Just Add Cloth
Oct 042011
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Can anyone help out this mom in need?  Stubborn diaper rash is getting her down.

Hi there,

I just discovered your blog, and I’m hoping you can help me. I’m super torn about how to proceed in my diapering journey. My DD, 20 months, has been in cloth most of her life. Around 12/13 months, she got some yucky sores on her diaper area, in the front, not the normal diaper rash area. I fought and fought for months. We went to doctors, got creams, had to use disposables. I stripped my diapers, got them super clean. Once the sores were healed (this took at least a month), we put her back in cloth. In less than 2 days, she showed signs of getting more sores. I resigned myself to disposables.

But around 18 months, we started putting her in cloth, because the I don’t like disposables and they have their own problems. She was doing well at night. So I bought all new cloth diapers (Kawaii Baby pockets), sold my old ones (bum genius 3.0), changed my laundry detergent (from Charlie’s Soap to All Free and Clear). I have an HE machine that I don’t think does a very good job with the diapers or our clothes. My laundry routine is: Heavy wash with All and some bac-out, then a rinse with vinegar, then 1-2 more rinses. We’ve been using Grandma El’s cloth diaper rash prevention ointment.

So, basically, now she’s got more sores, so we’re back in disposables and I hate it! I want more than anything to use cloth, but these sores are awful and they take about a month to heal. I have some time before I can try again, so I’m hoping you can help me. What do you think? What would you change? I’ve had very little luck researching this online. I’ve changed a lot of variables in my cloth diaper routine, and I’m nearing desperation. I want to try a top-loading washer, but that’s about all I can think of to do differently. The laundry routine, maybe. Okay, I’m rambling.

Thank you in advance!




I am sorry to hear about all of your troubles. My first question is whether the doctors ruled out yeast or even a Staph infection. Both can be very difficult to get rid of, especially if you do not know what you are dealing with. I would ask the pediatrician to double check it isn’t either of these issues. There are anti-yeast ointments they can prescribe and Staph generally needs a potent antibiotic.

Since the sores are toward the front and not in the poo region, I am going to assume it is not an acid rash from acidic foods. In the case of acid poop rashes, many parents swear by corn starch. Corn starch keeps the area dry so it can heal. However, corn starch can be harmful for yeast rashes and make them worse, so it is prudent to be sure yeast is not the issue before feeding it with a carb based powder.

The diapers you listed all have a stay dry inner. There is a small chance your child is sensitive to synthetic fabrics. You could try using flats for a time to see if a natural fiber helps. Flour sack tea towels can be purchased in a big box department store for about a dollar each. If the sores appear to get better when kept dry, you could try going cover-less to give them as much air as possible.

Since the sores do actually clear up in disposables, I am going to guess the detergent and washing routine might be the more likely culprit.

There have been many reports of Charlies Soap causing chemical type burns and sores when used on cloth diapers. This may be a rinsing issue when used with hard water. Especially with an HE machine. Charlies does have a booster product to help make their detergent more efficient. Which in turn, lets you use less detergent, which might help the rinsing issue.

ALL Free and Clear is clear of most problematic ingredients except for optical brighteners. It is fairly common for ALL F&C to work OK on cloth diaper laundry at first and then become a problem. It often just does not get them clean enough. If your diapers are not getting clean enough, then an ammonia build up could be causing rash or sores in the diaper area.

A top loader could certainly make your routine easier, if less than pristine diapers are causing the sores.

Do your diapers have any odor after drying? Or are they very pungent right after your child urinates? Both can be signs your diapers are not getting clean enough. If buildup is the problem, a change in wash routine might help. If your machine does not have an extra water feature you may have to get creative. Some people pour extra water into the wash cycle through the soap tray. A heavy wet towel added to the diaper load can some times trick your washer into using more water. If your washer has a pre-rinse option, I would definitely use that before the official wash cycle. You want to get as much urine and ammonia out of the diapers as possible beforehand. I have luck with hand rinsing each diaper insert individually in my bathroom sink before placing them in the wet bag.

Another option is to try a wet pail. First, wet pails can pose a small drowning risk, so make sure your child does not have access to the pail. You could have some water and a splash of bac-out in the wet pail for all inserts, flats, and prefolds. I personally would not use a wet pail for PUL based shells and covers because the water and whatever additive you choose could wear out the elastic and PUL more quickly. I would continue to keep shells and covers separate and just add them to the wash load. Some people just use water in the wet pail, and others may add a small cap of bleach or detergent to the water. The benefit of a wet pail is it keeps ammonia from drying and building in the diapers while they wait for wash day. With a top loader, you can just pour all the contents of your wet pail into the washer and do a spin to get out the icky water before doing a pre-rinse or your wash cycle. For a front loader, you will have to drain the pail water before adding its contents to the machine. While bleach can wear down your PUL and elastic more quickly, it should not harm your inserts and can be beneficial for keeping bacteria from becoming too prolific. BumGenius recommends using a 1/4 cup of bleach in your diaper laundry once per month for maintenance. I have not personally used bleach before, but it is helpful for many cloth diapering parents.

