How to Remove Yeast from Cloth Diapers

How to remove yeast from cloth diapers without bleachHow do you know if you have yeast? There are several different types of diaper rash but if you have a prickly looking rash that doesn’t improve or go away within 24 hours of using typical diaper creams, the chances are that you have yeast.  *For the first time you should visit your doctor to make sure but after you have it once, you’re likely to recognize it if you get it again.

Yeast is a very stubborn fungus to get rid of and your first step must be to treat the rash. If diagnosed by a doctor they will likely give you a prescription for an antifungal cream. If you have had yeast before and you no longer have a prescription you can use an over the counter cream for athlete’s foot, jock itch and ringworm. The generic name is Clotrimazole which is the same as the brand name Lotrimin. These creams are not safe for cloth diapers so you will need to use disposable diapers, flushable inserts or a fleece liner in your cloth diapers.

Once you’ve tackled the rash, you must treat all of your diapers, cloth wipes, and reusable diaper liners (if you use them). There is no getting around this because if you don’t you will reinfect your baby. There are several things people do to treat yeast, but what I do is this:

As with anything I post here, I have used this treatment myself with success before posting it. My son has had a couple of yeast rashes while he was in cloth diapers with outbreaks usually about six months or more apart. The rashes were diagnosed and treated by a pediatrician so I wasn’t maybe treating something that seemed like it might be yeast. 

While bleach will kill yeast in diapers, we all use cloth diapers for different reasons and not everyone is comfortable using bleach for several reasons. Personally, I am not anti-bleach, but I like to treat things in the most gentle way possible first instead of automatically resorting to caustic chemicals that have been known to damage fabric and irritate the skin. While there are some cases where bleach is the only answer, it is possible to remove yeast from cloth diapers without bleach. 

  • Once your diapers are clean of waste, wash them in HOT water, around 125-130 degrees without going over.
  • To the hot water add about 50-60 drops (HE) to 2 tsp (non-HE) of grapefruit seed extract depending on your machine and a scoop of oxygen bleach such as OxiClean, Biokleen, or a store brand. 
  • Do a second rinse to make sure all of the GSE and oxygen bleach is out of your diapers
  • If you’re comfortable with using chlorine bleach you could add a 1/4 – 1/2 cup depending on your machine to disinfect your diapers. The GSE/oxygen bleach treatment worked for me  so I haven’t had to resort to this for yeast. 

You should now be yeast free. Some people also choose to treat towels that have touched their baby’s bare bottom while they were infected. Tea tree oil is also popular for treating yeast but in my research I have read that you need a LOT of it to work and even then it doesn’t kill the spores while grapefruit seed extract does, but other people have had success with it. 

This routine has worked for me more than once and also for other cloth diapering parents but as with anything, nothing will work for 100% of people 100% of the time. For those cases, you may have to turn to bleach. 

Update 8/9/13: There have been questions around the interwebs about whether oxygen bleach like OxiClean and BioKleen actually disinfects or if its main purpose is just for whitening. Many of us don’t have a microscope in our homes to prove or disprove its disinfectant properties but here are some sources that state that it does kill at least some germs:

So while oxygen bleach is probably not enough on its own to kill yeast, it can’t hurt to add it while trying to rid your diapers of yeast and other bacteria.

Update 10/14/13: There have been recent questions about the effectiveness of GSE on yeast and whether it is truly an antifungal. It has been stated that it is the preservatives in GSE that are what kills yeast and not the GSE itself. I am not a scientist and do not have a lab set up in my basement (though The Husband has one at work. Maybe I should convince him to set up an experiment for me, haha). Because of this I can’t confirm or deny these claims, but what I can tell you is that my diapers had yeast, then I used the regimen above and they no longer had yeast. Whether it is the preservatives or the GSE itself shouldn’t really make a difference anyway as long as whatever property kills the yeast is present. 

Update 11/6/13: Since most of us don’t have access to a microscope at home and never really know if we have gotten rid of yeast until the rash stops, The Real Diaper Association (RDA) is currently conducting on how to get rid of yeast in cloth diapers and their findings on cloth prefolds is pretty interesting. More experiments on other types of diapers and fabrics will be conducted.

Update 7/2/14: Some further data from RDA continues to make a compelling case for GSE over TTO. RDA’s yeast experiment update

Regan is a New England native now living in Colorado with her husband and two sons. She is committed to living greener and is an advocate of cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, and intuitive parenting. She loves to read, cook, bake, write, and explore her new mountain home.

