Mold and Maggots

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Moldy diapers

There’s nothing worse than going to start a load of laundry and finding black splotches sprouting across your favorite diaper. Mold and mildew like to grow in closed, warm, humid environments, and can show up on diapers that have been sitting damp in the pail for a few days. Warm, humid climates can be especially conducive to diapers sprouting mold. Mold spores can be tricky to eliminate and they cause stubborn stains, so try these steps.

Step 1: Bleach soak.

Follow the general Fluff Love instructions for a bleach soak. Bleach soaking is the first step to killing mold spores and removing stains.

Step 2: OxiClean paste. 

If stains remain after the bleach soak, the next step is an OxiClean paste. OxiClean powder is an oxygen bleach made up of washing soda and a solid form of hydrogen peroxide. When combined with water and made into a paste, it’s very effective at removing stains and killing mold. Mix OxiClean and water into a paste consistency, and apply to paste to the stained area. (Extended direct contact with OxiClean may cause skin irritation, so use gloves or a spoon to apply the paste.) Let sit for 10 – 30 minutes, then wash.

Step 3: Concentrated bleach soak.

If mold stains still remain in the diaper, follow Clorox’s steps for a concentrated bleach soak. Soak affected items in 1/2 cup of bleach in one gallon of water for 5 – 10 minutes. This is a very high bleach concentration and should only be used as a last resort. Some members have also reported success with a bleach pen.

Wait, maybe it’s not mold!

Not all dark stains are mold or mildew! Here are a few common mold imposters.

  • Banana: Old banana stuck to fabric creates a black stain that is very difficult to remove and may be mistaken for mold. Some parents report success soaking in very hot water and OciClean.
  • Lint: Some diapers collect lint inside the fabric, especially in the tabs. Diapers with fold out soakers, such as BumGenius Freetimes, also commonly collect lint inside the soakers. If possible, turn the tabs or soakers inside out to remove the lint.
  • Washing machine grease: Some washing machines may leave small black grease spots on laundry. Call in a repair person, and try removing the grease spots by scrubbing gently with dish soap.
  • Diaper cream: Some petroleum based diaper creams can leave dark gray stains on synthetic fabrics that can look similar to mold. Try scrubbing the diaper with dish soak to remove the greasy residue.

 Creepy crawlies

Of all the horrified posts that appear on Fluff Love and CD Science, the winner for sheer ick goes to parents who’ve found maggots in their diaper pail. While it’s not a very common problem, it does happen occasionally, especially in hot climates. You may feel pretty freaked out, but it’s actually easy to clean maggots out of diapers.

A bit of back information: maggots are simply insect larva, or baby insects. The kind that show up in cloth diaper pails in the United States are typically common household flies or fruit flies, while annoying blowflies (blowies) are seen in Australia. An adult fly finds a spot to lay eggs, which hatch into maggots in about 8 – 20 hours.

The best cure is prevention — keep houseflies out of your house. Don’t leave unscreened doors or windows open, keep trash cans covered, promptly empty compost buckets outside, dispose of meat scraps in the outside trash can or freeze meat scraps until you can take them out, and make sure there’s no pet waste sitting outside near doors. Promptly rinse out soiled diapers. We generally recommend keeping diaper pails uncovered to reduce smells, but if your house has a housefly problem, you may try keeping the diapers in a tightly closed or zippered wet bag until you’re able to eliminate the houseflies. Because maggots hatch so quickly, even doing laundry every day isn’t guaranteed prevention, but if you do have a housefly problem, you may want to wash diapers more frequently.

If you do find maggots in your cloth diaper pail:

Step 1: Don’t vomit.

Step 2: Deep breath.

Step 3: (Highly recommended) Rinse the maggots off the diapers, either outside or into the toilet. It’s preferable to rinse them off prior to washing, because the maggot bodies might be too large to drain out of your washing machine. If you absolutely can’t stomach Step 3, you can try skipping directly to Step 4.

Step 4: Wash. We suggest doing a long hot wash cycle with full detergent, then another hot cycle with detergent. If you feel the need, you can add 1/4 cup disinfecting bleach to the first wash cycle.

Step 5: Before transferring diapers to the dryer, make sure there are no maggot bodies left on the cloth.