How to get ammonia smell out of cloth diapers.
Ammonia stank is no joke and it is something that all parents that use cloth diapers deal with. It is something that any piece of clothing can get and it can be extremely dangerous.
If you are reading this article, I assume it is already too late and you want to know how to get rid of the stank. Well, worry not, as I have a short summary for you right here.
The best way to quickly get rid of the ammonia smell on your clothes is to use an enzyme cleaner. Follow the instruction on the cleaner and your smell will be gone. The other cheaper solution is to soak your diapers in bleach for 30 minutes and wash them with hot water. Read down below for more in-depth solutions.
As your baby grows up, their urine will become more concentrated due to the number of nutrients they consume. At younger ages, babies usually have diluted urine due to their diet.
Generally, if a person isn’t drinking enough water, a waste product called urea starts to build up in their body.
Urea can further break down into ammonia in certain situations where there is enough of it.
Usually, something like this isn’t a problem as urine is washed out from the body on a timely basis. However, in the case of a baby, their urine is collected by a diaper.
After highly concentrated urine like this is not washed away, the urea starts to buildup on their diapers. Eventually, it starts to break down and gives off the smell we all call ammonia.
What Does Ammonia Smell Like?
Imagine a rotten fish giving off its stinky smells and then multiply how bad the smell is by 10. Yes, that is how bad ammonia can be and it is often described as incredibly pungent.
Along with that it is also super harmful to humans and can stop your ability to breathe. Once you smell it, it will feel like the gas went straight to your brain and will make you cry.
Some people will also often describe it as cat pee but the main takeaway is that it is a smell that you do not want to inhale.
Too much ammonia can lead to serious effects such as a burning sensation in your eyes, nose, throat, and respiratory tract. If you think your baby’s diaper smells like ammonia, then it’s better that you stand back and try the solutions listed below.
Often people will mistake ammonia for any smell they inhale. Ammonia is not the smell of your baby’s pee, it is something much more specific. However, when you smell it, you will know for sure that it’s ammonia.
Top 5 Causes Of Ammonia Smell From Cloth Diapers
There are many reasons that can cause your diapers to smell absolutely horrible. Some of these reasons can be super obvious but usually, as a new parent, these are things you never might have thought have.
There could also be other rare causes of ammonia which I won’t be talking about but these are the causes that you will notice when dealing with cloth diapers:
1. Unwashed Diapers In The Diaper Pail
This is one of the main causes of the ammonia smell and it is one of the more obvious ones.
If you let your diapers sit in their diaper pails for too long such as long than a week, the urea in the urine is allowed to build up and turn into ammonia. Even a short amount of time but multiple diapers filled with urine can trigger this process.
This is especially a problem in hotter climates which allows the bacteria to easily buildup, thus leading to a more pungent smell.
Even if you use a bag with holes in it for ventilation, the bacteria will still build up and release ammonia.
2. Mineral Filled Water
This is more commonly known as hard water and is just water that has a much higher content of minerals. These tiny minerals get stuck to your cloth diapers as residue and can cause various problems.
This buildup of minerals causes detergents to be less useful and doesn’t allow the diapers to be clean properly which leads to some urine being trapped in the fabric.
This small amount of urine can build up over time leading to the diapers smelling like ammonia. Hard water can also cause diapers to become crunchy. To read more about that click here!
3. Too Much Or Too Little Detergent
This is one of the causes that isn’t as obvious as the others. Basically, if you use too much detergent while washing clothes, some of the detergent will stick to your cloth diapers as residue.
Although it seems counterintuitive, yes, detergent can buildup in baby’s diapers. Too much detergent can have the same effects as using hard water.
On the other hand, too little detergent can also cause your cloth diapers to smell like ammonia. If you aren’t using enough detergent to properly clean your diapers, the urine might be left behind.
And as we already know, left behind urine can build up and lead to stinky diapers.
4. Older Baby, Stronger Pee
As I said at the start of this article, when your baby starts to grow up, their pee becomes more concentrated. This is because older kids will eat more solids and fewer liquids which leads to a lower water content in their bodies.
