In my last post on cloth diaper myths I briefly addressed the contentious issue of using bleach as a part of cloth diaper disinfection. I mentioned the conditions under which I would suggest using bleach which are: when sanitizing used diapers, if you baby is dealing with a bacterial (staph) or fungal infection (yeast) or if trying to strip your diapers of lingering bacteria (most common if not using enough detergent). Notice that I don't mention soaking diapering in bleach as a part of a tradition "wet pail" system as that can be incredibly dangerous and cause unnecessary ware on the elastics in cloth diapers. Nor do I mention using as a part of your regular cloth diaper washing. But bleach has a place in cloth diapering, and I am thankful for it.
What Bleach to buy:
As mentioned in my previous post your must by the original version of bleach. Not the splash-less, scented, gentle etc. It must have at least a 5.25% concentration of Sodium Hypochlorite. The bottle usually say kills germs and has instructions for sanitizing. If your bleach bottle says that it is for deodorizing and whitening only then you probably have purchased the wrong kind. Clorox and several other companies now sell a concentration of 8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite that is labeled as "Concentrated" but the dilution ratio remains the same.
How to bleach your diapers:
1) Begin with freshly washed diapers
2) Dilute the bleach in cold water 1 T water to 1 Gallon water (preferably cool water). You can do this in a washing machine, tub or other container with a stopper. I prefer to use my tub as I do not particularly trust the bleach dispenser in my HE machine.
3) Soak the diapers for at least 30 minutes
4) Rinse the diapers thoroughly, you can also re-wash them with detergent if you are particularly sensitive to bleach
* PUL is colorfast but cottons and flannels will experience fading even if the bleach is properly diluted. NEVER bleach animal hairs (like wool) or silk.
If you have Iron rich hard water, DO NOT BLEACH YOUR DIAPERS. You will get terrible orange staining among other problems. If you are trying to rid your diapers of bleach or staph or are trying to disinfect used diapers you can use 4 cups of Hydrogen Peroxide liquid with 1 cup of borax (although expensive and not as broad spectrum as bleach it is the next best thing to bleaching). You can also use Lysol in its full concentration (though I have never personally tried it and am unaware of its results).
What about boiling? Yes, you technically can disinfect natural fibers (cotton, hemp and bamboo) by boiling them. So if you have a few random used inserts of that variety and would like to sanitize them that way then go for it. Remember that they must be free of snaps (which would melt) and should not contain any inner layers of microfiber. NEVER boil PUL, anything with plastic, wool, silk or Microfiber.
Why not Grapefruit Seed Extract?:
While countless blogs and websites are guilty of touting GFSE as a yeast killer I particularly blame this myth on Thirsties diapers. They on their website tout Grapefruit Seed Extract as being the superior yeast killing method. They include the following quote
"Tests have shown that GSE is dramatically more effective than Colloidal Silver, Iodine, Tea Tree Oil and Clorox bleach against five common microorganisms. In studies performed by Dr. John Mainarich of Bio-Research Laboratories in Redmond, WA"
At first you are like "Wow! I had no idea that GFSE was so impressive." Then if you are like me you get geekily excited to read more about the study so you click on the link they provide. Yet the link they include is merely quoting the same study themselves and are doing so without any citations. Not only that but the article they linked is actually about using GFSE to treat thrush in a breastfeeding situation or topically on a baby's bum. While it does briefly mention the need to treat laundry for Thrush, it does not provide a mention of the amount of GFSE needed to disinfect laundry. In fact the the only mention of what quantity of GFSE is needed to kill yeast it mentions 10 drops per ounce of water (referring to taking GFSE orally or when applying topically). Even if this dilution were applied to laundry it is no where near the "20 drops in the final rinse should suffice" that Thirsties recommends.
Also deeply concerning is the fact that in large studies done on the supposed anti-fungal properties of GFSE it was found the natural un-synthetically preserved GFSE has ZERO anti-fungal properties. A recent study done by the US Department of Agriculture that the the anti-fungal properties of GFSE are only in the synthetic version and only because of the preservative Benzethonium Chloride. While it is in fact a antimicrobial agent it is only approved for topical use and even then only at concentrations of 8%.
Another reason GFSE is touted as antimicrobial is because it includes the same antibacterial ingredient that is used in hand soap which is Triclosan. But again the amounts needed to disinfect ones hand while washing is very different than in the context of laundry. Laundry involves anywhere from 15-40 gallons of water.
For a comprehensive article on the myths surrounding Grapefruit Seed Extract I highly recommend this article.