There’s a lingering recommendation in the cloth diaper community that a few drops of tea tree oil will remove yeast in cloth diapers. We are not aware of any study showing that tea tree oil is effective in removing yeast from cloth diapers when used in a washing machine in very low concentrations.
We do know that tea tree oil has been studied as an effective remedy for a few common human ailments including acne and athletes foot. In the published studies I uncovered, effective treatment involved a concentrated topical solution ranging from 5-100% concentration. To achieve this concentration in a laundry environment might require anywhere from 2 cups – 1 gallon of tea tree oil depending on the size of your washing machine. The health of your washing machine aside, tea tree oil costs approximately $200 / gallon, rendering high concentrations in your laundry neither affordable or practical. Oils can be challenging to remove from fabrics. Lingering residue from tea tree oil in your cloth diapers may cause contact dermatitis in your baby’s skin and may also create repelling or absorbency issues with your cloth diapers.
My own babies have had several rounds with yeast. Elsie had it when she was a newborn and then got it again when she was two. When she was two, her rash cultured positive for both yeast and strep and required treatment with antibiotics and Nystatin before her skin returned to normal. In both cases, the rash was severe enough that I chose to use disposables until the rash was gone. Based on the advice of my pediatrician, before we started using cloth diapers again, I washed my clean diapers in a normal wash cycle and added 1/4 cup of bleach; making sure to rinse well. In our home, this was effective.
If your child has a yeast-related rash and you’re wondering how to launder your cloth diapers to effectively remove yeast, please seek the advice of your child’s medical care provider.
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