This leads to a more concentrated pee as their body does not have enough water to dilute it as much. On the other hand, when your baby is younger, they consume a lot more liquids such as milk and formula.
Due to a higher content of water in their bodies, their pee is more dilute and watery which means their pee has less urea-ammonia causing bacteria-in it.
Another factor that ties in with older babies in their sleep time. You will notice that your baby sleeps longer the older they get which allows more time for them to wet their diaper. And as they sleep longer, the urine has more time to break down which makes it smell like ammonia.
This usually doesn’t happen with regular diapers as much as it does with cloth diapers.
5. Hot climates, More sweat
One of the least obvious reasons is something that isn’t even related to pee. If you live in a hotter climate, your baby is prone to sweating a lot more especially in their diaper regions.
Sweat also contains urea in it which can build up on your baby’s clothes or diapers. You might think the issue is their pee but in reality, it’s only them sweating a lot.
Is Ammonia Dangerous?
The short answer is: Yes, it is. However, the amounts you will smell from diapers will be so tiny that it won’t have any long-lasting effects.
As a gas, ammonia can be quite dangerous when you smell it in lab situations but the amount of ammonia from your baby’s urine is not something that will kill you.
However, with higher amounts of ammonia, you may feel your eyes, nose, and throat burning. This burning sensation is your insides corroding away due to the ammonia.
Generally, if you smell ammonia you will feel some type of irritation in your throat and nose along with coughing. This isn’t something that will harm or kill you.
On the other hand, even though it won’t affect you, it should be kept away from your baby. As they are still sensitive to things like this, you don’t want them smelling it. It could cause some serious effects to them leading to long term damages to their respiratory system.
How To Remove Ammonia Smell Out Of Clothes?
There are many things you can do to get rid of the smell. Most of them do involve just washing the cloth diapers using special materials which is the most obvious solution for most parents.
Some tips before you try these, try to keep your nose away from smelling too much ammonia as too much could be harmful.
Here are 4 ways to get rid of the ammonia smell:
1. Soak The Cloth Diapers In Bleach
A lot of cloth diaper manufacturers will often recommend soaking the diapers in bleach to help keep them pristine. The bleach helps to break down ammonia and any urine left in the diapers.
First, get your diaper and soak them in bleach for 30 minutes along with cold water. This will dissolve all the ammonia particles on the fabric and make it easier to wash.
After the soak is done, put the diapers through a hot water wash with your usual amount of detergent. You could also hand wash them if you like to take extra care of your diapers.
2. Use an enzyme cleaner
An enzyme cleaner is basically something that eats away the bacteria that is causing the stinky smell from your diapers. There are many popular brands such as Rocco & Roxie odor eliminator.
These cleaners will do wonders for you in terms of keeping the smell at bay and helping you to get rid of them.
Spray it on the diaper 30 minutes before you wash them to allow the cleaner to do its magic. After that, you can wash your diapers and end up with no smell at all!
It really does sound like magic but it is something that works really well. If you don’t want to buy a whole new product, you can make your own enzyme cleaner at home.
Get some lemon juice or vinegar and sprinkle it on your diapers! Use as much as you need according to how many diapers you have. These do a similar job as the cleaners but are not as effective so you need a lot more of them.
Stripping is basically turning your old diapers into brand new clean ones. It gets rid of any bacteria or residue on the cloth diaper itself.
This method will surely work if the others didn’t but it is much more time-intensive. This method should be more of a last resort for you.
First, soak the clothes for around an hour in hot water that is mixed with a little bit of dishwashing detergent. Yes, dishwashing detergent but don’t be worried as we remove all of it later on.
Next, we will remove the leftover residue. To do this you can either use a chemical that helps to demineralize or just use vinegar/lemon juice. Use around 6 cups of vinegar or lemon juice and add that to your cloth diapers.
Now let them soak for around 60 minutes and then put them into the washing machine for a wash cycle. After this, you are done stripping!
This is a really short summary of how to strip. If you want a more comprehensive guide, check out my article about crunchy diapers where I also explain how to strip clothes!
