Here are some common laundry additives and methods to disinfect/ sanitize.
Chlorine Bleach: Chlorine bleach is a common disinfectant. The downside is that it is a caustic substance (able to burn or corrode). Use caution when handling it. Take care to not splash any or directly inhale the fumes.
Dilute the bleach in the water PRIOR to adding the items you are disinfecting. Use the bleach tray on the machine if it has one.
Please note that PUL is colorfast, so it won’t fade. However, any knit or cotton fabrics may fade even in a properly diluted bleach solution. (This can include items like cloth wipes, WAHM diapers and fitteds for example).
Bleach is the second most common disinfectant after hot water. While it kills yeast, it doesn’t kill yeast spores. If you are treating for yeast I actually recommend the grapefruit seed extract method listed below. If you are interested, you will find the documentation I used to arrive at this recommendation here.
You must use bleach that has at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. You will find this info on the label. Bleach also starts to break down over time and becomes less effective. You can store it for about a year at room temp before that begins to happen. If the bottle is older than a year, purchase a new one. If you are unsure how old the bottle is, locate the production code. It is often stamped on the neck of the bottle. You can then use this article to decode the made on date.
How to Disinfect using Chlorine Bleach
Make sure your cloth diapers are washed before proceeding to step 1. Bleach soaks should not be done on soiled diapers.
Step 1: I recommend using warm or hot water (although cold will work.) You may have read that bleach disinfection must only be done in cold water. That is not the case as it will work in any water temp. Click here for further documentation on this. Dilute your bleach in the water FIRST before adding your cloth diapers. Be careful to not splash the bleach.
Step 2: Soak for 15 minutes. Longer soak times are unnecessary and can cause premature wear to your diapers.
Step 3: Rinse diapers until bleach odor is gone. You can do this with hot rinses in the washing machine or in your tub under the facet. You may have to rinse a few times to get the odor completely out.
Here are the dilution ratios:
Grapefruit Seed Extract: synthesized from the seeds and pulp of the grapefruit, it’s a very broad spectrum microbicide, bactericide, fungicide, antiparasitic, and anti-viral.
It is expensive, so the other options on here are far more economical for other disinfecting, but when it comes to yeast – this is the single most effective way to stop it in its tracks on your clothing and cloth diapers. You can buy it at your local health food store or on Amazon.
This is not a natural alternative. There are limited studies, but the existing ones point to the preservatives in GSE and not the actual GSE being the disinfectant. So I will say that this is an effective option, but not a natural one. GSE will not fade non-colorfast knit and cotton fabrics making it a good alternative to bleach.
For more evidence of GSE as a disinfecting agent, please see:
How to disinfect using Grapefruit Seed Extract
For disinfecting: 2 tablespoons of GSE for up to a large load of laundry. This may be added right to the main wash cycle with whatever detergent you are using. Wash and dry normally.
Hydrogen Peroxide: This is a liquid oxygen bleach and breaks down into water and oxygen.
Use a 3 % solution (what is normally available at most drugstores)
Be aware that hydrogen peroxide can damage fabrics the same way bleach can, so test for colorfastness and never pour directly on your clothes or cloth diapers.
How to disinfect using Hydrogen Peroxide
This should be done on clean, already washed items.
Use 1 cup in the bleach cup of your laundry machine for medium loads and 2 cups for large loads. Use hot water and a wash cycle that is at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a cycle long enough you can either stop the cycle or soak in another vessel such as a bathtub (1/2 regular bathtub is equal to a large load).
If you don’t have a bleach cup, start the machine without putting clothes in. Wait until your machine is filled with water, then add the peroxide and let the water agitate with the peroxide in it before adding cloth diapers.
Why I do not recommend using Lysol Laundry Sanitizer
The Lysol Laundry Sanitizer label says it “Kills 99.9% of bacteria detergents leave behind”. What you won’t find on the label is that “It only kills bacteria and is not effect against viruses or any fungi , including yeast.” I received this information after contacting Lysol directly via email.
Yeast and thrush are often reasons people are disinfecting cloth diapers in the first place. Buyer beware. This product won’t work on them.
Why I do not recommend bleach washes
A bleach wash means you add bleach to a regular wash cycle versus soaking them. I want to make sure I am recommending methods that cover you in the majority of cases. For a bleach wash to be the most effective you’d need the appropriate amount of water covering all the diapers for a specific amount of time. That is VERY hard to control in many machines. HE machines for example use small amounts of water. And for some machines, even the longest cycle isn’t all that long.
Because of these variables, I highly suggest you take the safe route when you are wanting to disinfect your laundry. This can mean more effort and time, but your outcome is often better.