How Do You Clean Up an Exploded Diaper? (Without Making a Mess!)

You go to take a quick peek at your baby while they sleep in their crib and see that their diaper has exploded right off of their body, leaving destruction and a huge mess. The contents of the diaper are now covering your baby’s body and bedding. Horrified, you wonder, how do you clean up an exploded diaper?

To clean up a mess from an exploded diaper, start by removing any fecal matter with wet wipes, flushing the poop down the toilet. Collect any large pieces of the exploded diaper and throw them in the trash. Using a hair dryer, melt the liquid inside any gel beads from the diaper.  Lastly, use a broom or wet/dry vacuum to collect the remainder.

Read on for more information about why diapers explode, how they are designed, and step-by-step guides for cleaning up the mess.

What happens when a diaper explodes?

Diapers have three layers: a soft inner layer, an absorbent core, and a plastic shell.

The soft inner layer made of wicking material that stays dry and sends any wetness into the core of the diaper. The middle layer is the absorbent core that contains crystals or gel beads. The outer layer of a diaper is the plastic shell of the diaper, which prevents leaks from traveling through the diaper.

Diapers explode when they are either too small for a baby or they are fully saturated, usually after many hours of wear. While diapers are designed to keep your baby dry, even the most absorbent diapers can reach their saturation limit.  

While there is some variation in diaper absorbency, the average diaper can hold about a quarter of a cup of liquid. The gel beads or crystals in your baby’s diaper can absorb up to thirty times their weight in liquid, and no more. If your baby has peed in excess of the absorption capacity of the gel or beads, the diaper will explode.

Are the gels or crystals in diapers toxic?

When you see the inside of your baby’s diaper, you’re likely to immediately be concerned that it will be dangerous.

The gel beads or crystals you see after your baby’s diaper explodes are made of sodium polyacrylate and are considered non-toxic. Some parents have reported their baby developing a rash due to contact allergy, however.

Diaper gel beads and crystals are considered to have minimal toxicity if consumed in small amounts. If your baby has consumed or ingested gel beads or crystals from their diaper, try to stay calm. Move your baby away from the diaper and gel beads or crystals. Wipe the inside of their mouth with a wet washcloth.

You can reach poison control for any state by calling the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (222) 222-1222 if you are concerned, or your baby ingested more than a few beads or crystals.

How do you dissolve diaper gel?

Some parents have found success with dissolving diaper gel beads by putting them into a bucket with about two cups of water and three tablespoons of salt. 

If you have gel beads in your washing machine, it is recommended that you do not put salt into your washing machine, as it will rust. It is also not a good idea to flush the gel beads or wash them down your shower drain or sink. They will swell and clog your drain and pipes.

How to clean up an exploded diaper

Once the initial shock from the disposable diaper explosion wears off, you watch, overwhelmed, as your baby whips a large chunk of their diaper across your living room.  Crystals are sticking to their bottom and poop from their diaper is smeared on the freshly washed sheet covering the mattress in their playpen. Overwhelmed, you wonder how to even start cleaning up.

Fortunately, even though the mess an exploded diaper creates is not for the faint of heart, it is fairly simple to clean up:

  1. Throw the intact remains of the diaper in the trash.
  2. Grab a pair of latex cleaning gloves and put them on.
  3. Using antibacterial cleaning wipes, wipe up any poop or urine.
  4. Flush the poop down the toilet and throw the cleaning wipes in the garbage.
  5. Grab a trash bag.
  6. Pick up as many large chunks of diaper material, and the crystals or gel beads as you can, and put them in the trash bag
  7. If you have one, use a wet/dry vac to vacuum up the remaining crystals or gel beads.
    • If you don’t have a wet/dry vac, you can use a hairdryer to dissolve the liquid in any gel beads and then use a broom to sweep them into a dustpan.
  8. Empty the dustpan into the trash.
  9. Spray a stain removing spray on any stains on furniture or carpeting and follow the instructions for use on the spray bottle.

How to clean a washing machine with an exploded diaper

Nothing is more shocking than opening up your washing machine to transfer your baby’s laundry to the dryer and finding little gel beads or crystals scattered all over the machine and the clothes inside of it. You realize that not only did you load up your washer with your baby’s clothes, but one of their diapers as well.

While the initial sight of the mess inside your washing machine might look like it will take hours to fix up, the steps to cleaning up from the exploded diaper in your washing machine are pretty simple.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning up your washing machine after a diaper exploded inside of it:

  1. Throw the diaper in the garbage.
  2. Remove the clothes from the washing machine.
  3. Grab a trash bag and throw out any large chunks of crystals, beads, or diaper material that you find.
  4. Use paper towels or rags to remove as many of the diaper crystals or beads from your washer as you can. (Don’t forget the sides of the washer!)
  5. Run the empty washer without adding detergent. Select cold water and the sanitary cycle or the quick setting on your washer.
  6. Once the cycle has ended, check if the washer is clear of crystals, beads, and any other diaper remnants.
  7. If you still see some crystals or beads, run the washer a second time on the same settings but this time add a cup of white vinegar.

How to clean clothes with diaper crystals on them

Discovering that your baby’s diaper can, and did, explode may be one of the most shocking and stressful moments for many new parents. Perhaps even more shocking is the huge mess made by the diaper crystals that burst free from the plastic lining of the diaper covering your baby’s clothes.

Luckily, cleaning diaper crystals is actually much easier than you might think:

  1. Remove the clothes from the washer.
  2. Take the clothes outside and shake the crystals off of each piece of clothing separately.
  3. Clean up the crystals with a broom or by using a dry vac.
  4. Load the clothes into the dryer and dry on your usual setting.
  5. Take the clothes out of the dryer and use a lint roller to remove any remaining crystals
  6. Empty the crystals from your dryer’s lint filter.

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