May 19, 2015

FIAO 2.5 - Diapering The Twins - Cutting Through The Crap: How To Really Clean Cloth Diapers

So it's been just about 8 months since we started using cloth diapers. We are still going strong and I love it despite a hefty learning curve, lots of nay-saying from friends and family and a complete stash overhaul early on. We have made it through the traumatic experiences of transitioning from EBF poo to solids poo and one stupid mistake of ours that cost me $75 worth of diapers. By far one of the biggest challenges has been learning how to properly clean my diapers. It's not because it's hard, but because absolutely no one seems to agree on the best way to do it!

Modern cloth diapering itself isn't too difficult, especially with all the improvements to the diapers themselves, the invention of disposable liners and diaper sprayers and, of course, the availability of washing machines. Gone are the days when women used pins and rubber pants to contain messes that were stored in wet pails in their bathtubs and then handwashed after everyone else was long asleep, like my grandmother did with all seven of her children. Even my own mother can't get over how cute and easy to use and launder my diapers are after her days of using prefolds and a diaper service with us. Aside from figuring out how to actually save money because you want to buy ALL the diapers, one of the most important things to do is get a good wash routine down to ensure that you are putting clean cloth on your baby at all times.

One of the biggest obstacles to this is that the internet is chock full of misinformation. Well-meaning friends and family, every forum online, even diaper companies themselves all create problems when they diapers like some alien form of fabric never to be carelessly handled rather than what it is - dirty (ok, really dirty) cloth, just like our clothes. Their recommendations, which often include multiple rinses, too little detergent and use of special "cloth diaper safe" detergents, actually lead to issues with staining, stink, leaking and rashes. This can cause some to give up on cloth prematurely because they think they're doing everything right so the issue must be with the diapers themselves. I am very lucky that I started using cloth right around the time that the glorious resource Fluff Love and CD Science Facebook group was created.

This talented, intelligent group of moms banded together to fight "the misinformation, misconceptions, and dangerous cleaning methods they’ve seen promoted throughout the cloth diaper industry." In short, they did the dirty work (haha) so we don't have to. I learned everything I know about laundering my cloth from this group and their website Fluff Love University and since tweaking my routine I have had no issue with stains, stink, leaking or rashes. The very first thing I say to any mom who asks me about using cloth is that she has to join this group. The information and support is invaluable.

Even one of the biggest names in the Cloth Diaper industry, Jennifer Labit, has come around. Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies, makers of the oh-so-popular (and, yes, a little pricey) BumGenius and Flip diapering systems as well as the more economical EconoBum brand. This past March after studying and surveying their loyal fan base she announced Cotton Babies was changing their wash routine recommendations.  I love BumGenius because they're really cute, super easy to use and fit well. I have 17 now, including 4 "Limited Edition" diapers. That said, I never even read the tag or washing instructions - I headed straight to FL&CDS to learn how to wash them. Now if only everyone else could come around we'd all be better off. Here's another great post Jenn wrote on the history of washing cloth and why people are ending up with dirty and sometimes dangerous diapers. It's not anyone's fault really but it's time to spread the word and change the way things are done. Say it loud and proud and advocate for clean cloth on all babies' bums!

Our Wash Routine:

(Adapted from FL&CDS. This is pretty much the same thing Cotton Babies recommends now. It is not bullet proof and may not work for everyone but it's a good place to start!)


Step 1:

Load up washing machine with diapers. I put about 20 in (2 days worth) that includes the pockets, inserts, doublers, liners and AIOs, plus cloth wipes and 2 wet bags in a large, old school, top loader machine until it's about 3/4 of the way full. Add the water (see step 2 for settings). Once it's full you want it to look like diaper stew. Too much or too little water and your diapers will not get clean.



 Step 2:


I set my machine to large, cold wash and rinse, add Line 1 (I will add a little more if there were a lot of poop diapers) of the scoop of Tide Ultra Powder and a 1/4 cup of borax. The borax is to combat my hard water although the Tide powder does a pretty good job too. I spend about $17 a month on Tide (which I use for all of our laundry) and an extra $5 on Borax every two months. Tide is my go-to detergent right now although I have tried Gain. This rinse is to get off all the yuck so you're not washing your diapers in dirty water.


