If my cloth diapers are stained, are they clean?!

The fact of the matter is this: cloth diapers catch poop. Poop, especially if your kid has a thing for blueberries, stain.  If your child pooped on your favorite white shirt you would probably expect it to be stained.  But you would wash it (perhaps pre-treat it) and hope for the best.  When you pulled it from the dryer and saw it was stained your first thought wouldn’t have been “this shirt must still be dirty”  it would be “well, guess that shit did leave a stain.”

Why on earth people get confused about stains on cloth diapers is beyond me!  They are the one thing in your life you should be ok with having a stain on! When you remove them from your dryer and notice a stain, why is it that your mind is blown?!  “B-b-b-b-u-t I washed these.  Why are they stained?  I guess they must not be clean…”


Stains on your cloth diapers do not mean they didn’t get clean enough.  Sometimes, diapers aren’t getting clean enough, but let your NOSE be your guide on that one.  Visually, unless you did something REALLY wrong, your diapers will and should appear clean every time!  If they don’t, you have way bigger problems than a poop stain!


Stained diapers are still clean.  Just stained.


What if you’d like to get rid of the stains?  Sun!  Lay your diapers flat to dry out in the sunshine.  9 times out of 10 the stain will be gone in a matter of hours.  If the stain is not gone completely, try adding lemon juice and sunning again.  You’ll want to wash your diapers again if you use lemon juice.  You can see an example in a post on this topic I did in 2009.

Take a whiff!


If it turns out that your diapers smell- stained or not- you will need to adjust your wash routine.  A barnyard smell often means that your diapers aren’t getting clean enough so add more detergent.  Ammonia smells mean you have a build-up of ammonia salts from urine.  Ammonia is very often left in that thirsty microfiber.  Stripping, often with 1/4 cup of bleach to kill it, is usually the way to go (but check your diaper’s warranty because some are voided by using bleach.)  Another common problem is that a diaper will still stink when wet from the washing machine, or right after the baby urinates in it.  This again, is a sign you aren’t getting your diapers clean enough.  Either use more detergent or make sure you’re using very hot water to kill the bacteria.  Molly’s Suds suggests using 130-140 degrees, which is more than the default setting in your water heater.  Change, wash, and reset to default if you decide to try this method.

So the takeaway is this- ignore the stains.

If they bother you, sun your diapers.  If you want to resell your diapers, sun them regularly.  If you aren’t reselling then stains are a fact of life you can ignore.  Save the mental energy you were using worrying about your stained diapers and go read a magazine.


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  • Melani

    Stains don’t bother me, but I haven’t had a problem with them. Except the green stains in this one diaper that happened after my daughter ate a crayon. Yeah, that’s not coming out! 🙂

    • mama moss

      I’ve always found the sun to be the best stain removal, and those UV rays are.good for killing bacteria. Great post btw.

  • Aryn

    Water temperatures above 125 can cause severe burns. 140 degree water causes serious burns in less than five seconds. If you have a household with small children (and anyone with diapers obviously does), then the recommended temperature is 120 or less.

    • Mattsmama

      I just turn my water temp up the night before I do the laundry, do laundry first thing in the AM, then turn it back down when I’m done. Since my kiddo is bathed at night the water is already back down to a good temp. Problem solved 🙂

    • kimrosas

      If you choose to up your temp just reset it after your laundry is done.

  • kathy

    I don’t understand why stains bother people so much. Usually they are on the insert/inside the diaper which is of course the part no one sees. As long as the diaper has been cleaned it is clean! It’s okay to have a little staining. As the hilarious graphic above states, stain happens!

  • Tricia Young

    I’ve never worried about getting diapers stain free. I see people investing so much time in crazy wash routines and sunning….you know the baby is going to immediately poop in that diaper again. Right? :). As long as the diapers are clean and don’t stink we are good.

  • Rita O

    Thanks for the great advice. Who really sees the inside anyway besides whoever is changing the baby?

  • Morgan Carpenter-Panuski

    I read this post several months ago when I was new to cloth. To this day when I pull a slightly dis colored diaper from the drier I say to myself.. Well, guess that shit stained! Lol! Though in my house, it’s beet stains. And not just on the diapers, as my son is a “me do self” eater. We are loaded up on oxycleaned clothing and poop stained diapers. Thanks for the great perspective!

  • Karen

    I’ve found the sun to work really well and makes my diapers look brand new! Even my husband and MIL, who were a bit squeamish about cloth diapering, have to agree they look really good coming in from the sun! Although it’s been a challenge in our Canadian snowy winter but it works okay in a windowsill.

    • kjkonkin

      Do you find that sun helps get rid of stains on stuff that went through the dryer already? I just pulled some stuff out of the dryer the my husband was washing to find some pretty bad staining, and am afraid the sunning technique won’t work as the stain has been “set” by the dryer…?…

      • kimrosas

        If it doesn’t try sunning wet again, squirt some lemon on top.

  • Janel

    I live in Vancouver, Canada, or better known as Raincouver. There is barely any sun here! 🙁 So how do I get rid of the stain without sunning??

    • kimrosas

      hang facing a window, even light sun will do. Or wait until your best day with sun and lay them out when you have a rare moment. I lived in Syracuse for many years and understand your pain.

  • Jane Lindenwood

    I use Rockin’ Green soap and very rarely have anything left behind. I love that stuff, especially on my diapers!