Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Loads of Fun!

Regardless of what brand or style of cloth diapers you use there’s one thing we all have in common: dirty diaper laundry!

I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed doing laundry. Okay, I’ll admit – I’m not particularly fond of doing the loads of “white laundry” because I have to match and fold all those socks! When I first started cloth diapering I was frustrated because I followed all the general “recommendations” for laundering and my diapers were still coming out dirty/stained. If it wasn’t for my innate need to troubleshoot everything (I was oftentimes nicknamed Little Miss Fix-it) I would have likely given up on cloth diapering.

Thankfully after all my little “scientific” laundry experiments I found a routine that worked great (at least for me). If there’s one question I happily answer most it’s, “What do you recommend for washing cloth diapers?”

Simple enough question, right? Yes and no. Oftentimes you will hear people say, “It’s laundry not science!” but the fact of the matter is laundry is a science, and very few people understand, or appreciate it as much as I do. Detergents have been carefully formulated to be effective but not damaging. For instance, many “cloth diaper friendly” detergents contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and/or sodium borate (Borax) and/or sodium carbonate (Washing Soda). However, these ingredients, if used individually/independently, don’t necessarily make them cloth diaper friendly.

Additionally, very few people truly take into consideration all the variables involved with recommending a washing routine for cloth diapers. Are you washing prefolds and diaper covers? fitted diapers? pocket diapers with micro-terry inserts and/or all-in-one’s? Or, are you like me and you have a Smorgasbord of diapers? Do you have hard water? Are you using a top loading washing machine or a front loading washing machine? Etc…

First and foremost the standard recommendation would be to consult with the manufacturer’s directions for laundering your cloth diapers. If all your diapers are made by the same manufacturer, (i.e. bumGenius, FuzziBunz or Happy Heiny’s, etc…) then this is relatively easy. Give the manufacturer’s recommendations a try and go from there. If it doesn’t happen to work out well for you then you can make adjustments accordingly.

Laundry Routine
With that said, after all my trial and error, the routine I found that works best for both a top loading machine as well as a front loading HE machine, and regardless of what cloth diaper you are washing, is as follows:

1 cold, short cycle wash w/detergent*

1 hot, heavy duty cycle wash w/detergent*

1 additional rinse (warm water works best)


*Use the recommended detergent amount for cloth diapers according to your machine. Top loading machines usually call for ½ the standard amount while front loading HE machines require only ¼ the standard amount.

While many are able to get by with a simple cold rinse followed by a hot wash I’ve never achieved the desired results with a mere rinse. I personally prefer to use OxiClean (any oxygen based will work) in the short cold cycle wash – this does wonders for fighting the “organic” stains of poo! However, you’ll want to double check that the use of any additives (such as oxygen based cleaners) are ok per your diaper manufacturer.

If you opt not to do the cold, short cycle wash – at the very minimum you will need to do a rinse. This is essential for rinsing away as much debris and soiled matter from the diapers before washing them on hot because hot water typically sets stains (and essentially you’ll be washing your diapers in hot urine water – YUCK!).

When all is said and done give your diapers a whiff to ensure they’re clean. A clean diaper should have no lingering smells. If you get a faint whiff of anything questionable then the diaper isn’t truly clean. You’ll need to run it through one additional cycle.


Drying
The best way to prolong the life of your diapers is to hang/line dry your diapers. By drying in the sun you get the added benefit of not only whitening/brightening your diapers and removing stains – but this will also kill residual bacteria (if you’re having stinky issues with your diapers oftentimes sunning them will be a remarkable help).

If you’re using diapers that have Aplix/Hook and Loop closures then you will want to periodically dry them in the machine to “reset” the hook and loop. The heat from the dryer will cause the hook and loop to contract making them stickier/grippier again. It’s also important to clean out any lint/hair/debris in the hook which can also impair the ability for the tabs to properly grip/fasten.

Serena’s Tips/Tricks/Recommendations
Consider storing your soiled inserts separately from your pockets/covers, especially if you only wash a couple times a week. The longer soiled diapers/inserts sit in the pail, the urine will ferments and turn into ammonia; this can break down your diapers prematurely (mainly the elastic).

If you’re using prefolds in addition to pocket/orall-in-one diapers then it is strongly discouraged to launder these items together; doing so will cause excessive wear and tear to the pockets/all-in-one’s-Cloth-Diapers-_c_608.html”>stay dry lining during the wash. Therefore, it’s best to wash these separately.

Fasten your Aplix/Hook and Loop “laundry” tabs BEFORE tossing them into the diaper pail. This will make laundry much easier than having to sift through the diaper pail to make sure everything is properly fastened for laundering. Here’s an alternative way to fasten most Aplix tabs so they don’t come undone in the wash: pull the tabs to the back, twist one tab over and fasten onto the other tab – VOILA!

