April 19, 2012

Washing Cloth Diapers:Learning from others mistakes!

In our store, we give store credit for gently used diapers.  This is a very interesting way to see how other people treat their diapers.  It's like taking a cross-section of diapering society and getting to inspect it at my leisure, like looking through someone's medicine cabinet.

Most diapers are very clean, stain-free, and ready to resell.

But some diapers clearly need some help and these are the reason for this blog post.

Barely used but reeking of detergent 
Every now and then we'll get diapers that smell crazy-strong of detergent, even before we open the package.  Automatically I know that these diapers leak.  They have detergent built up on them so much that there's no way they can work properly.  Usually I'll send a nicely worded message back to the owner letting them know that if their other diapers leak or smell bad, it's probably time to strip them and then use less or different detergent.  Most of the time, they'll write back and say "My gosh, they DO leak constantly!  How did you know?  What can I do to fix it?"

Grey-tinged fabrics
Sometimes grey-tinged fabrics are due to well water or hard water.  Sometimes it's due to detergent...usually lots of it.  I go ahead and wash these diapers and oh my, the suds!  I've had suds from a small load actually reach the top of my washing machine, up to the lid.  After a few hot rinses, these diapers and inserts always look a lot brighter and whiter, and that's without adding any detergent of my own.

Diapers that just plain smell
Because we're an online store, we don't have the opportunity to see used diapers until we actually get them. And sometimes, the diapers are...not so fresh.  They look clean, but one whiff tells me something wasn't going right.  These, too, go into the wash and again...suds, suds, suds.

Do you see where this post is going yet?  Washing routine is so important in the care of cloth diapers. Sometimes it can take time to find the right detergent and the right amount.  You can head off trouble early by using a good detergent, not necessarily one that gets the most marketing or costs the most at the store, but one that is rated as good for cloth diapers.

What detergents?
These are some of the ones best rated and most often recommended: Tide Free, Mountain Green, Country Save, Allen's Naturally, Planet, BumGenius Detergent, Rockin' Green, Tiny Bubbles, Ruby Moon.  There are others, this is by no means a complete list.  But these are some of the most common, many of which are available locally in grocery stores.

How much detergent?
This depends a lot on what brand, your machine, and your water type.  In general, if it's a mainstream brand (like Tide Free or Allen's Naturally) start with 1/2 the amount recommended on the label for your machine type.  If it's a diaper brand, like BumGenius Detergent or Rockin' Green, use the full amount recommended on the label.  Then adjust for hard water, soft water, top loader, front loader, etc.  Rockin' Green has an EXCELLENT website detailing detergent needs for water type and machine type.

How to strip diapers
The easiest way is to wash in hot water, over and over.  Always start with clean diapers, so if you have to wash them first, then wash as usual.  You can at this point remove any wet bags, wipes, pail liners, or diaper covers.  Then run a hot water wash with just enough water to get them to agitate well.  You want the diapers to rub together and create friction, so if you have a top loader, run the water so it just covers the diapers.  In a front loader, you can probably use the usual water setting that you always use.  Watch for suds during the agitation cycle.  If there are suds, repeat. And repeat.  And repeat.  Yes, it may take awhile if detergent build-up is severe.  If you're just washing inserts, pockets, and prefolds, then you probably don't have a very big load and you can use a lot less water.  I often can use the lowest water setting on my top loader.  Continue running hot washes/rinses until the water is absolutely clear with no soap bubbles.

The moral of this story?
Strip your diapers if you ever experience leaking or odors.  It may help to have a friend or family member who doesn't live in your house sniff your diapers.  Do they smell like detergent?  Or anything?  Clean diapers should just smell like fabric.  They shouldn't smell like detergent AT ALL.  But this is often a sign that diaper owners miss because they're so used to the smell of their own detergent.  And please, please, PLEASE, if you're sending diapers to me for credit, strip them first.  :)  You'll get a lot more credit.  If  I smell anything at all in your diapers, the credit is automatically reduced because I'll have to strip them before I can resell them.
Heather, Cloth Diaper Outlet

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