Cloth diaper care – general washing instructions
I know people get very worried about washing their diapers “correctly.” Please don’t worry too much about it! There are lots of different methods to wash cloth diapers and much of it depends on your situation – your washing machine, detergent and water (alkaline or acidic, hard or soft, etc.) There is no need to print out these pages since I include a general instruction page for washing with all orders.
You want to wash all hemp or natural cotton products separately from your diapers for the first wash! Hemp has natural oils in it that will cause your diapers to repel instead of absorb. After you pre-wash both your natural fibers and your diapers separately, they are fine to wash together from then on.
What to do right after you take the diaper off
I highly recommend using a dry pail rather than a wet pail (one that has water in it and you put the diapers in the water). Plastic tends to really hold onto odors, so I get a stainless steel garbage can. You can line it with a pail liner. The advantage of a pail liner is that you don’t ever have to touch the dirty diapers (remember to take the inserts out of your pocket diapers). You just throw the whole bag in the wash – but use the bag like a glove where you push the diapers into the washing machine through the bag. You generally don’t need to rinse cloth diapers. Breastfed baby’s solid waste is completely water soluble, kind-of like yogurt, and the solid waste of older babies can be removed by gently shaking the diaper over a toilet. Another option is to use flushable liners if you aren’t on a septic system. Are you a little hesitant to deal with the mess at all? Try a diaper sprayer. These make cleaning even the messiest diapers very easy.
Cloth diaper care – washing instructions
There are lots of different methods for washing but I personally use this:
1. Wash in cold water with ¼ cup detergent – this helps a lot in preventing stains. If you have a HE front loader, decrease the amount of detergent to 1/8 of a cup. If you do an initial wash with hot water, you will have a much harder time getting any stains out because the hot water sets the stains. However, there are also times when I don’t do a cold water rinse and things are just fine! If you decide to use baking soda, you can put ½ a cup in with this wash (very much optional and not recommended with bumGenius diapers).
2. Wash in hot water with ¼ cup detergent and an extra rinse . If you have a HE front loader, decrease the amount of detergent to 1/8 of a cup. That’s it! If there are still lots of suds from the cold wash, I don’t put any detergent in with the hot wash.
If your cloth diapers still smell after they are washed, you likely need to use a little more detergent. Occasionally, 1/8 of a cup in HE washing machines are not enough.
Cloth diaper care – Detergents to use and not to use
You want to stay away from any detergents with lots of additives – so ones that say “brightens and whitens” or things along that line. They will greatly reduce the life of your diapers. Unfortunately you don’t want to use natural soaps because they have oils in them that will cause your pocket diapers to repel. So stay away from detergents like: Dr. Bronners Soap, 7th Generation and Bio-Kleen, baby detergents such as Ivory Snow, Dreft and “free and clear” detergents. Good detergents to use include: Tide (not the “free” Tide), Allen’s Powder or liquid detergent, Asta detergent (made by Alda), Country Save Detergent, Ecos Laundry Detergent, Mountain Green Ultra Laundry Detergent, Nature Clean Detergent, Planet Detergent, and Clout (Costco brand). If you have really hard water, you can try adding a little bit of calgon water softener to your wash.
What do I personally use? I use and love Country Save. It does a great job of cleaning the diapers, rinsing clean and is very inexpensive. Still unsure? Try the Detergent Determinator!
General diaper care no-no’s
Never use fabric softeners of any kind on diapers. Liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets both leave a waxy residue on diapers which causes diapers to repel, decreasing the absorbency. Diaper rash creams can also have the same effect. If you do use a diaper rash cream, either place a small wash cloth on top of the fleece next to your baby’s bum, use a flushable liner or a fleece liner.
Drying cloth diapers
Putting your diapers in the dryer is the easiest way to get them dry fast. Tumble dry on the medium setting for bumGenius products (per manufacturer suggestion) and on the high setting for all other diapers. You can also line dry all of your diapers. The sun is fantastic for getting stains out!
Stripping diapers is a great way to get rid of the build up of residue left by detergents, fabric softeners, and other substances people use to clean diapers (although PLEASE don’t use fabric softeners). Please note: in rare instances, baking soda will react with certain minerals in water and also cause build up. If you notice a decrease in the functionality of your diapers after using baking soda, please stop using it and try another stripping method. BEFORE stripping, try to figure out what the issue is. Are you using too much detergent (are there still suds left in the final rinse), did you or someone else use fabric softener with the diapers, or is there some type of mineral deposit from very hard water?
