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Help! My diapers are stained
February 21, 2011 6:04 am | by
Cloth Diaper Creams

As baby grows and changes, you may encounter substances that stain your cloth diapers from time to time. Certain foods, such a blueberries, or other substances you or your little one ingest (like medications or vitamins) can affect the color of the output.

We get lots of questions here at Cotton Babies about how to deal with stains.
Our first recommendation is to bleach your cloth diapers once a month. We recommend 1/4 cup of bleach added to the hot wash cycle if you have a high efficiency machine. You may use up to 1/2 cup of bleach if you have a traditional top-loading machine. This helps to sanitize your diapers and fight odors. Some customers like to add an additional rinse cycle when they bleach to ensure the diaper is thoroughly rinsed before it touches baby’s bottom again.
If your stains don’t come out with bleach, or if you prefer a more natural stain removal solution, we recommend sunning your diapers.
To sun the diapers:
After completing all your wash cycles, find a safe, sunny spot outdoors if possible.
Place diapers on a drying rack or other flat surface with the inside of the diaper facing the sun.
Let the sun work it’s magic to dry and sanitize your diapers.
Some customers have success sunning indoors during the winter near a window. With modern windows that block UV rays, indoor sunning is usually less effective than outdoor.
Some stubborn stains make take more than one round in the sun to be completely removed.

About the Author

Heather is mom to four, born within 40 months (single, twins, single). She writes transparently about her chaotic household to encourage others through the twists and turns of parenting.



  • Jessica said...
    June 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I have used bleach and oxi-clean. The 4.0’s actually recommend bleaching once/month on the instructions so your diapers should be safe using that method. I have not tried using something like vinegar to address the problem of staining, etc but vinegar is often used as a bleach alternative since it is safer for the environment. May be worth looking into. I have used vinegar to clean my siding in the past b/c it removed stains and things that like to grow on the siding. I personally would not try vinegar on my diapers since it is an acid, but someone else may want to look into this option if they are worried about bleach.

  • La Rêveuse said...
    June 3, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    The chlorine bleach that is bad for the environment is the type used in paper processing plants and is a completely different chemical. Household bleach is NOT a problem.

    Household bleach turns to salt and water in a normal household environment. Only a tiny amount remains (2-3%) and that’s taken care of by the septic system or sewage system, so by the time it gets to the groundwater, there is NOTHING LEFT. My husband is a chemist, he assured me you don’t need to worry about it harming the environment from the tiny amount you use in your washer. A half cup in some diapers really isn’t going to do anything harmful. It will be salt water in short order.

    I have used bleach with my BG’s with no problems. Mine are 4 years old, on kid #2, and they are fine. I had to replace the elastic, but with the use they get, I’m not surprised!

    I know people want to be kind to our Earth, but get the facts first! 🙂

  • The Thomas Family said...
    May 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I have a question…is everyone referring to chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach? I really don’t know the difference, but from the looks of it the chlorine bleach looks like it could be really harmful. I am asking because I do need a solution to the stink and stains, but I wasn’t sure which bleach everyone was talking about.

  • Rena said...
    May 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I’m a “sunner”, too. I don’t even own any bleach, but I admit to having a few ugly diapers in the stash. Now that summer’s here again, hopefully this will be resolved. I think I would only use bleach before selling them, otherwise, no-one really sees the stains.

  • Anonymous said...
    May 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I not only hang the diapers in the sun, but I also use Oxi Clean when the stains are tough to remove. Soaking them in Oxi Clean works miracles and doesn’t hurt the diapers either.

  • Trisha said...
    April 20, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Scented bleach is probably not so great. It has chemicals in it that can really irritate baby’s skin. Bleaching is bad enough; if you feel you need to do that, by all means use non-scented bleach. Sunning or stripping the diapers is far, far better for the environment and for your baby’s tender, precious bottom.

  • Minka said...
    March 1, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Any kind of bleach? I have some scented bleach (spring meadow or something) and didn’t know if the scent would affect the diapers. I’ve just diagnosed my son’s recent rash/blisters as ammonia burn and I’m going to bleach or do something to my inserts today.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I would never bleach my covers. PUL is sensitive to high heat and harsh chemicals. If you are too hard on the PUL it will break down and you will lose all the water resistence. For ordor problems I would use the Rock in Green Funk Rock. Amazing product!! Otherwise try a bleach alternative or sadly wait for the sunshine. I live in Washington state too and sun my diapers any chance I get (mind you not often but enough).

  • Danielle said...
    February 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I live in Washington state and sadly we don’t get much sun. I have been using doing an oxyclean soak when I get bad stains. It seems to work pretty good for us. I have been hesitant to use actual bleach because I heard that can breakdown the cotton over time. I’ve tried a couple other things before oxyclean and nothing worked. I wish I lived in a sunnier state.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 21, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I’m wondering why you recommend such an incredibly harsh chemical like bleach? You’re the only company that does recommend it.

  • Jana said...
    February 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

    You can use bleach on the covers too. It doesn’t break down the PUL at all. It will slowly eat away at the rubber in the elastic making it less stretchy if you use too much, but it takes quite a bit.

  • Anonymous said...
    February 21, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I’ve also been hesitant to use bleach for my 4.0s because I didn’t know if I could use it for the covers. Though the covers aren’t stained they just stink so maybe there’s a different method?

  • Katie said...
    February 21, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Can you bleach the BG AIOs?

  • The Eco-Friendly Family - Amanda said...
    February 21, 2011 at 8:49 am

    I am very anti bleach, for safety & earth friendly reasons but I adore sunning! It works beautifully. Like you mention, super tough stains might need an extra dose, but it really does work.

    In addition to diapers I use this on clothing that develop tough natural stains. I even used this to salvage a whole tub of baby clothes from storage that had developed protein stains!

  • Jill said...
    February 21, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Do you use bleach with the outside covers or just the inserts? Does this also fight stink/ammonia? I’ve been hesitant to bleach anything. Thanks.

  • Kristan Anne said...
    February 21, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Sunning is the best! I never knew the sun was so good at bleaching until I started using cloth diapers. My prefolds looked brand new in an hour! I have a pocket with a stubborn stain and it’ll be going out in the sun today.