Removing Stains from Cloth Diapers (Poop, Creams & More!)


You made the decision to cloth diaper, bought all the cute fluff, prepped it, and finally get your favorite print on the bum and of course baby immediately poops in it so you don’t even get to enjoy the design.

This is only mildly disappointing because you can just pop it in the wash, only when you pull it out of the wash it still looks dirty but smells fresh.  It has ugly-looking yellow (or black, or brown) stains and you wonder if you will ever have new-looking diapers again. 

Is It Normal for Cloth Diapers to Stain?

Yes, several things can cause stains on your cloth diapers. Thankfully, while it may not look beautiful, stains tend to be harmless and usually don’t mean the diaper is dirty. Most stains are simply oils or pigments left behind after the soil has been cleaned away.

Below, I’ll go over the biggest causes of stains ⁠— poop and various diaper creams ⁠— and what the best stain remover is for each one. I’ll also cover what methods and products you should and shouldn’t use to remove all manner of stains from your cloth diapers. So let’s dive in.

Does Breast Milk Poop Stain Cloth Diapers?

Oh heck, yes! Exclusively breastfed (EBF) poop is the most common cloth diaper stain that I see. There’s just something about that yellowy liquid stuff that can stains a cloth diaper better than anything else.

Luckily, EBF cloth diaper stains are also one of the easiest poop stains to remove, at least if you use the best stain remover for cloth diapers, which I outline below (spoiler: it’s sunning them, scroll down for more).

Will Poops Still Stain After Baby Starts Solids?

Oh yes! Once your baby starts eating solids their poop will go through many changes, often becoming very… colorfull. So will the stains.

But rest assured, even though some of these cloth diaper stains will be a little bit tough to remove from your cloth diapers (I’m looking at you, blueberries!) it’s still an organic, natural stain and you will be able to get rid of it using the method I’m going to talk about now.

Sun Bleaching Stains: The Best Stain Remover For Poop Stains

Let me introduce you to something better than bleach; best of all il, it is chemical, scent, and cost free — it’s the sun!

The sun doesn’t contain any of the chemicals that us parents cringe at thinking that they may be touching our precious baby’s tush.  It is a cheap, safe, and effective way to rid those unsightly stains.

The sun’s UV rays will remove the toughest of stains.  All it takes is some time and patience. 

Exclusively Breast Fed (EBF) Poop Stains Before Sunning Stain Removal.
Exclusively Breast Fed (EBF) Poop Stains After 30 Min. of Sunning Stain Removal.

Following the wash, rather than dry in the dryer, put the diapers in the sun.  Inside, outside, in a window, on the floor, even on the dashboard!  Let the sun do the magic while you carry on with the day.  Are your stains to stubborn?  No worries, the sun is ready for a second shift, wet those diapers and place them back in the sun. 

Unlike many stain removers and bleach (I talk more about using bleach for stain removal below), the sun can be used time and time again without causing harm to your diapers. 

Adding Lemon Juice to Boost the Sun’s Power

Just like us 80’s kids did to lighten our hair, you can spray on some lemon juice to create a stronger reaction and boost the sun’s whitening power. 

To achieve this reaction all you need to do is spray the stains down with a lemon juice and water solution and place the diapers in the sun.

Unlike bleach, lemon juice is a mild acid, so it will actually neutralize urine and ammonia instead of raising the ph and causing ammonia diaper rashes.

Just like I say to those using vinegar on their diapers, I don’t recommend using mild acid on your diapers long-term, but now and then is completely fine.

Can Sun Bleach Diapers if You Live in An Area with Minimal Sunlight or Freezing Temperatures? 

YES! I live in Canada, where for months it’s -40 degrees, dark most of the day, and any light we do get is usually cloud-covered; and I was still able to sun my diapers.

The UV rays will come through the clouds and the rain or snow, it just may take an extra few hours and a bit more patience. You also don’t have to put the diapers outside, hanging them in a window works great too.

What types of cloth Diaper Stains Does The Sun Work on?

