Your Cloth Diapers Are Not Ruined – Relax

A lot of us have some levels of crazy regarding our cloth diapers ruinedcloth diapers. We have our cloth diaper routines and rituals.  We have our storage systems.  There are diapers that are worn at certain times, certain holidays, with certain outfits, etc.  Heck, there are folks that buy diapers and never take them out of the package.  With all that in mind, there are times that someone stresses out over something not going according to ritual.  All that I can say to that is this: your cloth diapers are not ruined.  Seriously.

Your Cloth Diapers Went Through the Wrong Wash

It happens.  Your cloth diapers have just been laundered.  You’ve emptied the washer, hung your shells, thrown your inserts to the dryer, done the Hokey Pokey backwards, and all parts of your particular cloth diaper laundry ritual.  All is right with the world.  You throw your husband’s stinky socks and underwear in the washer with a triple helping of Gain because they smell really funky and he smells much nicer when his socks don’t.  And then gasp, horror, you discover that you left a microfiber insert in the wash.

I frequently see things like this happening.  And I always have the exact same answer: Calm down.  Your cloth diapers are not ruined.  You don’t have to strip them or use Dawn.  You don’t have to flog your husband for forcing you to use such potent smelling detergent to cope with his man stink.  It’s okay.  One time will not make a difference.

Your Cloth Diapers Were Left in the Wetbag

Okay, it’s gross, but it happens.  You went out, had to change your kid because when you’re out and about is the best time ever to have a vile smelling poop that makes you wonder if you need an old priest and a young priest, or at least a gas mask.  You quickly pull over on the side of the road, change your fighting, squirming baby and manage to not get poop all over the front passenger seat of your mini van.  Since you’re in the middle of nowhere (not even cell service?!),  you throw everything in your wetbag, close it all up, wipe down your own hands with a baby wipe, and clean them off with Purell.  And then… you forgot them.  Maybe it was because you didn’t want to think about the vile stench that your cloth diapers are housing in that wetbag.  Maybe you just got busy.  Whatever.  The next thing you know, you’ve forgotten that awful bag in your van for three days.  On the one hand, you’re amazed: your wetbag kept that smell from stinking out your family van.  On the other… your cloth diapers have been left dirty and disgusting for three days.

It happens.  Your cloth diapers are still not going to be ruined.  Just hold your nose, turn on the exhaust fan in the bathroom, and rinse them out before tossing them in with the rest of your cloth diaper laundry.  Even if it’s mildewed, it’s still not ruined.

Your Neighbor Helped You Out

Your dryer broke.  Your cloth diapers were sunned out, nearly dry, and then the skies burst and torrential rain fell.  You were ready to cry when your neighbor took pity and offered to throw your cloth diapers in the dryer for you.  You were so grateful… but your gratitude was replaced with horror when he handed you a basket of fresh smelling diapers.  Your eyes fill with tears when he says, “I used four Bounce sheets so they’ll smell super nice and be really soft for your baby!”

Your cloth diapers are not ruined.  Really.  Heck, chances are good you won’t even have to strip them.  Just use them, wash them as usual, and go about your business.

The chances are very good that if your cloth diapers have gone through something strange that you would never (deliberately) do, they’re still fine.  They won’t need to be stripped or burned.  It’s not a one-off that causes most cloth diapering problems: it’s the systemic use of things that cause problems over time.

Even so, everything but delamination is fixable.

Have you have a moment when you thought your cloth diapers were wrecked?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. I haven’t done anything like your examples yet since I am still fairly new to using them, but I am never quite sure if I am washing them correctly and if they’ll last over the long term. The diapers with velcro fasteners are always folded over at the beginning of the wash and always come undone and stick to everything. That’s my most concerning issue at the moment.

    • Diaper daisy chains are a big issue with Velcro. Honestly, it’s part of the reason that I don’t care for things that have Velcro closure.

      • I definitely wouldn’t choose them again. A bunch were given to us and some I bought online from someone at a great price, they had been washed but never actually used. All future diapers that I purchase have to have snaps, they’re so much easier to launder.

  2. AlannaB says:


    I have two diaper bags so sometimes diapers are forgotten. I was emptying one that hadn’t been used in a week that contained a wet bag with a very smelly soiled diaper. I literally cried, not only did that wet bag contain the most expensive diapers in the stash (plus a poopy swim diaper), but they were my favorites! Everything in that bag wreaked to high heaven…even my sling.

