Ammonia Stink in Your Diapers?

by Amanda Hearn · 9 comments

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Ammonia cloth diaper issuesGood news, diapers aren’t as complicated as we might like to think. At the end of the day it’s just fabric and needs to be clean. Ammonia is a natural part of the breakdown of urine, so don’t freak if your diaper pale knocks you over, but if your baby’s diaper puts you on your back the moment you pull it off – you have ammonia problems!
Parents and physicians often mistake ammonia burns for yeast rashes, leading to ongoing issues as the result of misdiagnosis.  A good wash and some EMAB Bottom Balm could be all you need to get back on track.
Most people notice ammonia for the first time when their child moves onto solid foods or tries a new food. Their little bodies are learning how to process these new foods and their bodies are not getting rid of more waste, thus making the diapering situation a whole new ballgame, so to speak. It’s nothing to worry over, only to recognize so that you can be prepared and take a new tactic with your washing routine.
If you are battling ammonia the first thing you want to do is get your diapers clean. (Be sure to use a cloth diaper safe detergent – I will include a list at the bottom of this post.) You want to start with diapers free of urine and feces before you attempt to fix any cleanliness or buildup issues. 


Wash your diapers as you usually would. Then try one of the following.

  • Option 1: Try adding RLR in a hot wash (without any other detergents).
  • Option 2: Try Funk Rock from Rockin’ Green.
  • Option 3: Using your cloth diaper safe detergent, give them a deep-cleaning wash – or strip your diapers, which is essentially a hearty wash.

I found that the EcoSprout Detergent is my favorite detergent for getting rid of and deterring ammonia issues.

If you find that your problems coincide with dietary changes, there is a good possibility that your diapers are no longer getting as clean as they once were with your wash routine, so change it up! Add more detergent or an extra wash cycle and see if that helps. If not you might consider trying a new detergent that will help get them cleaner.

Vinegar Solution

If these methods aren’t helping, vinegar could be your solution.
Yep, plain old white vinegar! This method is not approved by all, but I have used it myself with success. Here’s what I did:
  • Cold wash as usual (with detergent if you normally do)
  • Warm wash – NO detergent – add 2 cups of vinegar
  • Hot wash as usual (with detergent), but to final rinse add 1/2 cup of vinegar – or put it in a downy ball.
  • Dry as you choose 🙂

Open Pail Solution

Another tip that I’ve seen and used with great results is an open pail.  I kept our pail in the bathroom closet or laundry room and simply left the lid off. It prevented the diapers from “fermenting” so-to-speak and worked very well. You’d be surprised at how much less your diapers will smell when allowed to “breathe.”

Cloth Diaper Safe Detergents

Allens Naturally Laundry Detergent
BumGenius Diaper Detergent
Charlie’s Soap
Country Save
Crunchy Clean
Eco Nuts
Eco Sprout
Rockin’ Green

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Amanda Hearn

Amanda Hearn

Founder of The Eco-Friendly Family, design geek, serial tanktopist, content creator, mother, coffee addict, & lover of fun. I am also a partner at Green Child Magazine & Put A Cup In It!
Amanda Hearn
sandrita04 October 10, 2009 at 1:20 am

This site has washing instructions, including a suggestion for using baking soda & vinegar for stinky diapers (select #7 – washing instructions in the drop-down box, & scroll to the bottom):

Soña October 14, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Option #2 has been working great for us! Thank you so much.

Michelle "Picklewart" March 31, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I keep an open pail in the laundry room for CDs. No ammonia issues yet. I wash every other day.
Thanks for the vinegar tip in case I need it!

DeeAnn November 11, 2013 at 3:31 pm

is there something u can put in the pail to help with the stink there?

laura bernard January 20, 2016 at 12:22 am

Great tips!

tamar January 20, 2016 at 6:17 pm

i’m going to try the vinegar to see if it works! the ammonia smell in my son’s overnight diapers is horrible.

Jessica Funderburk January 28, 2016 at 12:58 am

Thank you for this post! I finally found Molly’s Suds and it really made a while world of difference.

Aimee March 13, 2016 at 4:02 am

Big issues w/ ammonia in our bamboo insert diapers… burning baby’s bottom so we quit for a while. Funk Rock wasn’t really cutting it unless I did a full overnight soak with it and the diapers in the bathtub. We are too busy w/ kids, school and life to be doing that on a regular basis. I think I’m just going to have the bite the bullet and try a super-hot wash w/ inserts and covers, and risk the PUL linings. We did vinegar in the past- totally shot the elastic in a complete set of F.B. perfect fits.

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