Washing Cloth Diapers
Before we get to washing, lets quickly talk about dirty diaper storage. While they wait for laundry day, a wet bag/pail liner will make storing your dirty diapers easy. If you are on a tight budget, they are one of those nice to have but not necessary to have accessories. A plastic laundry basket with holes can work just as well.
Wet bags/pail liners ARE super convenient though. They are lined with a water resistant material that will keep everything contained. A pail liner will fit inside a trash can, and will hold 2-3 days worth of diapers. Wet bags come in a variety of sizes, but you can get them large enough to hold just as many diapers as the pail liner. When it's time to wash, dump the diapers in your washer and throw the wet bag/pail liner in with them. Super easy!
If you are imagining a bag of dirty diapers just sitting around creating a less than pleasant odor, don't worry! It really doesn't smell. Keep the air flowing and your dirty diaper storage won't stink! If you are using a pail liner, keep the lid open. If you are using a wet bag, don't keep it completely shut. But if you have pets or a mobile and endlessly curious baby and need to keep them contained, consider a wicker hamper instead of a completely solid trash can, or a hanging wet bag.
"......but what about the poop?" That's probably one of the first questions you'll get when you let someone know you've decided to cloth diaper! Let's run through basic wash routines, and what exactly you do do with the poop.
First things first, when you have a brand new cloth diaper you'll need to prep it. If you have a synthetic fiber diaper (microfiber, fleece, etc.) it just needs one wash with detergent before it's good to go. If you have a natural fiber diaper (hemp, cotton) it will need a couple of hot washes to remove the natural oils in the fibers and allow it to become absorbent. Usually just a couple of washes will prep it enough for daytime use, and from there, just remember that the more it's washed the more absorbent it will become.
If you have an exclusively breastfed infant, their poop will be completely water soluble and you don't have to do anything before washing. Do a little happy dance and appreciate this time period!
Once formula or solid food is introduced, you need to do something to remove the poop prior to washing. This can be as simple as plopping poop directly into the toilet, or scraping it off. It sounds terrible, but scraping is my first choice! I use a spatula (it's an obnoxious neon green with a lady bug, so completely different than any kitchen spatulas I have) that is stored with the toilet brush. I use it to scrape poop off of the diaper and right into the toilet. It's quick and does a great job.
If you prefer to be a bit more hands off, there are some accessories you can purchase to help in the poop removal process. Here are some of your options:
- Disposable Liner: Placed between your baby and the diaper with each change, liners are like a net that will catch solids and allow urine to pass through. When your baby poops, you'll remove the liner, shake the poop into the toilet, and dispose of the liner.
- Diaper Sprayer: A diaper sprayer will hook into the water line on your toilet, and has adjustable pressure. You'll rinse your poopy diaper over the toilet, then toss it in the wet bag to wait for laundry day.
- Spray Pal: Used in conjunction with a Diaper Sprayer, this will contain any overspray and help you wring out the wet diaper.
While we are on the topic - wet diapers do not need to be rinsed ahead of washing. However, if you have a super saturated overnight diaper, it could benefit from a quick rinse before tossing it in your wet bag/pail liner. That can help cut down on the ammonia smell!
Now that you've dutifully removed poop, you can move on to washing your diapers!
Your basic wash routine will have three easy steps: prewash, main wash, and dry.
- Prewash: The prewash is a very important step, as it will rinse away urine and any trace of poop left behind so that your diapers can be washed in clean water during the main wash. You can use cold, warm, or hot water. I prefer to use warm water, but you can experiment with what works best for you. Choose whatever short cycle your washing machine has, as long as you are getting around 10 minutes of agitation. It can also be helpful to add a small amount of your detergent during the prewash, depending on the detergent you use and the hardness of your water.
- Wash: This is where the magic happens! Use your washing machines longest cycle with the heaviest agitation. I prefer to use hot water, but depending on the detergent you choose, cold would work as well. Don't add any extra rinses, they aren't necessary!
- Dry: Line dry or machine dry, whatever is more convenient for you.
- It's important to note: Some manufacturers have very specific washing instructions. Whenever you purchase a new diaper, you should read their suggestions and wash accordingly so as not to void their warranty.
Things to consider
The wash routine outlined above is the best place to start. However, there may be certain circumstances that require the routine to be tweaked a bit.
- Detergent: Don't fret over this decision! Generally speaking, any detergent that does not contain fabric softeners will work. Use the recommended amount for a heavily soiled load. My favorites? Liquid Tide and Seventh Generation.
- Water type: It's helpful to know if you have hard or soft water, as it may change your washing routine. You can usually find free water test kits at large home improvement stores!
- Soft water: The main thing to watch for with soft water is too many bubbles! This can either cause a problem in your machine (high efficiency washers can even display a "suds" error message) or cause some sliminess on your diapers.
- Hard water: Depending on the degree of hardness, you may need to add a water softener to your main wash cycle. Washing in untreated hard water could potentially lead to mineral deposits left behind in the fibers of your diapers (kind of like the soap scum that builds up in the corner of your shower). Calgon or Borax are both widely available and work wonderfully!
- Load size: Regardless of if your machine has an agitator or not, it's important for diapers to rub against each other during the wash cycle. That agitation will help them get clean. You want to aim for your load to look like stew - not overly soupy (too much water) or like chili (not enough water). If you need to bulk up the load, throw in baby clothes, wash cloths, towels, etc.
- Stains: As long as your diapers are coming out of the main wash smelling clean, you are just dealing with a stain! For stains, the sun is your friend. Set the diaper outside or near a sunny window when it's wet (either right out of the wash, or just run it under the sink). Let it dry in the sun and you'll be amazed at how well it works!
- Stripping: You'll see this term thrown around quite a bit, and it refers to chemically stripping your diapers. With a good wash routine, this isn't something you need to be doing on a regular basis. If you do find that you are experiencing a build up on your diapers, you can use Mighty Bubbles.
Information overload? Try not to fret. Keep things SIMPLE to start, and I promise you'll find it's no big deal! Laundry is probably my least favorite chore (just ahead of scrubbing toilets used by a newly potty trained boy with bad aim), but cloth diaper laundry is FUN and super satisfying!
Please never hesitate to contact me if you are needing help! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message on Facebook or Instagram. I'd be more than happy to help walk you through a washing routine.