If you liked this post you might like these

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers


    • Regan says

      I got mine on Amazon. I have heard that Sprouts carries it if you have one near you and Whole Foods might carry it. I’ll have to check both of those next time I go. Smaller independent health food stores and vitamin shops might have it too

  1. Kimberlie says

    No Sprouts or Whole Foods near me… I’ll have to order it online. Thanks for the post. Yeast and I are at odds once again and since we are using cloth this time, I just wondering yesterday how to make sure it stays away. Thanks for the timely post!

  2. Rhiana says

    I have never used jock itch cream for a yeast rash. You need to use the same stuff as monistat for a yeast rash. Jock itch is ringworm. Yeast is candida which needs to be treated with Monistat or something similar…miconozoale nitrate.

    • Regan says

      That will work too but clotrimazole works just as well as it is an antifungal. My son is prone to yeast rashes and we have treated several with clotrimazole with wonderful results. Clotrimazole can also be used to treat vaginal yeast infections but the package says ringworm, etc on it :)

    • Regan says

      I’ve only used bleach one time in a fit of desperation when we kept getting nasty rashes over and over again. It turns out that I just needed a new detergent :)

    • Regan says

      I have used OxiClean on pockets, microfiber, natural fibers, prefolds, etc and haven’t had any issues at all. I don’t use it for every load, but once in a while I do.

  3. jamie says

    thanks for this detailed list of how to treat yeast. we haven’t had to battle that (yet!) but it’s good to know that there is something very specific and tried and true that i can reference if i ever need too. thanks!

  4. l bliss says

    Has anyone tried organic coconut oil for treating yeast? My son has had, what I thought was a little heat rash on his bottom (it’s getting hot here in FLA and my son sweats). I noticed that the rash flares up if he sits in a wet diaper too long. I change him every 1.5-2 hours and it starts to heal up nicely. But my husband will let him go hours in a soggy diaper and it comes right back!. We sent our son to the sitter and she said it looks like yeast. She said organic coconut oil should clear it up. Just wondering if anyone has tried this. I’m sure we will need to get a pack of disposables to treat it. Thanks for the info, I am going to order some GSE off Amazon and do our diapers just for precaution. I am hoping this works. Seems everyone’s a skeptic these days. Something doesn’t need to be ‘scientific’ in order to work. These are tried and true remedies that have been used for years. I wonder, too, if my son is getting a reaction to the BumGenius 4.0’s we bought 2 months ago. We just switched from prefolds to the BG pockets and this is a new rash for him.

    • Regan says

      There are some babies that are bothered by the suedecloth lining in bumGenius diapers so it’s a possibility. You could try a few diapers with microfleece or bamboo to see of that is your problem.

      Re: coconut oil, there are a lot of people who swear by it for yeast and it’s supposed to be a fungicide. For us it was too slow to start working so we went right to anti fungal creams since we had open sores, too. It’s definitely worth a try though.

      • lb says

        Thanks for your response! Yes, I am a first-time mother, so when this baby sitter swore up and down that my son had a yeast rash (because she battled yeast with her daughter…) I got worried. Come to find out, this mother left my son in a diaper for about 6 hours. I did get the coconut oil but my son may have had an allergy to it. I feel that 6 hours in any diaper is going to cause problems. My solution–fire the baby sitter! Shame on any ‘baby-sitter’ who is above changing diapers! The rash healed up just fine after I let him air out. I do think you are right about the BGs. He did get used to the lining on the BG pockets but I usually put a MF insert on top now. Thanks Again!

        • lb says

          I also wanted to say that, around this time, my son began to develop these white patches on his tongue. He had just taken a course of amoxicillin for a nasty respiratory infection. But about a week later, and around the same time he went to the sitter, these patches developed. I thought for sure it was yeast. The doctor laughed and said geographic tongue! It did, however, look exactly like the thrush photos I saw on the internet. Geographic tongue is no fun and has no real “cure” except to rule out food, etc that irritate it. But there certainly are other conditions that may need to be ruled out.

  5. Rebecca Shaffer says

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the updated testing on yeast infection and cloth diapering. We are battling our first infection since switching to cloth diapers and I followed your protocol last week after my DD’s rash was gone. And unfortunately It came back. :( I came back here today to read through your recommendations again because I was sure I did something wrong. I was BEYOND THRILLED to see your update from last week and to be able to actually read exactly what to do and what test results were. It was tremendously helpful! I’m following updated protocol now, and praying for a yeast free bottom and yeast free diapers, naturally.

    • Regan says

      Yeast is a nasty beast for sure. My original post worked for us in our machine at the time but water type and levels very well could affect how well it will work. I like that the RDA is testing in a standard top loader because, in theory, the amount they use should work for everyone :)