How to cloth diaper: A step-by-step (Part II)
June 16, 2011
If you haven't already, you may want to read How to cloth diaper: A step-by-step (Part I).
Moving right along...
How to cloth diaper: Step four
Handling dirty diapers
You have two options for storing your dirty diapers: a wet pail and a dry pail. Before I began cloth diapering, I read about several methods of storing dirty diapers until laundry day, and was worried that I would have to use a wet pail method to avoid smells (Note: A wet pail is a pail with a lid that contains some water and perhaps some essential oil to help with smell. The thought behind this method is that soaking the diapers will help reduce staining.). I quickly realized that this wasn't necessary since I didn't care if my diaper inserts stained (who was going to see them, after all?), and it seemed to me that the smell of standing water was going to be just as bad, if not worse, than dirty diapers in a dry pail. So I went with the dry pail method, and haven't turned back (a dry pail is just your average diaper pail; I made a reusable liner for it out of PUL, or polyurethane laminate – you can find this at your local craft/fabric store).
One of the best tools you can have when cloth diapering is a diaper sprayer. This handy little guy attaches to your toilet and sprays poop into the toilet, greatly reducing the mess factor.
Once I had all my tools in place, I came up with the following method for handling dirty diapers:
- Place directly into dry pail
- Poop sprayed into the toilet using diaper sprayer
- Ring water out
- Do the same with cloth wipes
- Place in dry pail
- Wash hands (ha, ha)
And there they sit until diaper laundry day, which happens every 2-3 days in my house (as most diaper companies recommend). I also keep an Arm & Hammer deodorizing disk (found at Babies R Us) in my diaper pail to help with stink.
How to cloth diaper: Step five
Washing your diapers
Washing your diapers is a bit of a trial and error process. Depending on your water, you will have to find a process that works specifically for you. I happen to have extremely hard water; hard water contains calcium and magnesium, which, if not rinsed away properly, can lead to build-up in diapers that cause odors. If you happen to have hard water where you live (Southern California has extremely hard water!), use a water softener like Calgon in your wash (find it at any grocery store). This made a HUGE difference for me in reducing odor in my dirty diapers.
You'll also have to find a detergent that you like. I ended up settling on Rockin Green Hard Rock formula (for hard water). I have also tried Charlie's Soap, Allens Naturally, and Tiny Bubbles; all of which are recommended by most diaper companies. It is important that you use an all-natural detergent free of scents for your diapers. I settled on Allens Naturally for all my regular laundry and really love it, but wanted something stronger for my diapers that was made for hard water. Rockin Green has worked best in terms of combatting the stink.
Once you've found a detergent that works, here is the recommendation by most retailers on how you should wash your diapers:
- Cold rinse (no detergent, set water level to large load)
- Hot wash with detergent (set water level to small load)
- Extra rinse on cold
After some trial and error, I eventually adjusted my washing routine to the following:
- Throw in diapers, covers, cloth wipes, and diaper pail liner (I dump everything in as I turn the pail liner inside out like a glove, so I don't even touch the diapers!)
- Cold rinse (no detergent, large load water level)
- Hot soak for about an hour with detergent, small load water level (fill wash machine with hot water, add detergent, agitate for a couple of minutes, then let soak). It can take up to 15 minutes for the detergent to bind with the calcium and magnesium in hard water, so the soak ensures that your detergent is doing the job it is meant to.
- Finish hot wash as is
- One more wash on warm, small load water level
Once you are done washing, you can place the diapers in the dryer, and hang the waterproof covers (and diaper pail liner, in my case) to dry.
How to cloth diaper: Step six
Maintaining your cloth diapers
Strip your diapers.
Over time, your diapers can build-up residue and begin to stink. For this reason, most diaper companies suggest you “strip” your diapers by running them through several loads without detergent (usually 4-6 hot washes). If you are experiencing problems with stink and stripping isn't doing the trick, try washing once with baking soda (1-3 tablespoons; use in place of detergent) or vinegar (¼ cup or less), which help break down residue build-up. You can also do periodic washes with bleach (1-2 tablespoons) if you use microterry inserts, although most diaper companies don't recommend it. I have never had to use bleach either, so unless you are at your wit's end, I wouldn't suggest it.
To get the most out of your waterproof covers (learn from my mistakes):
- Also line dry them instead of placing them in the dryer.
- Don't let them sit in hot water or soak with detergent for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, all of my original Flip waterproof covers deteriorated because of this. The plastic lining cracked and, therefore, were unusable because they would leak as soon as my daughter wet herself. I think this happened due to subjecting them to hot water temps and letting them sit and soak in detergent and water softener during step 2 of my washing routine. I spoke with the Flip Diaper company to determine where I went wrong, and they suggested the water temp on my water heater be set to below 100 degrees, while the Rockin Green website suggest water temp below 150 degrees. At any rate, the water temp is important. To protect my next diaper covers, I have adjusted my washing routine to remove the covers before soaking the diapers in the hot wash. I put them back in when I restart the hot wash; this way they are not subjected to scorching water and are not sitting in water softener and detergent for extended periods of time, which may also lead to breakdown of materials.
Have you got any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share!