Monday, December 26, 2011

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Washing Cloth Diapers in HE Top Loaders

If you’re a green person like me you probably have, or want, a HE washing machine. Less energy, less water, and less money at bill time are all big perks. So, when the day came that our ancient washer literally went “KA-PUT”, we bought a brand new HE machine. I wanted a front loader, but had to compromise on an HE top loader. A Whirlpool Cabrio to be exact (what happened to women always getting what they want?). It was clean, bright, and super quiet. Nothing like the ancient metal mammoth I was used to.

I washed all the laundry as I normally would, and for the first week - week and a half I was very impressed! Clothes and diapers were all coming out clean and very soft. Then it happened. Yes, IT. The smell of ammonia. The thing is, it didn’t slowly creep into the diapers, it hit like a ton of bricks! It was the kind that burns your nose hair and eyes. It was horrible! Terrified that an ammonia burn could happen I frantically stripped with hot wash after hot wash, and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed. Satisfied that I had sterilized and killed every last bacteria cell that could possibly be lingering in the dipes, we went about bedtime as usual. The next morning IT was still there, and this time my son’s “area” was all red. I hadn’t had issues with diapers in a VERY long time, since I was a beginner, so I was convinced that I needed to change my wash routine because of the new HE washer.

Here is what I’ve discovered since traveling down a very long road of trial and error with our HE top loading washer:

1. HE top loader (HETL) washers ARE NOT THE SAME as front loaders (FL)
2. HETL let you add a lot of water (great, so the diapers can get nice and clean!)
3. Adding too much water in an HETL will make the diapers float (not so great, because the agitator is on the bottom)
4. A happy medium must be found for diapers and washer to get along- before going insane J

With that said, here is the wash routine that works for us. Clean diapers, no more smells, and happy baby:

Cold Rinse/No Spin
Cold Rinse/Medium Spin
Cold Heavy Duty/Medium Spin
(These are initial rinses to get residue off)

Cold Heavy Duty + detergent + ¼ cup baking soda/No Spin
Hot Heavy Duty + detergent + ¼ cup baking soda/STOP after agitating and soak for 1 hour or overnight
(push START to finish previous cycle)/Medium Spin
(These are the wash cycles to get the diapers clean)

Hot Heavy Duty/No Spin
Cold Heavy Duty + Extra Rinse/Medium Spin
(These are final rinses to get all the left over detergent out)

I know, it looks like a lot. But remember, you don’t have to stand in the laundry room and wait for everything to finish. I start when I get home in the evening, let the diapers soak overnight and finish the next day. On weekends, I start in the morning and finish in the evening. This is what I’ve found to work for us over a long period of time (months). It took forever to find a routine that worked and there wasn’t much about HETL online. So, I hope this helps others out there! Have you found a wash routine that works for you and your top loader?

Gina is a green living advocate, and mom of two boys (ages 2 & 3), who has cloth diapered exclusively for 3 years. A self-proclaimed tree hugger, she loves to share the benefits of all things natural and organic.

23 comments:

Laura B-L said...

Hi Gina-

I think I have the same washing machine but perhaps a slightly different model as I don't see an option for "no spin." I think I am having some ammonia problems for the first time. I want to try your washing routine. Is that 3 separate rinse cycles/2 separate wash cycles and then 2 wash cycles (without detergent)?

Laura
LauraBlackLaw(at)yahoo.com

Juliadeer said...

Well its good to know I'm not the only one doing seven cycles in this machine to get the diapers clean. Is it just me or were we using less water with the less efficient washer?

Juliadeer said...

Well its good to know I'm not the only one doing seven cycles in this machine to get the diapers clean. Is it just me or were we using less water with the less efficient washer?

Juliadeer said...

What type of detergent and in what quantity have you found works best in that machine with your regimine?

Willow said...

I have a HE Top Loader, a Maytag Bravos and even though we've only been CD'ing for about 4 months, this is working out for us so far. Of course our daughter is just starting solids so things might change a bit soon.

