Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Washing Cloth Diapers

I know I haven't been blogging much, and this really isn't an amazing post to convince any readers to come back, but I'm experimenting and need some place to record what's going on.

The problem: Daniel's cloth diaper covers are retaining odors and not keeping his clothes dry (it's not so much leakage around the sides as that the waterproof barrier is failing).

Probable cause: detergent buildup.

Discussion: I already use very little detergent on the covers, but I'm not sure that it's getting all rinsed out in my high efficiency (HE) front loader (FL). For those familiar with HE FLs, you know that their whole reason for existence is to use less water. This is fine in almost all circumstances, unless you're trying to wash cloth diapers (and, for the record, I'm not talking about prefolds - those I have no trouble with. It's the pockets/covers that have the problems).

Let me run through my normal wash routine real quick (again, for pockets/covers):
  1. Cold rinse, no spin (this means they're good and wet for the next cycle = more water)
  2. Warm wash on delicate (read somewhere that delicate cycles use more water; also, hot water not hot enough to sanitize and is harsher on materials, warm is sufficient), medium spin (no particular reason, not sure what's better), extra rinse on cold
  3. Rinse/spin with extra rinse, cold.
  4. If bubbles are visible, another rinse/spin with extra rinse, cold.
  5. Tumble dry low (if sun is out I'll lay them out in the grass and am looking forward to a laundry line!!)

Steps taken to solve the problem: I add a sopping wet towel to the load to trick the machine into adding more water. I don't know if it's working or not, but it makes me feel better. I did manage to get the odors out by adding baking soda to the wash and vinegar to the rinse. Info I found online said to add 1/4 cup of each. When I went to add the baking soda, 1/4 cup looked like waaaay too much, so I only added about 1/2 of my scoop (for the math-impaired, that would be 1/8 cup). I did add the full 1/4 cup of vinegar. By the way, I love having a spot for fabric softener because it makes adding anything to the rinse so much easier!! The machine I had at the apartment didn't even have a spot for bleach, let alone fabric softener. Note: if your machine does not have these nifty compartments, you can use a Downy ball to add vinegar or fabric softener to the rinse. Haven't tried it myself, but I read that somewhere and thought I should include here.

So now the covers don't smell as soon as D takes care of business, but they're really failing in the waterproof department.

Today's experiment: stripping the diapers. The purpose of stripping is to remove detergent or urine buildup. (In my case, since my covers smell clean when they come out of the wash, I know it's not a urine buildup problem.) According to the mighty internet, there are several products on the market that can be used for this purpose. I have had success in the past with dish soap. Most CDing (cloth diapering) mommas would have said "Dawn" instead of "dish soap" in that last sentence, but I have not found any definitive explanation on why that particular brand. If you know, please fill me in! All I could glean was that you need to use plain soap, without any moisturizers or other additives because they'll just make the problem worse.

How to strip diapers: First, your diapers need to be clean, so wash them as usual first. They don't need to be dry, or even spun out, just clean. Then, wash again without any other detergent and add dish soap (just a couple drops!!) to the wash cycle, then rinse, rinse, rinse, and rinse some more until there are no more bubbles. The last time I stripped the covers, I was using a TL (the one without any extra bells and whistles) and it took 5 rinses on a medium load setting. This time, I have a HE FL. Some things I read online said not to put dish soap in your FL, especially if it's HE. Others have used it to strip diapers without any trouble. I'm actually rather torn on this one. As I type, the covers on their wash cycle, so I haven't stripped them yet. I'm thinking I shouldn't put dish soap in the washer, at least not yet. So I'm going to follow the alternative method: soak the covers in the sink with dish soap for 30-40 minutes, then throw in the machine and rinse, rinse, rinse, and rinse some more until there are no more bubbles.

In case you're wondering, whenever I say "I read online", I mean that I typed some search string into Google and clicked a few links to blogs, forums, detergent companies' websites, CD manufacturers' websites, and who know what else. I cannot tell you where I got a specific piece of information. If you're looking for answers to similar questions I hope this has helped, and if you have a tip to share, please leave a comment!! I will say that one of my favorite places to ask questions are in the forums on, but I do a lot of other searches to try to get as much info as possible. Washing cloth diapers is a pretty broad topic because there are so many different brands and types of diapers, brands and types of detergent (incl. homemade), various additives (baking soda/vinegar, tea tree oil, etc.) and washing machines. So glean what you can from as many sources as you want and put together your own system that works for you.

As I said, this is where I'm recording my notes, so I'll put this post up and will hopefully make time to write a follow-up post when this experiment is done! Thanks for bearing with me :-)

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1 comment:

ehart said...

Good to hear from you again! I haven't been blogging much either. I just can't get motivated with all the other stuff on my plate.

I don't know anything about cloth diapers, diaper covers or high efficiency, front loading washers so I can't help you there. Just wanted to tell you I'd missed you.

If you have my email, you can search for me on Facebook, by the way.