Thrush & cloth nappies: dealing with yeast infections
Thrush or yeast infections are not fun!
While you're treating your child for a thrush/yeast nappy rash, it's also important to treat your nappies as candida albicans can stay in clothing/nappies. The most important thing (apart from getting a diagnosis from your doctor so you're treating the right problem!) is to continue to treat the thrush as long as necessary and whenever it appears. Thrush doesn't necessarily recur because the baby is being reinfected from their nappies - if the balance of the body's natural bacteria isn't restored and maintained, then thrush can reappear no matter the type of nappy.
The bummer is that thrush can reoccur at any time, and for many reasons, once the yeast is in your system. About 80% of us live with candida albicans in our system (usually from when we were babies) - it's just sometimes it overgrows, which is when problems occur. Your doctor should be able to help you with strategies to restore balance to your child's gut if you have recurring issues.
The Real Diaper Industry Association in the US (it's a cloth nappy industry body) is currently studying thrush/yeast and cloth nappies. They've only just started but the initial finding when they tested cotton prefolds (they haven't got to other fabrics/styles of cloth nappies yet), is that live yeast does not remain on cotton prefolds when washed at 60C degrees.
The Real Diaper Industry Association has also started preliminary testing of various laundry additives on several nappy fabrics (microfibre, hemp/cotton blend and suedecloth so far) to see what makes a difference to the colonisation of candida albicans. While chlorine bleach was shown to kill candida albicans, it was important to test other options, as bleach is not recommended for modern cloth nappies. The RDA have so far done early testing on Grapefruit Seed Extract, Tea Tree Oil and Oxygen Bleach. All fabrics tested showed much less colonisation of yeast when washed with any one of the additives (added to a wash cycle after the detergent), than nappies that were only washed in water (no detergent). It should be noted that the amounts of additives were quite large - several hundred drops per load based on the volume of the washing machine they used. There has also been no testing on the potential damage, if any, these quantities of additives could cause to the nappies. They also only used dryers - line drying hasn't been tested yet. The results so far are not conclusive - it was one series of tests carried out using a single washing machine - but it's a great basis for future research.
How to treat your nappies
Our general advice with regards to treating your cloth nappies during a thrush outbreak (and this may need to be repeated several time during the period your child is being treated) is:1. Run an empty wash cycle as hot as your machine goes (mine goes to 90deg) to clean out your machine of fungal nasties/bacteria.
2. Wash your nappies on hot (60deg) and use anti fungal laundry rinse in the rinse cycle - it's probably a good idea to treat all your washing like this several times during treatment, as thrush can transfer between clothing/towels etc.
3. Line dry your nappies in the sun (it may not kill the thrush outright, but it's the antithesis of what thrush likes: places that are moist & dark).
4. Don't use cornstarch with your nappies - yeast feeds on it.
5. As much nappy free time as possible during the treatment period, and change more often than usual to cut down on the warm/moist environment that thrush loves.
6. Make sure your cleaned nappies are completely bone dry.
Sometimes it can also be a good idea to mix using cloth and disposable nappies - using disposables overnight can be helpful - but you have to play it by ear, as thrush can take a while to settle down. It's also quite common for parents to switch to disposable nappies for a few days while they treat the thrush - especially if it involved lots of antifungal cream.
If you are currently battling a thrush infection we hope it's over soon for you and your little one. If you need any advice regarding your cloth nappies, let us know. And, needless to say, if you have ongoing issues with rashes that are causing pain or discomfort please see your doctor.