1. Rapid wash, cold, low spin, no detergent. (~35 minutes)
- to get rid of the ickies and leave some water weight
2. Bulky wash, hot-cold, max extract spin, 1 TBSP Rockin Green & 1 TBSP original Tide, extra rinse. (~1 hr, 10 minutes)
- best combo I've found for our water type to get the diapers clean without build up. Either detergent alone doesn't work as well as them together.
3. Rapid wash, cold, max extract spin, no detergent. (~35 minutes)

This works for our 6 month old for now and doesn't take all day to do.

Amy said...

I have that exact washing machine and here is what I have come up with that works great with my water- the trick for me is to wash on "bulky items" since it uses a little more water:

1. Cold wash on extra heavy, bulky items with about a quarter size drop of detergent ( I use Planet)

2. Hot wash on extra heavy, bulky items with an extra rinse (extra rinse button) and a quarter size drop of detergent.

This way I only have to remember to go back to the washing machine once!

Sarah said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I also have an HETL (a Cabrio) and I've really struggled with finding a good routine for the diapers. Hoping this works!

nicole said...

This is what I find ridiculous about he washers.( Bc I have a he front loader and I hate it. ) the amount of water you use just to get them clean, defeats the purpose of getting an he!

Anonymous said...

Hi Gina, I am expecting in March and am very excited to cloth diaper and wash at home ..... however, your post frightens me a bit since I also have an HETL! Any chance you can tie some general times back to the cycles you listed (rinse/no spin/ten minutes)? It would help me to check my washer and make sure this newbie is going along the same lines and not over or under doing it. Thanks for your post!

M.

MyClothLove said...

I really think you could be using less detergent than needed before. You should not have to do that much rinsing, poor thing. Measure your detergent by how much water is in the drum not by the diaper amount. Water level should be just above the diaper level to get a swish but the diapers still rub together. With my mom's top loader I use 1 tsp rocking green soft water bare naked. No more than a tablespoon. HE is very efficient and requires less detergent than old models. cold pre wash on the "extra clean setting", hot wash, rinse cold " extra clean setting". The extra clean setting is just like a short wash, short rinse cycle.

Boise Wiebers said...

Have you considered pre-rinsing ALL of your diapers as you change your child? Perhaps dipping the pee ones in the toilet or spraying them with your sprayer? Aside from pre-rinsing the poopy diapers, this could help with your ammonia issues and not require three separate pre-rinse cycles. I'm guessing your pre-rinse cycles alone take 90 minutes total.

Kelly said...

I just got a HETL machine! It's what made me start cloth diapering! (I didn't have a machine before).

I mostly use prefolds, but I do use a pocket dipe stuffed with hemp and MF every night... those hemp doublers do like to hold the stink!

This is what I do:

Cold Presoak/Spin no soap
Hot Presoak/Spin with RG detergent
Hot/Cold Wash/Rinse
Then in the dryer with the liners and prefolds and the pockets go on the rack for the night.

About once a month I soak those nasty hempies in RG's "Funk Rock".. it gets the lingering stinkies right out! (The prefolds never stink)

It's worked for me for about 7 months :)

Anonymous said...

I have the Kenmore version of the HE top loader which I love but also took some trial and error to find a good wash routine.
1 express wash-warm no detergent
2 towel wash cycles with 2 extra rinses each on Hot/Cold with detergent (tide HE powder)...this seems to give me the right amount of water to not float too many diapers as I have an entire stash of AIO
1 towel wash-hot/cold-no detergent

Diana M. said...

Love your article! Do you have any wash routines you can share for those with regular top loaders and hard water issues? Is it safe to soak diapers overnight? I end up putting more detergent in my wash cycles in an attempt to get the smell out of my diapers. Please help! No routine I've tried has worked so far... Thank you. Sincerely, Diana M.

Amy said...

