This is a Guest Post Contribution. Stacy Mojica is the Founder and Executive Director of Cloth for Everybum. In addition she is a Real Diaper Association Circle Leader and advocate for Cloth Diapers. Her passion and excitement for cloth diapering, mentoring and education is outstanding! Stacy has spent many hours on this educational post. You can learn more about her in the bio below. Please be respectful in your comments or opinions or THEY WILL BE DELETED! I do not tolerate swearing, name calling or inappropriate language on this blog. I will leave up all comments for all sides or views as long as they are respectful!
If you are interested in writing a guest blog for My Cloth Diaper Stash fall, please contact me at Julie@MyClothDiaperStash.com. Thank You!
This is Part III of a three part guest post series on information related to The Cloth Diaper Compendium. Please stay tuned for future posts in this series in regards to some of the topics that were not addressed in these articles. If you missed Part I or II, be sure to check out the link below before proceeding to today’s post:
Below is the written blog post in audio form so you can choose to read along with the audio or just listen yourself. If you would prefer not to listen, simply read on. The audio is broken down into two different sections.
TCDC lists “chlorine bleach” in their stripping document as the first step to strip a barnyard or ammonia stink. This section reads “Your first step is to eliminate the current barnyard problem: add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chlorine bleach (nothing color-safe or oxygen-activated/powered; you need the disinfection power of chlorine for this!) in a load full of (clean) diapers.
Yes: chlorine bleach, any other type will not disinfect your diapers, which is what you need.”27 They also recommend bleach often throughout their group as a superior stripping method.
Although there are varying stances on this recommendation even amongst laundry experts, it is not true that one needs to disinfect in order to strip, something that is clearly stated and recommended in their stripping document. Disinfecting is only necessary in the presence of a bacterial or fungal infection in the diaper area.28 You may feel it is necessary to disinfect, but it is not technically necessary.
Another concern is TCDC’s claim that bleach will not cause holes in natural fibers, that it is impossible, but there is significant anecdotal evidence of even diluted chlorine bleach eating holes into hemp and bamboo.29 I have personally had hemp come out of the washer with holes literally eaten out of it after having been through a month of a super staph diaper rash infection during which I had no choice but to bleach.30 By recommending bleach, this group is by analogy, prescribing a broad-spectrum antibiotic for every single disease. Like a broad-spectrum antibiotic, it will solve the problem, but you have no idea why. And then you become dependent on the antibiotic to solve everything. And then you have to increase your dose again and again because your problem is becoming immune to smaller doses, or at least requiring constant dosing. Is this really the place you want to be? Or do you want to troubleshoot each individual problem as it arises in order to completely perfect your washing routine?
Aside from using Bleach when it isn’t necessary, it is also dangerous when added to ammonia. We all know that Ammonia and Bleach should not be combined while cleaning the bathroom. Shouldn’t the same be true in the laundry room? Yes, yes it should.31 The chemistry behind this chemical reaction is that when chlorine is mixed with ammonia OR urine it will form chloramines that will produce carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), which then get flushed out into our waste system. And water treatment plants are not equipped to filter out chloramines, so they stay in the system, and in our environment. Not to mention that the resulting chlorine gas is lethal in enclosed spaces – i.e. your washing machine.32
Now, it should be duly noted that the amount of chlorine gas produced in this reaction is only “a few grams” and not enough to be harmful (T. Sutherland, personal communication, November 15, 2013), unless of course you stuck your head into the washing machine and took a big whiff. This doesn’t mean that you should go right ahead and use bleach all the time because it’s perfectly ok. It means that there are precautions one should consider before making the decision about if, when, and how to use bleach, and if so how much.
