Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cloth Diapering Manifesto: Part III

If you’ve done any kind of internet research on how to wash cloth diapers, you are probably extremely confused. When I was looking into it, it seemed to me that every site said something different, but no matter what they said, washing diapers sounded very complex. Detergent, not soap! No fabric softener! Baking soda! Vinegar! Pre-soak! Wet pail! Dry pail!

In actuality, it’s no big deal. You just wash them. OK, yes, soap and fabric softener leave residue on the diapers which makes them water resistant, so you have to use detergent and skip the dryer sheets. But good news! Detergent is what you already use! Laundry soap is stuff like Ivory Snow and I think Dreft. Don’t use those. As for vinegar and baking soda – I have never figured out what they’re for, and I don’t use them.

Here’s what we do. We have an LG front loading washing machine, and when we wash diapers, we turn the pail liner inside out inside the washer. We add Tide Free HE and about an eighth of a cup of bleach and run the cotton cycle on hot, heavy soil, with a pre-wash and an extra rinse. After they’re done, we run a quick cycle just to make sure all of the detergent is rinsed out. (Just for the record, our washer actually has a cycle called “quick cycle.”) We run all those extra rinse cycles because front loaders use a lot less water, and we were noticing suds in the water even at the end of the cycle when we didn’t include the extra rinse and the quick cycle. Detergent on the diapers is bad, because it decreases their absorbancy. But because they use more water, I would expect that top loaders need less rinsing cycles.

Now, you might have noticed that we wash the diapers on hot, with bleach. “Noooooo!” you are crying out right now. “All the sites say not to use hot water or bleach!” I know. But washing diapers on cold squicks me. And we tried leaving off the bleach, but without it, the diapers smell terrible. I believe there are oils you can add to the wash to take care of the smell, but I’ve been wary because Jack broke out in a rash after using Burt’s Bees lotion. So we use bleach. And finally, we occasionally “strip” the diapers by running them through a couple of cycles with no detergent. This is just to make sure all the detergent is really gone. We do this when the mood strikes us, or else when the diapers seem to be not holding as much as they used to.

We usually hang our diapers to dry because it saves energy, they last longer, and because we think that residual from the dryer sheets in the dryer may get onto the diapers. But sometimes I tumble them dry if I’m in a hurry.

OK. That wraps up Part III. It’s a lot of words to describe a pretty simply process. Washing the diapers is like doing any other load of laundry, but without having to sort. It’s really, truly, not a big deal.

Tomorrow will bring Part IV, in which I explain all the remaining diapering accessories, including that holiest of holies: the diaper sprayer.

Manifesto Part I: Why cloth?
Manifesto Part II: Diaper types
Manifesto Part IV: Accessorize!

Edited to add:
Sources in the know have informed me that I, in fact, wore disposable diapers, as did at least two of my older sisters. I really thought I was born when disposable diapers were not any good, but apparently I was misinformed.


Adam Golaski said...
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Adam Golaski said...

we wash ours in cold and then in hot. I was told when cleaning protein stains--sweat, blood, etc., that cold keeps the stain from setting. can you tell me a chemistry-based reason why this might be true?

we also use this extremely costly detergent that I believe is made by baby angels, and was shipped from Heaven to our home. we're terrified of RUINING the diapers, which people made it seem was really easy. I'm starting to think it's not so easy.

we just bought a bunch of slightly bigger all-in-ones--the lazy person's cloth diaper.

no matter what we do, tho, elizabeth finds nudity hilarious, and diapers very, very silly.