How To Get Ammonia Out Of Your Cloth Diapers?

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A baby is wearing a cloth diaper and playing with ragdoll

Do your cloth diapers smell horrendous even after washing? Does the smell make your eyes water and you just want to give up? Ammonia smell cloth diapers, you could be dealing with one of the most common problems with cloth diapers.

Maybe it is your first time using cloth diapers and you have discovered a horrible smell. Ammonia is common in cloth diapers.

Every Mom and Dad using cloth diapers have ammonia smell problem. Don’t worry, you are not alone. It is not the brand you are using or the nappy itself. Ammonia in cloth diapers happens.

I know one thing, you will want to deal with ammonia cloth diapers as soon as possible. We have some answers for you to help beat ammonia. What is ammonia? Why is it a problem? How can we solve and prevent ammonia? In this article, you will find answers to all of these questions! Let’s prevent ammonia together.

Ammonia is first recognizable by its smell. A horrendous smell that only becomes noticeable once your baby has wet the nappy. When washed they will smell clean but they aren’t necessarily.

Ammonia is the build-up of urine in diapers. When the amount of waste is higher than the amount of fluid in the urine, making it more difficult to wash everything out. When proteins in the urine are broken down it can cause the horrible ammonia smell which we all know.

Why Is Ammonia A Problem?

The build-up of ammonia in diapers is a massive problem. It doesn’t only cause a horrendous smell, but many other problems as well One reason why this is a problem is that it can cause chemical burns. These burns will put your baby into a lot of discomforts.

Chemical burns can also lead to open sores, which again is uncomfortable for your baby. Burns and rashes which can be caused by ammonia will make life more challenging for you and your baby. You will be needing to find ways to keep your baby happy while being in so much discomfort.

What Causes Ammonia in Cloth Diapers?

There are a lot of different aspects which all play a part in causing ammonia. Some of these are more common than others but can all be prevented. The build-up of ammonia can be caused by all of the following aspects, and these are things you should try to avoid.

1. Diapers Sitting For Too Long

We all have our laundry baskets. There is no doubt about it that cloth diapers end up amongst all of this washing, waiting to be washed.

Having dirty diapers sitting around for too long gives the urine time to soak into the nappy allowing ammonia to grow. This is what causes the horrendous smell we all hat.

Diapers sitting around in our laundry baskets is one of the easiest causes to solve. But, it is one of the most common due to how much washing is accumulated.

2. Too Much Or Too Little Detergent

Another cause of ammonia is how much detergent is used when washing the diapers. Using too much detergent can make it difficult for your washing machine to complete its rinse cycle. This means that all of the detergents will build up in your diaper.

Your diapers will not be fully clean when they come out of the wash. Meaning when your baby next wets the nappy the ammonia smell will begin to rise. The same goes for using too little detergent. Using too little detergent can result in your diapers not being fully cleaned. This will result in ammonia build up.

The key to solving this issue is finding the perfect midpoint of detergent. This means your diapers will always come out of the wash clean.

3. Hard Water

I hear you asking what hard water is. This is simply where the mineral content in the water is high. This can cause ammonia for a similar reason for washing detergent.

Hard water can build up in the cloth diapers meaning they are not fully clean. It does not allow the detergent to clean the diapers. While you are attempting to wash the diapers the urine is trapped. Meaning ammonia will build up in the diapers due to them not being fully clean.

4. Your Baby Growing Up

As upsetting as it may sound, your baby growing up can cause ammonia build up. As your babies are starting to eat solid foods their urine becomes less diluted. Due to the urine being less diluted the ammonia smell will start her.

Also, as your baby begins to sleep through the night ammonia will build up more As they are sleeping through the night the diapers will be sitting allowing the urine to soak. Urine soaking causes the ammonia smell which will be difficult to remove.

5. Dehydration

Another cause of ammonia build-up is dehydration. Similarly to all of the other causes, this is due to the urine being less diluted. Dehydration means your baby is not drinking enough. This will result in their urine being less diluted.

Making ammonia build-up in wet diapers. Keep an eye on the color of your babies urine as this is a good indicator of dehydration. The darker the urine the more dehydrated they are

6. The Food They Eat

The food your baby is eating can be another cause of ammonia. Some foods are high in ammonia which will make your babies urine smellier. Foods that are high in ammonia contain; cheese, meat, eggs and soybeans.

If your baby is eating a diet high in protein or nitrogen, this can cause the ammonia smell. Keep an eye on the smell and see if its after certain foods. If this is the case then cut down on these.

7. Bacteria

The build-up of bacteria in your babies diapers can also cause ammonia. There are many ways which bacteria build-up can be caused. One of the ways is washing powder residue. This allows bacteria to build up due to the diapers not being fully washed. The build-up of bacteria in your babies diapers can cause them to smell.

