Friday, January 14, 2011

Cloth Diapers: Cleaning and Care

"But Julia, what about... the poop?"

Cleaning cloth diapers is by far the biggest hesitation people have when I talk about cloth diapers. It was also Dan's biggest concern, but easily dismissed since I do the laundry anyway. To tell you the truth, it really isn't that bad. As I mentioned in a previous post, Liam leaked really badly out of disposable diapers, so the quantity of laundry isn't any different for us.

Brest milk is nature's perfect food for Liam's digestive system and the resulting poo is completely water soluble. That means the diapers go right into the washer without much fuss at all. (Have you ever read the fine print on disposable diapers? Public landfills are not equipped to handle human waste, so you are actually supposed to remove any poo before throwing away a disposable diaper. I can't say that I know anyone who does this though.)

Here's the system. I have a wetbag (a cloth sack with a waterproof lining and zipper top) attached to Liam's changing table. I also have a small wetbag that goes in my diaper bag for diaper changes on the go. The inserts for the pocket diapers are pulled out of the diaper and any velcro flaps are closed before going into the wetbag, but that's it.

Washing: I do laundry every 2.5 days or so and the load contains about 25 diapers of various styles. On laundry day, I dump the contents of the wetbag into the washer and do a cold rinse cycle without detergent. This removes basically all of the poop from the diapers. Then I do a hot wash and cold rinse cycle with detergent. I currently use Tide Free & Clear, though I plan on switching to a more cloth friendly detergent when I run out. You shouldn't use detergent with enzymes, fragrances or bleach as these will adversely affect the  absorbency and longevity of the diapers. Every other wash I will do an extra cold rinse cycle to make sure all of the detergent rinses off.

GroVia AI2 covers aren't supposed to go in the dryer, so I lay those flat on top of the dryer and they dry pretty quickly. All of the other diapers go into the dryer. As I move the diapers from the washer to the dryer, I undo any snaps that were left closed to help them dry faster. After 30 minutes, all of the pocket diapers and their inserts are dry. (This is one of the reasons pocket diapers are my favorites.) The AIOs and AI2 liners require about 25 more minutes.

When dry, I stuff the inserts into the pocket diapers and snap in the AI2 liners. I prefer to do this all at once than with each diaper change, but you don't have to. I have 2 large bins on the self on Liam's changing table where all of the diapers are stored.

And that's it! No big deal at all. It will get a little more complicated when Liam starts eating solid foods. I have a few options and will be sure to update when I figure out which direction I will go and how it works out.

Stains: So far, the only the organic cotton diapers have had any stains. Like I said before, bleach isn't a great thing for cloth diapers. To remove the stains, you're not going to believe this, I put the diapers outside on the driveway in the sun. No, really! I even took before and after pictures since I knew no one would believe me.

(left to right: GroVia AIO, GroVia AIO booster, GroVia AI2 liner, Bum Genius Elemental AIO)

That's pretty amazing, right? We had a nice sunny day, so I left them out for 5 hours to get them this stain-free. They continued to get whiter the next time I washed them. Other diapers have come out even whiter by leaving in the sun a little longer. No chemicals and the sun is a free source of renewable energy! It doesn't get any better than that.

This would also be a good time to mention the other products, besides harsh detergents, that you should not use with cloth diapers:
Vasoline- It is often used on circumcisions to prevent sticking to the diaper and this is the reason we didn't start cloth diapering until after Liam healed. I could have added a piece of flannel between Liam and the cloth diaper to prevent the Vasoline from getting on the diaper, but I had so many disposables from my baby showers that I just used them.
Diaper Rash Creams- Most diaper rash creams will get into the diaper fibers and cause them to repel and leak. There are some specialty diaper rash creams that are safe for cloth diapers. Liam hasn't had any diaper rash yet, but I put a tiny bit on lanolin on his bottom before bedtime as a preventative measure. Lanolin is also supped to help diaper rash heal, but I haven't had any experience with this yet. Lanolin is all natural, rinses away in hot water and you probably already have some. Again, if you need the diaper rash cream, put a piece of flannel between the cream and the diaper.
Fabric Softeners/Dryer Sheets: You don't need them anyway and the chemicals will build up in the diapers and cause them to repel and leak. I've also heard that using dryer sheets on other loads will leave residue in my dryer, so I haven't used dryer sheets at all since we started cloth diapering.

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