    I remember reading on cloth diaper boards about moms finding moldy cloth diapers with maggots in them so the only option was throw them out. No mold or maggots here…so I simply prewashed all of the contents in the bag, including the sling, did a full hot wash cycle with the Grovia mighty bubbles, and another hot/cold cycle with detergent…problem solved 🙂

  3. I loved this post! I literally almost CRIED when a dust storm rolled into my city and I totally spaced bringing my diapers in from the line. I am oh-so-dramatic when it comes to my cloth diapers (aren’t we all?!)! But, yes, I got over it, the diapers made it (phew!), and all was well with the world once again 😉

  4. BigFatMama says:

    My MIL actually ruined several of my diapers that I left at her place (she had offered to wash them for me, and I agreed to it, and gave her instructions on it, but she felt that wouldn’t get them clean enough so she used a whole lot of bleach). Between the copious amount of bleach and the high heat drier, the PUL was completely ruined.

    • Oh, bleach. 🙁 I’m of the opinion that bleach is pretty much the devil. I’m guessing that she did ths more than once before they died.

  5. Alyca Green says:

    Just the other day we visited my in-laws and ended up spending the weekend when we had not planned on doing so. My mother in law washed my diapers for me, I have no idea if she used soap or how much or if she rinsed them the exact right number of times. When I pulled them out of the dryer, there was a dryer sheet stuck to a couple of my inserts. I just took a deep breath and thanked her for helping me. Guess what? Everyone survived, me, my baby, and the diapers 🙂

  6. I never used cloth diapers.

  7. I am bookmarking, pinning and pocketing this article. I haven’t started using cloth diapers yet, but I just know me or my husband will need this! lol

  8. I too have forgotten to affix the aplix to the laundry tabs on many occasion. Probably he worst thing I’ve done is forgot a cover or two in the drier when switching from medium heat to high heat to dry a bunch of pesky fitted diapers. My first thought was, oh no I’ve ruined them, but they were fine. As you say, a couple of times on high heat isn’t going to do anything. A couple of my prefolds also fell in the pool while we were shocking it. Needless to say they are no longer unbleached prefolds, lol.

  9. Jessica Hughes says:

    This just happened to me with a diaper left at someone’s house! So great to know 🙂

  10. Rachel N says:

    Thank you for this post! We need to relax a bit. It can be fixed and most likely there won’t even be an issue anyways. We sometimes get a bit crazy and that can scare people off cloth diapers.

  11. Vicki Hall says:

    What happens if you do get mildew in your diapers ? How do you remove it ?
    I’ve not had anything like this happen yet , but its good to know .

  12. Candy Tryggestad says:

    it took me me awhile to get use to making sure diapers go into the diaper pail when we got home. Some times when we were out and about i would change my son and not want to dirty the wet bag for one diaper so i would just roll it up and set it in the back. Bad idea, summers get pretty hot here and well a diaper in the SUV for two days gets gross! As much as i had to strip strip diapers they havent failed me yet 🙂

  13. Loved reading this….the part about the neighbors drying the diapers using 4 sheets of softener….that is my mother lol

  14. So my son and I went on holidays. Came back home and realized my hubbie had not emptied the diaper pail. There were two covers and two inserts wet with pee in it, plus the wet bag. Surprisingly, they smelled, but didn’t reek… What should I do? And how do I know they’re not ruined? Thanks a lot!!

    • They’re not ruined. As long as they aren’t moldy, they’ll be all right. Just throw them in the wash with a double dose of detergent and some OxiClean, then rinse like crazy. If the PUL isn’t delaminating and the diapers aren’t molded and there’s no bugs growing in them, then it’s fine.

  15. Shannon says:

    My original diapers were hand-me-downs fitteds + PUL covers and the only other cloth diaperers I knew were a generation older than me, and I had no internet access so I could just look up how to do stuff. I was pretty hard on my diapers, and they still worked fine for years, so I’m pretty immune at this point to worrying about hurting them. I did ruin the covers by putting them through the dryer every single time, and now, if a PUL cover accidentally goes through the dryer, my heart sinks a bit when I pull it out. But so far, they’re still working.

  16. Michelle T says:

    I kinda did ruin them…. In the dryer on high heat the first few weeks…. They leak around the snaps now :….( from what I can tell, that’s unfixable. Luckily, it was the Chinese cheapies I started cding with.

    • That’s possibly correctable, actually… pop the snaps out and put new snaps in with PUL reinforcement.

      One time won’t ruin anything (as a general rule), but repeated exposures certainly can.

  17. My husband was trying to do me a favor and announced he rinsed the diapers off with the sprayer (yay!!) and then proceeded to douse them with stain remover spray (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!). Will they be OK? One of them was a great brand that I can’t find anywhere anymore…

    • Yeah, they’ll be fine. I’ve been known to use Baby OxiClean spray on the occasional tough stain that wouldn’t come out after a couple of washes. So have other moms. No issues.

  18. bridget says:

    I’ve been doing this for months! I have been regular allergy friendly detergent and washing and drying all my diapers! I didn’t know you couldn’t dry your stuff. Mine aren’t ruined so what do I do now to do it the correct way?

