If you need to know how to get started with cloth, you might want to check out this post HERE. Once you have the diapers in your hot little hands, you are going to want to know how to wash them. Washing cloth diapers freaks people out. There are no two ways about that but that does not mean you need to let the fear of washing cloth diapers keep you from using them. It is not nearly as hard as people think! Here are some common questions and how to handle them.
Do I need to rinse or soak my diapers?
I have a full post on soaps and detergents and washing cloth diapers (which you can read HERE) but here are some basic points to keep in mind.
1. Whatever you do, you do not need to soak diapers. It is just such a bad idea. If you use vinegar, it only adds additionally acids to the mix and wears the diapers out faster. If you use soaps or detergents, you can actually cause a residue build up on the diaper which will make them less absorbent. A less absorbent diaper is a bad thing! What you do need to do is try to wash twice a week. The longer you wait, the longer the acids in the diaper will have to eat through the fiber in the cloth diaper. Less frequent washing means more frequent replacement. Really.
2. You do not need to rinse the diapers of breastfed babies who don't eat solids. Breastfed poop is very liquid and dissolves readily in water. It is just fine. Start with a quick rinse in cold water without soap to finish rinsing the diapers and then wash on the most aggressive cycle with the hottest water and an extra rinse. Dry or sun the diapers.
3. Formula fed poo is a bit smellier and thicker but is generally okay to skip the rinsing. When you do wash, put it through a FULL cycle on cold with no soap to really get the poo rinsed out well. Then wash on the most aggressive cycle with the hottest water and an extra rinse. Dry or sun the diapers.
Do I need to strip my diapers?
When you strip diapers, you give them a really super aggressive washing. You might do this for a couple of reasons and there are ways to avoid it.
1. If your baby has a really bad rash that is just not clearing up, strip the diapers. You need to get those diapers clean. Until it clears up, dry them in the sun outside.
2. If the diaper is coated, there is a quick and easy test. Take a perfectly dry, clean diaper and pour 1/4 cup of very hot water over it. If it beads, runs off the sides or does not absorb instantly, your diaper needs to be stripped.
3. If the diaper reeks like hot diaper pail in July the instant it gets wet, this is a big sign. Try smelling the diapers as soon as they come out of the washer and see if you can smell the slightest bit of diaper pail. Also do that hot water test above and take a really good wiff. If you can smell pee, you have diapers that need to be deep cleaned.
4. You can reduce the number of times you will need to strip your diapers by avoiding using ointments. The oils in the ointments will stick to the fibers, which makes other things stick simply because oils resist water. When oils from ointments get into the fibers of the diaper only a really aggressive washing will get get them out.
5. Use fleece liners when you have to use ointments or when the baby is sick and the diapers are pretty acidic. Not only do they keep the acids away from the baby but they keep the ointments from the diapers. When these get super nasty, boil them in a big stock pot. If you can, boil them over a turkey burner outside. It is not pleasant! But it only takes five minutes. Then pull them out and you can wash them, dry them, and be on with it!
How do I strip my diapers?
You can boil diapers which takes time and I don't know that I think it works as well as people say. I heavy wash. It stinks, but it works.
1. Wash the diapers in the heaviest cycle on the washing machine with an extra rinse twice without any soap. If you can, take a peek half way through and see if you can see bubbles. Most residue is from using too much detergent or using soap. Dry the diapers completely through between washes.
2. On the third wash, use a teeny-tiny bit of dawn detergent. Like a teaspoon. It really works. Do remember to check to warranty on your diapers, in case your particular product does not recommend it.
3. If you can, dry them in the sun until completely dry. Even in the winter, if the day is sunny, you can kill a lot of germs with the UV light of the sun. If you can, try to line dry them in the sun at least once every other week. If you do not like the crispy line dried feel, dry them for half the time in the dryer and then hang them in the full sun. That will not only save on the electric (or gas) bill, but it will keep the diapers clean and baby's bottom healthy.
How do I wash the diapers to keep them clean?
It is not rocket science, really. The issue is using the right kind of detergent. I have a post all about the different ingredients in detergents and how they affect your diapers and you should check that out HERE. After you have a good detergent, you are ready to wash!
1. Do not soak.
2. Do not use soap to wash, do not use homemade soaps to wash, and definitely do not use fabric softener!
3. Put the diapers in without soap and run on a cold water wash to rinse them. If you have a breastfed baby, just do a short wash. If you use formula or the baby is eating solids, do a full cycle. If you have a low water use washing machine like I do, you will need to cheat to get it to add more water. Take a big bucket without holes in it (so not your regular laundry basket) and place a dirty bath towel in it. Fill it with the bath to get it seriously, sopping wet and dump it into the washer. Your washer will weigh the laundry and add water based on the weight. The water not only adds to the weight but provides additional water. More water gives more ability to rinse. It is all good but you have to add not just a damp towel but one that is so wet, it cannot be carried to the washer without making a giant mess. Use the bucket.
4. Run the diapers through another wash, this time the hottest and most aggressive cycle (whitest whites) with half the regular amount of detergent you would normally use and add an extra rinse cycle. If you have a low water washer, do the sopping wet towel trick. If you can't add an extra rinse cycle, come back and run in through with another quick rinse.
5. The low water washers can be difficult to deal with and will frustrate you unless you learn the towel trick and extra rinse trick. They are designed to be faster and use less water and you need to overcome this manufacture's design. I think they were engineered by people who do not actually wash clothes. Remember these tricks for the times somebody vomits on themselves. You do not want clothes or sheets that smell like vomit. What is more, is that no one else wants your clothes to smell like vomit either.
By the way, my super awesome friend with the GINORMOUS blog, Elia, is running a cool diaper giveaway. You need to go check it out. Bookmark her site, my friends, because she always has the coolest hook ups and gives loads of stuff away. And she is fun. A lot of fun. So, go check it out because it closes on the 30th! You can find the giveaway on her blog, Conservamom, HERE.