I have the exact same washer. I was washing diapers in our old one for a little over two years before buying the Cabrio. I haven't found the perfect solution yet, but I'm happy. Yours does seem like a lot of steps, but I might need to keep those in mind as baby number 2 gets older. Here are my steps:
1. Soak with cold water (if it's really bad I'll add a rinse & soak).
2. Bulky Items with cold water, heavy soil, low spin.
3. Bulky items with hot water, clothe diaper detergent, medium soil level, low spin with extra rinse.

Every so often I'll put bleach in the last hot cycle.

gina said...

@Diana M.- some manufacturers don't recommend soaking overnight. We do (BabyKicks) and it can make a world of difference. If you have hard water don't ever add bleach and try adding some Calgon in the washes. For different wash routines the DiaperSwappers forum is a wealth of info!

gina said...

Wow, a lot of comments since I last checked!

I'll try to hit on most here.
-I had to change detergent when we changed washers. You can see that here on The Cloth Diaper Whisperer: Cloth Diaper Confession.
-I tried to use the "Bulky" setting of the washer to add more water, but I found it added too much water and the diapers floated, away from the agitator.
-I tried using every CD detergent out there in less quantity and more quantity. This is what gets our diapers clean, I use Tide HE up to the #1 line (perhaps a tablespoon).
-I don't prerinse diapers before pailing. I wash every 2-3 days and it works for me.
-Washing, not including soaking, takes about 3.5 hours... but, I don't stand there and watch the machine. I start diapers when I get home from work, make dinner, give baths, piddle around the house, and then diapers are ready to go in the dryer before I go to bed. I don't find it to be a ton of work to push the buttons on the machine :)

Kayleigh said...

I have this same machine (Cabrio) and HATE it for cloth diapers! my son is almost 2 and we have had the worst ammonia issues. Literally having to strip once a week. While this does look like a lot of work, it is significantly less work than all that stripping. Thanks for the tips :)

Banana Fanna Foe said...

Willow, I have the Bravo as well. Do you tide for HE machines or the real original? I'm going to copy your routine and see if it works for us too! Just got the machines yesterday! Thanks....

Pam said...

Hi,
I just purchased the Whirlpool Cabrio HE top loader (warranty replacement for my Whirlpool front loader). After trying several cycles (and some recommendations from here) not all the "residue" is coming off. I always quickly rinse off the bulky stuff and it has never been a problem in other machines (the front loader and relatives old top loaders). What should I do? So frustrated!

Pam

Anonymous said...

I just looked at two brands of HE Top loaders at Home Depot (Samsung and LG) and they both had warnings that you cannot wash ANY waterproof fabrics. Including bibs, mattress pads, raincoats, tablecloths.... What???

Sarahj said...

Ww just purchased the samsung toploader (from Lowes) and have horrible stink and leak issues. I DO wash diapers in it, there is even a suggestion in the manual about what cycle to use, so I am not sure if diapers apply to the no waterproof stuff rule? But the manual suggested to use the super hot cycle. I think, which i have read can ruin he diapers. We also just moved and have harder water and after consulting the rocking green guru I am going to try this:
Short wash cold low spin ( with all inserts removed - I used to not have to even do this, the old agitator did it for me!) on the second lowest water setting
Heavy duty hot with the "aquajet" extra plus extra rinse
With 2 Tbsp rockin green classic medium spin high water setting
Short wash cold high spin medium water setting

I have to set the timer if i am upstairs to remember to restart:). I am trying this to see if it helps so my nose and baby's bottom don't hurt anymore!

A suggestion for the person having issues with hard water (Diana). My sister in law just stripped all diapers and switched detergents! And that was it - important to strip and give it a few weeks to get old detergent out. She tried country save and charlies before settling on bumgenius and never strips with bleach or funk rock anymore, mostly because she forgets:). And no more smells! But she can no longer use diapers overnight, they leak (maybe an age thing too, her son is 1.5)

Adela Hesounova said...

I have the Cabrio as well and used my bumgenius diapers for the first time, using just the "whites" cycle and was very disappointed when I took it out still stained. Then I washed it again on quick wash on hot and then on whites again and it's still stained... Any suggestions how to still get it off, or is it too late now..
Thank you!
Adela