Dear friend Amy has shared her cloth diapering expertise with us! Not everyone does diaper care the same way, which makes it fun to learn from different writers. Her next contribution will contain information on the fabulous diaper co-ops where she purched most of the diapers pictured on the left! Thanks, friend!
Washing Cloth Diapers
Regular wash routine:
There are many opinions about washing cloth diapers, and many people have developed additional steps and routines based on their individual needs. Here is a simple routine for washing cloth diapers that has worked for us. We recommend starting simple and adjust only if necessary for your baby or water-type.
• If soiled, use the mini-shower to remove poop from diaper. Leave the diaper wet enough that it almost drips. Keeping the diaper wet until it is washed will help reduce stains.
• Toss into a dry pail; wash every day or every other day.
• Wash no more than 12 – 18 diapers at a time.
• Use your washer’s highest water level.
• Pre-rinse with cold water and no detergent.
• Use a regular hot water cycle and Tide (not Tide Free & *not HE Tide).
• Dry diapers in the dryer or hang dry or a combination of both.
Here are some things to avoid:
• Avoid using chlorine bleach on a regular basis. It will break down fibers and noticeably shorten the life of your diapers. In addition, it may irritate your baby’s skin. Some manufacturers, like bumGenius!, recommend using 1/4 cup bleach with your regular wash once a month.
• No fabric softeners, which coat fabric and reduce absorbency. This includes ‘baby’ detergents such as Dreft.
Lengthening the Life of Your Cloth Diapers
Here are some things that you can do to help your diapers last longer:
• Hang dry overnight, or partially dry in the dryer and then hang dry.
• To keep diapers soft, do not dry on your dryer’s hottest setting.
• Minimize use of bleach.
• Never use fabric softener.
• Use 1/2 cup lemon juice to whiten.
• Sun them, even in cold weather, to freshen and remove stains.
Use baking soda and vinegar! Here’s how:
• Do a cold rinse.
• Use your regular amount of detergent.
• Add 1/2 cup baking soda and a Downy ball filled to the top with distilled white vinegar. Start your washer’s hot cycle.
• After the diapers have agitated, but before the hot water has drained, stop the cycle (this can be done on some washers by leaving the lid up).
• Let the diapers soak overnight.
• Close the lid in the morning to complete the cycle.
How do baking soda and vinegar work?
The baking soda neutralizes acidic odors, removes acid and protein based stains, and softens the diapers. The vinegar neutralizes alkaline odors and removes alkaline based stains. Rather than adding the baking soda to your washer on wash day, you can add it directly to the diaper pail before you begin to fill it with diapers. This will help keep your diaper pail smelling fresh. Note: if you have hard water, use borax instead of baking soda.
Do I HAVE to use a Mini-Shower for dirty diapers?
No! If your baby is solely breastfed, you can just throw the diaper into your diaper pail. The initial cold rinse will remove the poop. This is because the poop of breastfed babies is water soluble. However, stains will occur.
After your baby starts solids, you should shake off what you can into the toilet before placing the diapers into the diaper pail. Another option is to use biodegradable, flushable liners. Just remove the liner, poop and all, and drop into the toilet.
However, if you want your diapers to remain stain-free, we recommend using the Mini-Shower and leaving your diaper almost dripping wet when placing it into the diaper pail. Keeping it wet until wash day will minimize staining.
Choosing a detergent
There are many opinions about which detergents are best for cloth diapers. We believe you should use what works for you and your baby. Remember, if you feel your detergent isn’t working, you can always strip your diapers and start over. Our top three recommended detergents are Original Powder Tide (not liquid Tide, HE Tide, or other version of Tide), Allen’s Naturally, Charlie’s Soap, and Sensi-Clean. Do not use any baby detergents such as Dreft, since they contain fabric softeners.
Detergents for Cloth Diapers
• Choose a detergent for your wonderful cloth diapers that will keep them smelling fresh, leak-free, and soft!
A note on “Free and Clear”…
We (Jillian’s Drawers) get calls daily about leaking cloth diapers, especially pocket diapers and All-In-Ones, and the Free and Clear detergents listed below are the culprits 99% of the time. Please note that many parents do use Free and Clear detergents successfully… it depends on the water in your area. However, it is true that when we receive calls and the issue is due to the detergent, Free and Clear detergents were being used. And if you do want or need to use a Free and Clear detergent, then we recommend two brands below (Purex and Mountain Green).
Free and Clear detergents contain microbiostats, which control the growth of microorganisms, such as dust mites. This is beneficial to those with allergies, but may be the common ingredient that causes the fleece in your pocket diapers to repel. Now, many parents use Free and Clear detergents with great success (it really depends on your local water mineral content and washer), but if you begin to have leaks or smells after a few weeks or months, try stripping your diapers and then switching detergents.
Detergents with a 5 Star Rating:
Tide Original (Powder Only, Not HE versions)
-This is the one detergent we have never received a complaint about with regards to cloth diapers. For an additive-free detergent, we recommend Allen’s Naturally.
-Best for Babies with Sensitive Skin.
