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Monday, January 23, 2012

Cloth diapering 103

For more information on cloth diapering including what brands I use and where to get them look here and here. Today I'd like to tell you about how I keep those tiny and cute diapers clean.  It's really not a big deal.  It's one of the most frequent reasons people give me for not doing cloth, the laundry.  Here is what I do.

Washing Routine
I should first tell you that I have a HE Front loading w/d.  However, I used to have a top loading (regular non-HE) w/d before and my routine has changed very little.

  1. Short Wash - warm/cold - nothing added
  2. Regular Wash - hot/cold with an extra rise added - soap only
  3. Dry on hot - run thru twice
That's it!  I don't recommend doing cold water washes, I think the hot is necessary to keep the diapers clean and stink-free.  Speaking of stink-free, let's move on to detergents, soaps and extras.

With my first daughter I carefully researched soaps and selected a cloth friendly detergent.  This is important because many detergents are bad for cloth diapers, they cause build up which = stink!  Or, they wear out the diapers sooner, destroying the water repellent properties, etc.  I found great information on what detergents are good on the site Pinstripes and Polkadots.  They have charts that assign scores for most brands out there.  I used Mountain Green baby with my first.  

So when it was time to diaper again I started researching and found that lo and behold people were talking on and on about using Tide.  Yes, Tide!  A very non-save-the-planet type of detergent.  On the pinstripes site it is only given 3 stars and is not highly recommended for use.  However, after hearing so many people rave about it I decided to try it.  So far it's worked great, no build up or other issues.  I use regular non-ultra Tide and also used the free and clear one.  The trick with detergent is the amount that you use.  You need FAR less detergent for diapers than with regular loads.  May seem counterintuitive but it's true!  Use 1/2 or even a 1/4 as much as you would with a regular load.  Otherwise the detergent builds up and creates stink.  However, I will add that not using enough detergent can cause it's own problems, naturally you need enough soap to get the job done.

What about Fabric Softener?
Fabric softener is not recommended for cloth as it can cause build-up on the diapers and/or irritation for the baby's skin.  However, if you diapers are a natural fabric like bamboo then there are a couple cloth safe options like Mrs Meyers or Ecover.  I use Ecover for my goodmama fitteds, but not on my covers or bum genius (microfiber).  The fabric softener makes them soft, squishy and silky.  I also used them on my newborn kissaluv fitteds.

Troubleshooting Stink
If your diapers don't look or smell clean there are options.  If they have stains (very common with baby poo) the best way to get them white again is to put them in the sun.  Really, the sun is a miracle bleach and disinfectant and oh-so-free.  Here in AZ we can do this pretty much every day.  Just so you know, even cloudy days work for sunning, but probably not rainy ones.  Ha!

If they smell stinky then here are some options:
  1. Strip them using a squirt of blue Dawn in the first cycle (directly onto the diapers, not in the soap dispenser).  You may need an extra rinse cycle if soap/bubbles still appears in the wash after the regular routine.
  2. Add baking soda to the main wash.  This is especially helpful in areas with hard water.
  3. Add vinegar to the main wash.  This is especially helpful in areas with soft water.
  4. Add tea-tree oil to the first or main wash.  This is what I do if my microfiber diapers have a stink to them.  Just a few drops in the first cycle make a HUGE difference.  
  5. When desperate try bleach.  Some cloth diapering companies like Bum Genius actually recommend a once a month bleaching.  But go easy on this one b/c they can wear out your diapers (especially the elastics) if you do it too much.  
Storing dirty diapers
Back in the day our parents used wet pails to keep the dirty diapers until wash day.  I do not use a wet pail as I'm not interested in pee/poo diaper soup.  Yuck!  I use a dry pail which is basically a regular kitchen step can with a wet-bag liner inside.  These are great because on wash day I just pull out the whole bag and throw it all in the washer, no need to touch any dirty diapers!  I have two that I rotate.  The big pink bag on the left of the following photo is the liner.

When out and about I use a small zippered wet-bag.  They come in lots of pretty colors and prints and are a non-gross way to get your used diapers back to the house.  After you are done with cloth diapers you can use them for wet swimsuits or dirty laundry while traveling.  Wet bags come in a variety of sizes.  I used the medium sized one at home when my daughter was a newborn.  I had that one in my bedroom so I could keep her dirty diapers there without having to walk across the house to the regular changing table.  Mediums can also be helpful if you have a long day planned out of your house, or for trips.

What about poop?
Ah, the poop question.  So commonly asked.  When babies are only breast-fed their poo is really no big deal.  You just throw the diapers in, no fuss needed.  I do add a spray of Bac-Out before putting it in the can, but I do not rinse or spray them off with water.  Many people swear by their diaper sprayers that they hook up to the toilet but I am not interested in touching poopy diapers and carrying them around the house to spray off.  Yuck!

Now, once solid foods are introduced their poo gets ahem, more solid and a lot more stinky.  Sigh.  One of the main reasons I was trying to hold off giving my baby solid food.  However, there is hope.  It comes in the form of disposable diaper liners.  They are made out of rice-paper and sit neatly in the bottom of the diaper.  If your baby has a bowel movement then you simply pick up the liner and toss that in the toilet.  If they only peed then you wash the liner with your diapers and re-use it again.  They can be washed about 2x before they fall apart (since they're biodegradable).  Popular brands of flush able liners are Imse Vimse, Bummis, Osocozy and Grovia.  I get mine at Mom's Milk Boutique.

