I suspect that many of you have been skimming the Cloth Diapering Series this past week, thinking to yourself “Sure those diapers look cute going on, but once they are soiled… I never want to see them again!”. No need to fess up. But do the planet and your budget a favor and if you are going to read any of the articles in the cloth diapering series, read this one!

Washing cloth diapers is probably the #1 reason that people hesitate to cloth diaper.

It’s understandable. It’s a potentially icky job, and anyone who has donned hazmat attire and thrown away an outfit post baby blowout or been reduced to near tears by the state of a carseat cover after a sudden flood, is probably scarred from the experience. We’re all a little squeamish about coming into contact with human waste so it’s no wonder why disposables have always been so alluring. But lets get something straight here:
You do not need to touch, scrub, soak or come into objectionable contact with feces covered diapers if you choose to cloth diaper!

This is because presoaking is not necessary, and your diapers will be stored in a bag that goes right into the washing machine along with the diapers. The closest you will come to touching a soiled diaper, will be during the time when you remove it from the child, and spray it off/toss into the diaper pail. The changing experience is really not any more traumatic/difficult than with a disposible.

Now you are probably thinking, “What about the smell?” But here’s the next pleasant revelation:
Cloth diapers stink less than disposibles!

It’s shocking but true. Two reasons why. First, we tend to let our diaper genies and diaper champs etc get fuller before emptying. So three to four days worth of diapers sit in there. Second, all that plastic designed to contain the stink, is actually conducive to the growth of that stinky bacteria. It likes to live in an airtight environment. It thrives there. Cloth diaper containers are rarely airtight. Cloth diapers are ideally washed every day to two days. Frequent enough that odor does not have a chance to really build up. Also since the container is always washed with the diapers, there is no lingering odor left behind. Furthermore, you can use environmentally friendly, beneficial bacteria and enzyme based sprays on your diapers (after removing) that begin to break down any stains and odors before you even put them in wash. These can be sprayed on the diaper as it is tossed into the wetbag. Reliable brands are Bum Genius Odor Remover and Bac Out Stain and Odor Remover.

So how does one go about washing the diaper? Bleach? chemicals? Presoaks?

All of these questions sprang to my mind when I was considering cloth. I still remembered my moms tales of boiling diapers with bleach to sterilize them. But the fact of that matter is that with today’s extremely efficient washing machines, there is no need to presoak or scrub diapers by hand. And the last thing you need/want to do is use harsh chemicals on the garment next to your baby’s skin. In fact you will want to use an extremely mild (hopefullly organic) soap on the diapers, and wash with the bare minimum amount to get them clean. Excess detergent, softener, and fragrance can build up on your diapers which will make them perform less well. So let your washing machine do the work and keep the products to a minimum.
Here is our routine:
Before bed my husband or I tosses the days diapers into the wash and do a dedicated load of diaper laundry. We select the machines hottest cycle (sani-cycle on our front loading Kenmore). We then add in a presoak/rinse cycle and a second rinse cycle, load the detergent of choice, and hit start.
In the morning we are greeted with sparking clean diapers, and throw them in the dryer. Total diaper care time spent is about one third the amount of time it would take to reload the diaper genie and take the offensive diaper sausage to the trash on the side of the house. And it is 100% less gross of a job!

Are you wondering, “What about your washer, does it have the cooties?”

The answer is no! Seriously people! Washing machines are very good at cleaning themselves as well as the sheets, towels and even soiled diapers we stuff into them. There is no poo residue, no smell, nothing but clean fresh laundry in the morning The multiple rinse cycles (which use very little water but work a charm!) are extremely effective of ridding all things objectionable. But if it makes you feel better, run a bleach cycle with some old towels every now and then.
It’s actually rather anti climactic talking about washing the diapers. The drama I expected is entirely absent. So rather than dwell on it further, I will list for you my favorite three diaper laundry detergents and refer you to this handy detergent chart that takes into account water in your area. You should also check out this entirely reassuring photo tutorial on washing cloth diapers.
Of the detergents I tried, my favorite is Allens Naturally. It’s miraculous. We bought a gallon and a squirt pump that measure the proper amount for us. Our washer only needs three pumps to get a load perfectly clean. I will be using the gallon for a very long time.



Also effective at diaper and baby wash and especially good for those with super sensitive skin, are Maggies Soap Nuts.


If you don’t have specialty stores nearby and want to use something more commonly found in stores, I recommend Seventh Generation laundry detergent products. These are also extremely gentle and effective at cleaning.


I hope that this series has given some of you the inspiration to give cloth diapering a try, even part time. Every disposible diaper you do not use, is a significant contribution to the wellness of our planet. What better present could you give your child than more careful stewardship of the world they will inherit? Other benefits include fewer diaper rashes, and of course the myriad of cute covers and custom diapers that you will want to indulge in once you try out cloth diapering. I wish you well on your journey!

Comments

  1. I have 2 kids – a 2.5 yr old and a 12 week old. I am cloth diapering the new baby after doing loads of research. My one disappointment is that I didn’t discover this with my first baby! My husband was skeptical at first for all the reasons you wrote about, but after a few days of actually doing it, he was totally on board. We can’t imagine putting our daughter into anything but cloth diapers now!

  2. Margaret says

    Wow, you do a washer and dryer load of diapers every day? I agree that cloth diapers are a nice choice but give the amount of water and electricity/gas you must be using I question how environmentally conscious your choice really is. Unless of course your home is solar and wind powered 🙂 I use both cloth and disposable (we travel frequently) and there are benefits to both but I do feel it’s not necessarily true that cloth are better for the environment. No worse, but not better.

  3. My question is what is your water bill compared to what it used to be? My big reason for not switching to cloth is that we’re in the desert and I don’t feel like I can justify using more water – that part doesn’t seem very environmental to me unless I lived in a state that actually rained, so instead we’ve switched to gdiapers since I don’t have to wash much.

  4. For those concerned about washing diapers, remember that every disposable diaper requires water, energy, and petroleum (oil) to produce and will sit in a landfill for up to 500 years! Disposable diapers are the 3rd most commonly found item in landfills, which is scary considering that they’re full of untreated human waste and will sit around for 500 years. Also, most people who cloth diaper wash about 3 times a week as opposed to every day. As far as detergent, I just want to comment that Seventh Generation is actually not the best choice for diapers, as it uses natural oils as surfacants which can coat diapers and cause them to stink/repel. Great choices include Allens Naturally (like you use), Country Save, Green Mountain, and Purex Free & Clear. Way to go, cloth diapering mama! 😉

  5. For those concerned about washing diapers, remember that every disposable diaper requires water, energy, and petroleum (oil) to produce and will sit in a landfill for up to 500 years! Disposable diapers are the 3rd most commonly found item in landfills, which is scary considering that they’re full of untreated human waste and will sit around for 500 years. Also, most people who cloth diaper wash about 3 times a week as opposed to every day. As far as detergent, I just want to comment that Seventh Generation is actually not the best choice for diapers, as it uses natural oils as surfacants which can coat diapers and cause them to stink/repel. Great choices include Allens Naturally (like you use), Country Save, Green Mountain, and Purex Free & Clear. Way to go, cloth diapering mama! 😉

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