Battle of the Cloth

Warning: I have a lot of time on my hands, so I might get detailed. Gregory is thoroughly engrossed watching my aunt who is outside raking leaves, so I don’t even have to worry about him splashing in a second toilet.

I recently had quite the epic battle with my bummis prefolds. About a month or two before we moved to CA, I switched to using Charlie’s Soap. BAD IDEA, especially since we had such hard water in TX. In just 2 months time, the diapers built up the worst ammonia stench EVER. It smelled like a million cats had peed, all at once. In another 2 weeks (around the time we got to CA), they started giving G awful diaper rash, the ammonia build-up was so thick.

Being in the throes of the first trimester, I put off using cloth for about a month, switching back to it every few weeks when I felt up to it. Instead, we used disposables. Since I didn’t change a single diaper for a month, it wasn’t very fair to ask others to use/wash cloth.

I know some people say that disposables work, but for us, especially at night, they just DO NOT. Maybe it’s the fact that’s G’s body needs a smaller size, but his bladder needs a bigger one (size-wise, he’s around 18 lbs. Size 3 says 16-28 lbs., Size 4 says they don’t start until 22 lbs.). Leaks were happening every other day during the am, and every night, without fail. Some of his night-time blowouts were devastatingly disgusting. Just yesterday, the diaper disintegrated so much that he woke up with those little soggy chemical beads all over his body, filling up the legs of his sleeper, even covering his crib (we had to vacuum them out). I tried two kinds of heavy duty over-night disposables, along with Huggies and Pampers. I’ve tried adding hemp and cotton liners on the inside of the diaper to give them extra absorbency. I’ve even tried putting an extra wool soaker on OVER the disposable. Nothing has worked– every morning, we have to change his sheets, clothes and blankets (even his stuffed doggie smells like pee!). Sometimes, he’s so wet and icky, we have to immediately bathe him.

I started to realize that the disposables were taking their toll on us– reserving 20 minutes cleaning up poo and pee every morning is NOT how I like waking up! I don’t think he had a SINGLE dry morning in over a month. My theory is that since he sleeps 12-15 hours a night, there just isn’t a diaper built to hold that kind of pee. Also, he’s a definite, all the time tummy sleeper, which, for a boy, means that the odds of peeing out the top are great (although the diapers were completely full and saturated to bursting, so I guess peeing out the top wasn’t the real issue).

The task of stripping the ammonia out of the cloth diapers was definitely daunting. Even though I had a couple of dirty ones sitting in a pail, I put it off for a few weeks, trying to gather my courage. I hate spending all day on a project just to fail, and I had this sinking feeling that whatever I tried just wasn’t going to work.

Two Saturdays ago, I dove right in (ew…yes, literally). First, I washed all the diapers that had been sitting in the pail. Enter GIANT DISASTER PROBLEMO. Apparently, all the ammonia build-up + whatever toxic acid G ate that day, combined to create a new alien life-form that eats HOLES all throughout diapers. 3 had completely degraded into shards of….mulch? The onesie someone had accidentally thrown in there literally had HOLES eaten throughout it. Holes.

I saved 3 out of the 6 that were in the pail, but sadly had to throw away my 2 super-soaker hemp diapers.

I boiled all 10 (2 separate batches) for 20 minutes in a stock pot, adding some Borax ($2 for a huge box) to the water. Then, I transferred them all back to the washer, where I rinsed them, over and over and over again for an entire day.

I dried them twice, and voila! Good as new! So far, we haven’t had a single stinky ammonia scent since. NO leaks (during the day…nighttime is another story). I switched back to my trusty “Hard Rock” soap, and don’t think I’ll ever stray again. It’s cheap, I get it through Amazon with free shipping, and it works fantastic.

As far as overnight goes….we are still problem solving this one. I ordered 2 new Tiny Tush super soakers with an extra hemp soaker in the mail recently. They take a bit of prep work to get ready (since they are organic/hemp), so tonight will be our first trial run. If they don’t contain it all (which would mean this kid pees more than an adult, seeing as the diapers are supposed to hold 16 oz.!), I will try adding a wool cover. After that? Well….pray for me, because if this doesn’t work, I might go crazy, knowing I have at least another year of icky poo mornings.

