A Simple, Eco-Friendly Solution for Stinky Diapers: Use Hydrogen Peroxide in Place of Chlorine Bleach

Have you ever pulled supposedly clean diapers out of the washer only to find that they’re nearly as stinky as when they went in?  What’s the problem?  It could be a variety of factors including the iron content in your water, the laundry soap you’re using, or synthetic fabrics. 

The other day I stumbled across an amazing solution: hydrogen peroxide!  It turns out that plain old hydrogen peroxide will provide you with your own homemade version of non-chlorine bleach. 

For the wash: Add a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide to each           washload or a bit more for very full or dirty loads.  

 For stains: douse them with peroxide and then spot wash with         detergent. It’s best not to let the peroxide sit on the fabric for a long period of time.

 For household use:  Just add 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide to one gallon of water and use on kitchen sink, tile, bathroom, shower, toilet and bathtub.  

You can toss this mixture into a load of dirty diapers and find that it will make a big difference in smell.  

While chlorinated bleach hurts the environment, breaks down your diapers, and is potentially toxic, hydrogen peroxide is perfectly safe to use on cloth diapers.  In fact, the manufacturer of Bummi’s recommends using hydrogen peroxide to battle smells in stinky diapers.  It neutralizes the acidity, which is the cause of the smell.  While some people have found that vinegar works, it can exacerbate the problem since it’s also highly acidic.  

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  1. great tip! i’ve heard it will handle blood stains too–but haven’t tried it.

    i do love how line-drying gets lingering stink out, and charlies soap is the best i’ve found to either prevent stink or to treat it if you’ve got it from detergent build up.

  2. Our neighbor is a doctor and his wife has always used that instead of bleach. She said that when he was in medical school they told the students to use it on their clothes.

  3. I have been scouring your site for all the info on cloth diapers I can get. I have an 11 month old and am trying to figure out the logistics of switching to cloth. What is your typical process for washing diapers, start to finish? Do you keep a water/cleaning solution in your pail for pre-soaking before laundry day? Did you pre-wash multiple times when you first bought the diapers as many seem to recommend? Thanks for all your helpful information. I’m addicted to your site!

  4. Do you know if it is safe to use on bumGeniuses? I’ve only ever used Charlie’s soap and a few times regular bleach per instructions and am afraid of ruining them. I’d love to try it if it is ok!

  5. Emily–I know that our Ecover non-chlorine bleach, which contains just hydrogen peroxide and water, is safe for both colors and whites according to the label, so it should be fine for bumgeniuses. The maker of Bummis, which also use polyester colored fabric, recommends a hydrogen peroxide based product for stains and odor.

    Also, I should note that thanks to a few of our comments on last week’s blog, I’ve learned that you DON’T need to add water to the hydrogen peroxide! Apparently the bottled hydrogen peroxide you buy for medical use is diluted to 3%, which is exactly the same dilution ratio is for non-chlorine bleach.

  6. Thanks, Joy!

  7. SJ–too bad our book is not out yet, because it would answer all of your questions! I’ll try to help you out here. . . .

    1. I store diapers in a dry pail–that means no soaking solution, chemicals, etc.
    2. I wash them like any other load of laundry, except on the heavy cycle. Even on cold water. (We have a post about this somewhere.)
    3. Yes, you do need to prewash and dry according to manufacturers’ recommendations. This helps get them fully absorbent.

    Let me know if that answered your questions!

  8. I’m wondering how much one would recommend adding to a full wash cycle of dirty diapers. Based on an above comment I would add straight Hydrogen Peroxide, and am curious how much others added to combat stink. Thanks!

  9. SJ. I do something similar to Rebecca. We dry pail with a sprinkling of baking soda if it gets a touch smelly. Every three or four days we do a regular wash with Country Save or Arm and Hammer Essentials. Then the prefolds and wipes go in the dryer and the covers line dry. The same amount of work as a regular load of laundry except it is much easier to fold.

  10. Ashley,
    I added more specific directions to the post using Ecover’s non-chlorine bleach bottle directions. Essentially every time you’re buying eco-friendly non-chlorine bleach you’re just buying a big bottle of hydrogen peroxide so it should work the same!
    Thanks for your comment.

  11. Thanks! I added over a cup last night to a full, stinky diaper load. Not sure how the results compare to normal washing, but I figured it can’t hurt. I found that switching to natural fibers from microfiber/polyester/fleece/etc. made the BIGGEST difference in not having stinky diaper laundry. Just my two cents.

  12. I’ve been cloth diapering and I am trying to find a drying rack for my patio. Can you please tell us where to buy the wood frame rack that is pictured in this post? I found a simpler version at The Container Store but it looks like it isn’t really made to be outside and would fall over with a slight breeze.

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