Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stinky Diapers

I feel like I just wrote and article about this, but it seems to be a recurring problem, so I want to address it again en masse.

First thing:

If your child's diaper stink even when clean, there is a problem. This is not normal. If your child's diapers stink strongly of ammonia (knock you over stench) after your child urinates once, there is a problem.

What causes odor in cloth diapers?

A few things can cause odor in cloth diapers, but in my experience the most common problem is detergent related. If you are using a "FREE" or "Free & Clear" or "Sensitive Skin" detergent on your diapers STOP immediately. Often these detergents will cause burn-like rashes on a baby's bottom, but even when this is not the case traditional free and clear detergents will cause buildup on your diapers as a result of optical brighteners. This buildup is no visible. You will simply find that one day your diapers start stinking or leaking, or both out of the blue and no amount of washing fixes the problem. The solution is to strip your diapers, which is not fun. Here is one method of stripping: replace your regular detergent with 1/4 cup Calgon® water softener (found at your local grocers) or 1-2 Tbs Dawn® or Ivory® dish soap. Strip your diapers as often as needed, but not at every wash as it is a bit harsh for your diapers and your baby's skin. Once you have stripped them, PLEASE change detergent, or you will be back in this shape again. When I was using a Free and Clear detergent, I had to strip my diapers once a month.

Other Possibilities:

Diapers simply aren't getting clean.

***Exclusively Breastfed Baby's Poop can go into the washer IF AND ONLY IF the washer is a top-loader (not high efficiency) AND you soak all diapers in the washer for 20 minutes before closing the lid on the initial rinse cycle. Then do hot wash, plus extra rinse.****

If baby gets even a drop of formula or solid food (cereal included) all bets are off, and ALL POOP MUST GO IN TOILET.

If you have an HE (High Efficiency/Front Loading) washer, ALL POOP MUST GO IN TOILET.

Leaving any poop on diapers in these circumstances will likely result in odor and significant staining.

How you get the poop into the toilet in these situations is up to you. Some people simply dunk the diapers in the toilet. Other people scrape the poop off with tissue or a dedicated spatula. Many of our customers use flushable liners to ease in the removal of poop from diapers. The last option though is my favorite and really is the best choice for those with an HE washer. It is the Diaper Sprayer. Using the diaper sprayer after a diaper change will allow you to skip the pre-rinse cycle, and go straight to the hot wash followed by a cool rinse. Saving the pre-rinse step will also mean saving water as well.

Maybe your detergent is just too mild.

It has been my experience that using some of the milder, more Eco-friendly detergents such as Seventh Generation on cloth diapers over a length of time can lead to odor. Other "Laundry Soaps" such as some homemade laundry powders and Charlie's Soap can have a similar effect, AND cause some serious rashes. I am not against any of these products, but if you find that your diapers are smelly, just realize the diaper is not likely the problem. It's what you are washing it in. Again, your diapers need to be stripped and detergent changed.

Detergent Suggestions:
Mainstream: Tide (regular, not FREE or Mtn. Spring) or Arm & Hammer Essentials (Green Liquid-not Sensitive Skin)

Eco-Conscious & Widely Available-Biokleen with Grapefruit Seed Extract. (Warning: Enzymes in this detergent can irritate skin for some)

Scent Free & Eco Conscious: Bumgenius, Tiny Bubbles & Thirsties Pre-wash & Super Wash detergents. All of these detergent options are available at Cutie Tooties.

Could Be Your Washer
It has been my experience that customers with HE washers, especially those who use AIO cloth diapers, tend to have more odor issues than people who use top-loading washers. The reason? The sewn-in soakers in AIO's get ALOT less water, agitation and exposure to detergent in an HE than they do in a regular washer. The result? Stink. The solution? There are a few. As I mentioned above, a diaper sprayer is a huge help. It allows your washer to simply sanitize the diapers, which an HE is very capable of. You can also add a couple of towels to your cloth diaper load in order to trick the washer into filing with more water. In addition, you can add a pre-soak option to your wash routine. This would mean pre-soak/hot wash/ extra rinse, then dry. Another option is to use the Thirsties Pre-wash, which addresses bacterial and odor issues.

I've done all of this and my diapers still stink!

A few questions for you. Did you buy your diapers used? If so, you may have inherited someone else's stinky problem. Buying used diapers means that often you don't know what they were or weren't washed in. If the previous owner washed with bleach, fabric softener or a free and clear detergent, she may have ruined the diapers before you ever got them. To compound this problem, the diapers may have been boxed up and put in a hot attic for a time. This simply bakes the odors in and makes them almost impossible to remove.