4 Ways To Get Rid of Ammonia Smell Cloth Diapers

There are many different techniques you can use to keep cloth diapers ammonia-free. I am going to tell you four ways to remove ammonia.

1. Bleach Soak Diapers

One way which you can remove ammonia is by bleach soaking your diapers. This process involves placing your dirty diapers into a bowl of cold water and bleach for 30 to 45 minutes. You should follow this with a regular hot wash to fully clean them.

The bleach soak should help to sanitize the diapers and break down the ammonia. The broken-down ammonia is much easier to wash out in the followed wash.

2. Using An Oxygen Cleaner

Another way to remove ammonia is by washing the diapers which an oxygen cleaner after they have been bleached. The oxygen cleaner helps to remove the bleach from the diapers.

Minimizing the risk of burns on your baby. This also helps to remove more of the ammonia which may have not been removed from the bleach.

3. Using An Enzyme Cleaner

Using an enzyme cleaner is another way of removing ammonia. An enzyme cleaner works by eating out the bacteria which causes the ammonia smell.

All you need to do is spray an enzyme cleaner over your diapers before they are washed. Put these on your normal wash routine. The horrendous smell should be eliminated as a result.

4. Washing In Vinegar And Water

Washing your cloth diapers in vinegar and water give the same effect as a bleach soak. This method uses fewer chemicals which makes it better for the fabric and your baby.

Allow your diapers to soak in Vinegar and/or water for a long period. This will allow the ammonia to be broken down. Follow this with your normal wash routine. This will make your diapers clean and ready for use

7 Tips To Prevent Ammonia Cloth Diapers

Now we know what causes ammonia and how to solve it What are some of the ways we can prevent it? Now we will be looking into seven different ways to prevent ammonia.

1. Water Soak Diapers Before Use

Water soaking your diapers before use will help to eliminate ammonia. Pre-soaking your diapers in water before they are used will help to dilute the urine. This will reduce the ammonia and the smell. All you will need to do is soak the diapers overnight. Allow them some time to dry before using them. This should resolve the smell issue.

2. Keeping Baby Hydrated

Keeping your baby hydrated will help to prevent ammonia. This will help to keep your babies urine diluted. Meaning the ratio of fluid to waste will be higher. The smell of ammonia may still be there, however it will not be as strong. Keeping your baby hydrated will keep ammonia levels down making it easier to remove and control.

3. Hot Washes

Using hot washes to clean your diapers will kill ammonia. It is suggested that cloth diapers are washed at 140 degrees to kill ammonia and bacteria (Mother ease, 2019). However, if there is already a build-up of ammonia this will not work. This is a way to prevent ammonia so should be implicated as soon as possible.

4. Stripping Back

Strip washing your babies cloth diapers every so often will help to prevent the buildup of ammonia. This does not need to be apart of your normal routine. But, after every ten washes strip your diapers back for washing. This will help to kill off the ammonia before it becomes a problem.

To strip your diapers, you will need to begin by making sure they are fully clean. It does not matter if they are dry or not Fill a container half full with hot tap water. This water will need to be as hot as your tap will allow. Then you will need to add a mineral removing solution, these can be found in most stores. You should soak your diapers in the solution for between four and six hours.

Once soaked remove the water and squeeze all of the diapers. Then wash all diapers on a water-only cycle. To finish, put the diapers through a bleach soak, and wash again before use This should fully clean your diapers and keep on top of ammonia.

5. Keep On Top Of Cleaning

By keeping on top of your cleaning routine will help to prevent ammonia build-up. If you do not allow your cloth diapers to sit around waiting to be washed. You are eliminating time for ammonia to grow within the nappy.

The more frequently the diapers have washed the cleaner they will be. If you have discovered the perfect amount of detergent this will also prevent ammonia build-up.

6. Using A Water Softener

As ammonia can be caused by hard water, adding a water softener to your wash will help prevent this A water softener helps to prevent the build-up of minerals in your diapers. It also allows your diapers to be fully washed.

Ensuring that they come out of every wash clean. Some brand of water softeners you could use include Calgon and Borax.

7. Natural Fibre Inserts

Cloth diapers are generally tightly made which causes ammonia to get trapped. It is harder to wash out of these fabrics.

But, by using a natural insert made of cotton or bamboo it is much easier to wash out These insert are made with a looser knit which allows the ammonia to escape in the wash. These make it so much easier for you to clean meaning you will not need to worry about strip washing as much.


No one wants to deal with ammonia smell cloth diapers, but this is more common than you imagine. You are not alone and we will be able to help you. These cloth nappies are a challenge but they are worth it in the end. So much better for the environment and saving you tones of money. You will never regret using cloth nappies in the long run.

We would love to hear your stories and experiences in using cloth nappies. Share your ways of beating ammonia in the comments below and help each other!

Also if you know a mother who is struggling with ammonia smell cloth diapers, share this article with her. It might give her all the help she needs. Spread the word and one day we will all be on top of ammonia.

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