Baby’s Sick! Do I Need to Bleach?

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By Melony Grace (registered nurse) and Meri Mackey (physician assistant)

Oh No! My Kiddo is Sick!

If your baby is sick, we know your first concern is getting to the doctor and getting your child proper medical treatment. But once the popsicles, prescriptions, and pillow pets are in order, you need to know how to take care of the cloth diapers. Certain illnesses will require bleaching diapers to fully eradicate, while some just require washing in hot water. Some illnesses, especially those which are viral, do not require any special laundry treatment whatsoever. As with any medical question, your first resource should be your doctor. However, since many doctors are still unfamiliar with cloth diapers, we have put together a resource you can use to determine whether or not your diapers need special treatment.

Do I need to bleach for ___________________________?

We here at Fluff Love are frequently asked about diaper care and specific illnesses.  Although we recommend consulting with your doctor or healthcare professional for diagnosis and medical care for your baby, here are some general guidelines for caring for your cloth diapers.  Please ask your healthcare professional if you feel you have special circumstances in your home like a  new infant, immunocompromised individuals, or other medical conditions.

Disease/Condition Bleach?
Influenza/Flu or Flu-type Symptoms No, viral in nature
Enterovirus, Norovirus No, viral in nature
Oral Thrush (present in oral mucosa ONLY) No
Chicken Pox (Varicella) No
Vaccines (Any, including live or oral) No
Impetigo and Skin Strep Yes
Ring Worm (Tinea) Yes, fungal pathogen
Yeast Yes, fungal pathogen
Pinworms Parasite, Hot water wash with detergent
C-Diff (Clostridium difficile colitis) Yes, bacterial in nature
Rotavirus (active diagnosed, not vaccine) No, viral in nature
MRSA and other Staph Hot water wash with detergent
Hand, Foot and Mouth (Coxsackie) No, viral in nature
Measles (Rubeola) No, viral in nature
e. Coli Yes
Salmonella Yes
Cryptosporidium Yes
Giardia Yes
Listeria Yes
Scabies Parasite, Hot water wash with detergent
Lice Parasite, Hot water wash with detergent

According to the CDC,  “In the home, normal washing and drying cycles including “hot” or “cold” cycles are adequate to ensure patient safety. Instructions of the manufacturers of the machine and the detergent or wash additive should be followed closely.”What does hot water wash mean?

If you are unable to wash on hot in your machine, you can hand-wash in hot water in your sink or using the camp washer method. If this is not an option, bleach may be used instead.

How do I bleach?

Refer to our page on How to Bleach Your Cloth Diapers, and check out this quick-reference graphic! Remember to follow your 30 minute bleach soak with bleach added to each load of diaper laundry for two weeks after symptoms disappear. Our yeast infection quick reference with specific wash instructions is also provided below!

If you have iron hard water, and cannot use bleach, check out our page on How to Sanitize Without Bleach.



Ring worm:


Others: (specifics regarding water temp and laundry)