Step 3:

I mix up the diapers a little bit after the first wash then add 1 full scoop (not just to the top line, use the full scoop or cup) of Tide and another 1/4-1/2 cup of borax. I set it to large, extra heavy, hot wash with a cold rinse. Your diapers  should come out clean looking AND smelling. Some staining is ok as long as it's not actual mess still left on the diapers.

**Step 4:

 I don't do this but Cotton Babies recommends an extra rinse. I started off doing that but found my diapers didn't need it. You only need to if they're coming out of the wash feeling slimy or with soap visibly still on the diapers. According to FL&CDS extra rinses can actually cause issues, especially if you have hard water.

Step 5:

I hang dry all of my pockets and All-in-Ones using a $15 drying rack I picked up at Wal-Mart. Inserts and wet bags go in the dryer on high for about 45 minutes. When it's hot or humid out I will put an oscillating fan in front of the diapers to help dry them but usually it takes about 6-8 hours for them to all be dry, usually overnight. Sometimes the AIOs are a little stiff after hanging so I'll pop them in the dryer for 15 minutes if I need them right away but usually they soften up by the time we get to wearing them.

Step 6: 

 Stuff and fold your diapers and admire your beautiful stash!

That's it! It's really that easy.

Lessons Learned

Of course after 8 months I've learned some things other than just a proper wash routine. Some I learned the hard way:

Cleaning Poo 

Oh how I miss the days of EBF poo that I could just toss in the machine with pee diapers. Things have gotten crazy with the start of solids and although liners (see below) are great if you don't have a sprayer you will have to get that poo off somehow. It took a bit of time to get it down but here's I do it with little mess:
The mason jar is to add some warm water to my low-water-level toilet.
I wear rubber gloves, dunk the diaper and swish it around. Give it a flush or two to pull off what you can holding carefully to the diaper so it doesn't go down the toilet.
Then I use an old spatula (that NEVER leaves the bathroom) to scrape off what's left.
Wring it out, toss it in the wetbag and zip it up!
I keep a spray bottle of dish soap and one of bleach to clean the toilet, spatula and gloves after.
It's really not that hard or gross, I promise!


A lot of people say you don't need them but most of those people have a diaper sprayer. My house is over 200 years old and the plumbing is about 100 years old. Our toilet does not accomodate for a sprayer and my shower head doesn't reach to the toilet so I use the good old dunk and swish method to clean poo. Now there are times when it will take me five minutes to really clean just one diaper. So I invested in some disposable liners and although they don't catch all the poo they've been life changing. Some of them claim to be flushable - don't flush them. Just ball them up and throw them in the garbage and rinse the rest away. I'll soon be going the reusable route when I get around to picking up some microfleece fabric that I will cut into rectangles and use as liners. Apparently the poo just slides right off with some soaking.

Wet bags

Always, always, always bring a wet bag with you when out and about. I forgot to pack one on Easter and put my two most favorite diapers (BumGenius Limited Edition Martin Freetimes) plus a few of my cheaper pockets in a plastic bag. We were out all day and ran out of cloth so I ended up using disposables later in the day. I specifically put them in separate plastic bags so I could toss one and put the other in the wetbag later. Well I asked CJ to toss the diapers for me when we got home and forgot to tell him that one was cloth. He threw them all away. I didn't even realize it until I went to empty the diaper bag the next morning. Twenty minutes after the garbage men came. And that's how I ended up throwing over $75 in the garbage. I cried, he laughed at me, and then let me to buy two more Martins with his credit card. Always bring a wetbag!!!


Cloth diapers come with two kinds of closures - snaps and velcro/aplix. I originally bought only snaps but CJ was really struggling with using them - he kept making them too loose or missing a row altogether. I picked up about 10 aplix for him to use and I am so glad I did now that Vivienne acts like you're mortally injuring her during diaper changes. Have you ever tried to snap a diaper on a child who will not lay still for more than 4 seconds? Impossible. She's in aplix almost full time now because at least those I can put on when she's upside down and backwards. They aren't the best as the velcro can stick to other items in the wash and they're already pilling quite a bit but they're serving their function and that's all I care about.

So, it's been quite the journey but we finally have everything down, a complete (and CLEAN) stash and not one single regret, despite everyone saying I would never stick with it. As if the cuteness factor wasn't enough we have also saved over $800 on diapers! Although some of that savings goes out the window when BumGenius releases a new print since I have to have two of each... But come on, they're gorgeous!


No comments :