To prevent the scruffiness of line dried prefolds consider tossing them in the dryer for 20-30 minutes prior to putting out on the line. This will not only help to keep them soft but “quilt” them slightly as well.

From time to time set your diaper pail out in the sun while the diapers in the wash (I like to give it a quick hose down and allow it to air dry). I’ll use my Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag to store the diapers in while the pails are out of commission (I like how this wet bag has the attached handle so I can simply hang the wet bag from my changing table).

Since I store/organize my diapers by colors – I like to sort the diapers according to color and group items such as inserts and doublers together as I take them out of the washing machine or dryer before putting them on the line to dry. This is not only aesthetically pleasing but also makes pinning the diapers/inserts to the clothesline much easier since everything is situated in the right direction, etc… It also makes my “restocking” process faster too!


- By Serena

45 comments:

*~*a.l.s*~* said...

i am definitely bookmarking this post for future reference. THANK YOU!

A Psych Mommy said...

Thanks for this post and your tips! I think I'm going to start separating my prefolds out as well as having a separate wet bag for hte inserts from the covers since I don't wash as frequently as I probably should.

Mama Notes said...

I hung my diapers outside today for the first time! It looked amazing... I took a picture too! :)

Upstatemomof3 said...

Hmmm... I had no idea that I should be storing my inserts seperately. Thanks!

Kelly said...

One thing I don't mind about cloth diapers is the laundry. Everyone always asks me if they are a pain to launder, but I really don't think it is any big deal. But laundry is one chore I really don't mind. I only use the dryer for the inserts, wipes and wet bags/pail liners. My diapers themselves are hung to dry. That is a good tip about every now and then putting the aplix dipes in the dryer to reset the aplix. I was just noticing mine is starting to loose some of its stickiness! By line drying my diapers, I find the pockets are way easier to stuff!

Jut and Chris said...

Wow! Thanks for all the information! I've been cding for 2 years and just learned some new things to try. I didn't realize prefolds and pockets shouldn't be washed together. I may try some OxyClean in my 'prewash'.

KayStarGoesGREEN said...

(: Thanks for this post. Very helpful information...and I had no clue about the prefolds not needing to be washing with pockets...I stuff some of my pockets with prefolds...I guess I will just have to start washing pockets and wet bags in a load separately again...

Thank you!

Day to Day Tripper said...

Great tutorial. I've been washing diapers for 5 years but still love the new ideas....and love diapers on the clothesline.

Suzy said...

Thanks for the insight, I can't wait to start sunning my diapers again!

Jackie said...

Thanks for sharing the valuable info. For the longest time I only used prefolds and covers (always line dried the covers and most times the prefolds). Now I am starting to add pockets & aio's to my stash and never thought I would need a different laundry routine for them. Thanks!

Thrifty Mama B said...

I've been trying different wash methods and will be trying this on our next load. Thanks!

Ally said...

This is a great post, lots of useful tips!

Jenney said...

Your diapers are so pretty. If I had all those colors, my neighbors might ask me to hang laundry when they are having a party instead of take it down...it looks very festive :o)

Chrysanthemum said...

This is hugely helpful. As someone new to CDing, I'm always looking for helpful tips!

Megan R. said...

This is a great post. My wash routine is really similar to yours. I like your idea for alternate hook and loop fastening, because I don't feel like laundry tabs work that well!

Sammy said...

Beautiful picture. Line drying is so satisfying.

Tiffany said...

Thank you for all the helpful tips and suggestions! I'm new to cloth diapering and appreciate any and all advice I can get.

Coupon Mama said...

I love the color coordinated diaper line. I wish you said which diapers were which colors. I like the looks of the first diaper on your line, the orange one, but what kind of diaper is it?

AScott said...

Great tips!!!

danica said...

Why is it, exactly, that prefolds should be washed separately from pockets?

Lauren said...

Laundry has turned out to be surprisingly easy. I don't think washing diapers 2-3 times a week adds that much to my laundry workload. Plus there is the added bonus of not having stinky diapers sitting in the trash!

Ashley said...

I wash my diapers just like you. Except for storing the inserts separately, and honestly, that makes a lot of sense.

Thanks!

momof3dolls said...

Thanks for the great tips. I'm going to keep my covers & inserts and wash some prefolds separately. The laundry tabs been scratching my dipes. I'll have to try all your suggestions!! I've also tried Dawn blue dishwashing liquid for stripping CDs.

Serena said...

