Wash and Care

Washing and caring for your cloth diapers is much easier than you'd think, and if you wash & dry them properly they'll last for multiple children. The basic washing routine is as follows:

1. Short rinse on COLD with no detergent.
2. Long wash on HOT with a diaper safe detergent (see below).
3. One to three short COLD rinses to wash away all detergent residue.

* The most important thing about washing cloth diapers is to use a diaper safe detergent.

Most name brands are absolutely NOT safe for cloth and will cause odor problems. Even natural and green detergents without fragrances, dyes, enzymes, etc. could still cause problems. The reason is that most detergents leave a residue behind. That's fine for clothes, but it can affect the absorbency of diapers and can also build up in them, causing odor problems down the road. So which detergents are safe then? There's a terrific cloth diapering resource site called Pinstripes and Polka Dots that has lists of safe detergents. Click here for High Efficiency washing machines (front-loaders) and here for top-loaders. I used a liquid detergent by Bio-Kleen that worked fine, but I've recently switched to Allens Naturally liquid and am very pleased with it.

What about diaper rash creams? Again, many name brands will coat your cloth diapers and make them repellent. That's bad. Click here for a list of creams rated for cloth diapers.

More dos and don'ts:

* DON'T USE BLEACH ON YOUR DIAPERS. Bleach will simply wear them out and it's not needed. Since it's such a harsh chemical with detrimental effects on the environment, it's best to avoid it. Grandma may protest that you won't be able to clean the diapers well without bleach, but that's just not true anymore. The proof is in the pudding; if you consistently wash your dipes properly you won't have problems. I'd say the only exception would be with all-cotton diapers that haven't been washed properly in past, and even then, you should only do this once.

* DON'T USE FABRIC SOFTENER. It will coat the diapers, again causing repellency. I made this mistake once and regret it!

* DON'T MACHINE DRY COVERS. It won't destroy them, but they'll last longer if you just line dry them. In the words of one of my customers, "they dry in like three and a half minutes."

* DO WASH AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK. My routine was to wash every other day and this worked really well.

* DO RINSE OFTEN, especially if you see suds coming out of the diapers during the first (no detergent rinse). That means that you used too much detergent in the previous wash or didn't rinse them well enough.

* DO USE THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF DETERGENT. As a general rule, use HALF, YES HALF of what is recommended for clothes on the label for your type of washer. You need much less detergent than you need, even to wash soiled diapers! I use about 1/2 teaspoon of Allens liquid and my diapers are absolutely clean. If you use too much, you'll have residue build-up, and if you've been reading this long, you know what that means.

*DO DRY ALL-IN-ONES FOR LONGER. They're very thick in the middle and just need the extra time to dry. If you line dry them, always finish up with a 15-minute run in the dryer. You want to make sure they aren't moist in the middle. Some AIOs will turn inside out. They'll dry faster if you do this.

But Olivia, what do I do about the...you know...solid waste??? Isn't it gross to put that in your washing machine?

Two comments on this, each appropriate to the kind of waste in question:

1. Exclusively breast-fed infants have very benign and runny waste. It will completely wash out all in the first rinse.

2. When a baby starts eating solid food, the waste changes and so should your diapering routine, but only by a little. You do want to cut down on the solids that go into your machine as much as possible. Here's some tips:
* dump as much as you can in the toilet and flush. If you get about 80% off the diaper, you're good to go. Put it in your pail. It will rinse out fine in the first rinse. That percentage isn't scientific, just from personal experience.

* use a diaper sprayer. It's like a small, white, hose with a sprayer attachment that you connect it to the back of your toilet. The pressure of the water rinses a lot of the solids into the toilet. Then put the diaper in your pail. I've never used one, but I have customers who swear by them. I can order you one from FuzziBunz for $41.95.

* use flushable liners. Bummis makes one called the Bio-Soft Liner that you simply lay in the diaper (right next to baby's skin). When you change a "bad one," you pull the liner out (and thus the contents) and flush it down the toilet. A little waste may get on the diaper, but so little that you can call it a day and put the diaper in the pail. They come in small ($6.00) and large ($8.00).