By now you have a good idea of what cloth diapers are and what you would need to cloth diaper. Now lets go over how it all works.
1. I bought my diapers now what?
- When you buy a new cloth diaper you will need to prep it. Prepping a diaper will get any residue off that remains from the manufacturing process and will help make your diaper more absorbent. You should not prep natural fabric diapers and mirofiber diapers together. Oils and waxes from the natural fibers will clog up the microfiber. For microfiber diapers you only need to wash and dry them once to prep them. Natural fabrics will need to be washed and dried several times to help with absorbency.
2. What about the poop?
- If it is just a wet diaper or if you are exclusively brestfeeding and it is a poopy diaper your job is very easy. You simply separate any inserts from their covers and toss it all in the diaper pail. Don’t worry, your washing machine was built to handle messes and it will clean the diapers just fine. However, when you use formula or introduce solids you have to take one extra step with a poopy diaper. You need to remove the poop and flush it down the toilet. This is where some people get grossed out. But lets face it, taking care of a baby can be a messy job. Besides, you are supposed to remove poop from a disposable diaper before throwing it away too. Not many people do but really human waste is supposed to be handled by a sewage treatment plant not pilled up in a landfill where it will eventually leach into the ground and contaminate the water table. So how do you get the poop out of the diaper? There are a few ways.
- If you’re lucky you can shake it off.
- Use a diaper sprayer.
- Use a spatula to scrape it off and store your spatula with your toilet brush.
- Dunk and swish the diaper in the toilet and with a firm grip on the diaper flush the toilet to help pull off the poop.
3. How often should I wash the diapers?
- Every 2-3 days. If you go much longer you’ll start to have issues with mildew and I doubt you’d be able to stand the smell.
4. How should I wash the diapers?
- Lots of water is key. Even though it is a small load I always set the washing machine as a large load. People with front-loading washers, which are designed to use less water, have to trick their washing machine by adding a large wet towel or by pouring extra water in the tub.
- Start with a cold rinse. This will help lift off any poop and reduce the number of stains.
- Wash with hot water and use a cloth diaper safe detergent. You want to use hot water to help sanitize the diapers.
- Rinse again with cold water. This extra rinse will help remove any soap that is left. You don’t want soap to build up on the diapers because it can cause repellence issues and your diapers will leak rather than absorb.
5. How do I dry the diapers?
- Drying the inserts in the dryer (medium heat) is the fastest way to get them dry.
- Do not use dryer sheets as the residue with get on the diapers and cause repellency issues. You really shouldn’t use dryer sheets even with your other clothes since the residue will remain on the walls of the dryer. To help speed up drying times and reduce static you can use dryer balls. Check out my tutorial on making your own wool dryer balls.
- You will want to avoid drying the covers in the dryer since it will break down the waterproof coating and elastic faster. To dry the covers hang them on a drying rack inside or on a clothesline outside. I would avoid too much exposure to the sun though since it can fade and break down the fabric.
6. What about stains?
- Sunning diapers is the best way to get the yellow stains out. Just take your wet diapers out on a nice sunny day and lay them on a blanket or towel on the ground or hang them on a clothes line and let the sun work it’s magic. For an extra boost you can apply a little lemon juice to the stain before sunning and then wash re-wash the diaper.
7. How do I fix a leaky diaper?
- You’ll need to do a little troubleshooting. Was the insert in properly? Was the diaper on tight enough? Was there a gap around the leg? Do you need to add another insert? Perhaps your diapers are repelling and need to be stripped. Stripping a diaper will remove the detergent and oils that have built in the diaper. Here’s how.
- Wash the diaper as normal then run it through another hot wash cycle without any detergent.
- Rinse, rinse, rinse. You may need to rinse several times to get all the detergent out. During a rinse cycle open the lid and check for soap bubbles on top of the water. Keep rinsing till all the soap bubbles are gone.
8. Why do my clean diapers still skink?
- Your diapers may have a build up of ammonia from the urine that is causing the odor. You can strip the diapers (see above) and it should take care of the smell.
9. What do I do when I travel?
- A short little day trip with cloth diapers is no big deal. But a longer vacation will take a little more effort.
- Try to figure out how often you’ll be able to wash diapers. If you can wash them frequently you can save some space by packing less diapers.
- If you’ll be going several days between washes you’ll want to have a nice, large wet bag that closes up to hold all of the diapers.
- When you are using a different washing machine and dryer that may have a build up of detergent or fabric softeners try to run a load of towels or other clothes first. They will pick up most of the residue. This same tip applies to people who may be in an apartment and have to wash diapers at a laundromat.
- You don’t necessarily have to wash your diapers in a washing machine. There are stories of people washing diapers by hand in hotel tubs and draping them over A/C units and chairs to dry.
- That depends on how big your baby is. My skinny little guy (9 lb 15 oz, 23 1/4″) used newborn diapers for 6 or 7 weeks. As you can see, my one size diaper on it’s smallest setting is still bigger than my newborn diaper on it’s largest setting. But if you have a chunky baby you can skip right over newborn diapers.
- While we are on the subject of newborn diapers let me tell you about my favorite one. I loved my Lil Joey diapers! They have an awesome snap in the front that pulls the diaper down out of the way of the umbilical cord. They have double gussets (elastic around the legs) that helps to contain newborn runny poop. And they are the only cloth diaper that I have seen that is small enough for a preemie to wear (goes down to 4 lbs). The only draw back for me was the price tag. I couldn’t justify the price for such a short period of time. I was able to find two used ones and I hope to find more used ones if I have another baby.
Well that’s it! I hope you will consider cloth diapering. I must say that I was a little nervous to start, but what could go wrong? The worst that will happen is a diaper leak but you’ll get those with disposable diapers too. It’s ok to start out small. Buy just a few diapers and see how you like them before you jump all the way in. I promise that it really is easy once you get into it. If you have any other questions please feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email.