Rashes Stink – and so does Ammonia

September 17, 2011

So. I need help/advice.

We’ve been battling rash, after rash, after rash here.

What’s up with that?

Andrew woke up a few nights ago at 4:30am with a poopy diaper, which apparently he had slept most of the night in, because his skin is raw – and open sores.  I mean like a 3”x2” area of open flesh, oozing – along with several other sore red areas.

I finally felt comfortable enough with our rash outbreak to use the Grovia cream that we have vs. the desitin and the bacitracin ointments we were using on his butt – but mostly he’s been bare bottomed over the last few days to try to get some healing.

Now – he’s got a big scab.

But today after a two hour drive, his blister was open, oozy, and sore again =(

Ethans over his yeast infection – but it seems like every day we’re dealing with another (minor) rash of some sort – and his bottom is bleedy when we’re wiping him after a poop.

Both boys’ diapers have started to get really heavily ammonia smelling – Could that be burning their butts??



ETA:  Of course now after googling it – I’m realizing that the open wound on Andrews butt is definitely an ammonia burn – it may have just been coupled along with a poopy diaper.  I wish it was appropriate to put a picture up here, but most of you would be terribly grossed out.

I’m feeling defeated.

We’ve only been CDing for a month and a half – and we use such a tiny amount of detergent, and don’t have hard water.  I’ve had to wash daily to keep up with enough diapers for two babes, so they’re not just laying around.

I’m going to google how to strip your diaper – and spend the day going through this diaper stripping process (And write about it, of course) but I’m not happy.

I’ve got way too much on my plate today to spend the day stripping diapers and being sure that my babies stop getting rashes…

I’m beginning to hate my CD’s   🙁

How do you guys do it?  I’m about ready to give up, for my poor babies butts sake – and my husbands sanity (maaaaayybee my sanity as well)


  1. I could be wrong, but it could be that you need to strip your diapers.

    I’m pretty sure whatever is causing the Amonia smell is what’s causing the diaper rash.

  2. Yes amonia can burn their butt… you do need to strip you diapers! When my diapers start to stink after my regular wash I just run the diapers thru the washer a few more times in just water and that usually takes care of it, smell gone and no more amonia burns. Hope you can get it figured out! I never get rashes with cloth unless there is amonia build up in my diapers.

    • Hm. Well the diapers smell great after they come out of the wash – that’s not a problem – it’s more so after they’ve been worn for a few hours, then they REAK of heavy ammonia – so bad I have to hold my breath.

      would that still need for them to be stripped?

      • Yes stripping helps! I have twins in cloth so we get buildup quickly. I turn the heat up on the hot water heater and use the reg blue dawn dish sop and extra rinses. This seems to help us. Triple antibiotic cream can be used without a liner! We had a long raw cycle and the triple anti with CJ’s or triple anti and the GroVia stick did the trick.

      • It never hurts to strip them and you don’t have to use dawn to strip them, you can just run them thru a hot rinse again and again. At least that is what I have been told and that is what works for us. Be careful with turning up your water heater b/c if the water gets too hot it can damage the PUL and the elastic.

    • I too suspect ammonia is the cause of some problems on my baby’s skin. I am trying, for the first time, to use RLR (http://www.jilliansdrawers.com/products/clothdiapers/naturallaundry/rlrlaundrytreatment) to strip our flats, microfiber inserts, and a few random diapers. I have a front loader so once my baby outgrew her infant prefolds I switched to flats because they weren’t supposed to have issues with ammonia. Nevertheless, I think we have a problem. Hang in there mama and remember it’s okay to use disposables from time to time. No kind mom would ever judge you poorly. =)

  3. When my daughter’s butt was oozy and scabby we used vaseline and disposables for a couple days and it got better. I read somewhere that someone used coconut oil with their cloth diapers and it really helped, and yes try stripping your dipes.

  4. omg we JUST went through this and still are! My daughter had countless open sores from top to bottom of her… area.

    one rule though you shouldn’t use regular creams on the cloth diapers because that can cause them to stop absorbing or so I’ve heard.

