⇒ As a general rule of thumb, avoid using traditional diaper rash creams or ointments with your cloth diapers because they can coat the fabric fibers and possibly cause your diapers to repel and not function properly. There are a handful of diaper rash creams or sprays that are considered safe for use with cloth - CJ's BUTTer is a popular option that's specifically formulated for cloth diapers. Some other suggestions are Grandma El's, California Baby, and Earth Mama Angel Baby.
⇒ For soiled diapers, shake off whatever solids you can into the toilet. A diaper sprayer can be used to remove any remaining solids and to dampen the diaper. Wring the diaper out slightly, but try to keep it damp enough that it is almost dripping - this will help minimize staining. A convenient alternative to a sprayer are flushable liners. Small amounts of solids stuck to your diapers will dissolve in the wash, particularly with exclusively breastfed poop because it is water soluble. In fact, with exclusively breastfed babies you don't have to remove the poop at all since it will dissolve in your cold rinse cycle when you wash the diapers - but this does come with a higher risk of staining, so it's your call.
⇒ Pull or shake inserts out of the pocket, if applicable, and deposit everything - including your cloth wipes - into a dry diaper pail or (dry) wet bag. If you have items with hook & loop fasteners, be sure to secure them to the laundry tabs to avoid having them snag your other fabrics and prevent the from creating a diaper chain in your washer or dryer!
⇒ Wash your diapers every 1 - 3 days, with an optimal large load size of 18-24 diapers. If you're washing fewer diapers at a time then you'll need to adjust your load size setting as well as the amount of detergent you're using accordingly. For an average of 10-15 diapers use a medium size setting and cut your detergent back by about 1/3. For only 1/2 a dozen or so diapers use a small size setting and only use about 1/3 of the detergent you would for a large load. Using the proper water level setting is key in getting your diapers clean and avoiding any type of residue buildup. Obviously you don't want to overload your machine with too many diapers relative to the amount of water used, but you also don't want to underload it or you'll lose some of the 'swish' factor. In other words, you need to have enough diapers in the load to be sure that they rub against each other to aid in the cleaning process. If you don't have the ability to set the load size manually for an HE machine, check with your manufacturer to determine the best way to work around that and/or refer to Rockin Green's frontloader database to see if there is a successful wash routine listed for your specific model!
Regular Wash Routine: (These are generally recommended instructions, but you should always check with the manufacturer of your diapers for their specific care instructions)
⇒ Run a rinse cycle first, using cold water and no additives - this will remove any leftover solids or excess urine.
⇒ Next, wash your diapers using hot water with the proper amount of cloth diaper safe detergent - see below for detergent recommendations - followed by two cold rinses. You may have to manually run the second rinse cycle if your washer does not have a setting to automatically do a second one. Do not use fabric softeners with your diapers - it will coat the fibers which may cause reduced absorbency!
⇒ Dry your diapers in the dryer on medium to low, or hang to dry. Partially drying them in your dryer & then hanging them to finish will allow you to save more energy than fully using your dryer, but also cut down on the amount of time it would take to fully air dry. Sunning your diapers is also the most effective (and free!) way to remove stains.
Do not use fabric softener, or baby detergents such as Dreft (which contain fabric softener), as they coat the fabric fibers which may reduce absorbency. Most manufacturers advise against the use of chlorine bleach (oxygenated/non-chlorine bleach is generally acceptable) - though some manufacturers (such as Cotton Babies, the makers of BumGenius, Flip & Econobum) suggest using up to a 1/4 cup of chlorine bleach in your regular wash once a month. Check your specific manufacturer's guidelines prior to use or you run the risk of voiding your warranty. We have personally found the most effective (and least expensive!) way to treat staining is to sun the diapers! Simply lay your clean but damp diapers out to dry with the stains facing the sun.
Unless you are using a detergent specifically made for cloth diapers, you will only need to use 1/2 of the manufacturer's recommended amount per load (only use 1/4 of the amount if you have a front loader or High Efficiency washer) - you want to use enough detergent to get your diapers clean, but using too much can lead to a buildup of residue which can cause repelling and stink issues. If you find your 2nd rinse cycle to still be very bubbly and sudsy, continue rinsing until that clears and then moving forward cut back on the amount of detergent you're using. If your diapers aren't getting quite clean enough then increase the amount slightly. The key is to use as much detergent as you can without getting a build up... it may take a bit of trial and error, but you want to find that 'sweet spot' of using an amount just slightly under where you will find suds still present in the second rinse cycle.
