Baby Care: How To Wash Cloth Diapers

Tips on ways to launder reusable cloth diapers, with suggested wash routines and techniques for removing stains and smells without wearing out the diaper.

There are many methods for washing cloth diapers. As you settle into cloth diapering, you will develop your own routine that works best for your needs. This article contains a basic wash routine and then discusses some of the variations you may opt to follow.

This basic wash routine utilizes the dry pail method, which means that dirty diapers are simply thrown into a pail where they sit until wash day. In general, you will need to wash diapers every two to four days, depending on how many diapers you go through each day. When you are ready to wash the diapers, simply carry them to the washing machine, toss them in, and wash with hot water. Set the washing machine on the highest water setting available, and using the hottest water available. Diapers need hot water and plenty of room to agitate in order to get clean. Use only a small amount of detergent - about a tablespoon or two will do - since the leading cause of stinky diapers is excess soap left in the diapers. Allow the machine to run through the rinse cycle, and then dry the diapers in the dryer. Pull out the covers and hang them to dry, since excess heat will cause covers to wear out faster.

Variations

Extra soak. Many parents find that diapers come out cleaner and less stained if they are allowed to soak for several hours or overnight. Place the diapers into the washing machine and fill with cold water. Allow the diapers to soak, and then run the spin cycle to drain the machine before washing. Please note that only diapers should be soaked, not covers. Soaking is hard on covers and will cause them to wear out faster.

Extra rinse. Oftentimes, one rinse cycle is not enough to completely rinse the soap residue from the diapers. If you notice that the diapers are stiff or stinky, or if you notice soap suds in the rinse water, you might consider running an extra rinse or two to ensure that all the soap gets rinsed out.

Rinsing poop. Breastfed babies have poop that is completely water-soluble, meaning that it just washes right out in the laundry. Babies who are fed formula or who are eating solid foods have poop that isn't quite as easy. This poop will need to be rinsed or scraped off the diapers before washing. Many parents find it easiest to simply keep a spatula in the bathroom and scrape the poop off the diapers and into the toilet. Other parents install a sprayer - similar to the sprayer installed next to most kitchen sinks - onto the toilet and spray the poop into the toilet. Whether you choose one of these methods, or devise one of your own, poop belongs in the toilet and not in the washing machine!

Hanging to Dry. Like all other clothes, diapers will last longer if dried on a clothesline rather than in the dryer. Additionally, the sun will work to bleach out any stains. If you opt to hang the diapers, though, they will be quite stiff when you bring them in. Consider tumbling them in the dryer with a few clean tennis balls for 10 minutes to help soften them up.



Detergent, Fabric Softener, and Laundry Additives

Be certain to never wash your diapers in baby detergent (which usually contains fabric softener) or with fabric softener. Fabric softener puts a coating on fabric and cuts down on its absorbency - exactly what you do not want for your diapers!

If you choose to bleach your diapers to remove stains, be certain to rinse them well and understand that bleach is hard on fabric fibers and will cause your diapers to wear out faster. A better choice is Oxyclean or a similar cleaner, which will combat stains without causing excess wear. (If your diapers are stained, hanging them out to dry in the sun will get rid of the stains better than bleach and without the undesirable side effects.)

Some parents find that adding a cup of vinegar to the final rinse helps keep the diapers from getting stinky. If you have stinky diapers, you might try using vinegar. Vinegar helps cut through any leftover soap in the diapers (leftover soap causes stinkiness).

Some parents enjoy adding essential oils to their wash routine. Tea Tree oil is antibacterial and can be added to the wash or rinse. Lavender leaves diapers with a nice fresh scent and can be added to the final rinse.

Wet Pail Method

Some parents prefer to use the "wet pail" method. Diapers are tossed into a bucket of water to soak until wash day, and the water is changed each day. If you opt to use the wet pail method, you will not need to soak the diapers in the washing machine on wash day.

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