Intimidated by washing a stash of cloth dipes? I was too. It took me a month to learn the ins and outs of laundering diapers. If you google “washing cloth diapers,” you’re bound to read a hundred different ways to get those undies clean. Everyone has their own rhythm, depending on timing, weather, and water pH levels. This quick and easy guide should be a solid jumping off point for even the most launder-phobic!
1. Prep. First, check the labels on your diapers. Some have already been prepped for you. Most prefolds, especially organic unbleached cotton, however, require five to ten washes on hot BEFORE using them. If you don’t do this, you’ll notice the diapers aren’t very absorbent and leak frequently. This is because the natural oils in cotton are water repellent and need to be stripped.
2. Cold, Hot, Rinse. If you can remember these three steps, you’re golden. Start with a cold prewash – no detergent – to get rid of any stains or soiling. Then, a hot wash with diaper-friendly detergent or soap will sanitize and clean. An extra rinse will ensure all cleaners are gone for good! Don’t mix up the cold and hot – if you do, you may find some baked-in poop when you go to fetch your dipes. Eww.
3. Dry. Leaving your diapers to dry in the sun is a great natural way to remove stains. Or you can throw them in your dryer, especially in cooler climates. Using a hot setting will help sanitize them.
4. Diaper-friendly detergent. A clean rinsing detergent is key. You’ll want to steer clear of traditional detergents, as they often contain petroleum, whiteners, brighteners and enzymes. Even the “baby safe” detergents like Free and Clear are not suitable for diapers.
And while I’m on the topic of no-nos – ditch the fabric softeners and bleach. These products contain ingredients that will build up on your diapers, and can cause diaper rash, skin irritation, and smelly diapers. Chlorine bleach, aside from being a harsh chemical best kept off baby’s sensitive skin, weakens fabric fibers, and causes diapers to break down prematurely.
In general, and this goes for all laundry machine washes, you need about half of the amount of detergent suggested.
Noticing your diapers are still a little stinky? Many moms choose to do a pre-wash with just water, and then an extra rinse after the regular cycle has completed. This ensures there’s no soap left behind. If your babe gets diaper rash with his cloth dipes, ensuring that they are being fully rinsed is a good first step! If that fails, you may need to strip the diapers of old residues using several hot wash cycles with no detergent.
It may seem overwhelming, but once you get the hang of it, the diaper laundry just may be your favorite load. It needs no folding and no sorting!