    • Sure, you can use whatever detergent works for you. But dryer sheets aren’t a good thing. 🙂 Some people dry their diapers in the dryer, some don’t. Just follow your manufacturer’s instructions and go with what works for you.

    • Sure, you can use whatever detergent works for you. But dryer sheets aren’t a good thing. 🙂 Some people dry their diapers in the dryer, some don’t. Just follow your manufacturer’s instructions and go with what works for you.

  19. A couple months back my diapers came out of the wash smelling as bad as when I put them in, so I just kept adding soap and restarting the wash and scratching my head. I searched through the soggy load for a loose nugget but could find no culprit so in desperation the bleach came out. Too much bleach. Only after a bleached my beautiful hybrid fitteds into faded blotchy horrors did I discover hiding in the door of my front loader the source of the stench. I cried.
    The diapers didn’t all get wrecked, just my 3 absolute favorites but they function and that is what counts. And I learned to check the washer and the load for nasty surprises.

  20. OMG thank you for this post! I just found a couple of my baby’s prefolds and inserts in the washer after I had done a huge load of laundry and was for sure that they were ruined forever! Thankfully I hung on to them lol.

  21. Ah! I’ve been looking for a post like this for months!! Thank you!! I am still super new at cloth diapers and accidentally put all of my diapers and PUL covers in the dryer for the first 2 months :-/ some of the liners are ruined but the AIO’s seem okay for now…I don’t really have time to air dry the AIO’s, do you think they’re ruined after 2 months in a high heat dryer even though I am now putting them on a gentle dryer setting with low heat? Thanks!! 🙂

  22. We quit using cloth diapers when my son was 3 months old. I decided to go back to work and it was too much work for my sitter. My son has a small dresser specifically for cloth diapers and I decided to pack them up when I realized some were missing. I am horrified. In the diaper pail were about 8 cloth diapers and 15 inserts. All my favorites and the most expensive of my stash. No maggots but all of them have splotches of black mold. I’ve run them through the wash twice. The second time with a little bleach. Aesthetically, they are ruined. Are they still safe and could they still work?

  23. By the way, my son is now 10 months!!!

  24. Really easy way to fix that is buy some Velcro and cut strips to put on the sticky side during wash. Works every time.

  25. Sooo… What do you do when you wash your diapers and then your husband puts them in the dryer, but only turns them on once, and then 2 days later you go to pull them out and they’re still wet??

  26. Jennifer Dill says:

    I follow many CD pages, and some of them recommend bleach soaks only when buying used diapers or with yeast issues. I have bought used and new my entire time cloth diapering my two kiddos (almost a year and a half). I have never used bleach out of fear of ruining them. Recently, I bought some used ones, and decided I needed to use bleach since I bought some used, and never bleached the ones I had bought in the past. I decided bleaching my whole stash for a 30 minute soak was a good idea. I did so in hot water, and all was fine. I did another 30 minute bleach soak a few weeks later when I bought a few more used ones, in hot water. Then, I realized I had forgotten that bleach doesn’t work in hot, so I did a cold soak with bleach. Some of my Dipes have been soaked 2-3 times. This was the first and only time I have ever used bleach. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I poured the bleach directly into the water with the diapers. 🙁 I am worried now. Have I ruined my diapers??

    • Jennifer Dill says:

      ETA: I used the recommended diluted amounts for load size each time. (1/2 cup)

      • Nah, they still won’t be ruined. If they’re working, then no worries. (BTW, bleach absolutely does work in hot water. Clorox actually recommends washing in hot for better sanitization.)

  27. My diapers smell awful like ammonia any time they get even the tiniest wetness in them. and they leave my babies with rashes. I have stripped them 5x and it hasn’t seemed to help. I am sooo sad cause I loved them and don’t want to throw them out but haven’t been able to use them since they’ve been so icky. Any advice.

    • A couple of things: Really, it depends on how you’re stripping. But if you’ve got wicked ammonia, I would wash my diapers as usual, but I’d add either OxiClean, Mini Kiwi disinfectant, 1/4 cup of bleach in the bleach compartment (which, really, is not my preference, but it works), or 1 cup of Nature Clean liquid oxygen bleach.

      Good luck!


  1. […] diapers.  Really, though, in order to avoid all of those caveats, I would not bother.  Sure, your cloth diapers won’t be ruined, but let’s start your brand new fluff out with best practices in order to keep your diapers […]

  2. […] detergent, mother-in-law threw in a Bounce sheet, etc.) As Suzi at Cloth Diaper Addicts reminds us, your diapers aren’t ruined! So what’s the deal with cloth diaper “safe” detergents? Well, honestly, I wish I […]

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