Monday, December 9, 2013

Battling Ammonia

It has happened to the best of us. We think all is going well with our wash routine, and then ammonia hits. Nobody can mistake that horrible smack your face burning ammonia smell, and whether its while the diaper is on your little one, or if its when you open the diaper pail or forgotten wet bag it can knock you off your feet. Ammonia may seem like it happens all of a sudden but it builds up over time.

The first course of action against ammonia is stripping your diapers. I strip with a normal wash with a little extra detergent, then just keep running rinses until the bubbles are gone. I usually end up with about 3-5 cycles without soap, then I throw the diapers in the dryer as usual. The sneaky thing about ammonia is even when the diapers smell clean from the washer, and still smell clean from the dryer, there can still be ammonia crystals hidden in the absorbent layers of your inserts/diapers. I have unfortunately stripped our diapers only to retain an ammonia smell, so what to do?

Some people will recommend a Dawn strip, but I personally don't unless you were cleaning non cloth diaper safe diaper cream or other grease from your diapers. I've also heard some people doing a vinegar or baking soda strip, but if you have hard water the vinegar can react and cause worse stink issues than you have now. There are products on the market you can add to your cycles to help prevent ammonia build up but these again have mixed results depending on your water type.

I personally do a bleach strip, which is recommended by some diaper manufacturers and not others. I have a wide variety of diapers and have bleach stripped them all at one point with no adverse reactions. As long as its only a once or twice a year phenomena I don't believe bleach stripping will ruin anything. If you are needing to fix ammonia more often that that, i suggest changing your wash routine because it isn't working for you; this could mean you need different soap, more/less soap, more water, its up to you to figure out.

Bleach stripping is pretty simple and not much different than a regular strip. I still add the detergent and wash on hot cycle with extra rinses. What turns a strip into a more effective bleach strip is simply adding bleach. Depending on your wash load, you can add up to a half cup of bleach to the wash cycle. Be sure to rinse rinse rinse to get any bleach out because bleach on baby butts isn't good, but neither is ammonia so make sure you run 4-5 rinses.

As I said, bleach shouldn't be used every wash or often at all. It can make your elastic weaker, effect the color/pattern of the diapers if applied directly, and possibly weaken your PUL. Bleach stripping is the only way I personally have found to completely knock out ammonia before it knocks me out. The best way to fix ammonia is prevention, so be sure that you are pre-rinsing your diapers, and not letting them sit dirty too long, because that is one of the main sources of ammonia!

Contributed by: Miranda

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