Diaper Rash Cream Ingredients and Cloth Diapers – What’s Safe and What’s Not [+ Dr. Smith’s Review]

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I tend to think that cloth diapers and all that comes with it is pretty easy since I’ve been doing it for so long (over 3 years now)! But then I remember how confusing it was at first and how difficult it was to sort through the tons of information found online. I think what I found the hardest was trying to find a diaper rash cream that was compatible with cloth diapers. I KNEW not to use certain ones, so I just went with one that said “cloth diaper safe” on the label. I didn’t ruin my diapers, but it didn’t really work either. So then I started looking at diaper rash cream ingredients. Just because something’s not labeled as cloth diaper safe, doesn’t mean that you can’t use it. Lets take a closer look at common diaper rash cream ingredients and cloth diapers below.

Diaper Rash Cream Ingredients and Cloth Diapers

Image Credit: Dvorak, Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (ian.umces.edu/imagelibrary/)

Diaper Rash Cream Ingredients and Cloth Diapers

Safe to Use: The following ingredients are generally considered safe to use with cloth diapers. They’ll create a barrier between your baby’s skin and the diaper, but are thin enough that they’ll wash out of your diapers when you wash them. In my opinion, they’re best used as a preventative to diaper rash by keeping the skin moisturized as opposed to actually clearing a rash you already have.

  • Coconut Oil: Acts a great moisturizer. Some people claim that coconut oil alone is a great diaper rash remedy. That’s not been the case in my experience.
  • Olive Oil: Another great skin moisturizer.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Moisturizes the skin. Grape seeds have high amounts of antioxidants, but little is found in extracted grapeseed oil. There’s also reports of grapeseed oil being anti-inflammatory, which could aid in reducing redness from diaper rash.
  • Jojoba Oil: A fungicide. Could be helpful for treating a fungal diaper rash.
  • Essential Oils: Lavender, Tea Tree, and Clary Sage are often added to diaper rash creams for their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-septic qualities.
  • Aloe Vera: The gel derived from this succulent plant is thought to be healing and soothing.
  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant and moisturizer.
  • Lanolin: Commonly used during the beginning stages of breastfeeding to help heal sore and cracked nipples, it can also be used to heal diaper rash. Although it’s a thicker consistency then other ingredients in this category – it washes away in hot water.
  • Beeswax: Works as a barrier between the skin and the diaper, but washes away easily.
  • Cocoa Butter: Another moisturizer.
  • Shea Butter: Again, another moisturizer, but with reported anti-inflammatory properties.

Use with Caution: Unlike the more natural ingredients above, these ones are for the most part synthetically derived or highly refined. Thicker than the ones above, some cloth diaper users report difficulty with washing them out and/or staining. Use either a very thin layer (don’t glop it on) and/or use a disposable liner. You can also choose to use a reusable liner as long as you wash separately from your cloth diapers.

  • Zinc Oxide: A long history of medicinal use, it acts as a barrier in diaper rash creams. There’s much debate about zinc oxide and cloth diapers. From personal use, I’ve had no problems using zinc oxide based diaper rash creams like Dr. Smiths (free for review) with my cloth diapers. I think it clears a diaper rash better than the above even when used sparingly.
  • Mineral Oil: A by-product in the production of petroleum (gasoline). Widely used in cosmetics and baby products, despite conflicting studies on it’s toxicology. It’s thicker than the oils above, so it may not wash out as well.
  • Paraffin Wax: Another derivative of petroleum. Acts as a lubricant.
  • Petrolatum: Again, a by-product of petroleum. Acts as an emollient and moisturizer. Along with mineral oil, it may be toxic to some degree.
  • Petroleum Jelly: A skin protectant derived from petroleum. It can seal an open wound and prevent germs from getting in but has no other medicinal effect.

Don’t Use:

  • Cod Liver Oil: Your diapers will smell like fish. Ew. May possibly cause repelling on your cloth diapers. If that’s not enough – most studies have shown it’s not effective in healing skin.
  • Calamine: A combination of zinc oxide and ferric oxide. You’re probably most familiar with it as calamine lotion for use with bug bites as it relieves itch, but it’s also found in several diaper rash creams. I’m not entirely sure it it will cause repelling, but it WILL stain your diapers pink.


