It all began with a soft, fluffy green BumGenius diaper. After hours of research on the computer, I finally decided to purchase a reusable alternative to the disposables I was using on my then 18 month old son. The allure of saving the environment from the incredible amount of waste that comes with disposables was overshadowed by the potential savings of my wallet. Little did I know that with this purchase, I would begin not only a diapering transformation, but a laundry room revolution.
After all my experience with two little ones with extremely sensitive skin, and many different laundering routines, I could ramble on about everything I've learned about detergents, dryer sheets, and more...but instead I'll present the top five things I've learned as a result of cloth diapers entering my life.
5. The real difference between regular and "baby" detergents.
The truth is in the residue. Regular detergents are made with far less care to residue than baby detergents. Adults are naturally less sensitive to anything left behind on our clothing, and these detergents simply leave behind more chemicals...whether they be fragrances, whiteners, softeners, etc. "Baby" detergents are designed to leave behind fewer of these potential skin irritants. Almost all formulas with no whiteners, bleach, fragrance, or enzymes function exactly like a "baby" detergent. Using cloth diapers made me realize how big a part residues actually play in the laundry equation. Anything left behind on clothes will attract more dirt and stink, and possibly irritate baby's sensitive skin. Over time, I realized there's no reason I wasn't being just as conscious of what was going next to my own skin!
4. Clean is not a color.
When you use detergents that include whiteners, your clothes really do look whiter/brighter, but it's actually an optical illusion! The whitening agent left behind on your clothes (yes, it's a residue!) simply reflects the light differently. It's just another chemical next to your skin, and your clothes are not really cleaner. It's also these whiteners that will make laundry stiff without a run through the dryer. The cost of whiter clothes through bleach is also high...considering how much faster it causes the fabrics to break down (and how harmful chlorine is to the environment). Although I'd rather my diapers look like new forever, a couple of stains don't affect their function or cleanliness one bit! Minimizing my family's chemical exposure is important to me, so I looked for safer alternatives. And, I turned back to the most effective method of stain prevention: treating and washing clothes as soon as possible.
3. Clean is not a fragrance.
It seems like an easy enough concept, but how many times have I cleaned with scented products and enjoyed the clean feeling that a "fresh scent" provided? The truth is, you don't need a perfumed waft of lavender (or anything else for that matter) floating into your nostrils to say something is clean. Clean is an absence of dirt and other unwanted substances, and sometimes that doesn't have a pretty smell! Besides, fragrances in most name-brand detergents are petroleum based, and not even an odor actually found in nature. As I mentioned before, fragrances can also be a skin irritant, and not very useful on a diaper. Sticking with natural alternatives and real scents was the direction I would turn for all of my clothes.
2. The pure joy of line-dry laundry.
The sun's natural disinfecting and whitening power is available at the best price of all: free! I find it therapeutic to clip my cloth diapers and laundry outside, and watch it blowing in the breeze. Nothing compares to the smell of line dried clothes (remember sometimes clean is a smell). The weather may not always cooperate, but any day without rain I try to capture this free energy source. Even overcast days will filter through the beneficial rays of the sun. There's nothing more effective in getting stains out of my own diapers than several hours in the sunshine...and soon the rest of my laundry followed!
1. Laundry doesn't have to be complicated.
When I considered cloth diapers, my first thought was to how overwhelming my laundry room would become. Another special detergent, and more dirty clothes. My shelves used to be cluttered full of many different formulas designed to improve my cleaning prowess. Baby-safe detergent, delicates-safe detergent, bleach for whitening, softener for softening, dryer sheets for softening (making me wonder why on earth do things that are naturally soft need so much softening!?), odor remover, stain remover and random bottles of who knows what. Now, I have a very simple laundry room shelf. Thanks to Kelly's Closet, I discovered my Rockin' Green detergents which are unscented for the diapers, and random natural scents for everything else. Sitting next to them are baking soda for the occasional boost, chlorine-free bleach for times of need, and wool dryer balls. Essentially, everything is washed and dried with the same approach...using safe, natural formulas that leave clean clothes (and nothing harmful!) behind.
The same things that I considered when laundering my cloth diapers became a revolution to the entire approach of laundry. Starting with cloth diapers, I realized the significance of everything that went into my washing machine. All this time I was focused on everything I was washing away, and the new focus was on what was being left behind (ha, pun intended!).
Now I know my choices are not only resulting in a healthier and safer home, but a more environmentally friendly world impact. Who knew one cloth diaper could do so much?
By Julie G.