To strip pocket diapers, simply hand wash your pocket diapers with regular dawn dish soap (yes, it has to be Dawn) – it gets the oils out. Add a bit of dish soap to the fleece, either rub the fleece vigorously together or use a medium bristle dish brush or hard bristle tooth brush to scrub the fleece. Turn inside out and repeat on this side. Rinse well, making sure that the water runs clear. You can use this any time you feel that the diaper may be repelling. Alternately, you can soak your diapers in a tub of hot water with dawn dish soap. Rub them together and let them soak in the water with the dish soap until the water is luke warm. Then do as many rinses as is necessary in your washer to get the diapers to rinse clean.
You can also use RLR in your wash cycle to strip both pocket and AIO diapers.
There are a few ways to strip AIO’s and fitted diapers.
- If you need to strip the diapers due to detergent buildup, then do a hot wash, warm rinse and keep rinsing until you don’t see any more bubbles. You can also use Calgon in the initial wash (using 1/2 the recommended amount). You can use RLR as well.
- You can put a little bit of baking soda in with the wash and fill a downy ball to the correct mark with white vinegar (never use apple cider vinegar) and put it in your wash. It will automatically release during the first rinse cycle. Remember to have a second rinse cycle added to this wash. It is also fine to strip pocket diapers with the white vinegar and baking soda routine. The trick is to use baking soda in the wash and vinegar in the rinse. *However, bumGenius advises not to use any baking soda or vinegar with their products. This will void their warranty.*
- Use 2 scoopfuls of Oxyclean (not baby oxyclean) in a very hot wash
There are three major problems that come up with cloth diapers: smell, wicking and repellency.
- SMELL – this is actually pretty common. You’ve been doing great with your cloth diapers and then all of a sudden you start to smell this funk from your child’s bum! And s/he hasn’t even had a bowel movement. And it happens immediately after they have peed for the first time in a freshly laundered diaper. What the heck can be the problem?
- Answer: Detergent or mineral buildup. No detergent actually rinses completely clean. Most brands leave a residue behind that can coat the fibers in the diapers and this coating will begin to retain odors. This either leaves them smelly even after just washing them or causes the urine to interact with the residue thus releasing a funky odor.
- Solution: Strip your diapers (see above).
- WICKING – This mostly occurs with diaper covers. Most PUL covers will naturally breakdown over time with every day use. The average life span of a PUL cover is approximately 100 washes, although some will last longer and some will not last quite as long. If you would like to lengthen the life of any diaper cover, don’t use anything that will break the material down any faster. Some things that are a sure fire way to break down the material include: bleach, large amounts of vinegar, excessive drying, and fabric softener. If your diaper cover is fairly new and already wicking, drying the cover on high heat a few times will re-seal the PUL and often solve the wicking problem.
- Repelling – are your pocket diapers starting to repel urine instead of absorbing them? This is a problem that is fairly specific to the fleece layer of pocket diapers (ie. Happy Heinys, bumGenius, Fuzzi Bunz).
- Answer: Detergent buildup, fabric softener was used or dryer sheet was used. The repelling is caused by a buildup of waxy substances on the surface of the fleece.
- Solution: Strip your diapers. You may also want to try switching detergents if you suspect it may be the detergent. And STOP using fabric softeners or dryer sheets if one was used.
Cloth diaper care for your hemp products
Hemp needs lots of washing before it is up to it’s full absorbency. After up to 8 washings will result in full absorbency. Remember not to wash hemp with your diapers when washing them for the first time. Hemp has natural oils in it and the oils can coat your diapers. After your hemp has been fully primed you may wash it with all of your diapering products. Some people stay far away from hemp because of it having a reputation to stink after use. But if you try the above suggestions for general washing instructions, you likely won’t have any more problems than you would with cotton. Hemp really is a great fabric because it is SO absorbent!
Cloth diaper care for your wool products
There are two general washings that you need to do with wool – regular washing of it and lanolizing. I would recommend doing a wash with Eucalan wool wash because it has the lanolin right in it and the wash lanolizes the wool for you! To wash wool, you hand wash it in cold water with a wash specifically for wool. You can either roll it in a towel to remove excess water or hang dry. You need to wash your wool covers when they smell like urine or poop or are holding moisture.