It’s interesting to note that chloramines are actually created on purpose in some cases, by adding ammonia to chlorine, in order to be used as a disinfectant, and added to our drinking water!33 But there are many sources that caution against this,34 and point out that there are very few studies concerning the potential harmful health effects of chloramines ingested, and none at all concerning the effects of chloramines in water we bathe in or inhale from steam. By analogy, this is quite similar to the problems we are having with GMOs in this country. The corporations selling them all say they are safe, and all studies that contradict them are either suppressed or not funded. 35 “A poll of 500 scientists working in either government or recently privatized research institutes in the UK revealed that 30 percent had been asked to change their research conclusions by their sponsoring customer… In the U.S., corporate donations [to scientific research] rose from $850 million in 1985 to $4.25 billion in less than ten years. According to the Atlantic Monthly, “increasingly the money comes with strings attached …. In higher education today corporations not only sponsor a growing amount of research – they frequently dictate the terms under which it is conducted.” (Smith, 2003, Seeds of Deception. Portland, ME. Yes! Books)
Who can we believe anymore? What sources are credible if even the most respected sources publish studies with changed conclusions, sponsored by the corporations of the products they are doing research on?
I am not a lone researcher crying out on this. There are many experts in the cloth diapering community and industry who share the recommendation that bleach should be used sparingly, if at all. Cottonbabies may recommend ¼ cup bleach once per month,36 and there are many reasons why that makes sense, because it simplifies things. But they also recommend sunning as an effective alternative for families who don’t want to bleach.37 It is for the same reason that Charlie’s Soap recommends a disinfectant at every wash load, and lists bleach as an option. In their recommendation for laundering cloth diapers, Charlie’s Soap recommends 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach, 4 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide, or 4 tablespoons of vinegar per wash load to disinfect. Yes, even vinegar is a gentle disinfectant.38 An article that was posted yesterday at 9am on the AppleCheeks blog,39 corroborates this information, and says that using bleach on their products voids their warranty, and states that bleach can be harmful to your baby’s health, and that it is in fact NOT effective at killing yeast, though will kill all strains of bacteria. An article quoted by them 40 explains why, referencing Clorox’s statement that chlorine bleach is effective at mold remediation only on “hard, non-porous surfaces,” and so not effective on surfaces that are porous, like wood or especially like cloth diapers!
That being said, bleach can be useful, especially in cases of bacterial infection when diapers actually have to be disinfected (J. Anello, personal communication, November 23, 2013). It can also be the answer when a family has reached their wit’s end and is about to give up cloth diapering altogether. In this case I would absolutely recommend bleach. But it is not the answer for everyone. And to assume as much shows a glaring disregard for science, common sense, and for the very core of our cloth diapering community.
All this, and we have yet to answer the question of whether or not bleach actually “fixes” an ammonia problem. I wish I could give a definitive answer, but the answer is not yes or no, it is a very complex explanation that falls somewhere in between. One thing that can help us understand how bleach can help to solve an ammonia problem is starting at the facts we know. Bleach kills bacteria. There are different types of ammonia. There is one type of ammonia that smells “fishy-“ this type of ammonia is caused by bacteria from feces. So urine-ammonia is not involved here. If you kill the bacteria, you kill what is causing the ammonia. THEN you can literally wash all your problems away, but you do have to actually wash them away – with detergent. So the bleach cannot act alone. It must be used in conjunction with detergent to complete this type of bleach strip (J. Anello, personal communication, November 23, 2013). And once again this type of bleach strip is not the cure for every type of ammonia problem, just this one type. Also it could be argued that any other disinfecting method (sun i.e. UV rays, 1 tsp of tea tree oil, oxygenated bleach) could be used in conjunction with detergent to kill bacteria.
In summary: This knowledge is going to knock the socks off of the cloth diapering community, because it explains pretty much all the mysterious unexplained things about ammonia and laundry problems that cloth diapering parents have been struggling with for years, and attempting to get answers from forums and blogs and other groups that just haven’t found the words to explain this phenomenon – until now.
The type of ammonia build up that is urine residue caused by detergent build up can be washed out by hot water.
