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How To Eliminate Ammonia Smell In Cloth Diapers

Do you ever notice a pungent smell coming from your cloth diapers? It could be the result of ammonia buildup, which is a common problem among cloth diaper users. This can happen if the diapers are left unwashed for too long, if you need to use more detergent, or if your baby needs more fluids.

Addressing this issue as soon as possible is important to avoid any negative effects on your baby’s health. If left untreated, the ammonia odor can become overwhelming and potentially harmful.

This article will explore why ammonia and urine are linked and what causes the unpleasant smell. We’ll also provide you with some effective solutions to help eliminate the odor and prevent it from happening again.

ammonia smelly diaper

What Is Ammonia?

Have you ever wondered why ammonia smells so terrible? It’s because of the high concentration of waste in urine. Urea, produced when our bodies break down proteins, is a major contributor to the smell of ammonia.

Normally, when we’re well-hydrated and using the bathroom regularly, urea isn’t enough time to break down into ammonia. However, when we become dehydrated, or if urine is left to sit for too long, ammonia production can kick into high gear. This is why cloth diapers, if left wet for too long, can produce a pungent odor that can be difficult to eliminate.

How To Eliminate Ammonia Smell

Bleach Soak

Bleaching your diapers can help sanitize them and break down the ammonia further. To do a bleach soak, you’ll need to place your diapers in cold water with bleach and let them soak for about 30 to 45 minutes.

After the soak, do a regular hot wash cycle with the recommended amount of detergent in your washing machine. Some cloth diaper manufacturers suggest monthly bleach soak to keep ammonia and other buildups from forming.

Enzyme Cleaner

Enzyme cleaners like Bac-Out by Biokleen can effectively remove odor-causing bacteria in cloth diapers.

To prevent the buildup of bacteria and unpleasant smells, spray your diapers with an enzyme cleaner before putting them in your diaper pail. This can help keep your diapers fresh and clean-smelling.

Another helpful tip is to use the enzyme cleaner as a pre-treatment before washing your diapers. Simply apply the cleaner about 15 minutes before washing them to help eliminate any lingering ammonia smells.

Strip Your Cloth Diapers

If you’ve tried other solutions and the ammonia smell in your cloth diapers is still lingering, you may need to strip them. You don’t need to do this regularly, but it can help if you have a buildup of minerals or detergent.

You can use RLR Laundry Treatment or GroVia Mighty Bubbles for stripping. With RLR, you’ll need to add one packet for every 30 diapers you’re stripping to a bathtub or top-loading washing machine filled with hot water. Agitate the diapers slightly, then let them soak for at least six hours or overnight. After that, run several hot rinses with no detergent until most bubbles are gone.

With GroVia Mighty Bubbles, divide your diapers into groups of 24 and throw one pod into the washing machine along with one set of 24 diapers. Run the heaviest wash cycle with hot water and no detergent or additives. Then run a warm wash and a hot rinse. You may need to repeat the process if the smell is still there.

Here is everything you need to know about how to strip cloth diapers.

Pretreat With Baking Soda

If you are struggling with tough odors in your cloth diapers, you can try a simple solution. Baking soda, a natural deodorizer, can help eliminate stubborn smells.

Mix baking soda with water and apply the mixture to your diapers before washing. This pre-treatment can help break down and eliminate odors. Give it a try and see if it works for you!

What Causes Ammonia In Cloth Diapers

Diaper Sits To Long

Did you know that the longer urea stays in a wet environment, the higher the chances it will turn into ammonia? If you’re using cloth diapers and only washing them once every five to seven days, you may be waiting too long in between washes. This can cause the diapers to sit in a wet diaper bag or diaper pail for too long, developing that unpleasant ammonia smell.

Hard Water

Have you heard about hard water? It’s just water that contains a high amount of minerals. If you use hard water to wash your cloth diapers, those minerals can accumulate in the fabric and reduce the effectiveness of your detergent.

As a result, your diapers may not get completely clean during the wash, and urea can get trapped in the fabric. This can cause an unpleasant ammonia smell, even after washing the diapers.