A couple problem solving techniques I learned through this disgusting experience:

* Thirsties and Bummis covers are the best. If leaks are happening, it’s probably because you’re using a second-rate cover. I’ve heard good things about the Flip covers, although I’ve never tried them. Cheaper covers also hold stink between changes– Bummis and Thirsties do not. I like Thirsties because they are 2 sizes fit all and have the double leg gusset.

* If the cover is leaking ALL OVER, and not just on the legs or sides, it’s because there are tiny holes throughout the PUL lining. Throw the cover in the dryer for 15 minutes– the heat re-seals everything, problem solved. Seriously, this worked like magic. I was in the habit of air drying my covers– now, I make sure to have them in the dryer for at least a few minutes.

* Ammonia build-up means you are not using the right soap with the hardness of your water. Charlie’s soap just was too wimpy.

* Bummis prefolds can withstand a LOT of abuse! Worth every penny. I’m going to buy the newborn size this time around for SnowCone. I already bought a brand new Xsmall Thirsties cover on Craigslist for $5.

There it is! My epic disgusting battle of the cloth diapers. As icky as ammonia is, it isn’t half as icky as the disgusting blow-outs we’ve had with the disposables (picture– my mom even had poop ALL OVER HER SHOES, just from carrying G to the changing table!).

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  • Christina

    So intense!! I am glad the stripping worked.

    I have a thirsties cover, and it really does work well. I used bummis prefolds, but they’re too small now (she’s just over 13 pounds, and they say up to 15, but it’s a lie). I thought I would give the green mountain diapers’ prefolds a try. I still need to get them ready, though. They aren’t nearly as thick, so I’m not sure…anyway, I mainly rely on my bum genious so hopefully it doesn’t matter.

    Your only other option as far as I can tell is to change him in the middle of the night. Not sure if that is worse than morning clean up. In not too long you’ll have to be up in the middle of the night again anyway…not that we want to think of such things… 🙂

  • Kelly

    Yes, I’ve considered the possibility of having to change him in the middle of the night…part of me is just scared he won’t go back to sleep! He is so cranky if he gets even an hour or two less than his full twelve. But maybe if I’m already up in 5 more months…gosh, is that all I have left of these long nights of sleep? 🙁

    Let me know how the gm prefolds work! How many bg’s do you have along with your prefolds?

  • Steph

    We use GMD prefolds and they are AMAZING. They fit so much better than any other brand (we’ve also tried the bummis and little lions). They are wider so you can get a better fit and do different folds, and waaaaaaay more absorbent. I use them to stuff our pocket diapers too. You’ll be surprised how much they “fluff up” after they’re fully prepped. We gave away the little lions, and down graded the Bummis to cleaning rags.

    We have used all kinds of cloth dipes in the the past 19 months, prefolds and flats, all sorts of fitteds, different pockets and AIOs. I LOVE them. We used one small package of disposables for the first 2 days of meconium poo, then disposables for one short weekend trip around 7 weeks (NEVER AGAIN), then one pack around a year when we were dealing with a thrush rash and I didn’t want to worry about liners and having to strip the diapers after each use.

    That’s crazy your diapers are getting so much build up… especially organic prefolds! Usually its the microfiber thats an issue. Have you tried adding an additional hot rinse at the end? Or adding a little soap or oxyclean to the cold wash at the beginning? How long do you normally go in between washes? Once every 4-6 weeks I also run a few extra hot rinses making sure there are no bubbles. If all the soap isn’t coming out, you’ll get the ammonia build up smell. Line drying once a week or so helps too. I love line drying in the spring/summer… there’s just something relaxing about it:) I get a little lazier in the fall/winter. The GMD website has a wealth of info about diaper washing.

  • Kelly

    Hmm, good to know, Steph! I tried a different kind of prefolds for G at first, but had tons of leaks. Switching to Bummis cured that. I’m not sure what kind they were…they were from a diaper service store. But if I buy any new ones, I’ll give Green Mountain a try.

    I really think the issue with the build up was the Charlies Soap combined with my hard water in TX. I’m going to take extra measures this time to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I want to line dry, now that we’re here in CA and have a back yard. I’m pretty sure my apartment neighbors would NOT have appreciated a bunch of diapers, blocking their view 🙂