Friday, August 5, 2011

have ammonia in your bamboo cloth diapers? read this:

*note* this post is not for my regular readers :) I know you guys are uber tired of me talking about bodily functions and internal organs and poop. So just skip on by this post, and I will get back to your regularly scheduled nonsense soon. This summer has seriously been ridonkulous in the worst way possible.

Ammonia build up can be cause by a couple of things-- allowing urine to dry in the bamboo diapers, bacteria formed when urine and stool mix and too much detergent and/or minerals that build up in the diaper fibers.

Bamboo is a blessing and a curse because it is super absorbent and can work splendidly as an overnight diaper, but because it is so absorbent, it absorbs more than your typical cotton, fleece or microfiber diaper which can make it more difficult for your normal washer and wash routine to get all of that urine out. Allowing the urine, especially in an overnight diaper, to dry completely before wash day is a main factor in ammonia build up.

So you might be wondering, "How will I know if I have ammonia build up?" Oh, you will know. It will start out innocently enough, with maybe a slight smell when you take the diaper off the baby in the morning, or maybe a red spot on their little bum. But soon it will turn into an eye blazing, nose burning, butt blistering problem if you don't take care of it. A slight ammonia smell in the diaper pail is normal. As long as the diaper isn't smelling like ammonia after the baby wets it, you are fine. If the diaper doesn't stink when your baby wets it, it means your washer and wash routine are doing a good job of washing out all of those ammonia crystals, and you really don't need to worry about changing anything. But if the diaper is smelling after the baby has wet it, it is going to be a problem.

If you have ammonia build up, you need to get rid of it. It isn't good for your baby's butt and honestly, it can make cloth diapering a nightmare. First, you will need to strip the diaper. To do that, you can follow the steps below:
(you can do this in your washing machine, if you have a top loader, or in your bath tub)
  1. Take your clean diapers and put them in the washer or tub
  2. Fill it with HOT water-- as hot as you can stand
  3. Allow the diapers to soak for a couple of hours, adding more hot water through a tea kettle or pot of almost boiling water, to the tub, as the water in the tub cools. 
  4. Agitate the water every now and then, to allow the water to really penetrate the layers of bamboo
I like to use Bac-Out during this process. If you have Bac-Out, you can add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of it to the water as you are soaking them. Other people prefer to do a detergent soak with Rockin Green or Funk Rock. I prefer not to do this, as I fear a detergent soak will only lead to detergent build up. People have mentioned using Dawn dish soap to strip your diapers, only do this if your diapers are repelling because of a barrier cream. If you do decide to use a detergent, funk rock, or dawn to strip the diapers, you will need to really rinse them out to get all of the detergent and soap out of there.

After you have soaked your diapers in the hot water, rinse them and transfer them to the washer or drain the washer and do a rinse/ spin cycle and then start a HOT wash with your regular detergent. Wash the diapers, rinse them, and then wash them on hot again, this time without detergent.

By this time, your diapers should be good and stripped. If they smell like ammonia the next time the baby wets them, repeat the process but this time use either the bac-out (if you didn't use it before) or do a detergent soak.

Once you do not have an ammonia smell when your baby wets the diaper, it is time to get proactive to keep that ammonia away. I recommend using a wet pail to combat ammonia (I'll explain that in a minute) but some people are not comfortable using a wet pail, and that is totally fine. You can help keep ammonia at bay by doing one, or a combination of the following:
  1. add another rinse to your pre-wash rinse
  2. add funk rock to your pre-wash rinse
  3. change your detergent amount (you might have to add more, sometimes you need to use less)
  4. get more water into your washer during the wash cycle
  5. add another post wash rinse 
  6. add bac-out to your pre-wash rinse 
  7. do a 30 minute bac-out soak before after your pre-wash rinse and before your wash cycle
  8. change your detergent. If your detergent isn't getting the diapers clean enough, it isn't going to be able to wash out all of that ammonia and you are going to get build up. 

I believe it is really important to rinse at least the overnight diapers, after you take them off the baby. This will wash out most of that urine and help prevent those ammonia crystals from forming. To do this, you can rinse them in a bathtub or with the diaper sprayer. If you chose to rinse them, you can either wring them out and put them in your dry pail, or put them in a wet pail. If you chose to wring them out and put them in a dry pail, you need to be diligent about washing your diapers within a day or so, so bacteria and/or icky mildew doesn't form. If you chose to use a wet pail, this is one of the ways you can do it:
  1. get a bucket or a small (5-10 gallon) garbage can
  2. fill it with cool water, about half way
  3. put 1/8-1/4 cup bac-out in the water, as the bucket is filling (optional)
  4. rinse the diaper and doublers and place them into the pail
On wash day, you can either take the pail to the washing machine and dump the entire contents of the pail into the washer, or you can pull the diapers out and place them in the washer, and then dump the leftover water into the toilet or tub. If you don't have a lot of diapers in the pail, it is easy to dump the water, and then put the diapers into the washer. Then proceed with your normal wash routine. Because our laundry room is really a laundry closet, and I wash a TON of diapers and our wet pail weighs approximately eleventy billion pounds, I keep the pail next to the toilet/ bath tub and then drag the pail to the washer and pull the diapers out, then dump the leftover water into the toilet. I wear gloves while doing this, and while rinsing because I'm not looking for a spot on Dirty Jobs... although... it wouldn't be so bad if Mike Rowe decided to come for a visit...

If your changing area and place to rinse the diapers are far from the laundry area, and you prefer to keep the wet pail by the laundry area, you can rinse the diapers and then transport them to the laundry area using a small bucket, bowl or pail.

If you do not want to rinse your diapers and put them into a dry pail or wet pail, then you can spray them with bac-out after you take them off the baby and place them in the dry pail. The key to preventing ammonia is going to make sure your wash routine is flawless, but in the days of high efficiency/ low water washers, this is not always possible so other means of prevention are necessary.

Please let me know if you have questions or if something isn't clear. I am always happy to help and want to make sure that your cloth diapering experience is a good, frustrating free one.

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