Skip to content
Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Dispelling Bleach Myths for Cloth Diapers

By Dr. Laundry August 19, 2008

Q: When washing cloth diapers, I use a very small amount of bleach to sanitize along with hot water (I own a diaper service). As long as people do what I ask them to do with the diapers, I have no problem removing stains with my organic detergent and this tiny amount of bleach. Now, when people do not follow my instructions and do the worst thing possible, dunk the diapers in their toilet before putting them in a pail, I get a bag full of brown diapers to wash. I don’t know why people ignore what I say and do this, but they do, and then I have to soak them in bleach water using the recommended amount, and then wash and rinse them an extra three times on top of what I already do to make sure there is no bleach left in the fabric.

Some people who use cloth diapers believe that if you use bleach at all, you are doing very harmful things to the environment and hurting your baby’s skin. Some actually warn against using a diaper service because they use bleach. I always thought that the chlorine in the bleach would wash out in the rinse. I’ve never had a customer complain of rashes. People that do complain of rashes with cloth use detergents like Dreft that leave a residue. Also, I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving people diapers that haven’t been sanitized. Bleach and hot water together kill germs.

So, does the chlorine wash out? Am I putting people’s children at risk? Am I killing the environment? How many times should I wash and rinse after soaking in bleach water?

A: I battle these bleach myths quite often and I get very agitated about the misinformation floating around out there. Answers to your questions:

  • “Does the chlorine wash out?” Yes, sodium hypochlorite active is very reactive and with the “soil” load you are dealing with it will be virtually all reacted and gone in the initial laundering/soak. The extra rinses are good “insurance” and definitely give you peace-of-mind that it has been removed
  • “Am I putting people’s children at risk?” No, you are definitely not putting any children at risk. Actually, by doing the thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the diaper, you are helping prevent diaper rash and spreading unremoved germs.
  • “Am I killing the environment?” No you are NOT killing the environment. Sodium hypochlorite is made from salt and water and after it reacts with the satins and soils in the laundry, 93–97% of it returns to salt and water again. The remaining 3–7% is easily removed in waste treatment and is biodegradable.
  • “How many times should I wash and rinse after soaking in bleach water?” I think 1–2 rinses should be plenty.