Types of Stains in Cloth Diapers – How to Manage and Prevent

Types of Stains in Cloth Diapers – How to Manage and Prevent

Cloth diapers are a great option for many parents, but they do come with the occasional stained surprise. The good news is, that most stains are harmless and don't affect the functionality of the diaper. Let's look at some common types of stains and how to tackle them.

Types of Stains:

Poop Stains:

Yellow and brown stains are a natural result of bodily functions. Yellow stains occur in breast-fed babies. Once you start solids, poop stains become brown. Breast-fed poop is water soluble and the stain should go away with proper washing.

Food Stains:

Did your little one have a colorful culinary adventure? Expect to see some stains from fruits and vegetables like beetroot, berries, or green leafy greens. These pigments can leave their mark after poop.

Medication Stains:

Medication Stain In Cloth Diapers


Some medications like Vitamin D drops, Paracetamol or Tylenol cause dark (blackish) stains in cloth diapers.

Diaper Cream Stains:

Diaper Cream Stain in Cloth Diapers


Diaper creams containing zinc oxide or lanolin might leave behind a residue that can show up as stains. Avoid using petroleum-based creams as they will cause repulsion leaks even with reusable liners.

Hard Water Stains:

Hard Water Stain In Cloth Diapers


Hard water minerals or iron in your water supply can create stubborn stains, sometimes even appearing red in color, due to excessive iron content in the water.

Mold/Mildew Stains:

Mold/Mildew Stain in Cloth Diapers


These unwelcome guests thrive in damp environments. Improper diaper storage can lead to dark mold or mildew stains. These appear as tiny black spots or in groups that resemble fungal growth.

Red Stains:

Even rust from drying lines or clothespins can add a touch of brown to your cloth diapers.

Pink Stains:

Pink Stains may be caused due to bacterial growth. If left untreated, it may spread in the cloth diaper and cause serious health issues for the baby.

Additional Stains:

Color Bleed Stain in Cloth Diapers


If you have added fabric softeners or disinfectants like Dettol or Savlon, it will color your cloth diapers and langots. Or if you had washed it with dark color clothes that bleed color, it may also cause color bleed stains. Wash your cloth diapers and langots separately.

Unknown stains: Stains can also be caused by an unclean machine!

How to Prevent Stains:

Frequent Washing: Don't let soiled diapers sit for extended periods. Aim for a wash every 2-3 days.

Scrape and Spray: Before storing the diaper, remove any solid waste to minimize staining. Soon after the baby has pooped, remove the diaper, spray away or dump the solids and rinse well to minimize stains.

Cloth-Friendly Products: Opt for diaper creams and ointments that won't interfere with absorbency and stain less.

Storing: To prevent mold/mildew growth and stains from it, always store the used diapers in a dry, open pail. Do not store it in dark and humid spaces as it is the perfect condition for fungal growth. We recommend discarding those affected diapers and not to use them again. Stripping or Bleaching the affected diapers will cause more harm anyway. Stripping/bleaching will cause the elastics to loosen and damage the cotton fabrics causing wear and tear.

Managing and Removing Stains: From Battlefield to Bright Whites

Even with the best prevention methods, stains can happen. Although stains are harmless, here's your arsenal for tackling those colorful foes.

Oxygen Bleach: We do not recommend bleaching as it can harm more outweighing its benefits. Instead you can use oxygen bleach that is gentle on fabrics, skin as well as the environment. If you are worried about stains, then you can use Oxiclean. Soak it in the stain remover first and then start the recommended wash routine. PS: If Oxiclean is not available in your place, look for oxygen stain removers. Note: Always do a patch test before using.

Sun Exposure: Sunlight is a natural bleach that comes free of cost! Sundry the pads, with the affected area facing the Sun. It will lighten the stains over time!

Reusable Liners: Dry Feel Liners AKA Reusable liners are lifesavers that catch the bulk of the solid waste, making clean up easier and minimizing staining.

Cold Water Rinse: Cold water rinses especially for poop stains are very useful in removing them. Rinse the pooped cloth diapers immediately in cold water after removing them.

Vinegar & Baking Soda: Although a very common method, it may cause early wear and tears. So you need to do it in moderation. Also if not washed properly after, it could lead to a foul smell.

No Overnight Soaking: Many people suggest soaking the affected diaper pads overnight, which will help remove the stain. However soaking for a long time will cause the fibers to disintegrate very soon. Please avoid doing this.

Water Softener: For Hard Water stains, adding water softener in each cycle can prevent the stains completely. It may work on Iron stains in cloth diapers to some extent but does not remove it completely as water softeners work on calcium and magnesium.

Here is a sum up for you!

Type of Stain Cause How to Manage Prevention
Yellow/Brown Stain Breast Fed Poop or Solid Poop Use Dry Feel Liners. Sun Drying will remove it. Can be prevented with liners to an extent
Red/Brown Foods like beetroot, berry or greens. Sun Drying. Cannot be prevented. Cold rinse as soon as removing.
Red or Rusty Iron Content in Water or rusty pegs Pre Soak, Oxygen Bleach. Can be prevented with water softener.
Blackish Patch Medications like Vitamin D or Paracetamol. Sun Drying. Cannot be prevented as it is left behind through pee.
Black/Green Spots Mold/Mildew Growth Strip/bleach or dicard. Do not store in humid or dark spaces.
Pink Spots Pink Mold - Bacterial Growth Discard. Bacterial growth will cause serious health issues for babies. Change storing method to open, dry pail.
Black or Greyish Patch Diaper Cream Sun Drying, or Oxygen Bleach. Use Liners. If liners start to cause repulsion, discard them.
Others Unclean Machine, Disinfectants. Sun Drying or Subsequent washes. Do not use disinfectants like Savlon or Dettol, Fabric Softeners or Optical Whiteners. Clean the machine regularly.



Frequently Asked Questions about Cloth Diaper Stains:

Q: Are all stains preventable?

A: Unfortunately, no.  Some stains, like those from medication or body chemistry, are unavoidable.


Q: Are stains harmful?

A: No. Stains are not harmful. It is the coloration or discoloration of the fabric left behind by the cause. Some stains may be stubborn and won't go away even after bleaching. Some examples are severe rust stains, Mold or Mildew Stains.


Q: Are mold or mildew stains harmful?

A: While Mold/mildew growth is very harmful to health, once completely removed, the stains left behind are not harmful.


Q: How can I prevent poop stains?

A: Use Reusable Dry Feel Liners. Once pooped, remove the diaper, spray off runny poop, or dump the solid poop and rinse in cold water. This can reduce stains.


Q: My washing machine seems to be causing stains!

A: This could be due to detergent build-up or an unclean machine.  Try a cleaning cycle for your washing machine as suggested by the machine brand.


Q: Help! My diapers have a weird smell even after washing!

A: This could indicate a deeper cleaning issue or health issue. If your baby had a severe infection or the cloth diapers were affected by mold/mildew growth, it could bring a foul smell even after washing. Kindly discard those cloth diapers after washing and do not wash them with other unaffected cloth diapers or pads.


Cloth diapers are a fantastic choice for many families, and with a little know-how, you can manage those inevitable stains.  Remember, a little stain doesn't mean a cleaning failure! By understanding the causes, implementing prevention techniques, and having a stain removal strategy in place, you can keep your cloth diapers looking fresh and clean, while enjoying all the benefits they offer. So, embrace the rainbow, and happy cloth diapering!

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