Are you getting the poop out of the diapers as soon as you can after changing baby?
If you allow the poop to sit in the diaper for a long period of time before getting it out, you are more likely to get odor and staining. Be sure to get solids out as soon as you can.

How often are you washing your diapers?
If you aren't washing your diapers every other day, you may run into more odor. Every third day for washing is my absolute limit. If you go 4 days or longer, expect odor, mold, mildew, fungus and heaven only knows what else. At this point you have a science fair project growing in your pail, and truly it is a sanitary problem. SO please, wash AT LEAST every 3rd day.

What kind of diaper cream/salve are you using?
If you answered: Desitin, Boudreaux's, A & D, Aquafor, or any other petrolatum or Zinc based ointment, that may be your problem. These ointments will ruin your diapers. They are likely to be leaking/repelling soon if not already. Attempt to strip them (good luck). Sometimes that stuff won't come off at all. If you are able to get them back to even, PLEASE use a salve that is meant for cloth diapers. You want something that is Olive oil or Grapeseed oil based. We carry several options: Magic Stick, Angel Baby Bottom Balm, Northern Essence, & Punkin Butt.

Do you have well water or hard water?
Some customers have reported more odor and diaper wear and tear with hard water and/or well water. A few have reported that using Calgon water softener in the wash helps. Vinegar is also an option.

Last Few Tips
**Try laying your diapers out in the sun for an afternoon to allow the sun and fresh air to freshen them.

**Try adding 1/2 cup Vinegar to your rinse cycle.

**Consider adding Pail Powder to your pail after tossing each dirty diaper in. Pail powder makes your pail smell better and gives your detergent a boost too.

Hopefully this will offer some help for your stinkies. Please know you can call or email me anytime. I am happy to help you troubleshoot. Cloth diapering should be easy.

Cloth Diapers Shouldn't Leak!

Many people claim that they don't want to try cloth diapers because they are worried about leaks. The truth is, cloth diapers shouldn't leak at all. So if you have leaky diapers, there is a problem.

Used Diapers? First thing, did you buy your diapers used? If so, the downside is that you do not know what the previous owner washed them in. If they are leaking, my first recommendation would be to strip them immediately in hopes that the problem is detergent residue. If you are using a free and clear detergent, or just a really mild one like Seventh Generation or Ecos and having leaks, strip them and change detergents. Detergents I like are: Tiny Bubbles, Bumgenius, & Thirsties Superwash--all found at Cutie Tooties; Tide (Original) & Arm & Hammer Essentials.

Another possibility is that the previous owner (or you) used chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach on the diapers. This is a BIG NO-NO! Bleach of any kind will break down the fabric quickly and compromise the absorbency. It will also eat the laminate (waterproofing) off covers and the outters of AIO's & Pocket diapers. If you or someone else used bleach on your diapers, there really isn't much you can do to repair them. Some people recommend using a waterproofing spray that is usually silicone based. You can find this spray in the camping section of most department stores. Please note that inhalation of this Teflon-like spray has been linked with lung damage, so I am NOT recommending it. Simply stating that some people report that it works on destroyed covers. I have never personally used it myself.

Fabric Softener?
Fabric softener, liquid or dryer sheets is a definite NO-NO for cloth diapers. Fabric softener might make your diapers smell good, but it will also make them leak. Using fabric softener on towels makes them less absorbent. It does the same thing with diapers. If you want something to make them softer, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. It will soften your diapers, help with odor, offer anti-fungal properties and cost a lot less. Oh yeah, and it won't ruin your diapers. If you have used fabric softener on your diapers, strip them and start over. You might also need to consider cleaning your washer if you or someone you love is a fabric softener addict. Sometimes the residue from the washer can deposit on diapers and cause a leaking problem. For top-loaders (old style) Use baking soda and vinegar until you get a fizzy effect in a large hot wash. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then close the lid. For HE washers, go to Home Depot or Lowe's and get the cleaning tablets that are made to remove gunk from HE washers.

Not Enough Absorbency
You MUST know how much your child pees and adjust accordingly. If you used a sanitary pad and had a leak, chances are you wouldn't give up on them completely, but you would troubleshoot to prevent the leak from happening again. So it goes with cloth diapers. Perhaps your child just wets too much for 1 microfiber insert. Consider adding another, or adding a help insert. Hemp is far more absorbent than microfiber, and much more trim, but it is slower absorbing. I find that the perfect combo is often a microfiber insert on top of a hemp insert slid into a pocket diaper. Some people go for DSQ prefolds in a pocket diaper. Others use straight hemp. My point here is work with it. There is a solution for your child. Try to be flexible. Email or call me anytime. I am happy to make suggestions specifically for your child.

