trouble in paradise...

when people ask me (or jeremy) about cloth diapering, i can go on and on and on, gushing about how easy it is, how fun it is, how cute it is, etc. until now. there's trouble in the land of cloth diapers, my friends, and this trouble is stinky. like, really stinky. i won't go into details but this is not your average, run-of-the-mill ammonia stink. this is old food, body odor, musty fish, smell-up-the-entire-room kind of stink. oops, i guess i just went into details. gross. 

only lucy's nighttime diapers were affected by this horrible smell. why? i don't know. we use swaddlebees organic velour fitteds (made of cotton velour) with a wool cover. she typically only pees in these diapers, so i knew i wasn't battling any kind of residual bacteria from poo. stink arises from 2 sources: diapers not getting clean enough (not enough detergent) or diapers not rinsing clean enough (too much detergent). it's much more common for synthetic diapering fabrics (such as microfiber) to harbor smells than natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo. 

i've stripped entire loads of diapers before as a preventative measure, adding 1 small squirt of original blue dawn to the water at the beginning of the wash cycle. dawn works by dissolving detergent residues that may be left on the diapers--it is this residue that causes an ammonia smell when it comes in contact with urine. technically, after adding dawn, you are supposed to check the rinse cycle--if there are still bubbles in the rinse water, you must rinse again, until the water is clear of bubbles. i have never done this--we are in a drought and try to conserve water as much as possible to avoid upcharges by our water company. 

this time was different. i meant business--if i couldn't rid these diapers of the smell, i seriously intended on cutting them loose. the smell at night was so horrendous, it would actually wake me up while lucy slept beside me. i started by separating out all of the nighttime diapers from the others, to focus directly on the key offenders. i set the load size on small--after all i was washing only 5 diapers. i added only a tablespoon-sized squirt of blue dawn to the water--no detergent. washed on hot, rinsed on cold. at the additional rinse, i saw bubbles, so i set the wash for yet another rinse, this time adding a cup of vinegar to the water (vinegar is supposed to help the dawn rinse clear). peeked into the machine--still bubbles, though markedly less. i added another cup of vinegar, and also around a cup of bleach--i didn't measure. as i poured in the bleach, a little voice in the back of my head said, "hmm, i don't think you're supposed to mix vinegar and bleach. something about a toxic gas that could result." oops. 

it's true, you aren't supposed to mix these 2 household cleaners--the result is chlorine gas, which can cause anything from a headache to death, depending on the quantities in which you mix it and how much you inhale. but i was in full-blown attack mode, not thinking clearly. we use bleach so rarely these days (only on whites with otherwise untreatable stains), and never on diapers (it eats the elastic). and yet i grabbed for it without thought and poured it in, all in an attempt to save myself from the stink. 

of course, after reading that i had created a noxious chemical compound on something intended for my baby's bottom, i had to do an additional rinse. final score: 1 squirt of dawn, 2 cups of vinegar, a large pour of the aforementioned bleach, and probably around 120 gallons of water--it pains me to admit this, but it's the truth. the diapers were hung to dry. lucy wore one last night. and i am happy to report that my efforts were not in vain--the smell is 100% gone. even a big, close-up whiff resulted in zero odor. which actually makes me realize that the rest of my diapers may need to be stripped as well, in a manner similar to that listed above (minus the washing machine chemistry lab). they're not nearly as bad as the nighttime diapers were, but they do have some odor when wet that i just chalked up as normal, until this morning when i took a big sniff of a pee-drenched diaper and finally smelled--nothing. 


T.J. and Jen said...

hmm, thanks for the in-depth post! my diaps are a bit smelly, and i suspect they need to be stripped.

Doodlebug's Mommy said...

Oh my goodness I am so glad I found this! Some of Doodlebug's diapers are starting to smell like wet dog when they're wet. I didn't know about using Dawn to strip them. Thanks!