A completely natural detergent (the only detergent with the ingredients listed on the label) that works great! Biodegradable.
-Ranked #1: Works for most and least expensive. Try first and then change if it doesn’t work for you.
Similar to Allen’s Naturally, however ingredients are proprietary. Extensive studies by Clemson University have shown it leaves no residue. Biodegradable. Technically a “detergent” (not a soap, despite its name).
-The most well-known cloth diaper detergent.
Formulations for soft, regular, and hard water. Mixed reviews for our customers in upstate New York. Many customers have very hard water and even well water, and have leaks and smell issues with Rockin Green. But when it works, it rocks!
-Great for stripping cloth diapers on a monthly basis. Note: while this detergent works great for the majority of babies, some babies will develop a rash.
-Best for stripping cloth diapers on a monthly basis. Note: while this detergent works great for the majority of babies, some babies will develop a rash.
-Cost effective, additive free, and great results.
Mountain Green Baby Free & Clear
-This is a detergent that our customers have started to really rave about.
Mountain Green Free & Clear
-This is a detergent that our customers have started to really rave about.
Purex Free & Clear
-A great Free and Clear detergent, works well with most water types.
Websites with good general information on CDing:
Blogs: general information
Blogs: Newborn cloth
Types of Cloth Diapers
When trying to decide what you will use, do not feel like you have to choose only one system. You may use as many different types/brands of cloth diapers as you wish, or just stick with one if you prefer.
PREFOLDS – When you think of CD’s, this is most likely what comes to mind. They are made up of multiple layers of fabric, with the middle layer most absorbent. They can be tri-folded and just laid in the cover, or you can use a Snappi or diaper pins to make it more fitted on baby (which contains EBF poo much better). You need to use a Cover over these to make them waterproof.
FLATS – Flats are a large square of a single layer of fabric that you fold, then pin or snappi on baby. You need a waterproof cover over a Flat. These are easy to wash, and dry quickly, which make them a great option for hand-washing while camping or traveling. They are also very trim! These are the most affordable cloth diaper. You can use old receiving blankets, flour sack towels, or even old t-shirts as a flat diaper.
FITTED – Fitted diapers are not waterproof and require a cover. Some have snaps or velcro added to them, but others require either a Snappi or diaper pins to fasten them. They may or may not have a lay in or snap in soaker.
CONTOUR – A contour is similar to a prefold, only it is pre-formed to fit around baby. You will need either pins or Snappi to close. It is not waterproof and requires a cover.
COVERS – There are different types of covers to make prefolds, contours, and fitteds waterproof. They are made of PUL (polyurethane laminate), fleece, or wool. You do not need to change the cover at each diaper change, unless it has poo on it. Typically, 2 covers should last for a typical day (newborns may need more since they tend to have more messy diapers). Wool covers only need to be (hand) washed once every few weeks (unless it gets poo on it), and also need to be lanolized.
AIO’s (All in Ones) – These are the closest to a disposable as you can get! The absorbant layers are sewn into the diaper so it is all one piece. They have either velcro or snap closures. Some are OS, but most are sized (S,M,L). AIO’s take longer to dry than other CD’s. AIO’s are very daycare/caregiver friendly.
POCKETS – Pocket diapers consist of 2 pieces, the soaker/insert and the waterproof shell that has a pocket. You simply stuff the pocket of the shell with the insert and you’re good to go! They have either velcro or snap closures. Many are OS, but you also can find sized. Before washing, the insert needs to be removed in order to be cleaned properly. There are some pockets that have an opening in the front and back of the dipe (referred to as a “sleeve” diaper). This allows the insert to be washed out, so you do not need to remove it before washing.
HYBRID – Hybrids are a cross between cloth and disposables. Hybrid diapers consist of a cover and an insert (either cloth or disposable). The cover does not need to be changed at each diaper change, but the soaker does. You simply lay or snap in the soaker. When used with a cloth soaker, these are similar to a prefold and cover, without the folding. Hybrids are sometimes referred to as AI2’s since they consist of 2 pieces.
AI2 (All in 2) – These consist of 2 pieces, the waterproof outer shell and a snap in or lay in soaker. Unlike the hybrids, the outer shell may only be used once before it needs to be washed again. These are sometimes referred to as AIO’s since they are used only one time before being washed again.
OS (One Size) – These are one-size fits most. Typically OS diapers fit babies about 10-35 lbs, depending on the brand of diaper. These are very common since you do not need to buy a new stash as your LO grows. But OS diapers aren’t typically as trim as their sized counterpart. If you prefer a trimmer diaper, sized is the way to go. This is a good option if you have more than one in diapers, and do not want to purchase 2 separate cloth diaper stashes.
NATURAL vs SYNTHETIC – Which diaper materials you choose is up to you. Some prefer to use only all natural or organic materials, others do not mind synthetic materials. It is completely up to you! Please note that Microfiber should NEVER touch baby’s skin. It will cause a major rash because it pulls all moisture away from skin. It is good to use in pockets. Some soakers have a stay dry liner that prevents the MF from touching baby’s skin.