When I first started my cloth diaper research, the question of washing was a serious headache! There is so much information on washing cloth diapers. What do you do with the poop? What detergents are safe? Where do I put the diapers until it's time to wash? How long can I go between washings? Should I dry my cloth diapers? How do you take care of stains? If you are anything like me then by the time you finished that list of questions your head was spinning and yet, you had more questions! I understand! I am a pretty severe person. I need organization. I like lists. I have to have a plan. I can't just go into something blindly. Research is essential! I find that educating myself about what others do (and don't) when it comes to cloth diapers helps me to come up with at least a starting point! Even if I don't follow the exact regimen that others have established, I feel like I can make the best decisions and have the best plan if I am aware of all the options. Am I going to be presenting you with all of the options in this post??? HAHA No way! There are sooo many options. I couldn't begin to give you all of them! I am, however, going to give you the details on how we wash our diapers and what works best for us! In my research, having other cloth mamas who gave details on how they washed dipes was the best way for me to picture how I might start doing it myself! I wish there was a clear path: This is the RIGHT way and this is the WRONG way type of thing.....but it just doesn't exist. Washing cloth diapers is not 'set in stone!' You will have to find what suits you and your family best but I hope that this post may help you on your way!
Let's begin with the detergent we use to wash our cloth! First of all, not every detergent is safe. Most commercial laundry cleaners will contribute to extra wear and tear, build-up and smellies. Be careful what you decide to use! We have found that Rockin Green works best for us! Kelly's Closet is a great resource when you are getting started! They also give you a handy printout whenever you order from their site. It gives a good explanation of how you should prep, wash, strip and soak your diapers. Do not let that last sentence intimidate you! When you order your diapers, there will be instructions with them saying whether or not they need to be prepped and usually a brief 'how to wash' statement as well. Diapers and inserts made with cotton (especially organic), hemp and bamboo need to be washed and dried 5-9 times before they reach their full absorbency! That is all that 'prepping' entails! Stripping is a simple process that needs only to be done if your diapers have obtained build-up and start to smell, an ammonia smell is usually your first clue. There are a variety of ways you can strip your diapers. If you have a good washing regimen, you will rarely need to strip your cloth. You may never need to strip. Believe me though...you will know if it needs to be done! Everything else, including how you store your dirty diapers until laundry day, is about personal preference.....and the layout of your house in my opinion!
The following process is what we have found works best for our family....
We have a small house and a laundry closet rather than a laundry room. Therefore, I found it best to use a wet bag placed in a lidded trash can as a diaper pail. I put a few drops of essential oil on either an old wash cloth or the fabric swatch that is sewn into some bags to combat smell. Personally, I like lemon or bergamot but you can use whatever scent pleases you! I have 3 bags so I always have a clean one to use on laundry day. When laundry day comes, I simply take my bag out of the pail and dump the contents into the washer followed by the now empty bag. I should also mention that we have a top-loader. Now, breastfed poop is no big deal. Just toss it in the washer as is. The other stuff can get a little messy (after they start eating solids and such) so I just rid the diaper of it's contents prior to placing it in the diaper pail. If it's a really messy one, I will go ahead and do a smaller load of diapers or give it a short cycle cold rinse because our washing machine has an option for 'extra small' loads!
1 cold rinse with a capful of Calgon
1 long cycle hot/warm wash with Calgon and 3 Tbs Rockin Green Hard Rock ~ we have extremely hard water and this combo works great for us.
Soak in the washer for a minimum of 15 minutes. I soak overnight or all day if the load is particularly smelly.
1 extra warm rinse
*(edited 1/25/12)* We now use powdered Calgon which works better than the liquid. I use 2 Tbs of Calgon and now I only need to use 1 Tbs of Rockin Green as opposed to 3. Saves money and works great.
Covers ~ Hang dry all covers
Inserts and Fitteds ~Hang dry outside if weather permits. Sunshine is amazing for stains! If they get stiff, just place in the dryer on 'no heat fluff' with a dryer ball or two for about 10 minutes.
~Place in dryer on high heat if weather does not permit drying outside. NEVER use fabric softener of any kind on your diapers, this includes dryer sheets! You can use dryer balls with your diapers! (Can you hang your inserts and fitteds inside the house to dry? Yes, but I find it takes far too long and I am not willing to wait it out!)
TIP: Rockin Green is some pretty amazing stuff! I also use it in the washer as a boost for whites, to rid gym clothes of their stank AND............to clean my carpet! That's right, I use it for treating spots and in my carpet cleaner! Beautiful every. single. time!!!