Monday, August 12, 2013

Ammonia Woes

As I have prefaced in many posts, I have had ammonia build up problems before with my cloth diapers.  We have incredibly hard water where I live and this leads to mineral build up even with a great wash routine which then leads to ammonia build up.  I had no problems until solids started and Destructo got closer to a toddler.  But as his pee got more concentrated, my diapers started reeking of ammonia.

I tried so many things to fix it.  I sunned my diapers more even though I was already doing this any time the sun was out and they were wet.  I ran the diapers through three hot washes with no soap.  I tried many different detergents because I knew that ammonia buildup was also usually caused and/or complicated by soap buildup.  I tried more soap, I tried less soap.  I tried vinegar (which I later learned isn't recommended in hard water.)  I tried adding in boiling water to increase my water temps.  I tried Funk Rock which fixed the problem temporarily, but then the ammonia came back.  As a last ditch resort, I even went so far as to use bleach with my diapers which worked for about two weeks until the ammonia came back.
Photo via Kelly's Closet

It got so bad that my poor baby was getting rashes caused by the ammonia and I nearly quit cloth diapering.  Luckily I am the most stubborn person out there and refused to be defeated by ammonia.  So after much advice, scouring internet articles, and trial and error I came up with a few tips and tricks that helped mainly eliminate my ammonia woes.  In his overnight diapers I still occasionally can catch a whiff of ammonia but it isn't strong at all and I can live with this as long as it isn't every diaper and causing rashes.  He does wear those diapers for 12+ hours so I assume this is normal.

Okay before first and foremost since I just thought I should have included this after I typed all of it, I would recommend stripping your diapers so that you are starting with very clean diapers.  My preferred method is stripping with RLR.  First and foremost, I found rinsing all diapers even just the pee ones helps.  Secondly I no longer zip my wet bag closed but leave it open 24/7 to let oxygen circulate and help prevent ammonia from building up.  If one of his overnight diapers smell really strong, I will actually let the inserts soak in water in my bathroom sink for a while.  So basically rinse, rinse, rinse. 
Photo via Kelly's Closet

Then you repeat the rinse, rinse, rinse while washing.  (To read my washing routine in detail, click here.)  I do a warm rinse first.  Warm seems to work much better than a cold rinse at getting extra urine/ammonia out of the diapers.  I was concerned with staining of my diapers from the warm rinse, but I found that it isn't anything that a good sunning won't take out.  I then do an entire extra wash cycle with a hot wash/cold rinse as the final rinse.

Calgon Water Softener Liquid  is a life saver as well.  I add a half a cap in the hot wash and then a half a cap in the hot rinse.  I didn't actually think this was helping until I stopped using it and the ammonia got worse again.  It makes a huge difference even if it isn't super noticeable at first.  This is especially true if hard water is what is causing your ammonia woes.

A final product that I have to recommend is Grovia mighty bubbles soap.  This is something I will use every other month or so for a wash or two as a method of reducing build up from the hard water.  It seems to really help as I notice less odors immediately after using it.  You just throw a pack of it in in place of your normal detergent.
Photo via Kelly's Closet

I hope these tips and tricks helps you battle your ammonia woes.  It was a lot of trial and error, but I finally got a place where I feel like I know what I am doing haha.  You know until something else comes up and I realize cloth diapering is always a learning experience.

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