Recommended Brands: There are many detergents that would
be acceptable for use with cloth diapers, but these are our main suggestions...
for cloth diapers (available through diaper retailers): Rockin’ Green, EcoNuts
options that may be available to you locally or online: Allen's
Naturally, Charlie’s Soap, Mountain Green Free & Clear, Planet
(Ultra Powder & 2X Ultra), and 7th Generation Delicate Care
store bought detergent: Tide (Regular or Free & Gentle), All Free
& Clear (military version is best)
new items will need to be washed/prepped prior to their first use - dark and/or bright colored items should be
washed separate from lighter colors, inserts, etc for the first 6 washes to avoid
color bleed! All items may then be
washed together regularly, after they’ve been prewashed. Wash and dry synthetic fabrics - including covers, pockets, microfiber and minky inserts and AIO’s once. Any products which contain natural fibers, such as cotton, hemp & bamboo, must be washed & dried 3-5 times, separate from your other diapers, to achieve minimum absorbency for use. They will continue to become more absorbent over the next several washes, with most reaching their maximum absorbency level by 10 - 12 washes. Don't worry - you will receive instructions specific to the items you've purchased along with your order shipment!
Please note that some staining is to be expected. The degree of stains you experience will depend on a lot of factors, including the age/stage of your child & their diet, the types of fabrics your diapers are made of, your water type and detergent choice, etc. As long as you are certain that what you're seeing is truly just natural staining - not residue from soiled diapers - then it will not affect the function of your diapers, it is simply a cosmetic issue. Spraying soiled diapers and keeping them damp until they are washed (not soaking in a wet pail, just damp from having rinsed them) will help to minimize staining. The best remedy for stain removal is the sun! Hang clean diapers with stains facing the sun for several hours. You may need to repeat this process several times for particularly tough stains. It's also important to note that the fabric must remain damp until the stains fade. Check your diapers periodically while they're sunning - if the stains remain and the fabric has dried then dampen the fabric again and hang them back up. Some manufacturers (like Cotton Babies, makers of bumGenius, Flip & Econobum) suggest using up to a ¼ cup of bleach in your regular wash once a month) - though using bleach is not recommended by many other manufacturers and may even void your warranty. Please be sure to check the policies and recommendations of the manufacturer of your diapers for specific usage and care information.
Ammonia smell is generally caused by detergent residue and the combination of urine. Run your diapers through the wash again and be sure not to over use the amount of detergent. Ammonia smell can also be caused by diet of the child and the acidity of the urine. Wash as quickly as possible if you find this is chronic, and be certain to run them through a second cold rinse after the wash cycle. But keeping your diapers and inserts as residue free as possible is key. You may also need to strip your diapers - see below for details. Using additives like baking soda and vinegar is typically not recommended by manufacturers - again, please be sure to check the policies and recommendations of the manufacturer of your diapers for specific usage and care information.
A 'barnyard' odor and/or residue from soiled diapers (not just stains, but actual remnants) indicate that your diapers are not getting clean enough. You'll need to review your washing routine to determine if you need more detergent, more water, hotter water, or a different load size setting for the number of diapers you're washing. This is an excellent blog article by Bummis that covers the 4 factors of Laundry Science and may aid in determining your specific problem.
Please feel free to contact us if you are having issues and we will be happy to help you troubleshoot.
Leaking & Repelling:
Some babies naturally just wet more than others, and most children's output amount will fluctuate over time based on factors such as diet and age. Please be sure that you are changing your baby's diaper as often as necessary. Once a diaper is soiled or wet it should be changed. The exception to this would be during times when they are sleeping longer stretches. For naps and night time you may simply need to 'boost' the diapers with extra inserts and/or switch to a more absorbent type of diaper.
For regular daytime diapers, it is recommended that you change them every 1-3 hours for a newborn or heavy wetter and every 2-4 hours with a light wetter. Newborns typically urinate in smaller amounts on a more frequent basis. As they grow the frequency will tend to decrease while the output amount will increase. Newborns will go through approximately 12 diapers a day, give or take a couple. That estimate drops to 8-10 a day by 6 months old, and then from 1yr+ most toddlers will go through 4-8 per day until they potty train.
