written by
Heather Tobin

Name That Stain! Strange stains and how to treat them.

resources cloth diapering 5 min read

Everyone has had a weird stain at one point or another. Whether it’s on clothes, or upholstery or carpet, you’ve probably at least once questioned how something got there. Well, as a parent that only gets worse. A lot of parents will find themselves scratching and sniffing stains or sometimes even a good old taste test will do. Let me tell you, that is a gamble.

Sniff test is a parental go-to

Brick-red stains

You might come across inserts or diaper stains that are brick red or reddish brown. This can be disconcerting especially if you have a younger baby who hasn't started solids yet and you have no idea where this stain could be coming from.

I remember the first time I saw my little guy’s cloth inserts stained brick red and while I didn't worry about it being blood (as it was clearly not) I could not for the life of me figure out where it had come from.

I did hours of research to find one hidden comment in the bowels of a forum by a mom who said the stain could be caused by baby Tylenol. Rejoice! I had in fact given my little Baby Tylenol as he was in the throes of teething. Pain. Fever. Overall crankiness. You know what I'm talking about.

(Gif from Buzzfeed)

Now while this kind soul answered the what of it, I had no answer for the why?
So here I am today to do just that! After much research I found out about Urate Crystals.

Urate crystals (commonly called "brick stain" by doctors) are a combination of calcium and urate, two substances normally found in urine. Most people will see this in breast or chest fed newborn babies as these crystals are often the cause of dehydration and newborns are drier as they wait for a caregiver’s milk to come in.

Urate crystals also can be seen in older babies and children. “This often indicates some level of dehydration, which can result from occurrences such as fever, a reduced number of feedings or volume of human milk or formula, or a shift to warmer weather.”

Medication can also cause an influx in these crystals so I often got these stains anytime I used Baby Tylenol.

While these stains can fade over time and multiple washings I found it helped move things along to sun them. Harnessing the power of the sun does wonders for stains. As any granny or cloth diapering parent will tell you.

Simply wash your item, and while its still damp, leave it in the sun to dry and VOILA! Stain gone. (If your stain is really stubborn this might take a few tries). Just re-dampen your item and lay back out or hang in the sun.*

Small Black Stains

Small black stains can be one of a few things.

1) Grease

Sometimes your washing machine can leak grease onto your clothes or diapers. As your washing machine is built up of a motor and transmission it requires grease to keep the parts properly lubricated. Over time the rubber seals that keep that stuff separate from your wash can break down.

If you start finding black spots on your clothes and you think it might be grease your first step to troubleshoot is to clean your washing machine drum. Overtime detergent and fabric softener can build up. By cleaning out your washing machine you can determine whether or not the marks are from build-up or something else.

Who knows what you’ll find in there!

If you have an agitator consult your owner’s manual as that’s a trickier job. Sometimes you’ll just see a buildup of dirt. You can clean that out and re-install your agitator. If you see motor oil then you’ll have to decide on calling a washing machine repair company or consider buying a new machine.

As for your fabrics that have grease stains, you can take Dawn and a small toothbrush and scrub the grease out and then thoroughly rinse the fabric.

2) Mold

Mold can appear like small black spots. If you suspect it’s mold the only way to kill spores and prevent them from spreading is using bleach. Check out Delight’s Knowledge Base for instructions and ratios on bleaching your diapers (or other products).

Mold must be treated with bleach. Photo credit - K Rachelle

3) Banana Stains

For toddlers just starting to eat solid foods, bananas are a fan favorite. They're soft, easy to mash and swallow and as a finger food, they’re easy for chubby baby hands to hold. What they’re also notorious for are leaving you with impossible stains. A lot of people often mistake banana stains for mold, which drives fear in the heart of cloth diapering parents.

Photo Cred - S Rodz

Banana might seem unassuming, all soft and nutritious and light in colour, however these deceiving delectables dry dark and you are left with a hideously stubborn stain that is often mistaken for mold.

While preventative measures work best (rinsing banana from clothes, bibs and diapers before letting it dry) once the stain is set, some Dawn dish soap and an old tooth brush and vigorous scrubbing can help. Some people swear by Oxiclean as well, but do your due diligence and if on cloth diapers, check with your product’s washing directions to make sure you don’t void any warranty.

Always check a product’s washing instructions to avoid kissing your warranty goodbye. Find Lil Helper’s warranty info here.

Stains are abundant when you have kids or pets but there are numerous ways to take care of even the weirdest ones.

What’s the hardest stain you’ve ever removed? What’s your tried and tested stain removal method?

*Please note that while sunning can have quite an effect on stains it is important that when sunning PUL it not lay in direct sunlight in excessive temperatures as this can damage PUL which can render a product useless and void a warranty. Even sunning through a window can be effective.


About the Author

Heather is a STAHWM who lives in St. John’s NL. where she’s raising two humans, two dogs, a cat and a fish. In between chasing her hooligans and waiting for her Hogwarts letter, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and campy 80’s horror flicks.


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