Cloth Diaper 201

It’s time for Cloth Diapering 201- Washing and Drying! I know, you are so very excited.

But, Jen, you say. What about the poop? What do you do with the poop?

Yes, that is what everyone says when you mention the cloth diapering. Allow me to let you in on a little secret. When you have the smallish babies that only eat the milk, you don’t do anything with the poop. The washing machine takes care of it completely.

But, Jen, you say. Gross.

It really isn’t. It is a complete non-issue. So, washing and drying the cloth diapers. Yesterday, when we discussed the beginning of cloth diapers, I mentioned pulling out the inserts and fastening the laundry tabs. That is the first step to washing and drying. Trust me when I say that you should do the pulling out and the fastening when you are changing the diaper. Don’t think that you will go back and take out all the inserts when you are getting ready to wash. It is much nicer when the diaper is fresher.

And, yes, sometimes you are touching the wet bits of the diaper. But honestly, you get pee on you all the time anyway with babies around, and if you are really squeamish, I’d bet a large amount of money that it is totally possible to pull out the insert without ever touching the pee. But I am not squeamish so I have never bothered to try.

Okay, so you pull out the insert and fasten the laundry tabs. (This part is dependent on the type of cloth diaper you have. Some diapers have snaps instead of velcro and therefore don’t require fastening the laundry tabs. And if you get all-in-ones, they don’t have inserts and therefore you don’t have to do that part.) Then you drop your diaper into your pail or bag or whatever you have to contain the dirty diapers.

Cloth diapers should be washed at least every 48 hours. When I didn’t have as many as I do now (I started with twelve diapers), I washed every day. And occasionally I skip a day and wash every three days. (But in that case, I have to do laundry as soon as I wake up or I run out!) But in general, every other day.

I just dump the diaper pail upside down into the washing machine and add the soap. The soap gets tricky because there are only certain types of detergent that you can use. Here is a list of BumGenius approved detergents. Basically, you are looking for a detergent that doesn’t have anything in it, because additives will build up on your diapers and cause them to not be as absorbent and not last as long. Your general regular grocery store detergents are not good enough for diapers, at least where I live. We use Free and Clear detergent on our regular clothes, but it still had two of the five things in it that cannot be used on diapers. Neither can that Dreft stuff that everyone uses on baby clothes (apparently, Dreft is soap, not detergent).

So I bought this detergent from the same place that I bought our diapers. (And they offer free shipping on all detergent!) I picked it because it was the cheapest of the different kinds they offer. I like it just fine and it works just fine. Next time, I think I’ll try the Allen’s detergent because I’ve heard a lot of really good reviews about it. You use only the very tiniest amount of detergent with diapers. You are supposed to use 1/4 of the recommended amount for my HE washing machine. (I think you use 1/2 if you don’t have a HE machine.)

Anyway, dump the diapers into the washing machine. Add the detergent. This is the only time when our diapers smell a little bit. The ones at the bottom of the plastic pail have accumulated a little smell that gets tossed up into the air when I dump them out. But whatever, it is nothing. (Again, these things may change with the addition of solid food, I’ll get back to you on that.) Then run the washing machine on a cold cycle. My machine has a “Quick Wash” cycle that I use and I run it on “Tap Cold/Cold” which is the coldest of our five temperature choices. After the first cycle is over, wash again with detergent on a Hot cycle with an additional rinse. The cold cycle gets out the stains, the hot cycle gets them sanitized, and the additional rinse makes sure that you get out all the detergent. I have played around with this cycle a little and here is what I’ve found. You need the cold wash to get out the stains. You do not necessarily need to add the soap for the second Hot wash. (This is still in the experimental stage, but so far there have been no issues from skipping it.) You might be able to get away with just a Hot rinse instead of an entire Hot cycle, but so far my washing machine doesn’t allow me to just do a Hot rinse. (I can do a warm rinse, I think that will be my next experiment.)

Now, additives to your diaper wash. No. Don’t do it. Don’t use anything. The detergent gets them clean. You don’t need baking soda or vinegar or any of those things. You can use a little bleach once a month to do some additional sanitizing. I tried this once, it did not bleach the color out of the diaper, but I think it gave Elizabeth a rash (our water quality here stinks and I don’t think all the bleach came out) so I am not going to do it again.

Detergent build-up can occur on your diapers. This only recently happened here after about five months of washing. You can tell because all of a sudden your leak-free diapers start to leak. This is when you do the famous diaper stripping. BumGenius recommends using Dawn dishwashing soap, the regular blue kind. I got a bottle of that, dribbled just a tiny bit in with the detergent, and ran a couple of extra rinses. It worked, the diapers felt fluffier when wet and stopped leaking.

You can dry the diapers in the dryer, of course. Just use a low heat setting (you are trying not to dry your elastic). Sometimes I dry in the dryer, but mostly I hang them up to dry.  Also, do not dry the inserts on hot heat because you lose some of the absorbency.  (I learned this the hard way.)

Exhibit A: diapers hanging up to dry.

I bought some heavy duty style clothespins that clip on to my hangers and I put three on each hanger. (I looked for a picture of them online and couldn’t find them, these are similar though. Except mine have a little loop that hooks them onto the hanger.)

Then I just clip the diapers onto the hooks and hang them up in the laundry room. I clip the inserts two in each clip and the wipes two in each clip. (Of course I do all of this in color order. Don’t you know me at all by now?)

You can hang them outside to dry faster (which is why I bought the heavy duty clothespins, I didn’t want the expensive diapers blowing away) but the time I did that, mine blew over and landed in an ant hill. Plus, it is easier to hang them in the laundry room. So I dry mine overnight usually and fold them the next morning. (This also cuts down on the perception of the amount of work, I wash one day and fold the next. It doesn’t seem as hard that way.) (Even though it is technically exactly the same amount of work.)
You don’t technically have to stuff and fold your diapers. You could just keep all the clean ones in a basket and stuff them as you put them on. I just like them all ready whenever I need them. (Plus they look all cute lined up in their little baskets.) Also, you don’t have to fold your wipes, either, obviously. (But they look all cute lined up in their little basket.) I’ve just crammed them all into the basket and used them that way and I did not die. I didn’t like it though.

Now, stains on the diapers. Yes, sometimes there are stains. When I washed the diapers every day, I would maybe have one diaper with a stain on it if she pooped right after I washed the diapers. (In other words, only the diaper that sat for 23 and a half hours before washing got a stain.) Now that I wash every other day, lots of them have little stains. I’ve decided not to care. The stains eventually wash out, plus they are on the insides. If you do care, or get a particularly stubborn one, you can just put the clean diaper in the sunshine while it is still wet. By the time it dries, the stain will be gone. (I’ve tried this, it works amazingly.)

If you have a baby that eats solids, you do have to sometimes rinse off the poop before washing. I plan to get a sprayer like this and a wet bag like this for when we get that far into solids. The sprayer attaches to the toilet, you spray off the waste and flush it away (did you know you are supposed to do that with disposable diapers too, to keep the human waste from getting into the landfills?) and then put the diaper into the wet bag which presumably keeps away the odors.

Now, I believe that covers washing and drying and then some. Any questions? Next we shall cover traveling outside the house with cloth diapers.