Cotton Prefolds and Yeast: Initial Results

Cotton Prefolds and Yeast: Initial Results

Project intern, Liam, running tests under the oversight of Liz, our volunteer microbiologist.

A few months ago, the Real Diaper Association began our first phase of scientific experiments designed to determine the best way to treat cloth diapers in the presence of a yeast infection.  

We have been fortunate to work with a fantastic team of volunteers, including two prominent mycologists, one specifically studying Candida albicans at her university lab, a (cloth diapering) microbiologist, and a high school intern who has eagerly learned the ins and outs of sterile technique and working with yeast.

Since we've gotten a lot of questions about our status, I decided to share our initial results, with the expectation that we'll continue to publish interim updates as we learn more.

1. First, we put yeast on a number of cloth diaper samples using a variety of application methods, then ran them through a series of washing processes.

Sometimes we applied the yeast to wet or dry diapers directly from the plates they were growing on. Sometimes we applied them in a solution of apple juice-sweetened oatmeal to approximate a fecal medium on which yeast might grow in diapers. We left the diapers in containers to mimic diaper pail conditions and washed them at various temperatures with and without detergent, sometimes drying and sometimes retesting them right out of the washing machine.

No yeast grew on any plates that had been swabbed with cleaned diapers.

2. Based on those results, we needed to figure out if we were using enough yeast to make it through the dilution expected in the washing machine.  Therefore, we calculated the ratio of yeast to water and tried to play with the dilution levels in test tubes.

Here we had no problem growing yeast even further diluted than expected in a washing machine, meaning that the amount of yeast we were using was, in fact, sufficient.

These results lead to the conclusion that live yeast does not remain on 100% cotton prefolds through a wash cycle.

It IS possible that yeast remains on other cloth diapering fabrics.  And there are a number of further tests we're planning, as described in our initial project outline.  

To learn more, or to support our work by helping us procure the additional materials necessary to continue to run the tests, please visit the project webpage.

- Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association


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  • Aug 02, 2013
Thank you for doing this experiment. It confirms my decision to use exclusively 100% cotton prefolds.

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