Basic Training: Cloth Diaper Laundering

You’ve decided to go easy on the planet and use cloth diapers on your baby. You’ve picked out your stash, coordinated your covers, and worked through your first 2 days worth of diapers. If you haven’t chosen a diaper service, you are faced with a small pile of pooey laundry. Yikes and double yikes!

Take a deep breath. you can do this.

Depending on the diapering system you’ve chosen, you’ve got a few options for diaper laundry. Generally speaking, you should keep your load under 24 diapers, because you want to leave ample room for agitation, so that every inch of the diaper gets clean. With all systems, you want to do a cold/cold short cycle or soak, followed by a hot/cold cycle. Then, you toss them in the dryer, or hang them on the line till they’re dry. (Some brands recommend air drying, so read the care label before you go chucking everything in the dryer willy nilly.)

EpicNibs in a super cute polka dot pocket dipe. (c)2008 me.

What about soap? The thing about cloth diapers is that they need to be absorbent to do their job. Generally, when you wash clothing with detergent, you’ll get build up, but it’s not something you’d really notice, since you don’t have to worry about clothes absorbing several ounces of water at a time. But over time, regular laundry detergent build up on your cloth diapers leads to leaks. So, if you go with regular detergent, use about a quarter of the recommended amount. If you find that your diapers are repelling (you can test this by dropping a bit of water on the inside of the diaper, and seeing if it’s absorbed, or if it seems to bead up and roll off the diaper) an easy fix is a hot wash with Dawn NON-ULTRA (that’s important, use the classic Dawn) dish detergent, and then several more hot rinse cycles, until you don’t see any bubbles or suds when you lift the lid. If you aren’t squeamish, and the thought of (otherwise clean) diapers in the dishwasher doesn’t freak you out, some moms have found that one run through the sanitize setting on their dishwasher has stopped the repelling issue. If you decide to do that, make sure you don’t use dishwasher soap, and don’t do this with any diapers that have plastic snaps or fasteners, as they will melt.

Some detergents contain enzymes, and some babies are extremely sensitive to enzymes, so if you find yourself battling a diaper rash that won’t go away no matter what, strip your diapers with Dawn non-ultra, do a vinegar rinse to get the excess out, and try a different detergent. If the rash goes away, you know it was a reaction to the enzymes.

You want to stick with detergents that don’t use artificial brighteners, because those can cause both rash issues, and repellency issues. Also, stay away from detergents with fragrance, and definitely don’t use any detergents with added bleach. If you find your diapers are looking especially dingy, (this is more common in hard water areas), you can add a small scoop of an oxygenated detergent like OxyBaby to your first cycle.

There are some moms who exclusively wash with Dawn, because then you never have to worry about repelling issues. For a medium load of diapers, (about 12 to 16 diapers) you want to use about 2 tsp to 1 tbs of Dawn, and for added softness, you can use a generous splash of vinegar. The cold/cold pre-wash/soak, hot/cold wash formula still applies, regardless of the detergent option you’ve chosen.

If you find you have stubborn stains, don’t reach for the Shout! Instead, wait for a sunny day, and lay your diaper out in full sun. This method may take a few days, but it leaves your diapers looking pristine and stain free, without any harsh chemical residue to impede absorption or cause irritation or rash issues.

Always read the label on your diaper, and follow the washing instructions on them.

Comments are closed.