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Common Cloth Diapering Problems Solved

written by: Lindsay Evans•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 2/10/2010

So you've decided to cloth diaper, but now you've run into some problems. Can't get your diapers to smell fresh? Diaper rash issues? Unsightly stains? Learn how to solve these cloth diapering problems and more.

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    Problem #1: My Diapers Stink!

    If your cloth diapers don't smell completely clean after they have been washed, they need to be washed again. The diapers probably have a build-up of detergent residue from using either too much detergent or detergent with added fragrances or dyes. Even a small amount of detergent build-up can cause problems with lingering smells.

    Wash your clean - but still smelly - diapers in hot water with no added detergent (make sure your diapers' washing instructions allow a hot water wash). If you see soap bubbles in the wash water you know detergent build up was the problem. Wash the diapers repeatedly in hot water until the water is free of bubbles.

    Adding 1/4 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle at the end of washing can strip away any remaining residue.

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    Problem #2: My Diapers Cause Diaper Rash!

    Some babies' skin is extremely sensitive and can react to small amounts of detergent left on the diapers. Always wash your diapers with a clean-rinsing detergent like Allen's Naturally. Using a free & clear detergent may not be good enough, as many brands contain added ingredients like brighteners or softeners that can cause irritations. Other trusted detergents include Charlie's Soap and Country Save. First remove all residue from the diapers by following the washing instructions above. Then switch your detergent and be sure not to use too much. For more information about which detergents to use see this chart.

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    Problem #3: How Can I Remove Stains?

    Stains on cloth diapers is something you can't avoid. Even totally clean diapers may still have stains. If you are bothered by the stains try hanging the diapers to dry in the sunshine. Sunlight works wonders at whitening diapers! You can also try a small amount of oxygen-based bleach (never chlorine bleach) if it is recommended for use on your diapers.

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    Problem #4: My Diapers Aren't Absorbent!

    Never use fabric softener on your cloth diapers. Softeners coat the fibers with a soft but non-absorbent film. Some detergents have added softeners - do not use these detergents on cloth diapers.

    To remove fabric softener build-up and make your diapers absorbent again wash in hot water as mentioned above.

    Some new cloth diapers may be nonabsorbent because they need to be prepped. New cotton prefold diapers need to be washed several times in hot water with no detergent before they are ready to use.

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    Problem #5: My Baby's Clothes Get Soaked at Night!

    If your baby can't seem to stay dry at naptime or during the night you're not alone. Many babies are particularly heavy wetters and keeping them dry can be a challenge. With cloth diapers more bulk means more absorbency. You may need to double-stuff your pocket diapers or buy soaker pads to add to your prefold or all-in-one diapers. Mothers with heavy wetting babies swear that lots of bulk and using wool diaper covers is the only method that keeps their babies dry. You can find wool diaper covers online or even make your own from recycled wool sweaters!