Not Using Enough Detergent

Believe it or not, not using enough detergent can also lead to ammonia problems with your cloth diapers. When you use too little detergent, your diapers may not get cleaned properly. This can cause urea to remain in the fabric, even after washing.

To avoid this issue, finding the right amount of detergent to use is important. Follow the instructions on the package and measure the recommended amount for your laundry load. This will help ensure your diapers are cleaned effectively and eliminate unpleasant ammonia smells.

Using To Much Detergent

It’s a common misconception that the more detergent you use, the cleaner your cloth diapers will be. However, using too much detergent can actually cause problems.

When you use too much detergent, it can be hard for the rinse cycle to completely wash it out. This can result in detergent residue being left behind in your diapers, which can cause a buildup similar to hard water.

This buildup can make it harder for your diapers to get clean in future washes and may even cause an unpleasant odor. So, using the recommended amount of detergent is important to avoid these issues.

How To Prevent Ammonia Smell

After successfully eliminating the ammonia smell in your diapers, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from happening again.

You may need to try different methods to find the best solution for your specific situation, but don’t get discouraged. With perseverance and patience, you’ll find the right approach to keep ammonia buildup from happening again.


If you notice that the ammonia smell in your baby’s cloth diapers is because their urine is not diluted enough, or they tend to urinate heavily at night, there is a simple solution. Before putting the dirty diapers in the diaper pail, rinse them with hot water and wring them out. This can help to eliminate the smell and prevent it from getting worse.

Wash Diapers More Often

If you’re leaving your cloth diapers unwashed for five to seven days, they may develop an ammonia smell due to the buildup of urea. To prevent this, wash your diapers every two to three days instead. This will ensure that the urea doesn’t have enough time to turn into ammonia while the diapers sit in the pail.

Add Water Softener

Add a water softener to your wash cycles if you’re facing an ammonia smell issue in your cloth diapers due to hard water. Calgon or Borax are two popular options. The water softener will work to prevent mineral buildup in your diapers, enabling them to get cleaned effectively in the wash. This will help keep the ammonia smell at bay.

Keep Your Baby Hydrated

It’s crucial to ensure your baby gets enough fluids as they grow and start eating more solids. Dehydration can cause the urine to be concentrated and smell stronger, leading to an ammonia smell in your cloth diapers.

Additionally, you may see orange streaks on areas of the diaper that have been soaked in urine. These streaks are uric acid crystals that form when concentrated urine dries on the cloth surface. To prevent this from happening, make sure your baby is drinking enough fluids throughout the day.

Use Natural Fiber Inserts

Microfiber is a material with a tight weave that tends to trap ammonia, which makes it tough to clean effectively. The thicker the microfiber in the diaper, the harder it is to remove the odor.

On the other hand, natural fiber diapers or inserts, like cotton or bamboo, have looser weaves made from smoother fibers. This makes it less likely for ammonia to become trapped in the diaper and easier to clean.

Eliminate Ammonia Smell In Cloth Diapers FAQS

Can I use fabric softener to eliminate ammonia smell in my cloth diapers?

Fabric softeners can actually make the problem worse. Instead, use a water softener such as Calgon or Borax to prevent mineral buildup.

Can I use vinegar to eliminate ammonia smell in my cloth diapers?

While vinegar can be used to clean cloth diapers, it should not be used to eliminate ammonia as it can react with urine and worsen the smell.

Can I use essential oils to eliminate ammonia smell in my cloth diapers?

No, essential oils should not be used on cloth diapers as they can cause buildup and damage the fabric.

Should I rinse my cloth diapers with hot water before putting them in the diaper pail?

Rinsing cloth diapers with hot water and wringing them out before putting them in the diaper pail can help prevent ammonia buildup.

Can the type of diaper material affect ammonia smell in cloth diapers?

Microfiber diapers are more prone to trapping ammonia and can be harder to clean. Natural fiber diapers, such as cotton and bamboo, have looser knits and are easier to clean.

To keep your diapers ammonia-free, it’s important to soak them in bleach once a month, strip them when needed, and take preventative measures. Doing so lets you enjoy using cloth diapers without any stinky issues!