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Disinfecting Cloth Diapers

    One of the first things that someone new to cloth diapers asks is, “How can this be sanitary? What if they need to be disinfected?”

    Cloth diapers will be cleaned completely by laundering in a wash cycle that uses an amount of detergent and a water level appropriate for the laundry load’s size and (heavy) soil level. Skimping on detergent (for fear of detergent build-up) and using too little or too much water are some of the most frequent causes of smelly diapers in our customer support history files, so think twice before heeding advice that sounds counterintuitive.

    Cloth diapers really shouldn’t need anything more to disinfect them on a regular basis, but there are (pretty infrequent) times when adding disinfectant additives to the wash cycle of cloth diapers is recommended. For example, when a child has had a yeast rash or bacterial infection, either of which is typically diagnosed and treated by a physician, it is important to disinfect the diapers so that the infection won’t be continually reestablished.

    To keep the solution simple, switch to a disposable diaper until the rash is fully cleared for at least 48 hours. In the meantime, all diapers, wipes, and wet bags that have been exposed to the yeast or bacteria, either by use on your baby or by being laundered with diapers that have been in contact with the infection-causing bacteria, should be disinfected by washing with a small amount of bleach (see instructions below.) If you need to use bleach, it should be very periodic, as it can void your manufacturer warranty if used frequently. Make sure to contact your manufacturer if you have concerns or questions.

    To bleach your diapers, add 1/8 c (for an HE machine) to 1/4 c (for a standard top-loading machine) disinfecting chlorine bleach to a warm wash cycle after washing with your regular detergent. Do not mix with other laundry additives. Bleach is less effective in hot water, so make sure to use warm water instead. Even if you do not normally need to add an extra rinse to the end of your cloth diaper wash cycle, you might consider rinsing once additionally to ensure that bleach does not come into contact with your baby’s delicate skin.