The type of ammonia build up that is urine residue caused by mineral build up can be solved with washing soda or RLR.
The type of ammonia build up that is urine residue caused by “strong pee:” diapers sitting in the pail too long, improper air circulation, bad overnight diapers, changes in urine as your child gets older can be solved by rinsing diapers by hand before placing them in your diaper pail or spraying them with bac-out as a pre-treatment.
Feces residue caused by bacteria is not an “ammonia” problem, since ammonia (NH3) by definition is urine residue, but its stink is often mistaken for or mistakenly called “ammonia.” Stink/residue of this type can be solved by disinfecting diapers, and then washing out the residue with an effective detergent. Disinfecting methods include: chlorine bleach, direct sunlight, Tea Tree Oil, GSE, oxygen bleach, or hydrogen peroxide. So this could be bacteria present in the feces of your child during a bacterial sickness. Look out for this problem especially in cases when your child has diarrhea.
“They have no regard for manufactures warranties, saying “I care more about my child than a stupid warranty!” But many families save enough money to buy quality diapers because of their warranty. If they ruin these diapers and void their warranty many of them won’t be able to afford a whole new stash, get frustrated, and go back to disposables.”
~C. Jean; cloth diaper advocate
To address another issue, TCDC’s PUL document states that you may dry PUL on high heat every time and it will never delaminate or have any issues unless it is low-quality PUL. This I would never believe, since I have seen the highest quality diapers and pail liners delaminate and have issues with the PUL when dried too often on high heat. Specific ones I have seen with my own eyes and could show a picture of right now: Rumparooz (which are TPU not PUL), Charlie Banana, Oh Katy, and Bottombumpers. There are many, many ways to ruin even the most high-quality diapers.41
Not to mention that almost all manufactures recommend to either hang dry or tumble dry low. There is a reason for that. My research indicates that detergent residues left on PUL as it goes through the dryer can cause chemical reactions that can start delamination. Of course you have to understand that detergent build up is real, in order to understand this! I don’t have a source for you but I can say I have it on good authority, if you’ll believe me, and I can tell you that the reason why it’s not written out there yet today is because diaper manufacturers don’t want to risk telling you (their customers) that that is the reason why you can’t dry your diapers on high heat, because then lots of people will just say that there is no detergent residue on their diapers (even though you can’t see it!) and dry anyway. And then manufacturers can get into a lot of trouble having to fulfill warranties and there would be a lot more delaminated (wasted, useless) diapers floating around the world today.
Now my research also indicates that PUL was originally invented in order to withstand autoclaving in hospitals, a sanitation process utilizing very high temperatures. A material suitable for autoclaving is cited to withstand “multiple” washings, but no number of washings is specified.42 So maybe PUL can withstand 20 autoclaving treatments, but not 21. There also may not be detergent residue in the autoclaving machine! So that factor that we experience in our home machines may not be an issue at an industrial level.
I am also not sure that what is autoclaved in hospitals is the same exact kind of PUL that is used in diapers (there are different thicknesses, known as “mil” and there are also different lamination methods). I’ve also seen several different looks of delamination – sometimes the laminate is peeling away and that is classic delamination by its definition, but sometimes the laminate melts and adheres to itself and looks “wrinkled.” Some of you reading this may have seen this phenomenon. Just knowing that these things can happen indicates that there is much more going on at a chemical level than most scientists can even fathom.
I think that this subject needs to be researched further before stating something such as “drying on high heat is absolutely fine.” And even post-research that might not be a wise statement. TCDC administrators state that if a diaper does delaminate, then it was a “poor quality” diaper. What I see in reality just simply does not jive.
