The Funky Fluff Blog is participating in the Real Diaper Association’s 2015 School of Cloth! Our first post comes to you from Stefanie, our Laundry Guru.
I’m just going to throw this out there. I love laundry. I love clean, fresh, fluffy laundry. Have you ever buried your nose deep into a pile of freshly washed and dried cloth diapers? I have and it was glorious. They call me the Funky Fluff Funk Master, the Laundry Guru if you will. Every day I’m helping Funky Fluffians set up effective wash routines for their diapers. Through my role as the Laundry Guru, I get asked a ton of questions about washing diapers. Here are the answers to the questions I hear most often.
How do I prep my diapers?
To prep your diapers you need to run them through 1-5 wash cycles with detergent. How many cycles they need depends on if they are synthetic or natural fibers. Stay dry and microfiber only need one prep wash to be fully prepped. Bamboo and hemp should be washed five times to be fully prepped (they will reach full absorbency after 10 washes). Be sure to wash bamboo and hemp separate from other diapers for the first two prep washes so the naturally occurring oils are removed. There’s no need to dry the diapers in between prep washes. If you don’t want to run the prep washes with just a handful of new diapers, you can throw them in with other laundry (sheets, towels, clothing, whatever!). If you decide to use your diapers before they’re fully prepped, keep in mind that they will not be fully absorbent and you will have to change them more frequently than normal.
How do I wash my dirty diapers?
There are some universal basics to washing cloth diapers. You’ll want to do two full wash cycles. Start with a short cold wash with detergent, finish with a long hot wash with detergent, and don’t do any extra rinses. If your diapers feel slimy (like a wet bar of soap) after both wash cycles are complete, you may need to decrease the amount of detergent. The key to getting clean diapers is to have adequate agitation. How you achieve that agitation will depend on the type of washing machine you have. If you have a high efficiency (HE) machine, you’ll need to fluff up the diapers in the drum in between wash cycles, and bulk up the load so the drum is 2/3-3/4 full. If you have an old school top loader with a central agitator, you’ll want to get diaper stew. That is achieved by selecting the load size that gives you 2-3” of water above the diapers when you press down gently. Another way to check for stew is to watch the diapers during agitation. You want to see the diapers being pulled in and down by the agitator. For drying, you can dry your diapers in the dryer. I prefer to dry inserts in the dryer on low, and hang shells to dry. Just like with any type of garment, your diapers will last longer if they do not go in the dryer each time, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
Is this detergent “safe” for cloth diapers?
Believe it or not, there’s really no such thing as “unsafe” detergent for diapers. You can use almost any mainstream detergent as long as it doesn’t have a built in fabric softener. One ingredient you’ll want to avoid is sodium cocoate as it builds up in the diapers leading to stink and may cause repelling. Some detergents are definitely more effective than others, but the odds are good that the detergent you’re already using for your other laundry can work for your diapers too. My favourite detergent is Tide Original HE turbo powder, but I know that isn’t going to work for every family. Rest assured there are lots of options out there to suit all your needs and wants in a detergent and still be effective on your diapers.
Is there an “eco-friendly” detergent you’d recommend?
I get asked this one a lot! Many families have chosen to cloth diaper because it can be an eco-friendly choice. You absolutely don’t have to compromise on being “green” when it comes to diaper detergent. Seventh Generation detergent (either liquid or powder) is an effective eco-friendly option when enough is used.
I have hard water, is that a problem?
Although hard water can make things a bit more challenging, it certainly isn’t a problem. Adding a water softener to both wash cycles will increase the effectiveness of the detergent you’re using.
How do I know my diapers are clean?
If your wash routine is working, your diapers will be clean. I consider a wash routine to be working when the diapers don’t stink (either out of the wash or after being peed in), your child doesn’t get non-teething related rashes, and you never have to strip. That’s right. Never.
If you’re looking for more tips on washing diapers or have specific questions about a stink in your stash, you can find me in the Funky Fluff Chat group on Facebook.