Ah, laundry day. Sadly, it has taken me way too long to get a good wash routine down, but I think I’ve finally gotten it. One of the hard parts about washing diapers is it’s really trial and error. There are so many variables when it comes to washing diapers that it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation. This PDF has some great information about all the variables and how they affect your routine.
I’ll share my routine to give you an idea of what works for me.
Our water and synthetic fibers
I’ve complained about our water before. Our pipes are old and are disintegrating (common for their age and the type of pipes we have). There are lots of minerals and rust in our water. I don’t notice it in my normal laundry, but I have really run into problems with the synthetic materials in the diapers I was using. The pocket diapers I have are microfleece and microfiber inserts. Microfiber is a wonderfully thirsty fabric – it soaks up the liquid without the bulk. However, from my research it also tends to cling to minerals in water, causing smell and repelling issues. I experienced both after about a year of using the microfiber (more issues with smell than repelling). I stripped my diapers (more on this later), and that helped but it wasn’t too long before I had issues again. So, I have since replaced my entire stash with all cotton diapers and haven’t had any issues so far (5 months and counting).
Our washer and dryer
We bought our HE washer and dryer a few months before Savannah was born, HE Whirpool Duet Sports. I didn’t realize at the time that front loaders make washing diapers more difficult, or I probably would have opted for a regular washer/dryer. Front loaders are great in that they use less water, but with diapers that is actually a negative thing. Diapers are thirsty – yay! but it also means they soak up all the water the washer uses, not leaving much to actually wash with. I have heard of people trying to trick their washer into using more water, like putting in a wet towel or hooking up a hose to force more water in through the detergent dispenser. If I remember, I try to get all the diapers soaked using water from the bathtub faucet before I wash them. That seems to help, though I also wonder if switching from microfiber to cotton has also helped (less thirsty diapers?).
The detergents you buy in grocery stores these days have all sorts of additives, fragrances, etc. that are great for regular clothes but tend to destroy diapers. They either leave residue, or break down fibers, etc. So you want to make sure to get a “natural” detergent. Hopefully you can find some in a local store, because shipping for detergent can be expensive! Here is a great website that breaks down different detergents to help you pick the best one for your diapers. I used to use Country Save, and liked it a lot. Then I kept hearing about Rockin Green, which actually has a special formula for Hard Water. I bought some, used it about two months, and then Savannah started getting horrible rashes from the detergent. Then I switched to BioKleen powder because I can get that locally, but I have since found out that the powder has mixed results when it comes to cloth diapers, and the liquid is better. I also recently found a place that sells Country Save, so I will probably switch back to that once I’m out of the BioKleen powder. See, it’s all trial and error. :-)
Oh and I also included OxiClean in the picture… I don’t use this regularly, but OxiClean is safe for cloth diapers. You might want to do some research if you’re interested in it for yourself.
My wash routine
What you’ve been waiting for, right? Well after a year and a half of trial and error, here is my current wash routine:
“heavy duty” load with 2/3 scoop of detergent – hot wash, cold rinse
extra rinse/spin (no detergent)
Not too difficult, eh? Much simpler than my old routine where I played around a lot with prewashes and extra rinses, and quick washes without detergent, etc. My washer has a setting for “heavy duty”. Not sure exactly how it’s different, but it’s really been working for me. The extra rinse/spin is 26 minutes long and just to make sure all the detergent is completely rinsed out of the diapers.
Drying the diapers
After washing, I hang all my covers on the retractable clothesline above the washer. I am not sure about my Thirsties covers, but the GroVia covers are not supposed to be put in the dryer, due to the heat breaking down the elastic.
I throw all the inserts and prefolds into the dryer – normal heat. My microfiber inserts used to dry quickly, and I could also air dry them and they would stay soft. However, the cotton ones take a lot longer to dry. They also get “crunchy” when air dried, though I can throw them into the dryer for a little bit to soften them up. (I don’t have any problems with air drying the covers.)
There is a lot to be said for hanging your diapers outside in the sun to dry, if your neighborhood allows it. For one, it saves on utility costs for running the dryer. It’s more earth-friendly. Also, the sun acts as a natural bleach and is a safe way to get stains out as well as sanitizing your diapers without destroying the fibers or using any harmful chemicals. You don’t have to sun-dry your diapers every time, but even just a few times a year will make a difference in the life of your diapers.
Some people have gotten around HOA rules of no clotheslines by sunning their diapers on the top of their car. (Lay an old sheet or blanket down first to keep the diapers clean.)
I am not sure how often you’re “supposed” to strip diapers. Some people never strip them, and some people seem to strip all the time. Mostly you hear of stripping when you start to have issues with your diapers – that’s when I did it. There are many ways you can go about doing it (definitely worth Googling it!), but here is how I stripped my diapers when I needed to.
First, I boiled all the microfiber inserts in a big pot on the stove. I put 3-4 inserts in the water for 10-15 minutes, using tongs to lift them out. If your inserts have snaps, make sure they don’t touch the sides of your pot. Warning, this will really, really stink but it works fabulously at getting them clean. When I boiled my inserts, I noticed immediately detergent rising to the surface of the water – that’s how I knew the detergent was the culprit (it obviously wasn’t being rinsed well enough).
For stripping in the washing machine, I decided to use Calgon, which is a water softener (I found it at Walmart – it was about $4 for a bottle). I’ve heard people who use it with every wash, and I’ve heard other people say it’s bad to use it with every wash. I only use it when I’m stripping. I use it in place of detergent and wash my diapers on a normal cycle. Then I wash them again about 4 more times without either Calgon or detergent. You’re supposed to watch for bubbles (using a flashlight if needed) – when you don’t see any more bubbles then you know the diapers are done. This seems like a horrible waste of water, I know! And it takes a lot of time, so I prefer to not strip that frequently.
You can also use Dawn to strip – some people swear by it. I read not to use Dawn in a front loader (too many bubbles), which is why I’ve never attempted it. There are a few other products out there. This site has a lot of useful information, including a how-to for stripping diapers.
Has anyone else had trouble finding a good wash routine for yourself? What works for you?