How To Prevent Ammonia Smell On Cloth Diapers
I’m pretty sure you don’t want this horrendous smell ever coming back so you must be asking how you can prevent it from happening again.
If you read the reasons as to why the ammonia smell occurs, you might be able to figure out how to avoid them but I’ll also list them here to make your life easier.
Now a thing to note is that you might not know the exact reason for the odour so trying to prevent it might take some time as you need to figure out what is really causing it.
These steps are really easy and you can do all of them to help keep the ammonia smell at bay.
1. Feed Your Baby More Liquids
If your baby is still drinking a lot of milk or formula then you don’t need to worry about this one. However, if your baby is older and is eating a lot more solids then try to make sure they also consume a good amount of liquids.
Try to see the color of your baby’s pee, if it is golden brown then they need more water. If it is more yellowish and transparent, then your baby is well hydrated.
Make sure to feed them adequate water when they eat any solids. There shouldn’t be any specific amount of water that you should feed your baby but rather rely on your instincts.
But if you do like numbers, babies usually need around 0.5 liter or 16 ounces. So make sure you hit those goals!
2. Use Organic Fiber Inserts For Their Diapers
Try to use natural fibers such as bamboo or cotton for your diapers or the inserts. These fibers will generally have much looser knits which doesn’t allow any ammonia to be stuck in between them.
If you were using something like microfiber before, then stop using that because it has a very closely-knit material that allows the ammonia to get stuck in.
Also, the thicker your inserts are, the harder it will be to wash them properly. Try using tinnier inserts for your diapers which you can wash easily.
However, if you don’t want to change the type of material you are using, then don’t worry as you can just try the other solutions listed here.
3. Wash Their Diapers Regularly
Most parents will wash their diapers every week or so which is generally fine but it’s also what leads to ammonia buildup.
To avoid the buildup from taking place, try washing your diapers more often, preferably every 2-3 days if possible. This helps to quickly remove any buildup of urea which will prevent any ammonia smell.
If you can wash them as quickly as possible it will be much better. This will absolutely prevent any buildup of urea.
4. Soak Them Before Washing
If you cannot wash your diapers more often, I have a solution for that too. Instead of putting your diapers into a pail where they just sit and let the urea build up.
You can put them in some hot water until the water cools off. This will prevent any urea from breaking down and releasing any ammonia.
You can even do a quick wash by just rubbing the diapers together in hot water. This is a relatively good way to get rid of the urine and keep your diapers clean before the final wash.
5. Use A Water Softener
Water softeners help to remove any minerals from hard water and make them better to use for washing your diapers.
Generally, these minerals will buildup on your diapers over time which is really bad for your baby. A softener will help to prevent this buildup from taking place.
A good brand of water softener to use is Calgon. You can find their water softeners online for quite cheap and they last pretty long too.
Rashes Due To Ammonia
If you start to notice a lot of rashes on your baby’s butt, it could be due to the ammonia in the diapers. As I said above, ammonia can corrode the skin which can cause chemical burns on your baby.
The rashes generally look blotchy, red, and have a few blisters. If your baby sleeps with diapers on, it can happen a lot more to them as they have a lot of contact with them.
The best way to treat ammonia burns is to completely stop using diapers that have a buildup of ammonia on them. Usually, the rash will go away slowly.
To treat them you can use any diaper rash cream and apply a thick layer of it. This will create a layer between the baby’s butt and the diaper which will prevent further burns.
Try to prevent using anything that has petroleum in it as this can cause more buildup on the diaper as petroleum is known to block out moisture and block liquids.
Again, trust your instinct and if it gets worse, immediately contact your paediatrician.
To Sum It Up
Cloth diapers are generally better for your baby and the environment but they also come with many downsides. Most of these downsides are easy to prevent when taken proper care of.
The ammonia smell in your cloth diapers is quite easy to prevent when taken proper care of. Follow the steps above and you should be safe from ammonia.
Do you have any more questions about the ammonia smell? Do you have any better tips or solutions to share with us? Share them below!