What do I need to do to fight a yeast infection with cloth diapers?
Avoiding a yeast infection
A yeast infection is no fun and studies show that any diaper rash that has lasted for over 3 days likely has been complicated by yeast. To avoid this at the first signs of redness try to change your baby's diapers more frequently and schedule a little diaper free time. This should allow the skin to recover.
Another unfortunate reality is that if a baby or a nursing mother is put on antibiotics it is often followed by a bout of diaper rash caused by an overgrowth of yeast. It may be best, when antibiotics are introduced, to just treat your babies bottom and have a ready line of defense against a yeast overgrowth.
Remember yeast and bacteria are all over our skin and cause us little issue until the point where they become imbalanced or the skin becomes compromised. Work to keep the skin healthy. Change diapers frequently. Wash with water after each diaper change. Urine changes the ph of the skin and makes it less prepared for the moment of poo. I did think it was neat to learn that a breastfed baby's pee is less acidic than a formula fed baby's pee.1
A yeast infection is better dealt with right away as yeast likes to multiply. Yeast also has the ability to mutate and so a remedy that worked in the past may not work as well now. You may need to mix things up a bit.
It is recommended you wash hands before changing the diaper and after changing the diaper. All rash creams should be put onto a clean applicator and then put on the child not used directly on the child during a yeast infection. Applicator would then need to be thoroughly washed or discarded.
Traditional treatment recommended by your doctor will include using some sort of cream or lotion at each diaper change, Nystatin and Lotrimin are favorites. These treatments may not be suitable for the synthetic stay-dry linings of the modern cloth diaper. Most parents will choose to protect the area by using disposable diaper liners or a folded cloth wipe.
- If disposable diaper liners are used, care should be taken to make sure they are large enough to cover the entire diaper and that the rash cream isn't seeping through. Liners should be discarded after use not washed with diapers for reuse.
- If you use a folded cloth wipe, the wipe will need to be washed separate than your diapers and still treated to effectively kill the yeast.
- This may be a time when you consider using a disposable diapering product until the yeast clears up. The new disposable liners from Flip or GroVia would be good options here. Of course choosing a diaper that is free of dyes, dioxins and as many chemicals as you can is a good idea You don't want a third factor irritating the yeast and prolonging the problem. And be sure to properly treat your cloth diapers before reuse.
- Also, during this time it is advisable not to use any chemical wipes. Apparently, there are ingredients in the traditional disposable wipes that is able to feed yeast. Not your goal, I think.
Homeopathic treatment of a yeast infection will also take into concern the likelihood of thrush. In other words the baby may have and overgrowth of yeast in the mouth and diaper area and the breastfeeding mother may be affected by yeast on her breast and nipples. Tea tree oil and Grapefruit Seed Extract are predominate recommendations with gentian violet and colloidal silver also being considered effective. A great article on the use of Grapefruit Seed Extract for treating thrush is a good place to start. This article recommends making a solution of 10-20 drops of GSE to 1 ounce of distilled water to either spray or swab onto baby at each diaper change.;
Gentian violet can stain the skin purple as well as clothes including diapers.
To use Tea Tree Oil topically, you should mix the essential oil with at least two tablespoons of oil, such as olive oil or coconut oil, before applying.
Virgin Coconut Oil is also used topically to kill off yeast and restore skin. I have used this by applying a thin coat to the affected area and gently rubbing it into the skin. I apply this to any redness that isn't cleared up within two diaper changes.
Do not use Petroleum Jelly or Cornstarch when dealing with a yeast infection. Both of these will feed the yeast.
One aspect that isn't mentioned in many articles dealing with a yeast infection is that you will want to continue treating for a yeast infection for a time period after the symptoms have cleared to completely eradicate the problem and avoid a re-occurrence.
Treating Baby's Diapers
If your child is diagnosed with or you suspect a yeast infection your diapers, wipes, covers will need to be treated to kill lingering yeast after each use. Anything that comes in contact with baby's bottom needs to be treated for killing the yeast each and every time after use.
We have an extensive section describing ways to Sanitize the Laundry. What we just hadn't thought about is that all sanitizers may not be effective against yeast a fungi. And yeast isn't an easy thing to kill either since it can repair itself. Apparently, the UV rays of the sun will not kill off yeast because it can repair itself much like our skin would recover from a sun burn. So sunning your diapers will not be effective for killing off yeast.
We will relist some methods from the Sanitizing Laundry List here and apply them directly to killing yeast.
Choices for Washing Diapers Effectively Against Yeast
: Yeast will effectively be killed at temperatures above 122º F Check your manufacturer's washing instructions first. If it is ok to wash in hot, you may need to turn your water heater up prior to laundry, if so be careful to restore the temperature to safe levels after washing. Also you will want to use a thermometer to determine the water temp at the washing machine or a faucet farther away than the washing machine. Following this hot washby drying in a hot dryer is a good idea if it is within the bounds of the manufacturer's washing care instructions. This method may be ineffective if you have a modern washer that throws hot and then cold water on the clothing intermittently while filling.
Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach)
: is one of the most common forms for disinfecting laundry. With all the varieties of bleach on the market today be sure to check the label for the one that kills germs. Not all are rated for germ killing, because they are not all Sodium Hypochlorite. Diapers should be washed free of any poo before chlorine bleach is used since feces can inactivate its disinfectant properties. Chlorine Bleach is effective against fungi (yeast), bacteria and algae but not spores. Chlorine bleach is considered most effective when used with cold water. Chlorine bleach can harm stainless steel washer drums so check with your washers manufacturer before use, if you have a stainless steel washing drum. Generally 1/4th of a cup of bleach is used for a full size load. Use a bleach dispenser or if unavailable begin by filling the washing machine part way with cold water add bleach, move dial to agitation, agitate a minute, move dial back to fill, add diapers, finish filling and complete the cycle as normal. It is best to choose a detergent void of optical brighteners when using bleach.
Oxygenated Bleaches/Non Chlorine Bleach (Sodium Percarbonate)
: is effective against bacteria and fungal yeast, and can be used at lower temperatures but is considered " more effective when used in hot water 130º F."(2) Concentrations for effective disinfecting are not documented. Some oxygenated bleaches are loaded with other additives. We suggest you read your labels well and find one without fillers and fragrance and that has a high percentage of Sodium Percarbonate. Seventh Generation makes a product that looks good. Realize that use of Sodium Percarbonate will act as a water softener so less detergent will probably be needed compared to your regular usage.
Stabilized Hydrogen Peroxide
: effective against viruses, vegetative bacteria, fungi and bacterial spores. Concentrations for effectiveness are not documented.
Pine Oil Cleaners
: I can't seem to find much information on using this with laundry except that it can be done and it is considered a disinfectant. Our mothers and grandmothers could have used it in our wet diaper pails instead of chlorine bleach. One thing that does pop up is its ability to aggravate asthma.
: Useful as stain removers and are very selective to the type of stains per the type of enzyme. Research in this area is still new but here is what I have gathered both protease enzymes and cellulases enzymes would be needed for combating yeast. The use of enzymes alone may not be enough to sufficiently eliminate yeast in laundering. (Protease is the same group of enzymes that attack protein and could cause skin issues if left in the fabric.)
Grapefruit Seed Extract
: Seems to be a good choice when dealing with a yeast infection and should be effective against bacteria as well. Here is an easy read article along with directions for use when dealing with yeast. The plan is to add 10-20 drops in the final rinse cycle when washing. This would be a great follow up to an already hot 122º+ F wash cycle. Using a downy ball will make it so you don't have to sit and babysit your machine waiting for a rinse cycle.
Tea Tree Oil
: Is considered antibacterial and antifungal. Care should be used for proper use since high concentrations can harm the skin. When purchasing do choose a good grade with ingredients listed at least 35% Terpinen 4-ol and less than 10% Cineole. I can't find an easy to read article describing the how of using tea tree oil for disinfecting laundry. Of course there is the concern regarding potential estrogenic effects from the tea tree oil. So do some research if this is the route you want to go. I wonder about its efficacy when used in a large tub of water. Also it has been reported to cause issues with the modern synthetic diapers. This would ideally follow an already hot 122º+ F wash cycle. Using a downy ball will make it so you don't have to sit and babysit your machine waiting for a rinse cycle.
: is not tested by the FDA but claims exist that it will prevent the growth of bacteria, fungus (yeast) and viruses. Its suggested usage is in the final rinse water. Again how much would be needed in the final rinse for effectively disinfecting diapers is not known. This would ideally follow an already hot 122º+ F wash cycle. Using a downy ball will make it so you don't have to sit and babysit your machine waiting for a rinse cycle.
Other Concerns in Relationship to a Diaper Rash Yeast Infection
What about Vinegar? Isn't it effective in killing yeast in the wash?
The best we could come up with was that it may affect the cell wall of the yeast and make it more susceptible to the heat of the dryer. This claim had no scientific backing though. On further research it seemed that vinegar in the rinse would be more problematic than helpful when dealing with yeast. Vinegar can feed yeast and encourage its growth as is demonstrated in bread making. Another factor is that yeast seems to be able to adapt and become tolerant to acetic acid (vinegar is 5% acetic acid) in some situations.3
What about Yeast Spores? Will they reinfect?
After all this work, you ask about yeast spores. Well let me back up and discuss that a yeast infection is an overgrowth of yeast and that yeast is normally present in limited quantities on our skin including or baby's diaper area. Budding is the general multiplication of yeast and in ideal conditions yeast can duplicate itself by budding in 20 minutes.4 Budding is the general cause of the yeast overgrowth not the spores. Why does this matter. Well, yeast spores are not harmed by bleach or by high heat or low heat or a number of other methods we have discussed. Spores can lie dormant for indeterminate amount of time until a good environment presents itself. What we need to learn from this is that it is not enough to eliminate the colonization of a yeast overgrowth, it is equally important to build up the immune system so that the body maintains a yeast/bacterial balance.
This web page is designed to give you an easy list of choices with just a smidgen of information to equip you to do a bit more research to determine what will meet your needs in your particular situation best. This article is not designed to be all inclusive list or even judgment with recommendations as to what products will work better than others.
Realize that the EPA regulates what products can be marketed as a disinfectant or a sanitizer. A product may posses properties to reduce or eliminate bacteria, virus, fungi, etc without having applied for the EPA's disinfectant/sanitizing classification. Truly, no disinfectant or sanitizer can claim removal of all pathogens. If this level of cleanliness is required you are pretty much left with choosing an autoclave process for washing your cloth diapers.