What about Rash Creams?
It is important to be careful when using diaper creams and cloth diapers.  Many of the most common brands can cause staining.  However, there are diaper safe options.  My favorites are Angel Baby Bottom Balm and plain old Coconut Oil.  Yes, the same oil you buy for use in the kitchen can also be used as a diaper cream.  It is all natural and doesn't smell or stain.  I just put some in a small container to keep at the changing table.  You know, because you don't want to mix diaper changes with cooking dinner. ;)

Well I think I about covered it.  Do you still have questions?  Please feel free to leave me a comment if there is something else you'd like to know!


  1. Putting dish detergent in your washing machine can damage it and void your warranty. Please don't add Dawn to your washing machine unless you want to ruin it. You shouldn't have to strip your diapers if you have a solid wash routine using strong detergent and enough for a heavily soiled load. Detergent build up is a myth. Grovia talks about that in their blog. http://www.gro-via.com/blog/enough-stripping-already/
    Not using enough detergent will cause the fats and oils in poop to not be washed out, they will build up and your diapers will repel and stink. Too little detergent doesn't cause repelling. Not using enough detergent does.

    1. Hello there. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and share your option. Naturally I disagree, as my years of cloth diaper washing have shown my routine to work well. Just to clarify, to add Dawn you do not put a large amount in, nor do you put it in the dispenser portion. I just squirted it into the washer with my clothes. I still use Dawn for non-diapering washing, specifically as a oil spot/stain remover, it works amazing! I have had no issues with my FL washer either, 5 years and going strong on this particular model (before that we had a TL).

      I absolutely agree that not using enough detergent can be problematic, you need enough to get them clean. But in my many years experience I've also seen that it can build up in the diapers. Of course there are many different kind of diapers from lots of materials, perhaps some do not have this as much as others. I did not use Grovia, so I can not speak to their use.

      Cloth diapering routines whether what brand to use or how to wash them are not an exact science. You have to try things out to see what works best for you. In my experience Dawn here and there (every few months, not frequently) was a helpful additive.

  2. Here is some information about using dish soap in a washing machine. It is a bad idea. http://www.choicehomewarranty.com/blog/appliance-abuse/
    A small amount of dish soap and a toothbrush in the sink can be used to clean non cloth diaper safe creams from your diapers. But the soap needs to be rinsed out before putting in the washer.
    I have been using Tide original powder up to line 3 since November 2013 and I have not had to strip my diapers since. If you have to routinely use Dawn on your diapers, you are not using enough detergent and your diapers aren't getting clean. I have (hotel quality) towels that are 20 years old that have always been washed in the proper amount of detergent. They are still soft and absorbant. They have no issues with alleged detergent build up. Why would diapers have that problem? They are both made of cloth. Short pre wash with Tide to line 1. Heavy-duty wash with Tide to line 3. No extra rinses because I have hard water. Done. No stripping ever because my diapers are clean. No issues with rashes, ammonia burns, etc... 18 months with the same wash routine. Stripping is not normal and should never have to be done. My daughter is a heavy wetter and out pees disposables but our cloth is perfect. Detergent build up is a myth. Repelling because your diapers aren't getting clean enough because you are not using enough detergent is not a myth. Even Cotton babies' blog says that it is common to need 2,3, or even 4 times the amount of detergent recommended on their Bum Genius detergent brand (it's overpriced Country Save). Green Mountain diapers also recommends using enough detergent for a heavily soiled load. They also say mainstream detergent without fabric softener is fine (Tide, etc). Green Mountain diapers also advises against using dish detergent on your diapers.

    1. Thank you again for taking the time to share your opinions. Personally I would not compare towels (or regular laundry items) to diapers. Diapers after all have quite a bit more shall we say heavy use. Well, at least mine did! I did not regularly have towels soaked in urine or covered in feces. ;)

      As I said before cloth diapering is not a one-size fits all. Each diaper, washer, soap and water type may require a different routine. Just b/c something works well for you (and has for 18 months) does not mean that it will work perfectly for someone else. Which is why I included a variety of trouble shooting options in case stink appears. Using more detergent should absolutely be one of those options to look at if stink is an issue.

      However, in my many (6+) years of washing a variety of different diaper types in 2 different kinds of washers (FL & TL) the things I posted about worked for me. Occasionally (not routinely) using Dawn is one of the items that worked for me. I preferred tea-tree oil actually, and used that one routinely.

      There is a difference between using large amounts of dawn, or using it as an alternative to detergent and using a little bit here and there. However, if you are concerned about your washer warranty or what have you the Dawn option can be skipped.

      I am choosing to keep your two comments on my blog b/c I believe dialogue and debate are great. And once again I will repeat that cloth diapering wash routines are not one-size-fits-all. It takes a bit of trial and error to find one that works for you. It is very possible that your current 18 month routine may stop working well after 2 years, you just never know. But hopefully Tide continues to be just what you need. I will note that I only used liquid Tide (original) in my washer b/c the powder was not recommended for the FL (at the time).