Danica: Excellent question... prefolds (especially good quality prefolds) are a much heavier weight and the cotton twill can be relatively abrasive when being agitated with other more soft and delicate fabrics. It's the diapers with fleece linings that are more affected when washing together with prefolds because the fleece will get "roughed up" and become more pilly than usual.

Serena said...

Coupon Mama: Sorry I didn't think to say which diapers were which.

In order of appearance from left to right are the diapers as follows:

Pumpkin Soft Bums OS diaper, Yellow Blueberry OS diaper, Kiwi Green Gro Baby shell, Ribbit Green bumGenius Organic All-in-One, Sailor Blue AppleCheeks Envelope Diaper (this is a new diaper coming out - stay tuned), the remaining diapers are bumGenius One Size pocket diapers.

The Soldatke family said...

Wow!! This is a great post! And I love your pretty line of dipes!

Valerie aka Mamalovelock said...

Loved this post. I have been cloth diapering for a year now and still don't have the washing down to a science. Thanks!!

springmeus said...

That picture of the rainbow of diapers hanging on the line is one of the reasons I love cloth diapering. There is something relaxing about hanging diapers out to dry like our ancestors have done for centuries and you get to see all the colors!

KuryKidsMommy said...

thank you for such a thoroughly helpful post. I am saving this one for later and am looking forward to installing a line to dry my diapers on!!

Anonymous said...

Do you use the baby oxyclean or the regular oxyclean?

Thanks

macbump said...

I use elimination communication with my son, and as such, don't have as many soiled diapers piling up. Also, he often gets changed soon after peeing, or even after a "half pee" when the diaper is barely wet, at times. However, I have always washed diapers that are just pee diapers in a "cold wash with Tea tree oil if particularly amonia-stinky, cold rinse" pattern. That is it. It's JUST pee, and pee is just water with urea and mineral salts etc. It's not *that* nasty...however, I rarely wash less often than once a day, and I toss his dipes in with our regular laundry. I have absolutely NO smells from clean diapers nor does the rest of my laundry smell like baby's diapers (which don't smell anyhow). If he poops in his diaper (which isn't very often nowadays), I dump it in the toilet, rinse it in the washing machine alone (or sometimes with other pee diapers if they've been tossed in there by my daughters after changing him, instead of in the diaper pail) and then add the rest of the laundry. My rinse is still a cold rinse usually, and cold wash, cold end rinse cycle. I virtually only use hot water after a nasty gastro bug to clean up our puked on sheets or whatever. ;-)

MeghanT said...

I'm also not clear about why prefolds should be washed seperately from pockets?

I may need to replace my prefolds with pockets because I am NOT doing seperate loads. My husband complains enough about me washing the diapers twice each time as it is.

Amanda said...

Great post Serena, your such a laundry wiz! :)

So I got my fluff mail today w/ my first cover and some flats. So far it's going great. did 4 changes using 1 cover. But now I have 2 questions for you:

1.) You mentioned pre-folds causing excessive wear & tear on AIO's but, could I wash my flats & BG Organics together? They all need to be washed the same # of times to get clean.

2.) can covers & shells (gro baby) go through the hot wash only cycles or do they need to go through all 3...cold wash, hot wash & rinse like the diapers?

Serena said...

Anonymous: I use regular OxiClean!

Amanda: I'm happy to hear you're having great success with the prefolds and covers! You can wash the Organic BG AIO's with prefolds and flat diapers since they're all made from cotton (however, I've noticed the prefolds do cause a little pilling to the cotton on the Organic BG's). The birdseye flat diapers can likely be washed with pockets/AIO's as well since they're not as heavy duty as prefolds are.

Yes, diaper covers including the Gro Baby Shell can go through the hot wash only so long as they aren't soiled with a bowel movement. But since I like to load everything at one time - I don't really both separating them and adding them into the wash later. =)

MeghanT: The main reason why it's not recommended to wash prefolds with your pockets is because prefolds are a much heavier weight/material and the cotton twill can be relatively abrasive when being agitated with other more soft and delicate fabrics. It's the diapers with fleece linings that are more affected when washing together with prefolds because the fleece will get "roughed up" and become more pilly than usual.

Derek said...

Thank you for all the awesome tips! I just started cd'ing my newborn this week and am still trying to lay out a washing routine.

GwennS

Anna said...

I love the photo of your rainbow of diapers!

Anonymous said...

Would you say the same thing about cotton/hemp or cottom/bamboo fitteds being washed with microsuede covers?

Brittany said...

Thanks so much for this post! I am most intimidated by the washing part of CDing. It is great to hear other's ideas and hints.

I want/need to make a clothes line just for my diapers so I can take a picture too!

