A Very Simple Guide To Washing Cloth Diapers
When it comes to making the switch and using cloth diapers one of the biggest topics is usually around how you wash them. I mean, you can completely understand why, after all, we have all become so accustomed to throwing away far too many single-use items because, over the years, that is what society has taught us to do so when we are faced with reusables they can often seem very daunting. However, we promise that they really don't have to be. In fact, most cloth diaper parents will even tell you that reusables are far simpler because you never run out, because you don't ever have to add diapers to your shopping list, because you are reducing waste as well as saving money plus they actually get a lot of satisfaction from washing them. Hard to believe that extra washing can be satisfying but it truly is, because with every single load, you will be helping to make a difference and this is precisely why we think cloth should be simple. If it was a tricky process, nobody would want to do it, so this is our very simple guide to washing cloth diapers.
Modern Cloth Diapers
Forget what cloth diapers used to be like because we can assure you that designs, fabrics, material choices and technology have all come a long way in the last 30-40 years. Modern cloth diapers are now mostly made from materials that are absorbent, easy to wash and also quick to dry– bamboo and cotton being the most commonly used. When it comes to washing them, the first step you should always take is to check what the diaper manufacturer recommends. Their diapers would have been put through thorough testing to be able to provide their customers with the correct washing information and these should ideally be followed as washing on a higher temperature or using products that they do not recommend will void any warranties/guarantees. You will be able to find their wash instructions on the diaper label or on their website. And one main thing may well surprise you...
The Changing frequency
The general need of the cloth diaper changing routine remains almost same as the disposables. However, it depends on the baby’s age; especially in the early days, newborns peed more often and they need up to 15 cloth diapers change a day. Budget-conscious buyers can make a stack of reusable covers and pre-folds which definitely help to lower the costs and laundry a little. Eventually, baby will need a change of eight to ten times a day, and this alteration will stay almost the same into toddlerhood, except the situation where the baby is unwell or any change of drastic temperature and environmental change.
No High Temperatures
These days high washing temperatures are not recommended whatsoever. A 90° or boil wash may have been the norm back in the day but modern materials will be damaged by this. In fact, the most common temperatures stated are 40° and 60°. These are both high enough to give you a sufficient wash, to remove dirt and bacteria and leave you with perfectly clean diapers.
Please note that you will need to use a 60° wash if:
- The manufacturer states this
- If your baby is under 3 months old
- If you are using the same cloth diapers on multiple children
- If your baby is unwell or has developed a rash (see below for strip washing advice also)
When you change your baby's dirty diaper, you can put a wet one straight into a diaper bin or large wet bag (depending on how you choose to store them) and this can stay here until you have enough for a wash. A soiled nappy can be treated in whichever way you find works best for you. Some people choose to use disposable liners to catch the poo which can then go into a bin after use. You may want to use a reusable liner which can be washed and reused or you may not want to use any at all. In both of the last cases, you will need to take the diaper to a toilet and empty the contents into it– a good shake or flick should do most of the job. For any tricky bits, you can either wipe it off with reusable wipes or with toilet paper, you could have a dedicated 'scraper' in the form of say a spatula or you could hold it under the flush. What you are aiming for is to remove as much as you can before it goes into the diaper bin or washing machine.
Your diapers should be what we call dry pailed. This means that they simply sit inside a dry bucket or wet bag until wash day. There is no need to soak them in water or oils or any kind of detergents, bleaches, baking soda and so on (ignore any old wives' tales). Soaking them can cause damage to the fabrics or elastics and will lead to a smelly bin which nobody wants! They
Simple Wash Routine
Pop you diapers into your washing machine, you want to be filling around 3/4 of the drum. If you have too many in there at once they won't have enough space to be thoroughly agitated during the wash which may lead to marks and stains being left. Too little and you may be left with a detergent build-up.
The first setting you will need to select will be a cold rinse cycle with no detergent/powder. The cold water will wash away the majority of the waste material and will help to prevent staining. Now, all machines do really vary so if your rinse cycle isn't long enough or you find it isn't quite up to the job, you can instead opt for a cold daily wash. Do not choose a pre-wash setting as this will reuse the same water for the main wash. You want this dirty water taken away from the machine which is what a rinse or daily wash will automatically do. Once this is complete, you will need to add your washing powder using the stated dosage on the box but do not add fabric softener as this will affect the diaper's absorbency. Choose your longest, best wash (usually a cotton setting) on either that 40° or 60° and let the machine do all the hard work. The spin option should be on 1000-1200 and no higher just to help to protect those materials and elastics. Once it is finished, it is preferable that you hang them up to air dry as frequent tumble drying will damage the PUL.
Cloth diapers should ideally be washed in a powder product over a liquid one and with non-bio over bio. The reasons for this is that studies have shown that liquid laundry products can build up in the fabrics of cloth diapers which can lead to stinks and rash issues. As for the non-bio versus bio debate, this does vary depending on what is on offer to you. Some countries do not sell non-bio laundry powder so what you want to be looking for is one without an ingredient called cellulase. This is an enzyme which can damage the diaper fabrics. Always check with the manufacturer's recommendations and trust their advice especially if you don't want to void any guarantees.
And as much as we love an eco-egg for normal wash loads and for being more environmentally friendly, they, unfortunately, are just not up to the washing power for cloth diapers.
How Often Should I Wash?
Most cloth diaper parents will wash around 2-3 loads per week but this will vary depending on how large your stash is and how often your baby/toddler needs changing. On average, one child will be able to use cloth full-time if you own 25 diapers, if you own less than this you will need to wash more often. As we mentioned above, you shouldn't really be leaving your diapers longer than 3 days but in some circumstances (vacations, illnesses and so on) this may occasionally happen but I wouldn't panic over it, just make sure you do your wash as soon as you can.
There may be some occasions in which you may experience staining issues and this can happen because:
- You have overloaded your washing machine
- Your child is on medication or has had their jabs
- You have used a cream for diaper rash (not all creams are suitable for cloth diapers)
- Left too long between a wash
- Detergent build-up
To deal with these you will first want to try a strip wash. If this isn't enough, try leaving your cloth diapers out in the sun as this will naturally and safely bleach them. You need to bear in mind that staining doesn't mean your diapers aren't clean and it isn't something you need to worry about unless you want to sell them on at some point. Quite often these will gradually fade over time anyway.
We don't think cloth diapers should be hard work and hopefully now you will also agree.