If the Grandma El’s is not helping, it may be time to try a new cream, or none at all. Cloth friendly options that are natural and inexpensive are lanolin and coconut oil. Both rinse out well in hot water. Some people love tea tree oil. It has anti-septic and anti-fungal properties and is used to treat several skin ailments from rashes to warts. You can mix a couple drops into some lanolin for a homemade cream. If the sores need to be dry to heal, then creams will just make them worse. In that case going diaper-less or using a very breathable option can help.

There is a list of rash creams at PinStripes and PolkaDots that can be beneficial.

I do not know if your child attends a day care or is home, but I would also be sure to check how often her diaper is being changed. Even if it is not soaked through with urine, it could be causing her to sweat in the front which in turn could be aggravating the sores. In that case, you will want to change a bit more often. Also, make sure the waist of her pants is loose and comfortable. A snug waist on her jeans could cause heat and friction, which will irritate the skin even more.

Dear readers: Can you help L? Have you dealt with stubborn diaper sores? What was the cause and how did you fix it?


**Any advice given on justaddcloth.com is my opinion and not official medical advice. I am not a doctor or medical professional. Please see a medical professional to diagnose and treat medical conditions”**

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  6 Responses to “Diaper Rash: A Cloth Diapering Mom Needs Your Help”

  1. Well, you covered everything that I would have suggested. Hopefully this mama can get the rash issue figured out and under control soon!

  2. I agree with previous poster on the yeast. I would make sure not yeasr!
    Have you tried a diaper with a natural fabric insert like Hemp or Bamboo? They tend to be really absorbant too.
    I have heard Purex Free and Clear or Sun Free and Clear are better than All Free and Clear ( due to the brighteners mention by previous poster).

    I hope that you can figure out the issue 🙁

  3. I definitely second the suggestion to try natural fibers and/or more breathable covers. My daughter got rashes/sores/yeast infections when we used a super-waterproof double layer PUL cover, but did fine with most others. It took prescription meds and a long time to clear it up. After we figured out what was wrong, if she started to get a rash, I would use just 100% cotton prefolds and fleece covers with a little baby powder to keep her dry. They are much more breathable and helped clear it up before it became a problem. Prefolds are also easier to get diaper creams out of if you use one that is not CD-safe and your liner is less than effective- been there done that 😉 My daughter is also allergic to oranges and gets a rash that looks like the acid-poop rash JustAddCloth refers to, but was from her urine and was all over the diaper area. Does your baby have any food sensitivities?

  4. Try using pure coconut oil instead of diaper creams. Get it at your grocery store or healthfood store. When my son was in disposables he got a rash so bad he was bleeding. Coconut oil cleared him up quickly with out the stinging of the diaper creams. It’s also natually antifungal and antibacterial. Now it’s the only thing i use on my babies’ bums. My daughter is in cloth and she was still getting some rash in her front area until I stopped using disposable wipes. Now I use the little bath wash cloths with only water, (no soap or solution) for every diaper change. No rash whatsoever. It’s easy too, just throw the cloth in the diaper pail when done and wash them with your diapers. Hope she gets better.

  5. Poor bubba. We’ve had sores here too off and on but his tend to be from poop in the bum area not the front. Yeast creams did nothing, zinc oxide did nothing. Olive and coconut oil helped somewhat, but not for the sores. The only product that helped to actually heal the sores is Calendula gel from the health food store.

    Also you want to air it out as much as you can, and sun on that area helps too. (Not too much, a sunburn would not be good.) As much as possible go diaper-free, and when not diaper free go PUL-free. Flats, very loosely Snappied, and then with a wool cover over top are our go-to when his rash is flaring up. Or with no cover at all if they won’t pull off the snappi.

    I second cloth wipes with nothing on them but water in case something in your wipes solution is making it worse.

    I would try adding some Oxy-Clean to your wash before you try bleach. It’s less harsh, but same idea.

    Also, bac-out has enzymes in it, which can actually attack the skin and be severely irritating. So I would stop using that product ASAP, and see if that helps. What I would do personally is I would take out the Bac-Out and do a cold/cold rinse or short wash cycle, then a hot/cold or hot/warm cycle with the Oxy-Clean and your detergent, no vinegar in the rinse, just an extra rinse, and smell the diapers when they come out. If they smell clean, see how it goes.

    For creams, I ADORE CJ’s BUTTer. I just recently tried it and it really is as good as people say. Absolutely amazing at clearing up redness in one change. It’s all natural, has things like lanolin, shea butter, coconut oil – basically all the best stuff that everyone recommended already – in one. I can’t stop raving about it. If you don’t want to buy something else, try Crisco, which you probably already have. It sounds weird but it works as a great barrier and it doesn’t have anything irritating in it. I have also heard good things about the cornstarch but haven’t tried it.

    I hope that helps. Diaper rash is a nasty thing, but you’ll figure out what works. 🙂

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