Cloth diaper laundry update

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A few months ago, I ran out of cloth diapering detergent. The Bum Genius detergent that I had been using the past two years jumped in price from $15 to $40. Granted, the detergent lasts about six months. But I didn’t want to spend that much if I didn’t have to. I decided to try a new detergent.

I thought the new detergent was working fine. But then I realized that Clarissa’s diapers started to smell more. The diaper pail wreaked of ammonia. I figured it was because Clarissa stopped breastfeeding and was drinking soy milk now. But that wasn’t the only problem. Clarissa also started to get rashes. All the time.

I assumed that her body was just done with cloth diapers and tried potty training her unsuccessfully a few different times this spring. She just isn’t interested.

Then I started to wonder if maybe it was the detergent. I started doing an extra rinse at the end, in addition to the prerinse and the normal wash cycle. That didn’t fix the problem either.

I knew it wasn’t the food she was eating that was causing rashes because if I put her in a disposable diaper, the rash would clear up that day.

I was beginning to think that maybe I should bite the bullet and order the $40 detergent, strip my diapers, and start over.

Over the weekend, I started googling like crazy. And I came across an article from a cloth diapering manufacturer that really surprised me. They said that a lot of problems people have are from diapers not getting clean enough in the washing machine. They claimed that you should never need to strip your diapers and you could just use whatever laundry detergent on your diapers that you use on your normal clothes.

I decided that I would try just using my normal detergent and see what happens. Clarissa is almost three so her diaper wearing days are numbered (I hope). If I ruin my cloth diapers I can just switch to disposables for the next month or two.

I washed my cloth diapers in my normal detergent three times. I also did one wash with dawn dish soap to get off any buildup in the diapers (also recommended in the article comments). To my surprise, my diapers are fine! She has been using the diapers for four days now. They seem softer. And cleaner. They don’t smell. And she has yet to have any kind of rash.

So really, your diaper laundry routine should be this…

  1. Do a cold rinse of your diapers (my rinse cycle is only about 20 minutes. At least, I think it’s a rinse cycle. I can’t read Korean…)
  2. Wash your diapers with your normal laundry detergent. Make sure you use enough detergent for a full load of laundry, regardless of your diaper load size.
  3. I dry the cotton inserts and prefolds in the dryer for 80 minutes. When I do the automatic dry setting, they still feel a little damp to me. I do hang my covers to dry so the elastic will last longer

Diaper Laundry

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I have read so many articles about washing diapers. Some of the instructions were really long and I wondered if I really needed to do every step. I am thirteen months into my cloth diapering journey, and my biggest piece of advice is to do what works for you.

Our washing machine and dryer are in our detached garage. It really isn’t a huge deal (please remind me that I said that if it snows again this winter!).

Preparations

I do prep my diapers before I use them initially. That means that before I used any of my cloth diapers, I washed (and dried the prefolds and inserts) three times before I used them. This makes the diapers more absorbent. As I get new diapers, I just throw them in with my dirty diapers. I still wash them three times before I use them.

I have had two different washing machines so far in my cloth diapering. We have lived in our house for five years and a few appliances have needed replacing recently, so I don’t think the death of the washing machine had anything to do with my washing cloth diapers.

When Clarissa was younger and breastfeeding exclusively, I simply put the diapers (and wipes) into my diaper pail after she used them. Once she started eating solids, her poop changed consistency. It became thicker and messier. So I started “rinsing” them. After I took the soiled diaper off of Clarissa, I would bring it and the used wipes to the toilet and swish it around until most of the poop was off the diaper. Then, I would put the diaper and wipes into the diaper pail.

Note: You really don’t need to soak the diapers. Getting most of the solid part off is key. The first couple of times I did it, I was pretty grossed out. I had to remind myself that I was saving my family money and preventing Clarissa from being exposed to so many chemicals. After a week or two, it wasn’t a big deal. But my husband still thinks it’s gross!

Washing Diapers

My first washing machine was nice, other than the fact that it only lasted four and half years. I guess a better word for it would be fancy. It was energy efficient, but that doesn’t matter when you’re washing diapers. First, I used a scoop of bumGenius Diaper Detergent. Then, I set my water level to high and my temperature to hot. I had a soak feature on my washing machine so the diapers would soak in the hot water for two hours.

My new washing machine is more basic, but works just as well. First, I use a scoop of the bumGenius Diaper Detergent. Then, I set my size to extra large, my temperature to hot, and my mode to heavy. This washing machine has an option for a double rinse, so I select that.

Drying Diapers

After washing, I take out my pail liner and covers and hang them on our drying rack. Then, I put the inserts, prefolds, breast pads, and wipes in the dryer on high for 80 minutes. I found that the automatic cottons setting left them feeling damp.

I have found that a consistent schedule works for me. I like to wash my diapers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at dinner time whether I am running out of diapers or not. This way, I have time to wash and dry diapers before I go to bed. The covers are dry and ready to stuff by morning.