Sunning works on all types of organic stains on all types of materials.  Is your little one eating solids and turning outfits the color of lunch?  Carrots, blueberries, spit up, toss those stains in the sun and let it do the work for you, naturally!

An Alternative for Poop Stain Removal: Clorox® Disinfecting Bio Stain & Odor Remover

If you live in the Arctic where there are months of darkness, or if you’re just looking for an alternative, I do have one that works well, but it’s definitely not cheap, and at the time of writing, is not so easy to find either. Clorox Disinfecting Bio Stain & Odor Remover is actually a combination of hydrogen peroxide, surfactants, and low pH, that not only removes bio stains better than enzymes but it actually disinfects as well.

All-in-all it’s a great stain remover, but again, it’s not cheap and plentiful like the sun.

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12/01/2022 12:45 pm GMT

Do Diaper Creams Stain Cloth Diapers?

Absolutely! Different diaper creams will cause different types of stains and different types of stain removers will work best. Below, I’ll run through the three types of diaper creams you may be using and how to remove their unique stains from cloth diapers.

Zinc Diaper Cream Stains

Zinc diaper creams will almost always cause staining on synthetic cloth diaper fabrics like the microfleece, microsuede, or athletic wicking jersey (AWJ) linings of pocket diapers.

Zinc diaper cream stains can look white at first, but can also turn yellow over time if not removed, or become grey if your diapers were washed with any items that could transfer dyes even slightly.

How to Remove Zinc Diaper Stains from Cloth Diapers

Removing cloth diaper stains caused by zinc requires elbow grease and either detergent or a stain remover that works on greasy stains.

It may take a lot of scrubbing and/or several treatments to fully remove the zinc stains but as long as the diaper is not repelling water and causing diaper leaks, you can use the diaper while you’re removing the staining.

Here are your options for removing the stain:

1) Your Regular Cloth Diaper Detergent

If you choose to use your regular detergent as your stain remover, all that you need to do is measure out the detergent you have to use for your regular cloth diaper wash routine, but instead of putting it into your washer, you’re going to pour it directly on the stains on the affected cloth diapers.

If you’re using a liquid detergent for your cloth diapers, let the detergent soak in for a minute or two. If you’re using a powder detergent, wet it just slightly with some hot water and move it around a bit so it forms a film and let that sit on the surface for a few minutes.

Once it’s had a chance to soak into the stained area, scrub the stain vigorously with either a soft bristle brush or by grabbing two stained spots on the diaper and rubbing them together. Do not add any more water.

Once it looks like it’s as good as you’re going to get it, throw the diaper with the detergent into the rest of your diaper laundry load, and wash using your regular Measure Method Cloth Diaper Wash Routine.

2) Shout, Zout or Spray ‘N Wash Stain Remover Sprays

Another option to remove zinc stains from cloth diapers is to use a surfactant/enzyme-based stain remover like Shout, Zout or Spray ‘N Wash.

  1. Shout Laundry Stain Remover Trigger Spray (Pack of 2)
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    12/01/2022 11:45 am GMT
  3. Resolve Spray 'n Wash Laundry Stain Remover (Pack of 2)
  4. Resolve Spray 'n Wash Laundry Stain Remover (Pack of 2)
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    12/01/2022 12:24 pm GMT
  5. Zout Triple Enzyme Formula Laundry Stain Remover Foam (Pack of 1)
  6. Zout Triple Enzyme Formula Laundry Stain Remover Foam (Pack of 1)
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    12/01/2022 01:31 pm GMT

You would use Shout just as you would your detergent, spraying it on, letting it sit a few moments, and scrubbing the stain until you see it start to move.


3) Dawn Dish Soap (NOT RECOMMENDED)

I have to put this one on the list because it does work, but I REALLY don’t recommend it. Dawn dish soap is fantastic for greasy stains (after all it’s made to remove grease from your dishes and ducks), but it’s also REALLY bad news for your laundry.

Modern washing machines are very water-efficient, which is great in general, but it means they don’t work well at washing out soaps because they can’t rinse the suds out. Modern washing machines are made to use modern HE laundry detergents, which are specially formulated not to create many suds. Your washer can break if it’s inundated with soap suds, especially by a product that causes as many suds as dish soap.