Not Changing Often Enough
The state of TN recommends that disposable infant diapers be changed hourly. This recommendation stands for cloth diapers as well, though few people stick with that. Personally I find that 2 hours in a cloth diaper is reasonable. 3 hours can be done. Anything beyond needs to be considered an exception UNLESS CHILD IS WEARING A DIAPER THAT IS CONDUCIVE TO NAP OR OVERNIGHT SLEEP-in which cases child may wear same diaper for 12 hours. During the day however, when intake is usually highest and therefore voiding is as well, plan on changing at least every 2 hours.

Cheap Diapers/Cotton Laminate
There are 2 structural possibilities that can be a problem as well. Some diapers are just cheaply made. You get what you pay for most of the time, and this is the case with cloth diapers. Gerber brand prefolds (purchased at Babies R Us and Wal-mart gave me nothing but leaks and messes. I find this to be a common theme among parents who say they "tried cloth diapers and hated it". Very often they tried Gerber prefolds with unpleasant results. Those "diapers" are best used as burp cloths and cleaning rags. Regardless of where you buy them, if you buy prefolds, choose diaper service quality Chinese or Indian prefolds in premium thickness-4 X 8 X 4 layers--which will provide superb absorbency. There are also some other AIO's and pocket diapers that are just made cheaply either by manufacturers or individuals and often these wind up in my consignment basket because owner found that they leaked. This can be a result of poor craftsmanship--person didn't know how to seal the laminate-- lack of waterproofing; inadequate waterproofing; laminated cotton outters which provide super cute prints but also a lot of wicking, which means wet onesies; inner or insert is not absorbent enough; or poor sizing/fit leads to gaps an leaking.

Ill-Fitting Diapers
Many of my customers are tempted to size up thinking that doing so will save them money. It might. But it might also lead to some really inconvenient situations like poop all over a child's clothes, your clothes, a car get the picture. Generally speaking, sizing up with cloth diapers is a bad idea. You are setting yourself up for leaks and frustration. Just like underwear, cloth diapers fit or they don't. There isn't much middle ground. You can only cinch the waste so much, and leg gussets aren't particularly adjustable in most cases. Putting your child in a diaper that is too big can lead to gapping around the legs, which allows pee and poop to run out the sides. It also allows for gapping at the waistline in the front and back. Gapping at the front is a big problem for boys as this lends itself to what we at my house refer to as "run-away toodle" which means little boys peeing straight out the top of the diaper like a runaway water hose. It is NOT a fun experience, I can tell you. Gapping at the back lends itself to poop blowouts that are prevented by well-fitting cloth diapers, because unlike disposables, cloth diapers and covers have elastic in the back too. Finally, larger diapers mean more bulk on baby, which can put unnecessary pressure on their hips and in worst-case scenario can cause damage (his dysplasia) so, again one more reason not to size up. Trust me, the added absorbency for a larger size is usually pretty minimal. Adding an extra insert is a MUCH better choice.

The biggest temptation to size up is during the XS-Newborn stage. All I can say is "Fight the Feeling!" There are a couple of brands that you can cheat with and possibly go with a small, but in MOST cases an XS/Newborn is required, even for 9lb babies.

Brands that Require XS/NB for almost all new babies:

Thirsties Covers (Absolutely always get XS. These run big)
FuzziBunz (Ditto above)
Mother-Ease (Ditto)
Kissaluvs (Ditto)
Prefolds (Get Infant)
*Any One-Size diaper--Get XS and plan on One-Size fitting at 10-12lbs*
FuzziBunz One-Size
Happy Heiny's One-Size
Thirsties Duo Pocket Diapers Some diapers that tend to run smaller are:
Bumgenius AIO's (larger babies 10+ can get into smalls once umbilical cord falls off in most cases)

Knickernappies-size small has umbilical cut out making these a reasonable choice in size small for babies 8lbs and up.

Dream-Eze AIO's-these fit pretty quickly after birth for most babies and provide a trim fit.

Happy Heiny's-this one is a toss up. The XS will fit almost all newborns the best, but some can get away with a small. No umbilical cut out.

Bummis Covers-For most babies the NB cover fits for a short period of time. If baby is 6lbs-7lbs, NB is a good idea. Babies 8lbs and up at birth can probably use a Size Small.

**Of all One-Size diapers, Bumgenius 3.0 tends to fit "best" on a new baby. That word "best" is very much relative. I don't think they fit well, but you can usually get them small enough to prevent leaks. Often the bulk is significant and newborn clothing won't fit well over them. Again added hip pressure as well. BUT I do have customers who use these shortly after birth. Thirsties Duo pocket diapers (2-size system) provide a much better fit on a newborn in my opinion as far as adjustable sized diapers are concerned.***