    I was using the Heavy Strength Desitin while using a disposable insert on top of regular insert (I dont like stuffing dipes) but a few days without anything changing. So two days ago I switched to the red box of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste which is Maximum Strength and the open sores are gone. Now they are flat pink small areas. I think by tomorrow they will (hopefully) be gone.

    You definitely need to strip the dipes though. The ONLY thing that helped my diapers smell new again was washing them 7 times on hot water with NO soap in any of the washes. It took forever but it worked. You might not need 7 times but when it’s going in the aggitation cycle open the top and if you see bubbles that don’t desolve very quickly then those are soap bubbles and you’ll need to wash again. If the bubbles go away in a second then they were just bubbles from the water movement.

  5. use less detergent and/or do more rinses to fully get everything out. One thing that has helped me out is to do all rinses in hot! Or even add hot boiling water from the stove to the washer instead of what comes into the washer. The hot rinses will get more out than cold. An overnight soak in hot water too. I am almost done with my ammonia issues. There are just a few random diapers that have it – so much better than before.

    One thing I have done to protect my monkey’s bottom when he has an open sore, and keep it on the healing track, is to put a “band-aid” on top of the sore. I took scrap pieces of fleece an some not very sticky first-aid tape and covered up his sores. It keeps the poopy off of the sore and the fleece won’t hold pee, so it keeps them dry too. I find that this helped the healing process much faster than anything else.

  6. Do you have hard water? It may be that you need to add Calgon to your wash in addition to the detergent. Or you could be not using enough detergent (how much are you using?). Have you also been making sure to do an extra rinse at the end of your cycle?
    Also, this may sound totally gross to you, but I got the idea from another blogger and I started doing it and really seems to help. I started rinsing out all of my diapers (especially the overnight ones) in the sink before I put them in the wetbag. Seems to help.

    Ammonia burns stink (literally). I’ve been there I understand how they can make you hate your cloth. But don’t give up! Try some trouble-shooting first!

  7. I had problems with the ammonia smell and very red bottoms. So I used a good rash cream with disposables for a couple of days and then increased the amount of soap with the wash (to get the diapers clean enough) and then started running them thru a second full wash without soap to get all the soap residue out. No problems with redness or smell after that! You just have to find the right balance, don’t give up! Also, I use baby washcloths dampened with water (nothing else) to clean and find that is perfect. Sometimes they had reactions to the packaged wipes. Best of luck!

  8. I was also wondering if you aren’t using enough detergent? You mentioned only using a tiny bit so it made me wonder. Not getting them completely clean means you’re already starting with ammonia-causing stuff in there.

    I get the ammonia smell sometimes on our overnights diapers (and the others sometimes when they sit in the wet bag all day), so I use a bit of the RnG Funk Rock in my pre-wash then regular RnG in the full wash.

  9. So guys – as I’m stripping the diapers – I see no bubbles. We turned the water heater all the way up, and are washing with no soaps – there are no bubbles.

    I’m confused.

    Also – I use about 1 tbsp of detergent per load. I have an HE top loader. very good water (not hard/soft – and no water softener). I always have my washer set to a pre-loaded setting of Hot wash with heavy soiled setting and an extra rinse at the end. The entire cycle is 1:41 minutes with a tbsp of soap.

    • Are you doing a pre-rinse/pre-wash before you are doing your pre-loaded setting of Hot wash? If not then, essentially you’re washing your dipaers in pee water. That could be your problem.

      I have an HE top loader too and this is my routine:
      1. rinse & spin cycle – cold water, low spin, no detergent
      2. heavy duty cycle w/ extra rinse selected – hot water, high spin, heavy soil level with 1.5 tbsp of detergent.

      • Hrm. Nope – I’m not doing a pre-rinse except for poopy diapers I wash in the laundry tub before they go into the diaper… but I figure there’s plenty of cycles to get the pee out =\

        like I said above also – the diapers smell PERFECTLY fine when they come out of the wash and dryer – they just stink after the boys are wearing them, and they’re getting the burns. The stinkiest diapers are the Fitteds and overnight diapers.

