Diaper laundry should not be a complicated process. If you have an HE washer, it may be time consuming, but it should still be simple.
Of course, laundry routines do vary as different people find different things that work well for them. But this was my routine:
1. Warm Rinse
This can be done by hand, or machine. If you do it by machine, use an actual wash cycle (not a rinse cycle), because most machines are only capable of cold rinses. When we had an HE front loader, I used a warm delicate cycle, because it used more water. (Do not use the delicate cycle for the main wash, however, as more water means less agitation, which means your diapers will not be thoroughly cleaned.)
2. Hot Heavy Wash w/ Enough Detergent (FULL amount recommended on detergent label for heavily soiled load)
Machine wash diapers using a hot heavy whites cycle. Do NOT use the sanitize cycle, as this is too hot for the snaps and elastic. Detergent choice is personal preference, though powdered detergents generally do rinse better than liquids. It is easiest to use the same detergent you use for your clothing. In general, mainstream detergents like Tide and Gain will clean much better than so-called “cloth diaper safe” detergents. Use the FULL amount recommended for a large heavily soiled load (line 3 for powdered Tide)! Keep in mind, your diapers are the dirtiest laundry you have to wash (I seriously doubt your work clothes or towels have been urinated or defecated on). Most rash problems are caused by inadequate detergent use, leading to unclean, bacteria-ridden diapers. If you find you are having to “strip” or bleach frequently to avoid rashes, your diapers are not getting clean and you need to increase your detergent amount and/or possibly switch to a more effective detergent.
Please AVOID using baking soda as an additive to your wash routine with Padded Patootie diapers. Baking soda will break down and destroy the bamboo viscose absorbent material.
3. Two Cold Rinses
Your main wash includes one; use the extra rinse option if you have it. If not, you can do a speed wash. If you have hard water, you may want to skip the extra rinse entirely.
4. Tumble Dry
Avoid fabric softeners in the dryer, as they will build up and cause repelling. If diapers are stiff and need softening, occasional use of Ecover in the washer is acceptable for natural fibers. Diapers can also be line-dried, but I personally only did so with covers, as it takes forever and lends to hard, stiff diapers instead of squishy soft diapers. I dry all our laundry on low, but unless your dryer gets excessively hot, medium should be fine too. To prolong the life of your diapers, avoid stretching the elastic while the diapers are still warm out of the dryer.
Of course, avoid rash creams, unless specifically designed for use with cloth diapers, such as Cherubalm.
If you are having to strip your diapers frequently, you are not getting them clean in the first place. Please make sure you are using enough detergent to get your diapers clean. Stripping is really only necessary if you accidently get something oily on your diapers (i.e., non-CD-safe rash cream). DO NOT use Dawn dishwashing liquid in your washing machine. If you do get repelling with your diapers, you may use a small amount of Dawn in your sink and scrub the affected diapers by hand. Dawn will do NOTHING for stink. If you are having stink issues, you should consider upping your detergent because your diapers are not getting clean. If you do need to disinfect your diapers, the occasional use of a small amount (1/4 to 1/3 c.) of DILUTED chlorine bleach in the wash will not harm your diapers. Alternately, SHORT duration soaks (no longer than 30 minutes) in a diluted mixture of 1 T. bleach for every 1 gallon of cold water, is acceptable. Please do not soak your diapers in bleach for extended periods of time, as this can break down the fabric and elastic. Note that cotton outers and cotton velour inners may fade noticeably with repeated bleach use. Bleaching to disinfect works best in cool water with clean diapers. Hot water breaks down bleach, rendering it ineffective, and bleaching dirty diapers can produce a noxious gas (remember those lessons about not mixing bleach and ammonia when cleaning?). Do at least a couple rinses. (If you rinse until you don’t smell any bleach anymore, you may be rinsing for the next two days.) It may be more effective to run a hot wash cycle to rinse out bleach, as hot water rinses more effectively than cold (most washers only give the option to do cold rinses).
Absorbent fabrics have been pre-washed before sewing, however, natural fiber diapers do require several wash and dry cycles for maximum absorbency. You can still use them after an initial wash; just know that they may need changed sooner and they will become more absorbent with subsequent washing. For best performance, all-in-one diapers and wipeable covers should be “heat sealed” to close the holes made in the PUL during stitching. This may be accomplished by washing on hot, then tumble drying on hot for about 20 minutes. You can finish the drying process using lower heat.
Dealing with Stains
Stains are best removed by placing clean, wet (out of the washer) diapers in the sun for about an hour. UV works miracles on diaper stains!
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