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Diaper stinks...and how to fix it

So, you have made the decision to cloth diaper, YAY! You ordered 1 or 2, you have tried them on, reached out to customer service to get a great fit, posted in the Thirsties Groupies to show off your first diapers... and then a few weeks later, it hits you. Something stinks and you need to troubleshoot odor issues!

First thing's first, remember:

sudsy washing machine front door

Let's start with a simple routine overview.

  • warm prewash
  • regular hot wash with the recommended amount of mainstream (or eco friendly*) detergent
  • rinse x 2
  • machine dry on low to medium heat

*some great choices for a more environmentally friendly detergent include Country Save and Planet

If you are washing every 1-2 days, using this routine ^, and still running into issues, let's troubleshoot a little.

How to wash cloth diapers: prewash, hot wash with detergent, extra rinse, dry on low

"Clean" Diapers Should NOT Stink


When you take your diapers out of the dryer, press them to your nose. You should smell nothing but clean diapers (and it is ok if there is a hint of detergent fragrance in there). If you smell anything reminiscent of feces, a barn, fish oils, or the chemical sting of ammonia, let's go over how to fix it:

  • Wash your diapers with 1/2 cup Clorox bleach with a ratio of 15 diapers per 1/2 cup (so divide and do a few loads to do all of your affected diapers) to kill the bacteria causing the odors.

The issue may be too much detergent, too little detergent, or the wrong detergent. You may also have soft water that is hard to rinse out, trapping old feces and urine. Or you may have hard water, which makes it hard for the detergent to do the hard work of getting the diapers clean, so we need to adjust the amount and how many diapers are going in the wash. Email us at

Another time you might notice odors is when the diapers are freshly urinated in. This means they smelled fine out of the dryer, but once freshly peed in, the chemical sting of ammonia hits your nose. This is more than likely a case of detergent buildup, so follow the bleach instructions above, and email us for help finding the fix going forward!

BLEACH??? This 6 letter word has a very mixed reputation in the cloth diaper community, but there are times where it is not only best, but also necessary to keep baby's skin healthy. This is one of those times, and it is important to note that emailing us (again, to fix your routine going forward is going to ensure repeated bleach washes won't need to happen.



It's normal for your cloth diapers to smell while they sit in a wet bag or dry pail between wash days. Washing every other day will help control this and make your diapers easier to clean.

It's normal for your baby's nighttime diaper to smell in the morning. The diaper your baby wakes up first thing in the morning has held urine for several hours in a warm, dark environment. Rinsing and wringing out nighttime diapers will help with the smell and make them easier to clean. There is a difference between strong urine odor and ammonia, if there is a chemical smell or rash, this is ammonia territory and you need to bleach and email us.

It is normal for your kiddo's diapers to smell stronger as they get older. Any veteran cloth diapering parent will tell you that toddler diapers are NO JOKE, LOL! Again rinsing and wringing out these diapers will help with the smell and make them easier to clean.

laundry room with bright background

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Keep trying <3

If you are running into issues please email us, once we find the solution, diaper washing becomes a very fast routine in your busy household. Don't overlook the little problems, give us a holler, and let's get to work on making diaper washing easy!

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  • This was really helpful!

    YV on
  • This was really helpful!

    YV on
  • On point with the toddler pee! It’s crazy how smelly those pee diapers are when I take them off my almost 3 year-old! 😷

    Bethany Kistler on
  • One point with the toddler pee! It’s crazy how smelly those pee diapers are when I take them off my almost 3 year-old! 😷

    Bethany Kistler on

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