        • I had this issue with our Thirsties Fitteds. They smelled fine coming out but as soon as they were peed in the reeked. Luckily we didn’t have any burns before I figured it out. I bought some Rockin Green Funk Rock to treat them – but I actually found that the 3 tbs soak in hot water with Rockin Green in a tub (I used a mop bucket) for a few hours was more effective at getting the smells out than the Funk Rock was. I find that I have to do this soak about every 3 or 4 washes to keep the stinks at bay. I read online somewhere that the microfiber used in Thirsties has the tendency to get stinky faster and hold in detergent.

        • Are you smelling them right out of wash? Before they go into the dryer? They should smell like, well, nothing.

          Right out of the wash, bury your nose in those inserts (especially microfiber) and take a good whiff. If you even smell the faintest hit of pee, they are not getting clean enough. I would definitely do a pre-rinse/wash cycle in cold to really saturate them and get as much urine out so your hot water wash w/ detergent is more effective.

          All this being said we use disposables overnight because we’ve battled ammonia burns in the past and I’m scared to test if I’ve gotten all that ammonia out yet.

          Good luck and I hope this helps!!

          • Yeah – I guess normally I don’t BURY my nose into the insert – but I did today… and they smell fine.

            Either way, I am just washing them with our hot setting and no detergent.. we’re on the 3rd washing so far..

            I may boil the hemp inserts as well, just because I imagine that might be it too – we use a lot of hemp.

            • Ok, sounds like you’re on the right track then 🙂

              Boiling is a good idea too. Keep at it, you’ll get it figured out and then it’ll be easy peasy 😉

    • Nancy Mundale says:

      Amy, When you were a baby, I could only use Dreft for laundry on the cloth diapers, and Then I had to wash the diapers 3 times after in just hot water. That was the only way that you did not have rashes.

      • My mother used Dreft on our diapers as well, but it’s no longer recommended because of some of the additives they’ve got in it now. They must have changed the formula since we were in diapers. >.<

    • I use Rockin’ Green Classic and RnG just advised I step up from 1 T to 2 T in my HE FL washer to see if the ammonia goes away. I have some flats with Hemp Babies inserts from my 3 y.o. as well as some MF inserts. I’m wondering if the big kid pee along with the (awful) microfiber are causing the ammonia smell. The pail is pretty strong with ammonia, but when I take my baby’s diaper off the ammonia in not eye watering. If I figure it out, I will try to remember to come back and share.

  10. I only use cloth as an overnight diaper for my big boy, so I’m not in the know there at all. However I am, unfortunately, something of a nasty rash pro. I found that using an unscented, chlorine-free diaposable diaper with very gentle wipes (I use Earth’s Best diapers and Babyganics wipes) was helpful. I also alternate coconut oil and browned flour in my son’s diapers. They do more for his bottom than any pricy, chemical-filled concoction for the drugstore. I just use regular food grade coconut oil. I brown flour on the stove by cooking a thing layer on medium-high heat. I stir regularly until it’s the color of a paper bag. Cheap and VERY effective! (I would assume it would be okay to use these natural remedies with cloth, but you might want to double-check!)

    • Melinda Ciaccia says:

      Coconut oil is also a cloth diaper safe cream. You won’t have to
      use disposables or a liner on the diaper. I use it whenever he has a tiny bit of diaper rash (he hardly does) and also on my dogs rash when his skin allergies act up! You could try flour or even store bought corn starch works well too

  11. So the one thing i’ve learned is washing diapers now is NOT like it was 50 years ago. It is not the same in one place to another and it is not the same from one house to another. The best advice I can think of is to start by looking at your manufacturers washing and care. Most of them suggest using the full amount of detergent. No baking soda, no vinegar. your definately going to have to play with your routine to see what works best for YOU. So, I would do the basic strip to start, like the major hot water multiple rinses. If that doesnt work, then try an overnight soak, inserts only (no pul) and then do rinses. Then with your routine, do a cold soak with one tbl detergent. Do a cold rinse, then wash hot two tbls detergent. two rinses. Dry warm. Always do cold soaks to combat stinkies and stains. Never wait more than3 days to wash.. Now for rashes, your best bet is going to be air and sunlight. Clean area after every pee or poo with a clean clth and either just warm water or mild baby soap. And keep in mind too, some babies have more sensitivities to different detergents, and that can cause rashes. Good luck!