Beka said...

hey serena,
i've been using 6 cloth diapers every day & washing & line drying inside every night = for the past 1.5 months. i do the (very) hot wash with the cold rinse and 1/3 cup (or a little more if very dirty) detergent in my front loader of: 1/3 bar fels naptha, 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda, 10 cups water. they have seemed to be getting pretty clean but i have noticed a very bad, BAD smell coming from my daughter when she pees in her fuzzi bunz. it did not used to smell like this at all! i wash them every night with the above detergent in very hot wash (usually "heavy" cycle) and cold rinse (no cold pre-wash rinse) and line dry in the dark. is it time for a stripping already? i haven't tried adding baking soda, vinegar, or bleach. i'm going to hang the diapers outside in the sun tomorrow. i hope that helps! and for the winter when it's freezing in new england - if i set up my drying rack with the pockets & inserts in front of my big glass door & let the sun shine through (the sun feels pretty hot when i stand next to the glass door even on the coldest day in winter) do you think the sun could do the same thing for the diapers even through a glass door? this is my only alternative in winter i think! so do you think stripping & sunning might be some good ideas? do you think baking soda, bleach, or vinegar might help too? should i add oxi-clean like you do? or use oxi without my detergent? thanks so much for your advice! i was enjoying cd-ing and i think i will once again the foul stench leaves! (the 1st trimester smells are doing me in!!) hope to love cd-ing once again ...soon!

kylem said...

Still trying to figure out the best way to wash ours! I won't give up!

Serena said...

Beka:

I do NOT recommend the use of the homemade detergent you're using.

Homemade detergents work great for your personal laundry but it's not safe for use with cloth diapers. Borax (sodium borate) and Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) are very strong substance (alkaline) that can cause excessive wear and tear to your diapers (especially over time). Now, with that said, these two ingredients are found in a number of cloth diaper friendly detergents... however, it's only a percentage of the overall formula and not the sole or main ingredients and the ratios are safe for use (especially with the small quantities called for with laundering cloth diapers).

Fels Naptha is a soap and true/natural soaps are also NOT recommended for use with laundering cloth diapers because these will likely cause a residue buildup.

The smell from your daughters diapers after they are wet are likely from bacteria residue hanging out in the diapers. A good stint in the sun should help resolve this issue. If not, then it could also be because you have hard water issues. If so, please visit the following posts I wrote about regarding smelly diapers and hard water:

http://www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com/2009/01/whats-that-smell.html

http://www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com/2008/12/could-you-have-hard-water.html

I hope this helps!
-Serena

Serena said...

Anonymous:

Excellent question... typically cotton/hemp or cotton/bamboo are softer fabrics compared to prefolds and can easily be washed together. Since I have significant sized loads I go ahead and wash these items with my prefolds instead of with my pockets - however you can potentially wash them together without consequence. =)

-Serena

Beka said...

Dear Serena,
Thank you SO much for responding to my post. I was told about this detergent recipe from a friend who cd's & has been fine with this recipe (I think it's only been a few months for her, though). But I would like my cd's to last for AS LONG as possible, & through AS MANY kids as possible, and what I am using is NOT on the list of "cloth diaper friendly" detergents from diapershops.com paper. I think I am going to buy some Planet (that's on the list). Oh, what do YOU USE? I'd love to know! Again, I really appreciate you telling me this. Good thing I've only been doing this for 1.5 months. I'll use my gallon of fels naptha, ect. for my husband's work clothes. Thanks!! :) oh p.s. yesterday I stripped the cd's by hot washing 3x just water + once w/ detergent. Stuck my face in them (dry) and they seem to be doing ok! And I did sun them right inside the window today too. I'm going to try to wash at nap and stick them right outside in the sun. What detergent do you use? Thanks!!

Serena said...

Hi again Beka!

I personally use Country Save. My absolute favorite detergent is Allen's Naturally - I get the best results with Allen's but Country Save is neck and neck and slightly cheaper since I'm able to find it locally or a number of us local mamas go together on a bulk order.

I've tried Planet and it also works well!

I'm not sure what type of cloth diapers your friend is using, but with pocket diapers it's especially important to stick with the "approved" detergents otherwise the PUL (the waterproofing material) can also be affected.

Depending on how well you take care of your diapers and how frequently they're being used - you should get a couple years out of your diapers. The One Size diapers are great - but they do have a tendency to wear out sooner because they're getting 2-3 times more use than sized pocket diapers do!

Just wanted to make sure I tossed that out there so you don't get too disappointed if a diaper doesn't last through 2-3 kiddos! =)

Czechina Nana said...

I love sustainability. I used cloth diapers on my own girls, especially after the first one. I love to sun dry those diapers and the sun kills germs. It is also better for the environment.