Stinky Cloth Diapers? Solutions You Need To Know!

So recently, I’ve learned a few things about cloth diapers and absorbency. And from following the cloth diaper groups I’m in, I’m seeing a lot of the same things repeated over and over.

One of those things is, of course, the myth that a ‘strip wash’ is the be-all and end-all to fixing stinky cloth diaper issues forever.

Every few days someone asks a question about the dreaded stinkies.

When they wash cloth diapers and they smell beautiful and fresh and clean, then 5 minutes later your baby pee’s and it’s like a bomb going off in your nasal cavity. All of a sudden you are walloped with that acridity vinegary stink of stale urine.
And it’s just gross!

Now, every time the question comes up, inevitably the first 120 answers to the question of how to fix them are “STRIP WASH THEM PRONTO!”

And until recently I too thought this was the correct answer to give someone.

But the more I’m reading, and learning, I’m seeing from several very knowledgeable sources, the information which I’m going to share here tonight.

That strip washing is not necessarily the only answer! Yes, it’s something that sometimes, is the correct answer, but there are things which should be looked into first, before resorting to such drastic measures for the simple reason, that the more you strip your cloth diapers, the shorter their lifespan will be.

So if you have stinky cloth diapers or cloth diapers that aren’t absorbent enough, some of the things to ask yourself…….

So Let’s Solve Your Stinky Cloth Diapers Problem!


Are you rinsing cloth diapers well enough?


Another common cause of stinkies is buildup. And if the stinks are new, you should look at your laundry routine and look at the cycle on your washing machine carefully.

Something to try before you strip is adding an extra rinse cycle in. Sometimes simply rinsing an extra cycle, will rinse the remaining detergent residue off and can be enough to make the stinkies go away if they are caused by a build-up of washing detergent.

Also, please don’t overuse the likes of Canesten and Dettol rinses. They should only be used intermittently when the baby has thrush or is sick.

Are your inserts too old?

Inserts have a lifespan. And this can be a shorter lifespan than your cloth diaper shells, which people often don’t realize.

Yes, you can use shells for multiple children, but more often than not, you should replace your inserts with every child.

Microfibre has a much shorter lifespan for example than a natural fiber insert such as hemp, bamboo or cotton. So any insert with microfibre should be replaced twice as regularly than a plain bamboo insert.

Are your inserts too new?

Also, if your inserts are still quite new, then have they reached maximum absorbency?

They should be soaked in hot water for 24 hours prior to use, and they can take 10-12 washes before they reach full absorbency.

So they could just need more washing, or a good soak in plain hot water – particularly if they are made from any natural fiber.

Also, with new inserts the changes in some natural fibers are normal! And not a reason to strip them. Watch for hemp becoming much stiffer, and bamboo to become rougher and less silky. Those changes happen as the fibers get more absorbent.

Are you expecting too much?


Sometimes people have very high expectations of cloth diapers. But you have to remember, that they cannot compete with disposable cloth diapers for absorbency without using much thicker soakers or combining fibers.

So if you think cloth diapers are just not lasting long enough, you could look at your soakers and check what they are made of.

Hemp or bamboo soaker will absorb a lot more than a cotton one. And a combination of cotton and hemp, or cotton and bamboo will also hold more fluid than plain cotton.

So look at the type of inserts you have, and think about whether a different type will perhaps suit your little one’s level of wetting better.

Are you using enough absorbency?


You could also simply add more soakers. Boost the cloth diaper by using two soakers instead of one! Or using a mixture of say one cotton and one hemp soaker.

Are you changing baby often enough?


This is often one to think about. Are you changing baby every 2-4 hours? Some people change baby 2 hourly if they have heavy wetters to avoid leakage.

Are you worried about stains?


Now this one, I’ve saved till last. As this one is a biggie.

Stains do not cause stinkies.

Remind yourself that what you have is a cloth diaper, and it’s designed to catch poop. This means that inevitably there will be stained at some point and they may not ever come back to being perfectly clean and stain free… but that’s okay!

If your cloth diapers are perfectly white, even after months of use, then you are likely over laundering them!

You can (if you have plenty of cloth diapers) reduce stains naturally with no chemicals, by leaving them outside – but this takes time. People have good results by leaving nappies out in the weather for 4-10 days and allowing the sun, rain and even frost help the stains go. But you would need to have plenty of nappies to be able to spare some to lay out for that long.


So there you go, a few things to think about before you decide to strip your cloth diapers.
If none of that helps or is your problem then check out our instructions on Strip Washing Cloth Diapers!


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