Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DDT7 -- Strip Odors from Cloth Diapers (and other clothes)

Let's face it.  We want cloth diapering to be all roses and sunshine because it's better for the earth and better for the baby.  We even tell our non-cloth-diapering friends that we never have problems with odors in our cloth diapers.  But it happens to the best of us...sometimes our cloth diapers get funky and not in a good way!

In my effort to make sure that the least possible amount of irritants touch my baby's most sensitive skin, I've learned how to strip diapers naturally, organically, and inexpensively.  For those times when high heat, double and triple rinses, and sun drying don't kill the diaper smell, here's my method.

Prewash with hot water, 3/4 cup of white vinegar, and 1/4 cup baking soda.  You may use more or less depending on the soil level and size of the load.  You have enough of everything if the water fizzes even just a little.  Wash as usual afterward.

It also works great on socks and other odor-prone clothing like work clothes and underwear, but be careful because it can cause some fading, especially when you sun dry after using this method. To strip cloth diapers organically, use organic baking soda and vinegar.

Organic vinegar is easily found in most major grocery stores.  Baking soda (here comes a chemistry lesson), even though it is made of carbon (the main property of organic compounds), can technically never be "organic" because of it's chemical makeup and the type of bonds required to hold it together.  From the standpoint of green living and using naturally derived products, baking soda is not really organic either because it requires a multi-step chemical process involving heat and exposure to other chemicals to create it.  It is however made from naturally occurring compounds and requires no synthetic materials for the reactions from which it derived.  That being said, the most "natural" and healthy baking soda, especially if you intend to ingest it, is aluminum free.  Bob's Red Mill makes an aluminum free baking soda and Frontier also sells an aluminum free baking soda.  Both are sold in one-pound packages.

Why does the baking soda and vinegar solution work at stripping odors?  This is another chemistry lesson, but this one is easy to digest.  Stinky diaper syndrome is caused by bacteria and and spoiling or deteriorating micro residues from waste (imagine a microscopic septic tank or garbage dump in the fibers--or don't because that's gross).  Baking soda, an alkaline salt, chemically neutralizes odors.  Vinegar, an acid, kills bacteria.  The reaction created by combining them (aka the fizz), blasts and eats away dirt and residue (think of what happens when you put a rusty penny in vinegar and baking soda).  This solves both the odor causing problems.

Here's to fresh smelling diapers and all your other smellier than average laundry!

photo credit:  by gesinek, stock.exchng,