Friday, February 3, 2012

Prepping and Washing Diapers

Prepping and Washing Diapers.  This is the part that almost scared me away from cloth diapers.  There are so many different opinions, so many different detergents and on top of so much other information I know it can seem overwhelming.  Once again, I can really only tell you what has worked for me.  I'll give you some tips to help develop a diaper care system that works for you.


You will hear all kinds of opinions about what you can and can't use for diapers.  There is a VERY wide variety of choices but not all will work with your water or washer.  I'm reminded of the popular phrase "if at first you don't succeed, try try again."  I went through several different ones before I settled on EcoSprout.  I do have to order it online (when I run out...which won't be for a while because little bags will last you a long time!!)  Many people use original formula Tide.  I have heard many use All Free & Clear (which I do use on clothes) but that the natural chemicals in it can be a little harsh on your diaper materials.  ** ONLY USE POWER DETERGENTS NO MATTER WHAT KIND**

I found this site on my phone last week when I was in a pinch last week and, though it doesn't include everything, is pretty handy:

Any cloth diaper store, brick or online, will have a good detergent available.  Many detergent brands have sampler packs that you can grab and try a few times.  Or, if you're really motivated, you can make your own.  I haven't tried it yet but I think I will in the next few weeks just to see how it turns out.  Here's a great site with a detergent recipe:

If you use a regular detergent then you'll only use about 1/4 to 1/2 the recommended amount.  Cloth diaper detergents use 1-4 Tbsp depending on your water and brand.  The harder the water, the more detergent you want to use. 

Here's a map:  Of course this is city water.  You may be on a well or have a water system and will have to adjust your detergent amount.  If your diapers start to smell bad after just a few washes try upping your detergent amount.  If that doesn't work try a different brand.  You will get stains no matter what detergent you use so don't let that be much of a factor (although your detergent should get the majority of the stain out).  If you are on well water your diapers will most likely turn grayish over time.  This is normal and won't affect the function of your diapers.


Once again, your washing routine is an area where you just have to try and see what works. The Real Diapers Manufacturers Association (RDMA) recommends the following:

  1. Choose the right detergent and know how much to use.
  2. Soaking cloth diapers is unnecessary.
  3. Wash soiled diapers every other day.
  4. For best results, remove solids from diapers before storing in ventilated pail.
  5. Wash cold with correct detergent to remove waste and fight stains.
  6. Wash hot (120 degree F) to cleanse your diapers.
  7. An extra rinse may be required to remove any lingering detergent.
  8. Hang dry or tumble dry warm/medium.  Hemp or cotton diapers may be dried on hot.
  9. Once per month, use oxygen bleach (if it's advisable by manufacturer) in the hot wash cycle to sanitize diapers and fight odors.
  10. RDMA does not recommend the use of laundry additives (including vinegar and baking soda).
Now what I have found is if you wash your diapers correctly the only thing you will need is an occasional soak and and extra rinse to take care of your issues.

My routine looks like this:
  • cold water rinse (though i will sometimes use a hot water too, especially if there's a lot of poo.  I've read both rinses work).
  • Hot wash with high/med water level and 4 Tbsp of detergent.  (even though the recommended amount for CD wash is 1-4 I go for the maximum.  I think that has helped keep mine in great shape)
  • Cold water rinse.
I've been CDing for 5 months and I've never had a problem with diapers stinking or not getting clean.  If you are having problems like that I recommend first upping your water and/or detergent amount.  If that doesn't work, try a different type of detergent.  If that doesn't work you might have to try "stripping" your diapers which includes a several hour to overnight soak in HOT water with original blue dawn detergent.  I find that if I have particularly dirty diapers and run a soak cycle (or pause your machine when it's in the wash cycle for an hour or two) that it takes care of the especially hard to get out messes.

Keep in mind that even with the best wash routine you will encounter stains.  Poo will be poo =)  My secret to treating any stain is actually in the drying process!


It's important to pay attention to your diapers and covers and see which ones can be popped in the drying and which ones need to be line dried.  Because of the different makeups you can significantly decrease the lifespan or even ruin your diapers by drying them wrong.

"When in doubt, hang it out"

I recommend hanging a clothesline in the sunniest spot possible OR get a drying rack.  I have one that folds up and tucks in right beside my dryer.  It's one of the best purchases I've made!  I'm getting ready to let you in on the biggest CD stain fighting system... the SUN.  It's the truth!!  The sun can take care of just about any stain that you have.  Once you complete your washing routine, hang your diapers outside in DIRECT sunlight.  Along with making them smell nice and fresh the sun will zap the stains right out.  If it's a tough stain you may need to wash and repeat sunning (or if you're really on the ball you can keep wetting the stain with a spray bottle of water all day). 

MOST pocket diapers can be dried in the dryer but again, make sure you read the directions (or give plenty enough time to hang them up to dry).  You can dry a few inserts on high but I usually just put all my dry able things in and dry them all on low.  The most important thing to remember about the dryer is NO FABRIC SOFTENER.  These will ruin your diapers.  Be diligent about taking a peak and making sure you don't have a stray one floating around.

I like to hang my favorite diapers out to dry because keeping them out of the dryer makes them last longer.  I know this sounds like a lot of work but after a few weeks it will become second nature and you won't think twice about it.


Unfortunately, unlike clothes, most diapers are not wash and wear.  Some take time to "prep" or get ready for first use.  Don't get discouraged.  The ones that take the longest to get ready are more than likely the ones that will save you (and your sheets) in the event of a blowout or heavy wetter. 

Natural Fibers (hemp/cotton)
Wash 3-5 times in hot water using proper amount of detergent for the product.  Dry hot between each wash 

Polyester Fibers
Wash product once using the proper amount of detergent for the product.  Dry warm

Wool Products
Hand wash wool in lukewarm water with wool wash.  Line dry or lay flat

** you must prep each fabric individually.  For instance, if you try to wash a load of new hemp diapers and polyester blend fibers together, the natural oils of the hemp will attach to the polyester and will, in essence, make your polyester blend waterproof.
After initial prep all diapers can be washed together in your normal routine EXCEPT wool. 

For natural fibers there is a quicker way although it is debated how good it is for the product.  I did it for prefolds and I haven't had a problem with them.  This is for materials that have no snaps or Velcro's (like prefolds and flats).
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 
  2. Add a few prefolds and a few drops of original blue dawn (optional) ** allow enough room for the prefolds to move around.  If you're using a regular size pot you'll only want to add 3-4 prefolds at most.
  3. Boil for 20-30 minutes
  4. Dry on high heat
This will save you 5-6 prep washes.  It's good if you are just wanting to prep a handful of diapers.

So that will do it for prepping and washing!  If you have any questions feel free to ask.  I love talking about CDing!

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