Until I actually have a chilliun of my own to use cloth diapers for, I have been taking information from various sites and blogs or cloth diapers.
That being said, here’s some info on how to clean your cloth diapers and fix the dreaded hard water issue!
Regular wash routine:
There are many opinions about washing cloth diapers, and many people have developed additional steps and routines based on their individual needs. Here is a simple routine for washing cloth diapers that has worked for us. We recommend starting simple and adjust only if necessary for your baby or water-type.
If soiled, use the mini-shower to remove poop from diaper. Leave the diaper wet enough that it almost drips. Keeping the diaper wet until it is washed will help reduce stains.
Toss into a dry pail; wash every day or every other day.
Wash no more than 12 – 18 diapers at a time.
Use your washer’s highest water level.
Pre-rinse with cold water and no detergent.
Use a regular hot water cycle and Tide (not Tide Free).
Dry diapers in the dryer or hang dry or a combination of both.
Here are some things to avoid:
Avoid using chlorine bleach on a regular basis. It will break down fibers and noticeably shorten the life of your diapers. In addition, it may irritate your baby’s skin. Some manufacturers, like bumGenius!, recommend using 1/4 cup bleach with your regular wash once a month.
No fabric softeners, which coat fabric and reduce absorbency. This includes ‘baby’ detergents such as Dreft.
Lengthening the Life of Your Cloth Diapers:
Here are some things that you can do to help your diapers last longer:
Hang dry overnight, or partially dry in the dryer and then hang dry.
To keep diapers soft, do not dry on your dryer’s hottest setting.
Minimize use of bleach.
Never use fabric softener.
Use 1/2 cup lemon juice to whiten.
Sun them, even in cold weather, to freshen and remove stains.
Use baking soda and vinegar! Here’s how:
Do a cold rinse.
Use your regular amount of detergent.
Add 1/2 cup baking soda and a Downy ball filled to the top with distilled white vinegar. Start your washer’s hot cycle.
After the diapers have agitated, but before the hot water has drained, stop the cycle (this can be done on some washers by leaving the lid up).
Let the diapers soak overnight.
Close the lid in the morning to complete the cycle.
How do baking soda and vinegar work?
The baking soda neutralizes acidic odors, removes acid and protein based stains, and softens the diapers. The vinegar neutralizes alkaline odors and removes alkaline based stains. Rather than adding the baking soda to your washer on wash day, you can add it directly to the diaper pail before you begin to fill it with diapers. This will help keep your diaper pail smelling fresh.
Note: if you have hard water, use borax instead of baking soda.
Do I HAVE to use a Mini-Shower for dirty diapers?
No! If your baby is solely breastfed, you can just throw the diaper into your diaper pail. The initial cold rinse will remove the poop. This is because the poop of breastfed babies is water soluble. However, stains will occur.
After your baby starts solids, you should shake off what you can into the toilet before placing the diapers into the diaper pail. Another option is to use biodegradable, flushable liners. Just remove the liner, poop and all, and drop into the toilet.
However, if you want your diapers remain stain-free, we recommend using the Mini-Shower and leaving your diaper almost dripping wet when placing it into the diaper pail. Keeping it wet until wash day will minimize staining.
Choosing A Detergent:
There are many opinions about which detergents are best for cloth diapers. We believe you should use what works for you and your baby. Remember, if you feel your detergent isn’t working, you can always strip your diapers and start over. Our top three recommended detergents are Original Powder Tide (not liquid Tide, HE Tide, or other version of Tide), Allen’s Naturally, Charlie’s Soap, and Sensi-Clean. Do not use any baby detergents such as Dreft, since they contain fabric softeners.
For a complete detergent chart, click on the link below. This guide (from jilliansdrawers and customers) will help you choose the best detergent for your cloth diapers.
Choose a detergent for your wonderful cloth diapers that will keep them smelling fresh, leak-free, and soft!
A note on “Free and Clear”…
We get calls daily about leaking cloth diapers, especially pocket diapers and All-In-Ones, and the Free and Clear detergents listed below are the culprits 99% of the time. Please note that many parents do use Free and Clear detergents successfully… it depends on the water in your area. However, it is true that when we receive calls and the issue is due to the detergent, Free and Clear detergents were being used. And if you do want or need to use a Free and Clear detergent, then we recommend two brands below (Purex and Mountain Green).
Free and Clear detergents contain microbiostats, which control the growth of microorganisms, such as dust mites.
This is beneficial to those with allergies, but may be the common ingredient that causes the fleece in your pocket diapers to repel.
Now, many parents use Free and Clear detergents with great success (it really depends on your local water mineral content and washer), but if you begin to have leaks or smells after a few weeks or months, try stripping your diapers and then switching detergents.
How To Strip Cloth Diapers And Why:
What is Build-Up?
Build up means your diapers have a film coating on the fibers. You will notice this because they may come out of the washer and dryer smelling and will lose some absorbency. Pocket diapers and All In Ones that worked great when new may begin leaking. Don’t worry! It’s easy to strip them!
How can I tell if my cloth diapers have build-up?
If your diapers are smelling, repelling, or wicking, then chances are that the detergent is building up.
Diapers may also be smelling due to bacteria, in which case stripping them will not remove the bacteria. Instead, we recommend using 1/4 cup bleach with one load.
When do I need to strip my cloth diapers?
To keep cloth diapers working their best, we recommend stripping them once a month. If a cloth diaper incompatible detergent has been used, then we recommend stripping all your diapers twice, and then switching to a compatible detergent.
How do I strip my cloth diapers?
Start with clean diapers. Use 1 packet of RLR (this is a favorite: https://www.jilliansdrawers.com/products/clothdiapers/naturallaundry/rlrlaundrytreatment) or 1 capful of Sensi-Clean (http://www.jilliansdrawers.com/products/clothdiapers/naturallaundry/sensicleanlaundrydetergent) on a warm cycle to strip your cloth diapers (use 1/2 capful for HE washing machines). For cloth diapers with a lot of build-up, repeat. Then rinse your diapers to remove any RLR or Sensi-Clean residue. Dry on medium heat.
Sensi-Clean (also labelled as Sports-Wash) is biodegradable and is made from vegetable based surfactants. A very small percentage of babies are allergic to Sensi-Clean and will develop a severe rash after its use. For this reason, remember to rinse the diapers and watch your baby’s bottom closely for any reaction.
Alternatively, you can use 1/16 – 1/8 cup of Dawn Original dish detergent instead, although we have not found this method to be nearly as effective.