“But my grandma said to do it this way!”
I love your grandma, I promise. But cloth has changed a ton since she diapered your parents. The only things they were washing were large flats and plastic pants. They also usually line dried them, and many times the diapers still had stink and leaking issues. Even today, you will find tons of different advice on how to wash your diapers, much of it conflicting. After a fair amount of research and several months of washing my own diapers, I find the best advice to come from one website (Fluff Love University), which I will cite and link to heavily throughout this post. They are scientifically based (yay science!) and like to keep things as simple as possible.
Detergents–variety is the spice of life!
There are a lot of websites and diaper companies out there that will tell you to use a ‘cloth safe’ detergent. Examples include Rockin’ Green or Charlie’s Soap. These aren’t necessary, and they’re usually way too weak to actually get anything clean. And in fact, Charlie’s Soap is dangerous and shouldn’t be used on any sort of laundry.
You can absolutely use most any mainstream detergent on your diapers. The most popular and effective choice is regular old Tide. If you’re looking for something more natural, there are many plant based detergents that work well. A top pick is Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus (Fresh Scent). Just remember that the plant based detergents–and also any free and clear detergent–will need to be used in larger amounts to get things clean, especially something as dirty as diaper laundry.
Once you pick a detergent, check this index to make sure it is a good choice, and note how much it says to use. Diaper laundry is some of the dirtiest laundry you will ever do, so using enough detergent is very important.
Personally, I use Tide Free and Clear because I wanted a strong detergent but hate strong scents. I also used Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus for awhile, and it works well, but you need a lot of it for it to be effective and it was getting costly. You also must do your main wash in hot water if you pick a plant based detergent, and that’s not very energy efficient.
“My washer has too many settings–help!”
There are a lot of washers out there, and many of them have tons of settings. The basic rule of thumb with cloth diaper laundry is pretty simple–pick a normal wash setting with soil and spin settings all the way up for your prewash, and pick a heavy duty/whites setting with soil and spin settings all the way up for your main wash. Turn any extra rinse settings off. You can find your specific washer in this index–look up by brand and model number. Your model number is usually found near the drum opening when you open the lid of your washer. This index will tell you exactly what settings to use for your washing machine.
Additives–the good and the bad.
Certain additives in diaper laundry are a definite no-no:
–Fabric softener will coat the fabrics of your diapers and cause repelling. You can use it in your normal laundry with no issues if you want, however.
–Dryer Sheets will also coat the fabrics of your diapers and cause repelling. You can use them in the dryer with your other laundry without issue, just never with diapers.
–Vinegar isn’t good for the elastics of your diapers. It’s also really rough on your washer’s seals and gaskets. Not recommended for any laundry.
Some additives are necessary in certain situations:
–Bleach is needed if you are washing diapers that you bought pre-loved (used). Even if the original owner had a great wash routine, it’s just good sanitary practice to do a bleach wash or soak before putting them on your kid. If your routine isn’t working and you’re ending up with stinky diapers, a bleach soak will ‘reset’ your diapers so you can tweak or change your routine afterwards. Here are the instructions for a proper bleach soak. There is no reason to use bleach in every wash unless you are combating a yeast infection. It is hard on your diapers and not needed.
–Water softener, such as Borax or Calgon are needed if you have hard water. You can test your water hardness easily with test strips from your local Wal-Mart or hardware store.
I use half a cap of Calgon in my pre-wash and a full cap in the main wash to combat my hard water. Just pour it straight into the bottom of your drum. If you don’t treat your hard water, your diapers will eventually start stinking, repelling, and may even give your child a rash.
Additives that are fine to use in all situations:
–Scent boosters are fine to use in your diaper laundry. I throw about 1/4 a cap of them into my pre-wash for a nice light scent when they come out of the dryer. I am not a fan of strong scents.
–Detergent boosters are always fine–Biz or Oxiclean will help fight stains! Just follow the directions on the bottle for a heavily soiled load.
–Stain fighters like Shout, Spray N Wash, or Buncha Farmers are also fine to use and pre-treat stains with. The best stain fighter is the sun! Just lay your diapers straight out of the washer on a drying rack in the sun and watch the magic!
If you are having trouble putting all this information into a good wash routine for yourself, Fluff Love has a Facebook page where you can ask for a good routine. They’ll just need a few pieces of information, and they’ll write it all out in plain English for you.
-Your washer’s control panel and model number:
-The results of your water hardness test.
-Your detergent and any additives you plan to use.
Here’s the link to the page. You’ll have to request to join, but I promise it will be worth it. You’ll see a lot of troubleshooting posts on the page, but remember that’s what the page is for–people don’t just come to post about how everything is going well! With a solid wash routine most people never have any issues.
Make sure to check back for my next installment of 12 Days of Clothmas: Cloth Storage Ideas and Solutions!