Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Cloth in a Tub

A laundry tub, that is!

Taking care of your diapers is an important part of cloth diapering, because you want to protect your baby’s bottom and the investment you’ve made. There are some guidelines that should be followed for prepping, washing, drying, and storing diapers. I will provide the most necessary information in this entry. Occasionally you may come across a special situation, and that will warrant more research- either mine or your own.


Prepping your diapers is so essential because it allows them to be at their best when you put them on your baby. Most diapers require at least one washing and drying cycle to clean off any “factory gunk” and to increase their absorbency. The manufacturer should give you guidelines for prepping their diapers, but in general

you should remember the following:

  • Synthetic fibers should be washed and dried at least one time.
  • Natural fibers should be boiled to remove the natural oils, then washed and dried several times- often four or more cycles.

These prep washes can be a combination of plain water washes and cycles with detergent added. Drying between these washing cycles increases the absorbency and will give you the best results.

Washing & Drying

It is a good idea to wash your diapers every two or three days- the longer they sit, the more difficult it will be to get out any stinky build-up. Your first concern will be finding a cloth-diaper-safe laundry detergent. The website pinstripesandpolkadots dot com has a fabulous resource for comparing detergents and finding a safe option. Ideally your detergent will be free from dyes, perfumes, enzymes, optical brighteners, and any fabric softening additives. These components will hinder the effectiveness of your diapers and can cause damage over time.

There are specialty detergents available, usually online, that are CD safe. Some examples include Rockin’ Green, which is a parent favorite; Jenny’s Simply Clean, which is one of my favorites (for baby clothes and pail fresheners, too!); and Tiny Bubbles, which is made by GroVia and is a great option. A cheap alternative that I recently tested is Tide Original Powder. It got the diapers just as clean as Tiny Bubbles or Jenny’s, and it is very affordable- plus I already use it for the rest of our household laundry! Note: When using a “normal” detergent such as Tide powder, you only need to use about one-quarter of the normal amount for your load size! Using too much detergent will cause build-up, which can lead to moisture wicking and smelly diapers. Lastly, remember that fabric softener is never safe for your diapers!

It is up to you to experiment and find the best washing ritual for your own diapers and washing machine. In general, the following is suggested:

-Rinse solids off of the diaper before storing in a dry pail. Breast fed babies’ diapers do not need to be rinsed off prior to storage. The waste will wash clean in the machine since it is completely organic.

-Run a pre-wash soak or a first cycle with no detergent. I always add half of a cup of vinegar and about seven drops of tea tree oil to this pre-wash. Using the vinegar will help to break down the ammonia in your diapers, and will keep them soft. Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties and can help to combat potential pitfalls like yeast. As a side note, hot water is optimal for this first cycle, but cold water will work- I know because my only laundry option is cold, and I don’t have any problems!

-A wash cycle with detergent follows, remembering to only use the recommended amount of detergent on your diapers.

-End with at least one final rinse cycle to remove all of the detergent.

Drying may require some special attention. Most moms say that drying on low heat is best when you use a machine dryer. Even more moms will say that the sunlight is the optimal drying option, as it removes stains and sanitizes your diapers. If you live in a place with little sunshine (like myself, sadly), you should remember that frequent drying of PUL shells and elastic can lead to premature aging of the diaper. Personally, I opt to hang my covers on a drying rack and use the machine to dry all of my inserts more quickly. An occasional run through the dryer is good for PUL, as the heat will reseal the material and help it stay waterproof.

Storage & Long-Term Care

Over time, you will notice some unsightly stains and possibly some odors building up on your diapers. You have a number of options to combat these nuisances. As I already mentioned, the natural power of the sun will help you to keep your diapers sanitized and will reduce staining. Tea tree oil, vinegar, and even bleach are a few examples of additives that may be included in the wash to combat smell and stains. Pinstripes and Polkadots has a great resource for reviewing the pros and cons of various laundry boosters. At some point, you may need to take an extra step called “stripping” to rehabilitate your cloth. (I have already discussed diaper stripping in a recent post.)

Storing your diapers can easily be done in a bedroom, laundry room, closet- the possibilities are limited only by your own space and creativity! I store my son’s diapers in a hanging shoe rack in a closet. Some people use decorative baskets, some build shelving, some simply use the drawers on a changing table or dresser. Some even use a hanging diaper caddy. As your stash grows, storage can become more challenging, but think outside the box and surely a solution will come to you! For long-term storage, be sure to keep your clean and completely dry diapers in an air-tight container. This will help to keep the elastic from becoming dry and brittle over time. Voila, you have diapers all ready for your next baby- or for a swap board sale!

Preparing yourself ahead of time, if you make the decision to use cloth before baby is born, will greatly assist you in your goal. But even if you are thinking of switching from disposables, don’t let the prep work overwhelm you! Do a little at a time if that works best for you, and gradually convert to cloth use. Getting into a routine, and making sure that you wash frequently enough to not run out of diapers, are the keys to cloth diapering success. Once you get started and find your own groove, you’ll be amazed at how easy it all can be!

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