How to treat cloth diapers when you’re battling the yeast beast!
So you’ve decided to use cloth diapers. You did your research when you were pregnant; you understand the environmental and financial benefits. You navigated the complicated variations of brands and styles to figure out what kind of diapers you wanted, and now you’ve got the perfect diaper system for your baby. You started using cloth diapers shortly after the meconium passed, and things are going great. You’re helping the environment, saving money, and feeling pretty good about yourself
Then your baby gets a rash.
Nothing seems to help. You air your baby’s bum as much as possible; you try every type of rash cream that’s safe to use with cloth diapers. But the red, raised skin just won’t go away. In fact, it’s getting worse.
Finally you consult your pediatrician, and the verdict is clear: your baby has a yeast infection. He gives you a topical anti-fungal cream. But since you’re not sure if the cream is safe for your cloth diapers, you decide to switch to disposables. Just until the rash clears up. Sure enough, within a few days your baby’s bum looks better. After a week of anti-fungal treatment, his skin is clear and perfect again, so you switch back to your cloth diapers.
Twelve hours later, the rash is back.
This is the point when many families give up on cloth diapers. Some parents decide that their baby must be allergic to cloth, or that cloth simply won’t work for them. But the problem isn’t your diapers–it’s the yeast. Even after you kill the yeast that was infecting your baby’s skin, the fungus can linger in your diapers. This doesn’t mean you have to quit cloth, and it doesn’t mean you need new diapers. With a little treatment, you can clean the yeast infection out of your diapers as well as your baby’s skin. It will take a little time and work–but when you compare it to the work and expense of buying disposables from now till your baby is potty trained, you may decide that it’s worth the extra effort.
1. Wash your diapers. Use a detergent that’s recommended for cloth diapers and the hottest cycle your washing machine allows. A sanitary cycle is best.
2. Strip your diapers. Do this by washing them again on the hottest cycle possible, but with no detergent added. Then run at least three rinse cycles with as much water as possible, using the hottest water your machine allows.
3. Use four drops of tea tree oil in place of detergent, and run one wash cycle with cold water. Rinse with as much water as possible.
4. Use four drops of grapefruit seed extract in place of detergent, and run one wash cycle with cold water, rinsing with as much water as possible.
5. Use oxygen cleaner in place of detergent, and run one hot wash cycle with the highest water level possible.
6. Strip your diapers a final time, using at least three rinses with the hottest water possible. Add white vinegar to the first rinse; use plain water for the second and third rinses.
7. Dry on high heat or hang to dry in full sun.
You may be able to clean the yeast from your diapers with a shortened version of this protocol. If the yeast infection was mild and you’re eager to get back to using cloth, you can use either tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract (you probably don’t need both), and you can skip the second stripping as well. However, if you want to make sure your diapers are really cleared of yeast before you put them back on your baby, you can add another step as a last resort: bleaching with chlorine. Bleaching is not recommended for cloth diapers, but doing it once won’t ruin most diapers, and if it’s that or give up on cloth, you may feel it’s worth the risk. Generally, it’s safe to bleach prefolds, white fitteds, and flat folds, but all-in-ones or pockets may be damaged by bleach. Check with the manufacturer of your diapers before you try this step.
If you do bleach, then strip your diapers again afterward to make sure no bleach is left when you start using them again.
It’s safe to repeat this process a week later if the rash returns. However, if the rash was really caused by yeast, then this protocol should get rid of the rash for good.
Reference: “Killing the Dreaded Yeast Monster”
Lisa C. Baker is a full-time mom and part-time writer in Atlanta, Georgia. She writes about green parenting topics at Organic Baby Atlanta andteaches workshops on cloth diapers and elimination communication. She’s been a mom since 2008 and has never bought a disposable diaper; she hopes she’ll never need to!