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Our son is 17 months old and has been in cloth diapers since he was 1 month old. About two months ago he got blisters on his penis. The doctor said it was a bacterial infection and to put triple antibiotic ointment on it. We used disposables during this time and it cleared up. When we switched back to cloth, the blisters returned. Since then we have stripped the cloth diapers, switch detergents, and stripped again. He is okay when wearing them after being stripped but the blisters return whenever we do a plain wash. Both detergents we have tried are on the approved detergent list provided by the diaper manufacturer.

I hate the thought of switching to disposables but I don't know of another way to avoid blisters. (Anytime he wears disposables, no blisters.) Any ideas or suggestions?

A little more information regarding our situation that may help with answers. We used Planet Ultra for over a year, then switched to Rockin' Green. We only wash the diapers with these detergents (no clothing). He hasn't gotten any rashes or blisters anywhere except his penis. We don't use any ointment when he is in cloth diapers.


"stripped" means a wash with Dawn soap and liquid bleach followed by numerous rinses.

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    It sounds like he's having a reaction against the detergents. Have you tried other detergents, besides the two you mention? You could also try to make your own. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 28 '11 at 5:58
  • How does he go if you wash without detergent? Certainly you can't do that permanently, but you may be able to stretch out the time between sripping. – Hand-E-Food Jul 28 '11 at 12:14
  • Which detergents are you trying? Maybe it's a particular ingredient that he is reacting to. If they have the same ingredients, then you could look for one that doesn't have whatever it is that he is reacting to. Is he not getting any rashes or anything elsewhere from his clothes? When you switched to cloth, did you still use the prescribed ointment? – Swati Jul 28 '11 at 18:19
  • The question, and several of the answers, seem to presume that cloth is preferred if possible. I would like to see some support for that presumption. Anyone care to explain, either in an answer or in an edit to the question? I saw the question talking about the relative cost, but what about other issues such as environmental impact and convenience. – tomjedrz Sep 8 '11 at 17:51
  • @tomjedrz-- agreed. The assumption that they are better for the environment is false (skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/5614/…). Cloth causes more water waste, disposable more solid waste. But I think that cloth gives you more Parent Points, so you can brag about how awesome of a parent you are (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/never-mom-enough) – mmr May 13 '12 at 0:14
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You seem to have tried everything short of making your own detergent, and yet cloth diapers = blisters, disposable = no blisters. Seems a done deal to me.

Although we use disposables, if we had the same experience but the other way around, I'd switch to cloth diapers in the blink of an eye.

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  • Is there an upside to using cloth? – user606723 Aug 3 '11 at 19:43
  • @user606723: It generates less trash so it's probably better for the environment, and it is cheaper, especially if you can reuse them for a second child, I hear. – Lennart Regebro Aug 3 '11 at 20:15
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    Be careful with that assumption. Cloth diapers must be washed with detergent, which isn't great for the environment. If this is the reason for using cloth, then do some research and see what others are saying about cloth vs disposable. Sometimes the "obvious" choice isn't so obvious. I'm not saying disposable is better, but you should definitely look into it. – Graham Aug 31 '11 at 12:17
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    Which is why I said "probably". :-) Making a disposable diaper is likely to use a lot of chemicals compared to a bit of detergent. But I haven't done a full study, so I don't know for sure. – Lennart Regebro Aug 31 '11 at 13:18
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    There is also a school of thought which claims that cloth diapers are better because they are less absorbent--the idea being that a less comfortable diaper encourages potty training. But in any case, I would tend to agree that even if disposable diapers are evil, penis blisters are more evil. I would be very hesitant to continue experimenting... what if instead of a detergent that he's less allergic to, you find one he's even more allergic to? – philosodad May 23 '12 at 2:13
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This is a tough call, since your son is suffering but it definitely seems like it is a detergent issue due to the fact that it doesn't happen after you strip them.

Both of the detergents you have used are listed as 5 stars in this list of cloth diaper detergents but that doesn't mean much. It may take trying several different detergent types to get one that your son tolerates and the more "eco" doesn't always mean better in this case.

I am not sure how much detergent you are adding but typically 1/4th the normal amount is the maximum (especially if you have a water softener). You should also add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This helps remove the alkali detergent. You can easily add the vinegar with a "Downy Fabric Softener Ball".

Good luck.

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How often do you change him? If he is getting blisters from with Cloth, I would switch to disposable especially if he is not getting blisters. Have you tried using something else like Dreft? Last, but not least, what about asking your pediatrician?

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