Cloth Diapering Part 3: Doing the Laundry
So I will do my best to get to the point here because really this is pretty straight forward and not nearly as complicated as people make it out to be. They are diapers, they need to be cleaned! Not just kinda clean, not just white, but genuinely cleaned. There is only one real way to truly kill bacteria people; detergent. I’ve read and seen so many woman who try the “make-your-own laundry detergent” and it’s scary. You’re setting yourself up for failure because unless your diy laundry soap ACTUALLY contains detergent, those diapers are not getting actually cleaned. A detergent contains things called surfactants. What these surfactants do is act like a magnet. Detergent is composed of two surfactants, one that is attracted to water, and one is attracted to oil and dirt. These opposing surfactants act together; one binds to dirt while the other repels water, forcing it to the top of your water in the laundry. In the end, the dirt and dirty water are flushed down the drain, and voila; you have clean diapers! (Click here to go to the American Cleaning Institutes Webpage for more info)
Now, with cloth diapers it is incredibly important they get super clean. Urine is composed of ammonia, yes ammonia. When ammonia is sitting in your cloth diapers and continues to build up it will cause serious and harmful problems for your LO when it gets wet again. If they don’t get clean you can end up with severe problems for your little one like:
-Severe Diaper Rash
-Ammonia Burn (a form of acid burn)
Okay, sorry to scare you a little bit, but I wanted to get the bad stuff out of the way to make sure you do not make these rookie mistakes while cloth diapering you baby. Remember, I’m here for you!
All in all, doing cloth diaper laundry is super easy, and pretty straight forward once you get into your routine. I do my laundry every two to three days. Try to not go past 3 days; the longer urine/ammonia sits in the diaper the more acidic it becomes and it harder it is to remove. Don’t get scared here though, you will be fine as long as you wash your diapers regularly every 2-3 days. I have what looks like a tall kitchen trash can sitting in my babes room with a diaper pale liner in the bottom and then one actually inside. Now I keep the lid off because dark, wet places grow more bacteria. When I keep the lid off, as backwards as it sounds, it prevents them from becoming all smelly and it also combats bacteria. I promise, my baby’s room does not smell like poo; honest! When I change her, I literally just throw all the diaper(s), wipes if you’re using cloth, and inserts into the pale; easy as that. Then when it is time to do the laundry I pull out the pale liner. Then replace the new one on the trash can (it was sitting in the bottom). So now, take your laundry back to your washer. Okay now here is what I recommend, obviously different things work for different people, but this is what works for us.
Pour all the diapers in the wash, then pull the diaper liner inside out and throw it in the wash too. Different washers say different things, but look for a presoak cycle. If you don’t have that cycle on your washer there should be a rinse or rinse and spin cycle. Set your washer to either rinse and spin or presoak with no soap. This will help to flush all the yuck down the drain so you don’t have dirty water washing your diapers. This cycle is usually only a few minutes long; mine is 20. Once this is done it’s time to wash! Keep everything in the washer, and if you have a beach towel or a towel that needs washing, throw that in your washer too. This helps trick your washer into filling up all the way. Diapers don’t weigh a lot, and a lot of the HE washers fill up water according to their weight. Its great for conserving water, but bad for washing diapers. So throw in a towel or something to get more water in your washer. Then set your washer to its hottest, longest setting. Now this is where some people differ because they are concerned that the water will be too hot for the covers. In order for that to happen your water would have to actually be boiling. Most people’s water heaters are set between 140-150 degrees so that’s obviously not happening. So you are fine, you can wash your diapers on their hottest setting. This is the best way to make sure that your diapers are really getting cleaned and the bacteria is being killed. So recap: throw everything in, presoak/rinse and spin, throw in a towel, wash on the hottest longest setting. Okay for my washer the longest hottest setting is called “bulky sheets” but on your washer it might be called something different. Look it up online on your washers owners manual, unless you have one handy. Obviously, this is when you would add your cloth diaper safe detergent! I use Rockin Green: Hard Concentrate because we have hard water. If you have hard water like me and you are using Rockin Green, use 3 tablespoons for each load. There are lots of other cloth diaper safe laundry detergents, and I’ll put a link below. Now if you have a standard washer with knobs, once your washer finishes, you will put the laundry on an extra rinse. This is done after they’ve been washed, and it just makes sure all the detergent and water is flushed out.
At this point your diapers are clean! Now I’m a freak, and do another extra step and steam clean my diapers because I have that as a setting on my washer, but if you don’t, your diapers will be fine and are now completely clean. At this point I throw everything into the dryer on another bulky sheet or hot setting. These diapers and inserts are MADE to absorb liquid, and they take forever to dry if you don’t. I also throw in three wool dryer balls to help soften the diapers, and speed up the drying process. Plus I like mine all warm and fluffy for my babe, and I’ve had no problems so far. If you are against drying the covers, I understand, so at this point you would lay out all your covers, and everything else would go in the dryer. Now let’s recap. My washer is touch screen so I can select multiple settings at once. So here is what I would select:
-Rinse and Spin
-Presoak (extra step I do but it’s not needed)
-Bulky Sheets with detergent
-Steam (not needed)
If you cannot select all at once you would do these in that order then once completed whatever you want dried you would throw in the dryer! Voila! You’ve just washed your cloth diapers.
A few things to note:
Hard water will mean you should add extra detergent or the most you can according the load size. Soft water, adversely, will remain super soapy and you can use less. So it is important to know what kind of water you have before you start washing. Rockin’ Green makes different formulas depending on what kind of water you have which is another reason why I really like it. Also, it gets my diapers super white and clean!
If you ever end up with some stains, don’t freak, you’re diapers are still clean! It happens. You can easily fix this by putting your diaper outside in direct sunlight for the day. You will be amazed; it works. I’m not sure how, but it does. Your diaper or insert will look as good as new when you get it at the end of the day. This is also good to know if you plan on reselling your diapers or loaning them out to others later on.
Now, you may be thinking, “Wait, so what about these diaper sprayers? Don’t I use those first?” Okay, here’s the thing. I have one, and they are great! But if your baby is exclusively breastfed, you don’t need one right away. While your baby is exclusively breastfed your babies poo is completely water soluble, and will dilute and wash away in the washer; meaning you don’t have to spray it first. Now, once your LO goes on to solid foods, or mixes breastmilk and say, applesauce? Then, you will need to spray off the diapers into the toilet prior to throwing them in your laundry. I will say my babe is still exclusively breastfed, but sometimes has some pretty big explosions, and I really just prefer to spray them off before throwing them into the laundry. It’s really up to you! I do it on a case by case basis.
Make sure to never use any kind of softener or fabric softener on your cloth diapers!
Wow information overload right? Well, if you want to actually see it, check out the video below. I watched and read a TON of laundry routines when I was trying to figure out how to do my own. And this gals got a really good one that is similar to how I wash mine!
Cloth Diaper Safe Detergents (a few I like):
Simply click on the image to shop!