  12. What sort of detergent are you using? What’s your wash cycle like? You should definitely strip your diapers and you may want to re-think your wash routine. I changed mine up a couple months ago and haven’t had stink troubles since.

    I use Rockin’ Green detergent (love!). I do a cold soak/prewash. Then I add the detergent and turn on a hot wash with cold rinse, but leave the lid open so the hot water fills up and then the diapers can soak on hot with the detergent (I have a top-loader, if you have a front loader, you may need to add more hot water and/or find another way to soak). I soak overnight if I can (by just starting the load before bed), otherwise I try to set it up so it’s soaking while I’m out of the house running errands or something like that so it can soak for at least a couple of hours. Then I come back and close the lid so it can finish the wash cycle that’s started. After that’s over, I do TWO extra cold rinses. If it’s nice outside, I add vinegar as a liquid fabric softener so my diapers don’t get all stiff and crunchy, and I try to dry in the sun which is great for sunning out stains and also seems to help with ammonia. I always hang-dry my covers and wetbags/pail liners. Most of the time, I dry my inserts and AIOs in the machine, but if I’ve dried them in the sun, I pop them in the drier for 10 minutes or so to fluff them back up…I just really hate the stiff/crunchy feel and I’m paranoid about earwigs in my diapers/clothes…

    You can find a solution! Honestly, detergent is probably your issue. We had problems when I was trying to use a free-and-clear detergent instead of a cloth-specific detergent. Hang in there, mama! You can do this. 🙂

  13. How many diapers are you washing at a time? I made that mistake at first and did too many or tried to fill up the washer to save water. The water setting needs to be all the way high, HOT! And with an extra rinse. I would try more detergent or another if you suspect that may be the problem. I would also soak the dirty diapers in water until you are ready to wash, not normally what I would do, but I’m wondering if that would help the ammonia build up.

    Since you said there are no bubbles when you do a clear wash, I would double your detergent, wash, then rinse twice. Lessen the diapers but fill the water all the way. It’s super important that there is a good balance of detergent AND LOTS of water.

    Don’t feel too discouraged, it happens to everyone once!

    The dawn strip and a good couple boils would help loosen the ammonia if all else fails.

  14. I am cloth diapering 2 children. I started in April. My little girl only gets rash when wearing the microfiber with no liner and my son tends to get issues with anything, so if I see a slight bit of rash on his bum I know it is time to strip. I’ve had to strip my diapers multiple times, sometimes weekly. I also have “soft/normal” water. I have tried SEVERAL detergents and haven’t found the right combination yet. I have found that all the detergents (cloth safe and regular detergents) are not washing out of my diapers, even if there are no bubbles (ex. Charlies and Crunchy Clean). I have tried and tried to find information on washing in soft water and have had no luck. I did come across a facebook discussion where a lady was having the same problem, but no one could help her figure out what to do. I did find that Dawn definitely helps with the ammonia problem though. My current decision with my laundry routine is this: Cold rinse (entire wash cycle no detergent), Wash hot with detergent (entire cycle), and another cold rinse (again run entire wash cycle). In addition, I think it will work best to switch up my detergents. So, instead of always using ‘brand A’, I will sometimes use ‘brand C or D’. I also sometimes run a cycle using only oxygen bleach, and allow the dipes to sit in the hot water for a while before letting the cycle finish. Also, I have a clothesline and sometimes hang the dipes outside for the day. As for rash creams, Grandma El’s works really well and I never have issues with it if I use my prefolds. I use liners if I use my microfiber and I can still smell it on my liners sometimes, but it doesn’t seem to cause a problem. Good luck! Let me know if you find something that works because it just might work for me too!

