Recently I was changing my daughter’s night diaper and the diaper reeked so badly from ammonia that smell almost knocked me over. No one likes to face the dreaded ammonia!! I have being cloth diapering for 4 years now and I have never encountered an ammonia problem so BIG and BAD!!! I finally figured that the detergent was not cleaning the diapers and thus the ammmonia buildup. I switched to a new one and problem solved… but thought I would share what I have learnt.
Where is the ammonia coming from in the first place?
When protein is broken down in the body it is converted into ammonia. However, since ammonia is highly toxic to the body, the body converts ammonia into urea, a non-toxic substance, which is then excreted in urine. Once outside the body, in this case the baby’s diaper, urea will begin to convert back to ammonia slowly. Diapers that are left unwash for days will begin to smell as the urea coverts back into ammonia.
There are several factors that can influence how quickly urea gets changed into ammonia and 2 of those factors are heat and bacteria both of which are found in a diaper pail. Ever notice how in the summer the diaper pail start to get smelly if left for a few days compared to in the winter…that’s because bacteria and heat cause urea to convert into ammonia faster.
You might also notice that your baby night time diaper may smell like ammonia if she/he is sleeping through the night. At nights, heat is trapped in the diaper for longer hours along with the fact that baby is taking in less fluid so the urine has more concentrated amounts of urea hence higher levels of ammonia.
Other Factors that can influenece the amount of ammonia in your baby’s diaper are diet, age and fluid intake.
If ammonia is present in the diaper after elimination how is it the diaper doesn’t smell like ammonia all the time?
The answer lies in washing. Ammonia is normally removed when the diapers are washed but sometimes for various reasons such as water hardness, changing to a new detergent, change in wash routine, too little soap, too little water etc, the ammonia does not get washed out of the diapers will start to smell.
What to do to fix the problem
- First start by stripping the diapers. Stripping helps to remove excess detergent, buildup allowing the detergent to clean the diapers correctly. I normally add vinegar to my rinse cycle to neutralize ammonia but many moms have reported that vinegar makes the situation worst if you have hard water. Use can also try Rockin Green Ammonia Bouncer, RLR or Dawn
- Try washing the diapers again. Use a little more detergent as most time stinking diapers may need more detergent to get rid of the ammonia and bacteria. Do a double rinse.
- If your diapers still smell, it is likely that the detergent is not for your water type. An example of this would be the time I was testing rockin green detergent and used soft rock and ended up with major stinky diapers. I didn’t realize that we have hard water so soft rock was wrong for our water type. Once I switched to classic rock we were all happy again with fresh smelling diapers. If you find that stripping your diapers, changing your washing routine doesn’t get rid of the smell, you may need to switch to a detergent that is suitable for you water.
- When switching detergents be sure to strip your diapers
- Don’t let your diapers sit for more than 2 days and store diapers in an open pail so the diapers can breathe
Bottom Line is if your diaper don’t get clean then they will stink. Find a detergent that works for you.
Needless to say once I followed those steps above and still didn’t get rid the ammonia, I switched to another detergent and no more stinky diaper….ahhh what a relief.