I have not addressed everything that ought to be addressed in this preliminary report. There are several other mysteries in the field of cloth diaper laundry that I would like to research further, one being this issue of PUL and another being TCDC’s claim that Dreft does not contain fabric softener. I believe this to be true, but I also believe that there are additional ingredients in Dreft that cause diapers to repel, because I have spoken to several cloth diapering parents who have used Dreft and had their diapers repel immediately following. Another claim is that vinegar feeds yeast and cannot kill it. Vinegar is a disinfectant, but whether or not it kills yeast is another story. I have read several other websites corroborating the claim that vinegar feeds yeast, but I have also heard that vinegar baths are good for our children afflicted with yeast, so the verdict remains undecided in my mind, until further investigation is done. I’m sure I have missed other questions that you will ask in the replies below this blog post, I will be happy to research and include in further exposes.
“Don’t drink the Koolaid. “
~ Real, anonymous, cloth diaper advocate
Their group description reads “9,000 strong CAN’T be wrong! <3 The most INFAMOUS cloth diaper troubleshooting group on Facebook. WARNING: You must have a sense of humor to use this group ;)”
Well yes it can be wrong, and it is wrong. Infamous is the perfect adjective. Just because a group is large doesn’t mean it is right. I can think of many instances where history shows this to be true.
One reason this group has so many members is because each week one of their admins goes around to other groups recruiting people to join! And a good percentage of us are in there simply because we like watching Horror. Though you can bet your bottom dollar I will be banned in 12 hours or less once one of the admins gets wind of my exposing their flaws in public. The problem is that I would love to expose them in private, but I know they will not listen to me.
Unfortunately, this just isn’t a group one can infiltrate from the inside. They don’t allow free speech and are big fans of censorship. In my honest opinion, they have grown their own little cult, which is sadly not so little anymore. And cult mentality is such that you must be made to believe the group’s collective beliefs, no matter how crazy, wrong, or fanatical. You must allow yourself to be subjected to the brainwashing. Or you’re kicked out. This is a sad, sorry situation. It’s about time someone did some muckraking about it.
This blog post is what I am doing about it. If you want to do something about it too, then share this blog post- share, share, share, all over Facebook. And leave the Cloth Diaper Compendium. Encourage all of your friends and acquaintances to leave the group until or unless they will change their stance and advice on the issues discussed in this report. Until then, TCDC is not a good influence in the cloth diapering community and is not giving people sound advice.
In fact, I propose a campaign against the group. I think we, as educated and informed parents in the cloth diapering community, need to stand up for ourselves, and our fellow cloth diapering parents. After all, being educated and informed is what got us here in the first place, is it not? Let’s show these admins that we will not let THEM infiltrate US from the inside, and that WE will not tolerate the perpetuation of cloth diaper myths. We may not be able to comment directly on posts in their group, but we can exercise free speech outside of the group by privately warning our friends who we see have joined the group, and in publicly sharing articles like this one in other cloth diapering groups, businesses and organization pages we manage.
Please keep this conversation civil and professional. We are not mounting this campaign in order to attack or shame anyone. We are simply exercising our right to peer review of the information presented in TCDC, and would like to maintain the integrity of cloth diaper experts by falling back on evidence-based research. We care deeply about the cloth diapering community and would like to decrease the prevalence of misinformation on the subject of cloth diapers anywhere on the Internet. It is important for a self-proclaimed authority on cloth diapering, with such a large fan base, to be sharing and citing correct information.
I challenge you to look beyond the doctrine and dictates adhered to in TCDC, follow the footnotes I’ve cited in this article, and read for yourselves the science behind Tide, Bleach, PUL and any other questionable pieces of advice you read in a group, forum, or blog post.
“One should not believe everything one reads on the Internet.”
36 Please acquire approval from group admins before posting in any group
Please acquire approval from group admins before posting in any group
Author bio: Stacy Mojica is an accredited Real Diaper Association leader, founded the Low Country Real Diaper Circle and Cloth for Everybum. She has 2 daughters ages 33 months and 17 months. Stacy has a degree in English and ran a small artisan cloth diaper shop via Etsy for 1 year, but has made her career in cloth diaper advocacy and education.