  15. Melinda Ciaccia says:

    I don’t have time to read every comment to see if someone has already mentioned this to you.
    To strip I used just a couple drops of Dawn dish soap. One wash with an extra rinse and then I run another wash with detergent. I use Rockin Green and don’t even use a full Tbsp for my frontloader, even with a wash of 30 diapers…they always come out clean.

    For the ammonia smell, stripping won’t really help. For that, do a regular wash but then add a 1/2 cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of Baking soda to the rinse. Make sure you add one or the other first otherwise they’ll react together before getting to the laundry. If you don’t add the baking soda, the vinegar will raise the pH of the water which can irritate baby’s skin. Baking soda will even out the pH. If my diapers are super ammonia smelly, I do this twice. You don’t need to do an extra rinse of no vinegar or anything…there will be no vinegary smell on the diapers! If you don’t want to do this, I’ve heard that Funk Rock by Rockin Green works really well to get the smell out. I’m not sure because I’ve never had a problem with the vinegar/baking soda way.

    Hopefully some of this helps.

  16. Melinda Ciaccia says:

    And, one more thing, do not use more than 1 tbsp of detergent for your diapers. I see a lot of people recommending it, it’s the worst thing! It will just cause more buildup and will be worse for your diapers

  17. I started having the ammonia problem too. (Using cloth for almost 2 yrs now)I found a great article (which I can’t find now, of course!) BUT, 2 things I really learned were: let the used diapers breath a little, and the BEST advice: rinse the wet diapers. Yeah, it will take a little longer, but a few rinse and squeeze will make a HUGE difference.
    Oh, and with Vinegar, BE CAREFUL, vinegar will make it worse if you have hard water.
    Plus, if you have ammonia problems stripping once a month is a good thing. Though some places I’ve seen people talking about how it should no longer be called “stripping” and it should be considered regular maintenance.
    Now, when I strip, I use oxiclean, which I know all the manufacturers frown upon, but I make my diapers, so I could care less. I soak them in really REALLY hot water and oxi-clean (I sometimes add a little Dawn dish soap) for a few hours, then put them in the washer 2 times without any soap. Super easy, MUCH less work then any other stripping I’ve read about or tried, and it works fantastically. But, since it’s not manufacturer endorsed, I guess it’s a “at your own risk” kind of thing.
    Hope that helps.
    Remember, everyone is different and what works great for one family would make things worse for another family. There is no one size fits all when it comes to washing cloth diapers. So, don’t get discouraged! And remember, there are LOTS of cloth diapering people out there, and most of us are willing to heal each other out.

  18. I’m thinking of using cd’s on my 3rd child but this post TERRIFIES me. All the comments and advice are making my head spin haha! Please tell us what advice was most helpful to you and what ended up working (if anything). Rashes are the only thing keeping me from stockpiling:)

  19. I hope you got this rash problem sorted out by now? If not definitely try doing the overnight soak with 3tbsp of RnG.
    I’m a little frustrated with my CDs myself, the latest we’re dealing with is mildew on them. I don’t understand, it’s not like I let them sit wet in the pail for days at all, I wash them every other day, but now I’m doing it every day to avoid the problem; I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it 🙁

  20. tubbytelly says:

    I have just started using cloth more at night and baby boy has what looks like an open red wound on his little sack. I don’t know what to do either. I want to be more natural but I want to put vaseline on him so at least there is a barrier on his skin….

  21. Jessica W says:

    We had this issue when my daughter was little, and she started getting blisters. We switched to sposies until it cleared up, and then we stripped our diapers and switched detergent.

    I use Tide now, and I always watch for bubbles during my extra rinse. If I see any, then I will run another rinse. I also run a cup of bleach through the wash once a month. Thankfully, we haven’t had any issues since that first little bump in the road.

    Good luck!

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