June 2, 2010

Oops, WRONG detergent! Now what?

If you read yesterday's detergent post, then you know what to expect for today:  Your first choice of detergent resulted in leaking, smelling, rash, or even all three.  Now what?

Thankfully the answer is pretty easy, though it can take some time: a routine maintenance called stripping.  The idea is to strip the detergent residue out of the fabric.  Successfully done, it will improve absorbency, reduce odors, and help your baby stay rash-free.

If you google "stripping cloth diapers" you'll find dozens of ways to do it.  Some are easy, some are unbelievably complicated.  Some methods void warranties.  Here are the three methods I recommend most often.  These methods are accepted by most of the major cloth diaper brands.

1. Hot Water - try this one first...it's easiest!  Simply wash diapers and inserts as usual, then rewash in hot water 2-3 times with no detergent.  During the agitation cycle (preferably hot water agitation), look inside your washer.  If there are any soap bubbles at all, run another hot wash.  Repeat until water is absolutely clear.

2. Oxyclean - either the Regular or the Baby version will work.  Wash diapers as usual first, then rewash in hot water with the amount of Oxyclean recommended on the label (usually 1 scoop).  Rinse 2-3 times until water runs very clear.

3. Dawn dishsoap - this one is overall the most effective, but takes the longest.  Use original blue Dawn.  Wash diapers first, the rewash in hot water with 2 tablespoons Dawn.  Then rinse and rinse until water is clear.  This can take a while to wash out all the Dawn bubbles.  It's extra bubbly since it's not made for washing clothes, but it works very well to strip out detergent residue.  If you have hot water rinse, that will be faster.  If you can't get them bubble-free in 2-3 washes, then I recommend going ahead and using them, but running 2-3 washes when you wash them again.  That way it breaks up the number of washes needed to get the water to run clear and you can use them in between. 

Other popular methods include using RLR (little balls of detergent found in the detergent aisle) or soaking with Rockin' Green.  I haven't personally tried these methods, but I've heard great things about them.  These methods are also not mentioned much by the manufacturers, but I don't think they would void any warranties.

Just one last note: if you use dryer sheets or fabric softener with your regular laundry, it can transfer residue from the machine to your diapers.  Use the same methods to strip out fabric softener residue.  Then I recommend using a scoop of Oxyclean once every week or two to prevent buildup from occurring again.

June 1, 2010

Detergents: What's the BEST choice?

When first starting with cloth diapers, often the biggest question is not how to use diapers nor how to store them, but how to wash them.  And detergent is the most important part of washing diapers.  Choose the wrong detergent and you can end up with leaky, stinky diapers that leave a rash.  Not a glowing endorsement for cloth diapering!  But choose the right detergent, and you can have years of worry-free diapering with an easy wash routine. 

But how do you find the "right" detergent?  And what do you do if you choose the "wrong" one? 

First, the list of recommended detergents.

Good choices to try from your local store:
Mountain Green, Country Save and Planet are the very best choices from your local store if you can find them.  In some areas, these detergents are common, in others they're harder to find.  Country Save and Planet are both recommended by most diaper manufacturers.  Tide Free, Purex Free, and Arm&Hammer Senstive Skin are all pretty good choices from the regular detergent choices.  These may or may not be recommended by diaper manufacturers, usually due to the presence of optical brighteners and enzymes. 

Good choices that are found online:
Shopping for detergent online gives you an array of diaper-specific detergents.  These are made specifically for use with cloth diapers and every manufacturer I know of okays these for use with their diapers.  BumGenius, Tiny Bubbles, and Rockin' Green (unscented version).  Allen's Naturally is also a great choice that is almost always only available online.

We carry all of these brands in our store, with shipping prepaid, for your convenience.

Now for the BAD choices:
While most detergents by far fall into the middle (might work for some but not for others), there are some generally BAD choices to be found.  Most manufacturers specifically recommend NOT using these detergents: Dreft, ALL Baby, ALL Small&Mighty, and ALL Ultra.  These are the worst offenders due to the presence of pure soap products which can leave a nasty buildup on diapers.  Other BAD choices are BioKleen, Ecover, and most baby-specific detergents.

It's important to note that choosing a Good detergent doesn't mean it will work for your diapers.  It also depends on your local water quality and your washing machine.  But in general, starting with a Good detergent is the best place to start!  I've found that most parents are mostly successful with one of these detergents. 

What do you do if you get a detergent that's not working?  Watch tomorrow for our post on stripping detergent residues out of diapers!

Sources: my own experiences, the Real Diaper Industry washing guidelines, Happy Heinys washing instructions, BumGenius washing instructions, FuzziBunz washing instructions, GroVia washing instructions, Knickernappies washing instructions.