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October 20, 2010

Getting down and dirty… with cloth diapers

Lorissa, one of my possible blog contributors shares with us her methods of getting her diapers clean.I won’t lie – before I had make the decision to cloth diaper, one of my main concerns was the laundry. Would I be able to handle the smell? Would it use up an inordinate amount of water, and cause my water bill to skyrocket? What is this thing called a diaper sprayer, and do I really need one? Would I need to use a specific type of detergent? What about stain removal? What if the diapers start leaking? So many questions! Luckily, I like to do internet research, so it was off to my favourite cloth diapering sites to find the answers.

So what exactly do you need in order to care for your cloth diapers properly? To store dirty diapers in before laundry day, a diaper pail is a must. You can definitely go fancy and buy a cloth diaper pail that has a locking lid, but I found that a simple garbage bin with a snap lid works equally as well (The one I have is a Mistral 6 gallon Multi Purpose Can with Locking Lid, which I found at Walmart for $7.99). You can use either a pail liner or a large wetbag inside, to help keep the smells at bay. To save time on laundry day, unstuff your diapers (if they are pocket diapers) before tossing them in the pail.

Next up, good cloth-diaper friendly laundry detergent is a must. These are formulated especially for cloth diapers – which means they contain no phosphates, brighteners, or other additives such as citrus essential oils. This is key to avoid wicking, leaking and repelling issues with your diapers, otherwise, you will need to strip your diapers (not a fun chore at all, especially when there are better things for you to be doing!) in order to get them back to normal. If you do find that your diapers are leaking or repelling, try switching detergents first, or using more/less detergent. If that doesn’t do the trick, try washing them in hot water (no detergent), and watch the rinse cycle for soap bubbles. Repeat, repeat until there are no more bubbles. If this still doesn’t work, washing with Dawn dish soap in the sink will often clear everything up, as Dawn will cut through any oils/dirt remaining in the diapers.

Now, about cleaning poop off and avoiding staining. If you are anything like me, and get the heebie-jeebies about cleaning poop off (you mean, I may have to actually do some pre-cleaning before putting the diaper in the pail? Eewww!!!). Well, there are definitely ways around this. Some people swear by diaper sprayers, but so far I have not needed one, and would rather save the money for more cloth diapers, LOL! Using a fleece liner or a disposable liner to catch the poop makes clean up easy, and if you are lucky, no poop will actually get on your diaper. If you’re not as lucky, most stains will come out in the wash, but if not, placing them in the sun for an hour will fade the stains out. An interesting fact I learned: it’s not actually the light that does the fading, but the UV rays. So this means that even if it is overcast, the stains will still come out. Ditto if you place them inside your house next to a window. Neat-o! Happy cloth diaper washing!

Living in an area with hard-water, I looked for a detergent that worked well for hard water, and found Claudia’s Choices, which is a Canadian company. We also use Rockin Green Hard Rock. (How do you know if you live in an area with hard water? Check out this cool map: http://www.espressotec.com/store/pc/ic_descaling.asp )

Come laundry day, simply empty your pail liner or wet bag into your washer. Note that if you have a HE washer, there are a couple of things to note. HE washers are just that – high efficiency. Which is great for your regular clothing, but for cloth diapers, it can be tricky. Since the key to getting diapers clean is enough water, you need to ensure that enough water is used. You can “trick” your washer into using a bit more water by soaking a couple of towels and putting them in with your cloth diapers – this way, the machine “thinks” the load is heavier and dispenses more water. Another benefit of having an HE washer is that you don’t need to use as much detergent.

Our wash routine looks like this: 1 ½ tablespoons of detergent, Heavy Duty Wash Cycle with an extra rinse. Everything gets hung on the clothes rack to dry. (Using the dryer may cause the elastic in your diapers to wear out sooner). We have enough diapers to last us 2 ½ days, so we usually wash every 2nd day. If you are lucky enough to have a large diaper stash, you can go 3 days between washes, but I wouldn’t suggest longer than that, otherwise smells or stains may start to settle in.

(FYI: Since beginning our cloth diaper journey, we haven’t noticed a significant increase in our water bill -hurrah!).


Unknown said...

We haven't found the need for a sprayer either :) I think if after 3 years of cloth diapering, I asked for one, hubby would laugh at me too, LOL

brenda coulter said...

Great article by Lorissa! So great to learn from someone that is environmental and uses the product with success.
Thanks for sharing

Rebecca Aston said...

I definitely feel like I could do this now. Thanks so much for all the helpful information!

Stephanie R said...

Thank you Lorissa about mentioning what sort of detergents you use. I have learned that Dawn dish soap is also used for cleaning birds that have come in contact with oil spills and other hazardous materials, and is the safest and most effective detergent to clean wildlife, since it has the least amount of residue.

This sparked my interest as I am not interested in using detergents that could harm infants and expose them to unnecessary perfumes or abrasive materials. The benefit that Dawn dish soap washes clean away, outweighs the fact that it is scented.

Reducing the amount of waste and saving water costs are also important to me.

Good advice. Thanks.

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