Cloth Diapering Part IV: How to Fix Stained, Stinky, & Leaky Diapers

This week, we’re doing a five part series on cloth diapering. We’ve discussed why we cloth diaper, our favorite cloth diapers, how we use, store and wash them. Today, it’s all about fixing stinky, stained, and leaky diapers. Tomorrow will be our last post for the week and we’ll address any questions you may have as well as:

-How to Save Even More Money Cloth Diapering & Other Tips

Fixing issues that arise with your diapers may vary based on:

-What materials your diapers are made of
-What kind of water you have
-Your wash routine & detergent

We have cotton, bamboo, and micro fleece diapers and inserts. We have hard water, use All Free & Clear Detergent, and do a cold rinse/hot wash/double rinse wash routine.


Properly washed diapers shouldn’t have a scent. You should be using fragrance free detergent so they should not smell like detergent. Especially because you should rinse them well enough to remove all the detergent (to prevent build up which causes leaks). However, if you’re diapers smell like:

If your diapers come out of the wash smelling like they haven’t been cleaned, add 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to the wash cycle. (This amount of bleach is completely safe to use because it’s extremely diluted and will rinse out completely in the double rinse cycle. If you don’t feel safe using bleach, just try upping the amount of detergent you use.)

If they have a barnyard smell to them, up the amount of detergent you use. Make sure you’re not using too much water (it should look like “diaper stew”) and try soaking the diapers for 30 minutes after you do your first rinse.

If you’re using the proper amount of detergent, and they’re still have that barnyard smell, please try a new detergent. I’ve heard lots of good things about Tide Free & Clear.

If your diapers smell like ammonia when you take them out of the laundry bin, try washing your diapers more frequently.

If they smell like ammonia as soon as baby wets them, you need to strip them.

NOTE: Rinse diapers before each wash to prevent ammonia build up. Thin inserts are less susceptible to ammonia stink than thick inserts. Make sure your baby is well hydrated so their urine is more dilute.


1.) Add 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish soap and 1/2 cup of bleach to the wash. Use only 1 teaspoon for front loading HE machines.
2.) Rinse with hot water until you can no longer see suds and you no longer smell bleach (usually 3-4 rinses).


The safest way to remove stains from diapers is sunning. Line dry them in direct sunlight until the stains bleach out naturally. On a hot, clear day it should take about 6-8 hours to naturally bleach out dirty diaper stains. On cloudy or overcast days, it can take up to twelve hours, and you may even have to do it again the next day. If you want to speed up the process, spray a mixture of lemon juice and water onto the stains before sunning.


If you’re diapers leak, make sure they fit properly. You should see no wholes or gaps around the thighs or waist.

If your diaper is fitted properly, try double stuffing them. Bamboo or hemp inserts are more absorbent than cotton or microfiber, so try those. Flour sack towels, fleece blankets, and receiving blankets make excellent homemade inserts if you’d rather make your own instead of buying additional inserts.

If your diapers are brand new, they need to be “prepped” before you use them. This means, you wash them a handful of times so that they become absorbent. Same for new inserts if you buy extra of those.

If you still have leak issues, strip your diapers using the method I mentioned above. Chances are, you have some detergent build up that is preventing proper absorption.

I’ve only ever had to strip my diapers once in the 8 1/2 months I’ve been using them. And that was because my mom accidentally used dryer sheets on them.

Never, ever, ever use fabric softener or dryer sheets on your diapers. This will destroy their absorbency. Also, if you need to use a diaper rash cream, coconut oil or Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm is best. Baby powder will cause build up as well.

NOTE: If your warranty is voided by bleach, or you’re weary of using bleach on your diapers, try stripping with RLR. I’ve never used it, but I’ve heard good things about it. Bum Genius recommends the stripping method I mentioned, so that’s what we use.

That’s it for today. It’s been a long week and I’m ready to unwind!



L, M, & R