Washing and drying cloth diapers has to be one of the most confusing areas of cloth diapering. From what laundry detergent to use, to what setting on the washer….and what do you do with the poop?
Here are my simplified answers!
Steps to washing:
1. Remove poop (see notes below)
2. Cold rinse, no detergent
3. Warm or hot wash with detergent (including the rinse cycle that goes with a full wash)
4. Extra cold rinse
You will see online a never ending list of laundry routines and honestly, I think some people over complicate it. I have even read one person whose laundry routine takes close to 7 hours. You do not have time for that and it is completely unnecessary. Unless your washer really really sucks, most people can get away with the basic steps above. If you find it is not working for you, I suggest you make small tweaks until it does. There is no need for a dozen wash cycles! If you find you are having buildup issues – you need to tweak your detergent amounts or types – not your wash cycles. If you find you have a lot of stains, you need to pretreat them with cloth safe methods, add cloth-safe laundry boosters, change your detergent or sun your diapers (it is poop – it will stain and that is okay too). Doing more wash cycles will only wear your diapers down faster so if you find your wash routine is involving multiple full washes and excessive numbers of rinses, you may not be doing yourself any favours. Basic rule of thumb: if your regular clothing is getting clean in your washing machine with just one wash cycle, you likely do not need more than one for cloth diapers. Do not use any fabric softeners and be aware of what detergent you use (a lot of people go with specific detergents for cloth diapers). I will blog my *opinion* on detergents later but for now, Mr. Google will surely have lots of ideas for you!
What about the poop? A lot of people do not cloth diaper because they are terrified of poop…which to me is confusing because we all poop (at least I think we all do)! No matter what you do, if you have a baby, you will have to clean up poop. If you are using disposables, you ‘can’ just throw it out except for the fact that you are not supposed to! That’s right! You are not supposed to put poop in the garbage. If you look on your disposable diaper packaging, it will tell you to dispose of the poop in the toilet. This is because waste water gets treated where as poop that ends up in landfills can contaminate ground water supplies.
Here is how to do it:
- If baby is exclusively breast fed, there is no need to do anything! EBF poop is water soluable and can go in your washing machine.
- If baby is formula fed or is eating solids, you will need to remove the poop into the toilet. You can use a diaper sprayer or disposable liners to make poop cleanup quick and easy. Otherwise, you can dunk it in the toilet and swish, use a spatula assigned just to diapering or very simply turn the diaper upside down and let the poop fall off (this will work better as they get older).
How to dry your diapers:
There really is no fancy steps here. You can dry them in a dryer, on a line or a drying rack. If you dry them in the sun the UV rays will help with disinfecting your diapers (see this post) and you will save money by not having to run the dryer! If you do use your dryer simply be aware of the temperature. If possible, let the covers air dry (simple covers without inserts will only take a few hours if you just set them aside to dry on their own) or dry your covers on low-medium heat. Too high a temp can damage your covers over time. As for everything else, regular heat will be fine and high heat will get the job done faster. Figure out what works for you – there is no right or wrong way to dry. Well, there is one wrong – do not use dryer sheets! These will cause repelling and are bad for you anyway!
What about brand new diapers?
Brand new diapers and inserts will need to be prepped. This is essentially a pre-washing that removes hidden leftovers from manufacturing as well as removes the natural oils from fabrics such as cotton and hemp (this increases absorbancy). In order to prep your diapers, they will need to washed a number of times. Covers alone can be washed once. Inserts and all-in-ones will need to be prepped based on their materials. Do not prep natural materials (cotton, hemp, bamboo…) in the same wash cycles as synthetics (microfibre). This is because the oils in natural fabrics will coat the synthetics and can cause repelling (a topic I may cover in the blog at a later date). Don’t worry – once everything is prepped, you do not need to separate them again when they are soiled – they can all go in the same wash!
Prepping is pretty simple. Wash on hot water with detergent. Repeat.
If you are prepping pre-folds, I would suggest drying them between each wash as this causes them to quilt, which gives them more absorbency.
If prepping microfibre, wash them at least once but preferably 2-3 times.
If prepping natural fibres, wash them at least 3 times but full absorbency will not be reached until they have been washed about 10 times.