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Ammonia Buildup in Cloth Diapers and Ammonia Burns: How to Get Rid of It

December 20, 2015

Getting Rid of Ammonia

Do you diapers wreak of ammonia after just one pee? Is your baby suffering from ammonia burns when she wakes up in the morning? This means your diapers are getting clean enough and there is bacteria buildup. Here are 5 things you can do to get rid of horrible ammonia / bacteria buildup in your cloth diapers. And to keep ammonia from coming back, check out our recommendations for how to wash your diapers.


Enzymes literally eat odor causing bacteria. Using a natural enzymatic cleaner like BioKleen Bac-out can "eat" and "kill" ammonia bacteria and odor. Simply spray your cloth diapers with BioKleen Bac-out. Allow them to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes before laundering.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot on your stove. The heat will force the ammonia to be released from the diaper. Add your diapers (2 to 3 at a time) and allow them to boil for 15 minutes. Then launder as usual.
*NOTE: Avoid boiling diapers too long as this will could melt your snaps or PUL and ruin your diapers. Also, avoid boiling diapers that are more than two years old as this may cause irreparable damage.

If you live in a hard water area, it can be more difficult to get your diapers clean. Add 1 capful of Calgon water softener OR Borax to your regular laundry routine. The booster will help to lift the stains and odor and will allow the detergent to work more effectively.

Not all detergents are equal. Some don't clean as well. Others cause buildup. Check out our list of detergents we recommend and don't recommend.

If detergent buildup has caused your diapers to smell, you'll need to soak and strip them to fix your ammonia problem. Follow these simple instructions to soak and strip your diapers.

  • Start with clean diapers, and only place the absorbent parts in your washing machine
  • Add hot water (as hot as you can get it)
  • Add RLR or a DIY mix (3 tbps each of washing soda, borax and calgon)
  • Add ½ cup of detergent
  • Soak for 4 hours (even overnight)
  • Finish the wash cycle
  • Fill the washer with cold water
  • Add 1 cup of bleach or a DIY mix (1 cup Borax + 4 cups Peroxide)
  • Let soak for 30 – 45 minutes (not longer)
  • Wash hot with recommended amount of detergent
  • For hard water only – also add 1 cap of Calgon or ½ cup of Borax

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