Stinky Cloth Diaper Solutions

Does baby’s nursery smell like a port-a-poddy? Do you hold your breath every time you flip open that diaper pail?  Fear not!

In our new book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, Rebecca and I recommend the “slacker” method of cloth diaper laundering.  It doesn’t involve intensive prewashing or excessive toilet dunking, and it should keep your nursery smelling fresher than it would with disposables.  (Remember that with cloth the feces is properly disposed of in the toilet rather than smelling up your home.)

So, what happens if your cloth diapers seem to give off a distasteful odor of fermented waste?  Try these handy tips.

  1. Baste them with Bac Out.  Every so often, squirt a dose into the diaper pail.  It has a lovely lime scent and it’s live enzyme cultures go to work on odor right away.  You can also use it for stains and odors on any of your other laundry.
  1. Blast them with Baking Soda. This odor fighting technique is far less expensive than Bac Out and will also work with the detergent when it comes time to dump diapers into the wash.
  1. Beware of Build Up.  If your diapers smell like dirty socks even when your baby just wets them, they are probably coated in oils and fragrances from your detergent.  This prevents them from absorbing as well and makes them particularly smelly.  Diapers made of polyester are especially prone to build up.  To strip them, wash them for one to two loads in hot water (no detergent) and see if it makes a difference.  Also remember that your regular loads of diapers should be washed with half the normal amount of detergent you’d use on a load of clothes.  Check out products like Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder or Biokleen Laundry Detergent to see if a different soap will help.)
  1. Fill it with a filter. Several companies make charcoal filters for compost bins that also work well for diaper pails.  If you’ve tried everything else, it’s worth a few dollars to check out this option.

Any other ideas?  Are you also struggling with smells this summer?


  1. fish tank ammonia remover works great for ammonia build up in microfiber. I washed mine with two caps worth and no soap, and then i re-washed with my normal wash routine. I bought a big bottle for $10 from a pet store – I plan on using these diapers for 1 1/2 more years with my son, and hopefully another 2 years with the next.

  2. Thanks for these tips – I’m not a cloth diaperer, but I do have a 3 year old, newly in underwear and afraid of pooping on the potty. I have my fair share of stinky things around.

    I’ve found that soaking in laundry soap with a generous scoop of Oxyclean works pretty well too.

  3. We are dealing with this problem right now, esp. in the hot summer (no a/c). I never had great luck with baking powder. Plus, now that I have a front loader and have to move (instead of dump) the diapers into the washer, the baking soda just seems to make a mess. I also strip occasionally using Sensi-Clean and sometimes throw some Allen’s Naturally in the mix (I usually use Charlie’s Soap) just to hedge my bets. I may try the bac out.

    Currently, we are trying a natural room deodorizer called Citrus Circles ( and that helps the bathroom smell less like acrid pee. If at all possible, I definitely recommend keeping diapers in the bathroom. I would not want my bedroom or any other room smelling like that!

    We mostly use prefolds but also use BumGenius (synthetic) at night, and the BG definitely smell the worst.

    The fish tank ammonia remover sounds interesting. Any idea what it’s made of???

    And what about hydrogen peroxide? I used that once and did not notice an improvement in smell issues. Maybe I didn’t add enough. I’ve also heard bleach works well to remove smells (BG actually recommends it I think), but I try my very very best not to use bleach for the sake of the fishies.

  4. Shannon F. says:

    Great options!, for us it seems like the smell is considerably worse in the middle of the summer with no AC. I find that I’m just washing more often than usual to clear the bathroom of that horrible urine odor.

  5. I love Bac-Out for removing odors and stains on our clothing, but I have resisted using it on my diapers because the manufacturer’s instructions say not to use detergents with enzymes. Since Bac-Out is an enzyme stain remover wouldn’t it harm my diapers?

  6. I’ve heard RLR Laundry Treatment works awesome to remove buildup in diapers. I haven’t personally tried it (trying to find somewhere that it is sold!) but have heard great things about it – try searching for it on Google and see what comes up on diaper forums.

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