If you've been cloth diapering for a few months or years, inevitably, at some point, it's possible to run into the dreaded issue of STINK. Sometimes it's a barnyard type smell, sometimes it's a burn your nose ammonia type smell, but it's always because your diapers aren't getting clean enough for one reason or another.
If you are having rash or smell issues with your diapers or if you have purchased pre-loved diapers that you want to sanitize, your first thought might be CHLORINE BLEACH and then your second thought might be EW LAST RESORT - bleach is terrible for the environment.
But is it?
Many parents share this concern, so you aren't alone. But, if you are in a situation where you feel bleaching is necessary you can rest assured that chlorine bleach is safe for the environment.
Let's discuss the facts about bleach...
Sodium hypochlorite is made from salt and water. When you use it on your cloth diapers or other laundry it reacts with the soils and satins in the fabric as it does its job cleaning and disinfecting. When this reaction happens, 93-97% of the sodium hypochlorite becomes just salt and water again. The left over 3-7% is biodegradable and easily removed during waste water treatment. So, should you worry that's it's killing the environment? No. Rest easy.
Since sodium hypochlorite is very reactive with the “dirt” in the laundry, it is virtually all reacted and gone during the wash cycle. An extra rinse can provide extra confidence or peace of mind that all traces have been removed before the fabrics are used on baby again.
So, should you just bleach everything all the time then?
No. While chlorine bleach isn't as bad for the environment as you might have initially thought, bleaching cloth diapers on a regular basis still isn't recommended.
Bleach is harsh on fabrics and can cause premature wear on elastic, PUL and natural fabric components. It can also fade printed cotton fabrics. But occasional use of bleach to re-set diapers while you find a more successful wash routine or to sanitize second hand diapers or after a yeast rash infection, is useful and sometimes necessary.
Ultimately, the best way to ensure clean and trouble-free diapers is a solid wash routine tailored to your specific washing machine and needs.
*Check with your diaper manufacturer. They often have an on-staff specialist that can help you with a wash routine and can advise on other things to try before bleach as bleach may void any applicable warranty.