Photo Credit: snarky_momma on Flickr
Alrighty, a fairly quick post on diaper laundry and trouble-shooting - finally! This is part of my incredibly drawn out series on reusable cloth stuff. My thoughts and experiences with cloth diapering options are here.
First, pick a detergent:
This may be the most difficult decision I have made in my cloth diapering journey! Here is an excellent source of information (the second chart in that link is sort of interactive, which creeped me out the first time I saw it, but now I think it's pretty nifty though not entirely accurate for our town).
I have used several detergents, and I currently use RockinGreen because it causes the least severe and least frequent diaper rash on my particular baby. It is also the most expensive detergent I have tried. I use Charlie's Soap on all our other laundry - I tried it on diapers because it is less expensive, but Squeak's rash got eeeeeevil. You really will have to make your own decision based on availability, cost, your water (hard/soft), personal preference, whether your baby has sensitive skin (mine sure does, and I have not found the perfect solution for him at all), etc.
My general washing routine:
1) cold rinse - this is to get the poop off.
2) hot wash with detergent (if it's a cloth diaper detergent, follow their instructions. If you're using a "regular" commercial detergent, use half the usual amount.). The detergent and the hot water will remove grime/poop/oils, and also sanitize the diapers.
3) cold rinse (this is just the default rinse after the wash. Some recommend a warm rinse for this, but that would mean returning to my washer to set it, and I have never had a problem with doing cold rinses.)
4) extra rinse - if you are constantly getting build up, you might consider a frequent extra rinse. This does not seem to be necessary for me with my current water/diaper/detergent combo.
4) Dry on low, but every now and then dry on hot to re-seal PUL covers. You can also, of course, line dry. Drying in the sunshine helps kill bacteria (and most sources say yeast as well, but apparently UV rays are not dependable on that score) and it will also bleach out most stains. One caveat: drying in the sun can make prefolds realllllly stiff. They still work just fine, and they don't seem necessarily scratchy for the baby - just difficult to fold and put away! You can avoid the stiffness by drying them slighly in the dryer before hanging them on the line, or drying them in the wind (as if you can just conjure up a windy day any time you want to dry your diapers). Right now I don't even have time to get diapers out on the line, let alone dry them for 20 minutes and then move them to the line. I thought I was becoming more and more crunchy, but apparently not!
Wool should be washed separately. It needs to be washed by hand or on a delicate cycle, and it should be air dried.
A bit more about poop:
- When you've got that transitional, super sticky, part-solids/part-breastmilk poop (I've heard it referred to, aptly, as "peanut butter poop"), I have no help for you. I would plunk what I could off the diaper into the toilet, but it was mostly stuck on there. A sprayer was somewhat helpful, but that stuff is so sticky! So I ended up with some stuff going through the washer. Raisins/grapes and beans were the worst offenders (because of their skin, which very apparently was not well-digested...), and I'd have to remove them from the washer and dryer - they would stick to the sides of the washer (they were too big to spin/drain out), and they would get caught in the dryer's lint trap. Kind of gross, I'll readily admit.
- The more solid poops will fairly easily plunk off into the toilet, and you can rinse with a sprayer or just let the washer do the work.
- If you decide to get a diaper sprayer, I recommend practicing with the sprayer on a non-poopy diaper until you get the hang of your particular sprayer, where you're aiming, and how much pressure it takes to start the spray. Just trust me on this one....
Variations (AKA Troubleshooting):
- I recommend this article. I don't think I have much to add to it for troubleshooting anything (hard water, detergent, dryer sheets, diaper creams).
- The essentials for me are RLR (if I can't get the diapers to stop sudsing in rinses during stripping or mineral removal, I use that), distilled white vinegar (for getting us out of yeast hell, mainly, but also for a mineral-removing wash of the washer - without diapers - about once a month.), and classic Dawn dish soap (the blue variety). And I now have some grapefruit seed extract (again for the yeast), and I've used bleach once (the yeast was really stubborn!).
- Got yeast? I wrote a guest post on the topic over at The Green Nursery's Dear Abby blog. (And I'll take this opportunity to give The Green Nursery a shout out - they are a local store, who also do business on the web. Owners Scott and Abby are wonderful people, parents, and community members. They are a great source of information and experience on all things natural parenting - so feel free to pick their brains on a broader array of cloth diapers and cloth diapering experiences than I can offer! And also, of course, to patronize their store!). There is also this article on yeast and cloth diapers.