How Do I Wash Cloth Diapers after a Yeast/Thrush Infection?

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A popular question for any user of cloth diapers, not just for  Lil Helper is: How do you clean cloth diapers which have come into contact with thrush or more commonly known as yeast infection?

First things first.

What is Thrush?

Thrush’s $50 name is actually candidiasis, a fungal infection of Candida- a type of yeast. Some of you may know this better as a yeast infection, while others use the term “thrush.” 

However you say it, candidiasis spells bad news for cloth diapers and, of course, the baby who wears them.

Cloth Diaper Thrush - Courtesy of By KGH (Personal collection of histopathologic slides) courtesy of Wiki Commons

Photo of Esophageal candidiasis By KGH (Personal collection of histopathologic slides) courtesy of Wiki Commons

How Did My Little One Get Thrush?

Thrush often occurs after your baby or you, a breast-feeding mother, finished a round of antibiotics. 

While the antibiotics will do their job of killing off other problem bacteria, perhaps an infection, it will also take down the good bacteria which keeps your body’s naturally occurring thrush-killers strong. 

Without  candidiasis’s natural predators in place, thrush or yeast, thrives and voila! sinus infection cured but now you and your breast-fed baby have a yeast infection.

You know you are dealing with thrush when there is a bum or groin rash which is raised, beefy looking, and could even have some open sores. 

For oral thrush, you will see white pasty splotches on your baby’s tongue or other parts of your baby’s mouth which, when rubbed, may turn red and bleed. 

If your baby has thrush in the mouth you can bet your baby’s bum it will be there too!

Thrush can occur orally, vaginally, on nipples, finger and toenails, and frankly any skin surface. 

And as you may know: fungi love warm and moist creased places like little your baby bottoms, mouths & vaginas.

This fungi may be living on your diapers and inserts before you see any evidence of it on you or your baby.

And it may well still be there after rash is gone the first time, thus infecting your baby again. So cleaning those diapers effectively is critical!

Steps to Eliminate Thrush/ Yeast

  • Get the cloth off the bum! If you’re like me this is hard to do, we love our cloth. But cloth diapers can hold onto the yeast for longer than anything and every time you put it back on your baby’s bum the yeast will be in contact with the skin. The infection will thrive. You can use organic disposables OR put a piece of fabric between the diaper (a disposable/flushable liner) and the bum to make a barrier but make sure you throw that piece of fabric out, don’t use the same liner twice.

  • Treat your baby’s skin. Use something natural first to see if it helps before jumping into hardcore anti-fungal creams like Canesten. I love using coconut oil to treat my daughters yeast infection and it seems pretty effective. You can also use a baking soda/ vinegar bath. Use ½ cup of distilled white vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda. The baking soda will calm the itchiness and the vinegar will give the yeast a kick to the curb. Also my daughter’s favourite way of getting rid of her thrush is by spending lots of time “in the buff”. Yes it is messy but the air and sunlight will help HUGE!

  • Use Lil Helper's Charcoal Diaper: The anti-microbial qualities of charcoal have helped a lot of moms cure cloth diaper rash and I am sure you can benefit from it too. As a bonus, when using our stay dry charcoal inserts, your baby's skin stays completely dry taking away the yeast's feeding source- moisture. Our charcoal diaper is the next best thing to keeping your baby roaming around nekkid.

  • Strip your diapers! There are various ways to do this. I use a stripping formula by Rockin’ Green and do an overnight soak in that formula. I then wash the diapers in a heavy HOT wash with no detergent and then another heavy HOT wash with some detergent and add in an extra rinse. I should add that HOT water will disinfect better than cold water. Yes it can compromise your covers which have a heat treated layer of PUL, but for the very few times your diaper will have hot water exposure I think they should be ok. Washing in cold water is not very effective to get rid of yeast. Doing the hot wash is, in the case of yeast, the greater good and worth the risk.

  • MOST IMPORTANT: Sit your diapers in the sun. The UV rays from the sun kill the yeast on the diaper and will help battle this problem.

If none of the above helps your situation then I strongly suggest using a topical anti-fungal treatment like Canesten cream or Monistat cream on the affected areas.

As always: If you are uncertain of the origin or nature of a rash, consult your doctor (and by that I don’t mean just Dr. Google).

If your child has oral thrush, your doctor may give you a prescription for Gentian Violet (in many places, a prescription is not required), which will kill the thrush but can ruin clothing and dye your child’s face bright violet! Gentian Violet can cause irritation in skin folds and (rarely) allergic reactions. 

Please consult a medical professional for more information before using Gentian Violet for the first time.

Best wishes on your battle with Thrush!!

PS: Despite popular mythology, chlorine bleach does NOT kill everything. And in particular, bleach will NOT kill Thrush except in high concentrations. Spores are mighty hard to take down!

Feature photo courtesy of By KGH (Personal collection of histopathologic slides) [GFDL ( http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons: Wiki Commons

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