Cloth Diapering - Washing 101
It’s no secret that using cloth diapers is environmentally friendly and economical. Cloth diapers are also better for your baby as they can reduce exposure to harmful chemicals that can be found in conventional disposable diapers. For these reasons, cloth diapers have rapidly grown in popularity. Cloth diapers have become easily accessible, simple to use and modern. And let’s not forget, the incredible variety of colours and patterns available make cloth diapering not only adorable, but fun!
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You will be happy to know that cleaning cloth diapers can be simple and straightforward. Here is a comprehensive guide on how prep cloth diapers and the best way to wash cloth diapers simply and effectively.
Prepping Cloth Diapers and Inserts Before Use
Wondering if you need to prep cloth diapers and inserts? This is an initial step that should be taken to rinse away any natural oils found on fabrics. Prepping cloth diapers and inserts also opens up fibres to ensure adequate absorbency. Cloth diaper and insert prep is a simple step that involves running your new diapers and inserts through 3 or 4 regular wash cycles. (Follow our Wash Routine Steps below). There is no need to dry in between washes! When prepping cloth diapers and inserts, feel free to throw them in with other household laundry to conserve water and save time. Run your diapers and inserts through a final rinse to ensure that all detergent has been washed away. Allow diapers and inserts to fully air dry or tumble dry on a low/medium heat or delicate dryer setting. And there you have it - cloth diaper prep complete!
It's important to note that prepping for different insert materials may require more washes for them to reach full absorbency. The amount of time it takes for your inserts to reach adequate absorption is sensitive to detergent, water hardness levels, and the your wash routine!
Cleaning Cloth Diapers – Our Recommended Wash Routine
Washing cloth diapers is not as much of a chore as you might think – just follow these simple guidelines.
Start by flushing any solids in the toilet and run your diapers and inserts through a cold water rinse cycle. There is no need to use detergent during this step – this initial rinse helps to remove any remaining solid waste, flushes away urine, and is a helpful step before a thorough washing.
Wash cloth diapers and inserts using a normal warm or hot water cycle. During regular washes, use water that is less than 95oF to increase the lifespan of your diapers. When cleaning cloth diapers that are extremely soiled or when tackling build-up, you can increase the water temperature - but ensure the water is less than 115oF. When you wash cloth diapers and inserts, never boil them as this can cause damage. Use the maximum water level setting and the manufacturer recommended amount of laundry detergent. Choose a laundry detergent for cloth diapers that is safe for your diapers and safe for your baby.
TIP: Effectively washing cloth diapers will depend on your washing machine and if you have hard or soft water. A top loading machine allows you to better control the amount of water being used and provides a vigorous wash. A front loading high efficiency machine may require you to manually adjust the amount of water you use to ensure a thorough clean. With hard water, you may need a bit more detergent. With soft water, you may require some extra rinsing to remove all traces of detergent.
Want to read more about using cloth diapers with Hard Water? Click here to read more.
3. Extra Rinse.
A final cold or warm water rinse is recommended to wash away any remaining detergent. This is an optional step if you have soft water or find your machine doesn’t fully wash away detergent during its regular cycle. Detergent that is left behind after washing cloth diapers and inserts can cause residue build-up and can result in repelling.
To lengthen the lifespan of your diapers, your best bet is to tumble dry on a delicate or low heat setting. Hang drying cloth diapers is also a great way to protect your diapers and save energy! When drying cloth diapers, avoid dryer sheets as this can cause residue build-up.
TIP: hang drying cloth diapers outside in the sun not only helps dry your diapers quickly, but the sun is a tried and tested way to remove stubborn stains!
Choosing the Best Laundry Detergent for Cloth Diapers.
When choosing a laundry detergent for cloth diapers, look for high cleaning power while avoiding fragrances and perfumes, dyes, optical brighteners and bleach. Avoid harsh enzymes if your baby has sensitive skin. Consider natural, unscented, non-toxic and hypoallergenic brands that are free of phosphates and other harsh chemicals. Ensure your cloth diaper detergent does not contain fabric softeners as this can cause residue build-up over time.
Ultimately, the perfect cloth diaper detergent will:
- Provide a thorough cleaning, leaving your diapers odorless after washing
- Increase the absorbency of your diapers and deter leaking
- Keep baby’s bum rash-free
- Be easily accessible and affordable for your family
- Work safely and efficiently in your washing machine
Need some more help choosing a laundry detergent for cloth diapers? Visit Nora’s Nursery’s blog describing the Best Detergent for Cloth Diapers! You can also check out the Detergent Index through Fluff Love University.
Staining on your cloth diapers is normal. Staining should not affect absorbency so long as your diapers are regularly and thoroughly cleaned. When fighting stains, avoid bleach and boiling water as they can cause damage and reduce the overall lifespan of your diapers. As previously discussed, the best stain removal tip is to dry your diapers in the sun. Lay your diapers on a flat surface or hang them on a drying rack or clothesline – stains nearly always come out after a few hours in the sun. Using disposable liners can also minimize staining.
Dealing with Residue Build-Up and Repelling
Not sure if your cloth diapers are repelling? Think you have residue build-up? If you find that your cloth diapers are no longer absorbing properly, you are having trouble getting rid of smells, or your baby is getting a rash, you likely have residue build-up.
Residue build-up is usually the result of detergents or urine that isn’t fully washed away. Washing cloth diapers with too much or too little laundry detergent, or using fabric softeners, can create residue build-up. Even using a diaper cream that is not cloth diaper friendly can result in build-up.
You can test if you are having an absorbency issue by laying your clean diapers flat and pouring a small amount of water on them. Apply a bit of pressure. The inserts should absorb the water. If the water ‘wicks’ away and does not absorb into the insert, you likely have a residue problem.
Fixing Residue Build-Up & Stripping Cloth Diapers
For a quick fix to residue build-up, start by washing your cloth diapers in a regular wash. Make sure to use the right amount of detergent as per the manufacturer instructions. Follow with two or more hot water cycles without detergent. Dry normally.
If the problem persists, review the amount of detergent you are using, taking into consideration whether or not you have hard or soft water.
TIP: wash cloth diapers with some baking soda added in the regular wash cycle. The high PH in baking soda helps neutralize ammonia smells. But do not make this part of your regular washing routine as this could cause your diapers to fail over time.
You may want to strip your cloth diapers every so often to address severe build-up and repelling. Cleaning cloth diapers using a product like RLR Laundry Treatment can help tackle smells and leaks. RLR is made from sodium carbonate, also known as washing soda. Washing soda is similar to baking soda, and provides a deep clean of fibers, removing minerals, urine deposits and detergent residue. It is a non-toxic option that is safe for your cloth diapers and your baby. Because of the strong cleaning power of washing soda, only use this when washing cloth diapers that have extreme residue build-up. If necessary, run an extra rinse to wash away any remaining powder.
And there you have it. Now you know how to prep cloth diapers and you know the best way to clean cloth diapers. For more information on cloth diapering, visit Nora’s Nursery’s ‘How-To’ Blogs!