If you are changing the baby's diapers as often as necessary and are still experiencing persistent leaking - and you're certain you don't have an issue with the fit or a repelling problem (see next paragraph) - then your baby may simply need more absorbency. We recommend boosting the diaper's absorbency by adding more inserts, particularly during naps and nighttime and/or selecting diapers that are more absorbent. Natural fibers, such as hemp, bamboo, and cotton, tend to be more absorbent relative to their size - and they 'lock' the moisture in better than some synthetics. Microfiber (a synthetic) is known for being very absorbent, but is also notorious for compression leaks. Once it's fully saturated the liquid can leak back out when put under pressure - much like wringing out a sponge. If you are having this kind of issue then you may want to consider adding a natural fiber layer behind your microfiber layer to help hold that moisture in.
If you find that your diapers are leaking even though the insert/soaker is relatively dry then this is generally either a sign of repelling (the diaper isn't absorbing properly) or the diaper isn't fitting your baby properly. Repelling is most often caused by a residue on your diapers from detergent, fabric softener or dryer sheets, non-cloth diaper friendly rash creams or ointments, etc. If the diapers are repelling you will need to determine the root cause, not only to prevent it from occurring again in the future, but also to determine the method of stripping that will be needed - please refer to our Stripping information below for more details.
If you suspect it's an issue with the fit of your baby's diaper you need to check that it fits snugly around the legs and waist. There should be no gapping in either of these areas once the diaper has been fastened, including with the baby's movement. Once the diaper is on then check the leg openings as you bicycle baby's legs around and/or while the child is crawling or standing, if applicable. If you see any gaps in these areas then there is an 'escape route' and the diaper won't have time to properly absorb before the urine makes it's way out of that opening. You may need to play around a bit with the closure settings and/or adjust the rise settings if you are using a diaper that features these (most one-size diapers do). Please contact us if you need help with ensuring a proper fit.
There are many theories on what is called "stripping” diapers. Some people do it every now and then as a preventative measure in taking care of the diapers and prolonging their life. It is a necessary step to take if you are having any trouble with repelling and/or stinky diapers.
When you are stripping your diapers we suggest that you always start with 'clean' items so that you're not trying to wash them and strip them at the same time. This allows your chosen method & product for stripping to be more effective.
If your diapers haven't been coming clean enough and/or you have a detergent residue on them then we suggest simply running them through several hot washes with no additives and then washing them as normal with a proper amount of cloth diaper safe detergent, followed by a double rinse. You need to determine the root issue for the trouble you are experiencing in the first place, so that you can make the proper adjustments to your wash routine in moving forward. For example, you may need more or less detergent, a different type of detergent, a different load size settting for your machine based on the number of diapers you're washing at once, a higher water temperature,etc. This is an excellent blog article by Bummis that covers the 4 factors of Laundry Science and may aid in determining your specific problem.
If you are experiencing leaking/repelling issues with your diapers, then we suggest the following treatment:
- Run your diapers through a hot wash with a couple squirts of Dawn original blue liquid dishwashing soap (1-2 tsp for an HE/front loader or up to 1 Tbsp for a standard top loader). Follow this with 2-4 cold rinses - checking the final rinse for any sign of suds/soap and continue rinsing as necessary until there are none. If this doesn't seem to resolve the issue then you may need to spot treat the diapers with hot water, a small amount of Dawn and a soft scrub brush (don't use a brush with stiff bristles or you may damage the fabric). Then let them soak in a container of hot water for 30 minutes or so, rinse them and then run through your washer in a hot wash cycle with no other additives, followed by 2 - 4 rinses, until the water in the final rinse cycle is no longer sudsy.
If your diapers are dingy, stiff/rough, or you're having ammonia issues then we highly recommend stripping with RLR Laundry Treatment
- Simply open the package and empty full contents of the packet (no matter what type of machine you have) directly on dry or wet (already clean!) laundry in your washing machine. Wash as usual, along with a proper amount of cloth diaper safe detergent in your normal hot wash cycle. Run several rinse cycles after washing, until no suds remain in the final rinse.
If your baby has been diagnosed with and is being treated for a yeast rash then you will need to treat all of your reusable diapering products - the diapers themselves, along with any cloth wipes, changing pads, wet bags, etc - for the yeast, to prevent these items from re-depositing yeast back on your child. This blog article by Bummis gives an excellent overview of how to deal with, and treat for, yeast with cloth diapers.
If you have questions or problems of any kind, please contact us and we will help you troubleshoot and find a solution...we love to talk about modern cloth diapers!