Soap suds in your cloth diaper laundry will also cause you buildup problems (the main reason you can’t use a homemade cloth diaper soap, by the way), which can cause smells and diaper rash.

In other words, stay away from Dawn as a laundry product if you can, but if you MUST use dish soap to clean the stain, you’ll want to rinse the soap completely out of the diaper before putting it into your washer.

How to Remove Vaseline, Coconut Oil, Baby Oil, and Other Greasy Cloth Diaper Stains

You can remove stains caused by oily or greasy barrier oils like vaseline, coconut oil, baby oil, etc. by using either your liquid detergent as a pretreatment or by using a surfactant/ enzyme stain remover like Shout.

Unlike zinc stains, oil stains will lift without scrubbing, so all you have to do is apply your detergent (remember to wet it just slightly with hot water if you’re using a powdered detergent) or stain remover to the surface and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.

Again, you can also use Dawn dish soap for this but you MUST rinse it out by scrubbing it out before putting the diaper in your washing machine, so in this case, your detergent or Shout is the easier option.

How to Remove “Natural” or “Cloth Diaper Friendly” Cream Stains

If you’ve been using a “natural” cloth diaper cream or a “cloth friendly” diaper cream that has stained your cloth diapers yellow or grey, it’s going to take a little more effort to remove stains completely.

To get stains caused by these natural cloth diapering friendly creams out, you first need to treat them like a zinc stain, scrubbing them with your detergent or a surfactant/ enzyme stain remover like Shout (see the steps to remove a since cloth diaper stain above) and then you’ll likely still need to sun the color out of the diaper as well (see the sun bleaching stains section higher up in this article).

I’m still investigating what causes these “natural” cloth diaper creams to stain like this, but my initial suspicion is beeswax. Follow the cloth diaper cream experiment page for info as I discover it.

What About OxyClean Stain Removers?

So far in this post I haven’t mentioned OxyClean.

So why the omission? Well, as the Spray N Wash website states (so you don’t have to take my word for it):

“Laundry stain removers generally use either an oxygen or an enzyme-based formula. Oxygen-based formulas contain hydrogen peroxide, which is a color-safe bleach that removes color stains without affecting color garments.

“Salad dressing, sauces, condiments, coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine, jam, ink and fruit are best treated with oxygen-based formulas. Enzymatic formulas work on specific stains, like greasy food, grass, dirt, cuffs, collar, sweat, lipstick, baby food, baby formula and chocolate.”

– SprayNWash.com

Shout, Zout, and Spray N Wash are actually enzymatic formulas, that also have surfactants so it’s ideal for greasy stains, like diaper creams, as well as biological stains like food and poop.

The main ingredient in OxiClean is sodium percarbonate, which is basically dry/powdered hydrogen peroxide plus washing soda, making OxiClean an oxygen-based stain remover.

Of course, there are other substances that can find themselves on your diapers, paint, food, juice, the lipstick they somehow got out of your bag. For these stains, OxiClean may be perfect.

FAQ

Can I Bleach Stains Out Of My Cloth Diapers?

Yes, you can, but it won’t work as well and it could cause you more issues in the long run.

As I explain in my article about ammonia diaper rash, If you’re using bleach in your diaper laundry long-term you could be raising the PH of your diapers and irritating your baby’s skin as soon as they wet their diaper (with urine, which of course is a high PH substance to begin with).

Since bleach doesn’t work the best on diaper cream or poop stains, it basically just not worth it.

Can I Use Buncha Farmers Stain Removing Stick for Cloth Diaper Stains?

While some folks swear by Bunch Farmers, the ingredients are: saponified oils of coconut, canola and vegetable, litsea cubeba essential oil, lemon essential oil and borax, which essentially makes it a bar of soap with essential oils.

While applying soap directly on a stain can remove some grease stains, it also makes your detergent have to work harder to lift everything off the diaper and so it’s not as effective as using a surfactant /enzyme stain remover.

There’s also the issue of using essential oils on babies, though I know this is likely a moot point when washing them away soon after.

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