Anyone who has googled “washing cloth diapers” knows that the internet is full of complicated and confusing routines for keeping Baby’s cotton clad bum wrappers clean. People feel strongly about their diapering routine, maybe because they have invested time and energy into choosing and implementing a system which works for them. We have some suggestions for you here, which we hope will make our routine easier, but in the end you will want to experiment and choose the process that works for you. Just keep it simple, make it a part of your life, and solve problems as they arise.
First decide if you want to use a wet or dry pail. Wet means you will have to accommodate a big heavy container full of water (which you will need to change daily) in some room of your house. Wet pails are a safety hazard for small children. Never leave a bucket of water unattended anywhere a small child might be. Dry pails are safer, more convenient, easier to transport to the washer, and develop fewer odor problems. Stains can be an issue with either method of soiled diaper storage, but by frequent washing you can avoid some of the inevitable staining.
Washing diapers does not have to be complicated. First and foremost read your manufacturer’s recommended routine. Note that your diaper covers may require a slightly different approach than your diapers themselves- you can probably wash them with your diapers, but you’ll likely pull them out to hang dry. You will want to wash no more than about 24 diapers at a time, depending on your washer size. In my personal experience I found an overnight soak in the washer helped eliminate stains. If you have an HE machine or wash at a laundromat this may not be possible. Most sources suggest washing with less than the recommended amount of detergent, to avoid detergent build up on your diapers. (I never found this to be workable- I washed using Tide Free powder or Arm and Hammer powder at the full recommended amount.) A Free and Clear detergent is a good choice for diapers, since these have no scents or fabric softeners, which are undesirable for Baby’s skin and for your diapers absorbency. If your diapers are equipped with hook and loop style fasteners (aplix, velcro) you will want to secure the tabs so you do not create a “diaper train.” Wash diapers on HOT with a COLD rinse. You can use a second rinse to help eliminate detergent residue if you like. Then dry your diapers as recommended. Most covers can be hung dry to prevent wear and tear, and they dry quickly.
Are you using wool? Wool soakers, which many moms love, require some TLC. Wool does not need to be washed each time it is worn. Plan to have 3 wool covers and rotate as needed, hanging to freshen between uses. When needed, wash in the sink with a special wool safe cleaner like Eucalan, spin out in your washer if necessary, and lay flat to dry. You can add a lanolin soak if needed- simply squeeze a small mount of lanolin into hot water and swirl to dissolve. Then add your wool soap. Soak your wool cover for around 20 minutes to allow the lanolin to bond with the fibers of the garment. Spin out if needed, and lay flat to dry.
A word about soap versus detergents- castile soap is a lovely natural product, which we wholeheartedly recommend for your skin and for your baby’s skin. But castile soaps CAN cause a buildup on your diapers. So can any detergent with additives, like stain fighting additives, scents, oils (even natural ones like citrus), whiteners/brighteners etc. When a buildup or residue occurs, you may notice that your diapers are smelly or less absorbent. In many cases this issue can be resolved with a few was cycles in plain old HOT water and no soap at all. You may have also heard the term “stripping diapers” – this hot water washing is the simplest method of stripping your diapers. These build ups can lead to rashes.
Severe rashes can be caused by irritation or by yeasts or bacteria in your diapers. If you find you have a yeast problem, try running your CLEAN diapers through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle. You can also boil or iron your diapers to destroy any bacteria or fungus which is lurking. Please know this may never ever happen to you. Do not let fear of diapers in your dishwasher stop you from trying cloth diapering.
If you have a rash issue you will also want to use a diaper safe barrier balm on baby’s bum. We were happy to see that Mothering Magazine rated our two favorites, Weleda Baby Calendula Diaper Care and Angel Baby Bottom Balm very highly in their review of diaper creams. Its a good idea to make sure your bottom balm is safe for your diapers. These two are perfect for cloth, as they leave behind no residue.
What’s your routine? What’s your favorite detergent or soap? Leave us a comment and share your experience.