I think it’s best to stick with a natural cloth diaper safe rash cream with ingredients from the safe category for preventative measures/light redness. If you’re dealing with anything worse than that – then I would recommend a zinc oxide based rash cream (like Dr. Smith’s – more info below) applied lightly. If you’re worried about repelling you can use a liner, but I’ve never experienced any.

Dr. Smith’s Diaper Ointment

Dr. Smith’s Diaper Rash Remedy is a new product to me, although it’s been around since 1963. Most likely because it had a local following in the area of it’s creator – San Antonio. Recently Dr. Smith’s was acquired by a larger company who has plans to make it a nationally available product. The just recently launched in Walgreens stores and online. Unfortunately, there’s no Walgreens in my area, so I would need to purchase Dr. Smith’s from Amazon where it has a 5 star rating.

Dr. Smiths - diaper rash cream ingredients and cloth diapers

Overall, I was impressed with it’s effectiveness at treating Haley’s diaper rash. We don’t often have one, but when we do – it’s pretty bad. Our diaper rashes stem from a lactose intolerance – anytime that she accidentally has dairy. Dr. Smith’s applied lightly to her bottom worked wonderful and left no damage to our cloth diapers despite several of the ingredients being in the “use with caution” category. It’s not greasy, goes on smooth, and has no odor.

My only concern is with 1 ingredient – thymol iodide. I’d never heard of it, so I had to look it up and the research on it is mixed. Thymol iodide is synthetically obtained from thyme oil and used as an anti-septic and anti-fungal. The Environmental Working Group has this ingredient listed as “fair” – there’s some reports of low toxicity and some countries that have it banned in cosmetics that are used around the mouth. I think there needs to be some more studies done, and it would be nice to see Dr. Smith’s come up with an alternative ingredient to use in it’s place.

Have you tried Dr. Smith’s? What diaper rash cream do you use with your cloth diapers? 

Buy it

You can purchase Dr. Smith’s Diaper Rash Ointment, like the one I reviewed, at Walgreens and on walgreens.com or Amazon for about $7-$10 depending on size and style (tube vs. jar).


Check out Dr. Smith’s on Facebook and Twitter for special promotions and coupons!

Disclosure I

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  1. Since it’s been 40 years since I used diaper cream I don’t remember what I used back then. But I know that today I’d use natural ingredients and shun the petroleum products.

  2. Your blog has been so helpful to me. First the answers to my questions about colds, and now I find this article. See, my daughter is having a baby in August and I want to talk to her about using cloth diapers. Before I do I want to gather up all the information I can about them. I want to show her how better they are for the baby and also much cheaper. So thank you for the information.

  3. If you ever get the chance to try out Lovey’s baby products, you won’t be disappointed :) Amazing stuff and CD friendly.

  4. This is a wonderful post. I never knew that you couldn’t use certain creams with cloth diapers and I have been using cloth diapers for almost over 3 years! I also didn’t know you could use coconut oil as a diaper rash cream. Great post!

  5. Katherine Blankenship says:

    We use coconut oil with some EOs mixed in. So far, so good!

  6. California Baby Diaper Area Wash! It’s a spray and it works unbelievably well. Before I bought it, we had tried everything. I looked at this bottle and thought, no way is this going to work, but I’ll try it just to say I did. Best decision I have ever made.

  7. This was a marvelous post. Since I prefer cloth diapers, they help in avoiding diper rashes but you never know! These diaper rashes treatment might come in use anytime and would suely recommend these diaper rash treatments to as many people as I can.

  8. This is a wonderful post. I never knew that you couldn’t use certain creams with cloth diapers and I have been using cloth diapers for almost over 3 years! I also didn’t know you could use coconut oil as a diaper rash cream. Great post!

  9. I’m so glad I can upon this article!
    I’ve used tons of diaper rash creams and Dr. smiths is by far the best the best!
    I just started cloth diapering and was worried I couldn’t use it anymore. I’m so glad it doesn’t have a negative affect with the diapers. Thanks

  10. Thanks so much for the wonderful post


  1. […] out for in a diaper rash cream? According to Jenny gives a simple rundown of ingredients that are safe and unsafe for cloth diapers. I must admit though, refined or not, I love zinc oxide for reducing […]

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