You can try a few things. Figure out what works best for you and your family. You will get into a groove eventually.

Stripping Diapers
Some people strip their diapers on a regular basis. I have only done it once so far, at about nine months of use. The liners that I use with the prefolds were starting to feel rough. So I decided to try stripping all of my diapers and they were all like new afterwards. This was a long process, so make sure you have several hours to devote to this.

First, I divided my diapers into two loads. I did my prefolds, liners, and covers one day and my pocket diaper covers and inserts the next. I didn’t worry about my wipes. With each load, I first did a load of wash as usual. Then, I did an extra large load with hot water and a few squirts of the blue Dawn dish soap. This helped to eliminate any build up on my diapers. Next, I did a cold rinse. Then, I did an extra large load with hot water and a tablespoon of arm and hammer baking soda. This eliminates any lasting odors on your diapers. I did one last cold rinse before drying the diapers.

It was a long process, but worth it because my diapers were like new and almost four months later are still in great shape. I think I may try it next time in fewer steps and see how it goes.

My Cloth Diapering Favorites

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My favorite day time diaper is the Diaper Junction Pocket Diaper. The reason that I like them is that they are super easy to use. Just stuff with one of the inserts that come with the diaper and snap in place. It is a one size diaper so the diaper will work until your child grows out of diapers. My baby also feels dry for a long time with these. I often have to touch the insert because I can’t tell from the lining if the diaper is wet. The only downside is that they leaked in the leg a bit (urine only) until Clarissa was about 10 weeks old and her legs chunked out a bit. I have never had poop leak out of this diaper!

Update: Clarissa never grew out of this diaper. She wore them until she was fully potty trained at 3.5 and still had room to grow in them.

diaper rite pocket diaper

At night, I use prefolds and covers with a micro fleece liner.

When I was using the cloth diaper service, I had thirsties covers. I used two newborn and two extra small. The newborn size only lasted about a month and the extra small about 10-12 weeks. They were really good and I never had any leaks with them. Each size will fit your baby really well. The problem is that you will have to keep buying the covers. It looks like the only place to find the newborn covers is Diaper Junction. Any of the other sizes are on Amazon.

thirsties-diaper-cover-inside-detail-400

I registered for the Rumparooz Cloth Diaper Cover. I have three of the one size covers, and they work really well. The reason that I use them at night is because of the double gussets on the leg. I never have had any kind of leaks with this diaper cover, even when she was really small. I really like them because I started using them when she was about a month old and at nine months, she is still on one of the smaller settings. I think this diaper will last until she is potty training.

Update: She never grew out of this diaper. I used the same three diapers until she was fully potty trained at 3.5. She was starting grow out of them at the end.

rumparooz

I received two six pack of Bumkins Cotton Infant Prefold Diaper, 6 Pack from my registry as well. They say they are for infants who weigh 7-15 pounds. My daughter weighs twenty pounds now and they still work. But you can also buy the Bumkins Cotton Premium Prefold Diaper, 6 Pack. I don’t know how big they would be on a newborn though.

Update: I used the same 12 prefolds until she was fully potty trained at 3.5 without any problems.

prefold

Some people use Snappi Cloth Diaper Fasteners – Pack of 5 (2 Mint Green, 2 White, 1 Blue) to keep their prefolds in place. They worked well when she was really small. But once she started moving, they were more of a hassle. I haven’t used one since she was about three months old. The covers keep the prefolds in place just fine without them.

snappi

Once I started using the Diaper Rite Diapers, Clarissa preferred them because she felt drier longer. So I bought some Bummis Reusable Fleece Liners to put in the prefolds and covers. She doesn’t seem to have a preference now (other than the fact that the prefolds and covers take longer to put on and her wiggly self doesn’t appreciate having to stay still longer on the changing table). I have used the Diaper Rite diapers at nap time, so I suppose they would work at night too now that her legs are bigger.

liners

When you are out and about, you can either put your used cloth diapers in a plastic bag to bring home or invest in a wetbag. I have an Itzy Ritzy Travel Happens Sealed Wet Bag and it holds about 6 used diapers and wipes.

wet bag

I don’t use disposable wipes. I bought a little spray bottle for like a dollar from the travel section at Target. I have about 50 baby washcloths (thought you could probably get by with like half of that). All I do is fill up the spray bottle with water and squirt a few times on the washcloth. I wash the washcloths with my cloth diapers.

My diaper pail is a 54 qt trash can with lid from Target. I have two Pail Liners that fit right inside. I wash the liner every time I do diaper laundry, so having two is helpful. You could probably get away with one if you had to.

pail liner

Several of the regular diaper rash creams will damage your cloth diapers. I have successfully used the seventh generation diaper cream. It was fine. I received it as a gift. But mostly, I used the Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Cream on diaper rash (and on myself or any cuts and scrapes Clarissa had). This is the one product that I gift to every mom friend I know when she is pregnant. They do have a product for baby bum but I have never tried it since I always had the nipple butter on hand.

