using the Purex when he did the laundry. I didn’t think of those – we still have a big package of them so it’s not like we’d have to buy more. Thanks for the reminder!

      Looks like I’ll do a good strip load or two first, and then try the soap nuts. Hopefully they will do the trick!

      If not, this Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer sounds really good. Pricey, but good.

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