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Washing Cloth Diapers

20 Mar

The biggest hurdle for most new mothers considering cloth diapering is the laundry. “I’m going to  have a newborn – how am I going to keep on top of the regular laundry AND the cloth diaper laundry?” The good news is that cloth diaper laundry is the easiest laundry there is – no ironing, no folding. The bad news is that you will be doing an extra load of laundry every two or three days. This is manageable to me because I would much rather run a load of laundry than go to the grocery store with a baby in tow for another package of disposables. If you prefer going to the grocery store with a baby rather than doing laundry, then maybe cloth diapers aren’t a good choice for you. And that is okay.

Here is our laundry system: we use a dry pail method: a large trash can with a diaper pail liner inside of it. A diaper pail liner, or wet-bag, is a laundry bag made out of PUL (polyurethane laminate) like the wrap diaper covers, so that it is waterproof. Diapers, wipes, and dirty covers go in the pail. When the bag is full, I take it to my top-loading washer and put everything (including the liner) in to soak in cold water for two hours, usually with some Funk Rock thrown in. After the diapers have soaked, I spin them dry, add the Rockin’ Green Classic Rock Detergent, and wash them on hot with the extra rinse option turned on. I always have the load size set to “super” (the largest setting) for both the pre-soak and the wash, so that there is lots of water for the diapers to swirl around in and have all the detergent rinse away. We used to use Planet Ultra Detergent, but had some problems with it rinsing clean, which led to the diapers smelling like ammonia, but many people have had no problems with it. After the diapers are washed, I throw them in the dryer, since we have a place to put a clothesline. I put the diaper pail liner and the covers on a drying rack because putting them in the dryer will shorten their lifespan. Once the diapers are dry, I bring them upstairs, stack them into piles, and put them away. It takes about 20 minutes of work for me to get clean diapers, and most of that is sorting and stacking the diapers to be put away.

Green Mountain Diapers has an excellent tutorial on all the variations of how to do diaper laundry. I think finding a detergent that works well with your diapers, your washer, and your water is the hardest part.

The other big question people have with laundering cloth diapers is – what about the poop? For an exclusively breast-milk fed baby, poopy diapers are treated the same way as wet diapers – throw them in the pail and wash them. Breast-milk poop has the consistency of yogurt and washes out easily. And it doesn’t have an offensive smell. If your baby is formula fed, or once they start eating solids, then you have to decide what you want to do about poopy diapers. You can continue to treat them like wet diapers, and this will work fine if you do a pre-soak. The only downside to this method is the odor. You can use flushable diaper liners if you don’t have a septic system, and just shake the liner and poop into the toilet before putting the diaper in the pail. This is the method I use. The downsides to this method is that it doesn’t get all the poop off the diaper, and it is another thing you have to buy. And finally, you can swish or spray a poopy cloth diaper in the toilet. The problem with this method is that you then have a wet diaper dripping with toilet water to convey to your diaper pail.


This is part two in a five part series.

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