I was using the bum genius diaper detergent. It looks like it has been discontinued as the powder. I haven’t tried the liquid to know if I recommend it or not.

This post contains affiliate links.

Our Story: Diapers we use

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When I was pregnant, my mom and I went to this Birth and Baby Expo thing on Mother’s Day Weekend. They had a bunch of tables with organizations, stores, pediatricians, you name it. We got to learn about cloth diapers and then play with them at the Diaper Junction table. I decided that cloth diapers seemed easy enough and it confirmed that we could be a cloth diapering family. A few tables away, we saw a table for Ecoexistence, which is a local cloth diaper delivery service. For our baby shower gift, my parents paid for a month of diapers.

When Clarissa was born in August, we used the disposable diapers that the hospital gave us for the first three days. Then, we ran out and started cloth diapers. The diaper service was wonderful. They provided us with a diaper pail, 70 prefolds, and four covers. At the end of the month, we had to give the diaper pail and prefolds back. But we got to keep the four covers that I picked out. We had two Thirsties newborn and two small covers. It was wonderful to be able to start cloth diapering so soon and not have to worry about laundry while I was adjusting to being a mom so I highly recommend a diaper service if you can afford it. But it was expensive, like $80 for the month.

After I gave the diapers back, I used an assortment of things. I had registered for Prefolds and covers because that is the cheapest way to cloth diaper. I only used the newborn covers until Clarissa was about four or five weeks old because she grew out of them. But I continued to use the smalls until she was about ten weeks old. I also used Rumparooz Cloth Diaper Covers with my prefolds. At my baby shower, a friend had given me some of her old cloth diapers. They were pocket diapers and the elastic was a little too big for Clarissa’s newborn legs, but I did like the pocket diapers. My husband preferred them because they were easier to put on the baby. But they leaked until her legs got chunkier at about three months, so I was constantly changing her clothes. The prefold/cover combination did not do that because the legs had double gussets which fit her legs better.

At the beginning of October, Diaper Junction had a parking lot sale where people came and sold their used cloth diapers and baby items. I honestly wasn’t impressed. But, inside the store, they have their own diaper brand. I bought a few of their Diaper Junction Pocket Diapers to see how I liked them and I absolutely loved them! Again, the legs leaked for about another month until her legs were chunkier, but I loved them. They had a stay dry layer so that she felt dry, even after she had a lot of urine. Clarissa does not like to feel wet (who can blame her?). I had been changing her diaper like every hour or even less sometimes. This way, we went a little longer because she wasn’t feeling wet as quickly. I often had to take the insert out to tell if she was wet because I could not feel it on the layer that touched her skin. I went back and bought more after a few days. I didn’t want to waste the other diapers that I had, so I started using them at night. I liked that covers didn’t leak, but I needed a way for her to feel dry. So I bought some stay dry inserts for her prefolds. That did the trick. She felt drier and slept longer.

My new routine became that I would use prefolds/covers/stay dry insert at night. I would use the pocket diapers during the day. I have the three one size covers (and the extra smalls until she was about ten weeks) with eighteen prefolds and stay dry inserts. I had ten pocket diapers from my friend that I would also use a stay dry insert for because Clarissa would easily feel wet in those. I had eight Diaper Rite Pocket Diapers. I was doing Diaper Laundry about every two days. At the forty eight hour mark, I would be out so it was a little less than two days.

I actually have less diapers now because she grew out of the diapers my friend gave me. But we got three more Diaper Junction and two of another brand for Christmas. Now I have thirteen. As far as diaper laundry goes, now I just have a schedule. I do diaper laundry every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Sundays I end up using more of the prefolds and covers during the day, but I don’t run out of diapers.

Our story: why we use cloth diapers

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Before we were married, Tim and I had decided that I would be a stay at home mom. We figured that we would pay off our debt and save a little extra to make that an easier transition on our finances. We found out that I was pregnant about a week after we found out I was being laid off. I felt like God had said that I should not look for a job (I assumed that meant I wouldn’t be working, but God did bring me a job eventually that I didn’t look for…more on that another time).Tim had been applying for jobs in South Korea and so we just assumed that with the timing, we would be moving soon. It is hard to get a teaching job in January anyway.

After a couple of months, we started looking into ways to save money. I was already pretty good with coupons. But honestly, the staggering cost of diapers was a little scary. I had a friend who was spending $50 per month on diapers. Then she had another baby and had two in diapers. We knew that we couldn’t afford that.

So I started researching cloth diapers as a way to save money. The more I saw, the more I liked the idea of cloth diapers. There are plenty of blogs that make it seem easy. And I started thinking about allergies. My mother in law is allergic to most chemicals. Tim doesn’t do well with chemicals either. I can’t do fragrances. I thought about Clarissa and thought that it might be better to shield her from some of the chemicals in disposable diapers and wipes. Even the more natural diapers have some chemicals in them (and they are even more expensive than the others).