Washing cloth diapers does not have to be complicated! It can sometimes seem complicated because each manufacturer has various instructions and if you enter the internet world of washing diaper tips, you can easily get confused and overwhelmed. Life is complicated enough and your cloth washing routine can actually be quite simple yet totally effective. It's really comes down to this: enough water and enough of the correct detergent. Sometimes it just takes a little trial and error as you learn your particular washing machine settings combined with your water hardness level. You'll get there! Be patient with yourself.
We recommend the most basic of routines: prewash, normal wash, extra rinse. This is the routine we finally settled on personally at BumRite Diapers HQ and we found it worked well across all diaper types. (However, know this is simply our recommendation from experience. Please read manufacturer instructions and recommendations if you are worried about staying within warranty. BumRite can not be held accountable for washing/drying damage.)
Prewash: do a 'quick cycle' wash on warm, with a 1/2 scoop of detergent. Normal Wash: normal cycle on hot water, full scoop of detergent. Extra Rinse Tumble dry medium or line-dry
Put a bath towel or two into your wash to help 'trick' the washer into using more water. The key is to use enough water and enough detergent. When someone has a stink issue, it can almost always be solved by tweaking these two aspects.
Diapers with PUL can actually benefit from a dryer every once and a while. It helps seals the seams.
Type of detergent can make a difference. There are many websites with recommended detergent charts. We find that original Tide powder detergent does the most effective job and we like Country Save for a more natural choice.
To summarize: Spray/scoop/toss solids off diapers before putting into pail Wash diapers every 2-3 days Select the highest water level Wash on hot (do not use sanitize cycle - this is usually too hot for diapers and can melt PUL or elastics. Normal Hot Wash cycle is typically hot enough to kill bacteria.) Use the enough of a zero-residue detergent. Disregard instructions that telly ou to use a 1/4 scoop. You need detergent to unbind bacteria and dirt! Use the right amount of detergent based on your water type (More for Hard water, Less for Soft water)
Don't use petroleum-based rash creams. There are many alternatives without zinc in them, and the petroleum bonds to your cotton and causes it to repel rather than absorb liquid. Recommended: CJ's BUTTer (stick or spray), GroVia Magic Stick, Reese & Luke.
Don't use detergents with plant oils in them, which can also bond to the fabrics and cause your diapers to repel. Recommended eco-friendly detergents: click here
Don't soak diapers. Don't skimp on diapers. If you want your diaper system to last from infancy to potty training, you will need enough diapers to rotate them adequately. 6 shells and 12 inserts might be enough to get you through a day and a load of laundry, but if you wash those soakers every single day they will show significant wear before baby is ready to potty train. We suggest a minimum of 24 diapers (or 24 soakers and 12-14 Shells) for full time diapering. A healthy stash keeps things working longer.
Don't be scared of diapers. They don't have to be treated like precious garments - they are poop catchers after all! Wash like regular laundry, dry like regular laundry and move on with your day!
The simplest way to treat stains without chemicals is to expose them to UV rays by hanging the soakers in the sun right after they have come out of the wash, and before they are dried. Even if it is cold or overcast outside, placing soakers in indirect sunlight through a window will still significantly lighten stains. See more on sunning below. We also sell FuzziBunz stain treatment which works great!
Stinky diapers coming out of the wash! Add more detergent to your wash load and see if that doesn't help! Everyone's washing machine and hardness of water is different, so it is impossible to guarantee that every detergent manufacturer knows exactly how much you need individually, so don't be afraid to increase incrementally until you know your diapers are getting clean enough!
Stinky diapers as soon as they are wet! Try adding an extra rinse at the end of your wash cycle. Sometimes if detergent residue builds up in your soakers because your rinse cycle doesn't have enough water in the cycle then it will cause the diaper to smell directly after it has been wet. This combination of urine & detergent residue can also cause redness on the baby, so it is important to be sure you are getting enough of a rinse.
Stinky Hybrid Shells! Try separating your shells out from the soakers and storing them in a separate wetbag to keep them from absorbing the moisture and odors from within the wetbag. Also, try washing them with a traditional detergent in a regular load of laundry, but remember to hang them to dry! Also, hanging them in the sun, mesh side up should help too.
Can I PLEASE dry my Hybrid Shells in the dryer? It isn't recommended, but we personally do. Just make sure you don't use high heat. If you look at your shell carefully you will see that there is only the mesh layer covering the elastic. This isn't enough to protect the elastic and keep the dryer's heat from literally cooking and melting your elastic. They line dry in just an hour anyway.
Leaks! Leaks are usually caused by 1 of 4 things: *Prep: Does the diaper feel light and barely wet when you change it? Then diapers are probably not fully prepped. Organic materials require pre-washing them 6-8 times to strip natural oils and maximize absorbency.
*Absorbency: Does the diaper feel heavy when you take them off? That means they are fully saturated. Diapers will only absorb so much liquid before it goes elsewhere. Either change more frequently or add boosters to increase absorbency.
*Fit: Is leak in one place or peeing right out of the diaper? It could be your fit. Make sure diaper is fitting snug around baby's thighs. Diaper should be as close to the natural leg creases as possible and fit low and snug under belly button. Pull diaper up well in the back. No gaps should be evident. If you feel you are having fit issues, send us some pictures and we will help you trouble-shoot.
*Build-Up: Is diaper light and barely wet when you change it and you know for sure they have been fully prepped? Then it might be build-up. This problem is usually combined with a stink issue, so it's easy to pinpoint. This reason is more rare, but does happen if you aren't using an effective wash routine. Detergent not being fully rinsed, using non-cloth diaper safe creams or hard water minerals can create a build-up on the diapers which then acts like a barrier and repels water. You need to strip your diapers and 'reset' them back to new.
Exclusively breastfed babies make a lovely water-soluble poop that simply washes away in the washer. There is no need to pre-rinse or use liners. Just throw the whole thing in your wash, poop and all.
Once you introduce solids, or formula though, things change. You'll need to shake off the solids into the toilet before you put it into pail. For the sticky ones, a toilet sprayer is helpful. The toilet sprayers are also nice and gentle for post-partum cleansing, toilet bowl cleaning, and later - potty training bowl rinsing.
Another option is using disposable liners like Grovia BioLiners. These allow liquids through while keeping solids on top. So toss the soiled liner and go!
Prepping diapers is required for natural material diapers like cotton, hemp, bamboo. These materials have a natural oil coating on them that until that is gone, can repel water and affect absorbency. So diapers with natural materials need to be pre-prepped by washing them 5-7 times before full absorbency has been reached. Sounds complicated, but it's really easy.
Wash on Hot with normal amount of detergent. Rinse.
Dry on Med-Hi (optional - many manufacturers say you don't have to dry between wash cycles of a prep)
Repeat 5 times.
You may do this with other laundry, like towels, t-shirts, or sheets. Just don't prep with your other diapers or the oil from the new ones will coat the old ones and cause them all to repel. Once prepped, all of your diapers can be laundered together from here on out.
Removing Cloth Diaper Stains: SUN - click here for a longer explanation Cloth diaper safe stain remover, like FuzziBunz stain remover or Bac-Out
Concerned about Bacteria?
Once or twice a month, whether we are cloth diapering or not, a good practice is to run a load of sheets, towels, shower curtains, etc with bleach or Hydrogen Peroxide (color-safe). This sanitizes the basin.
Stinky Diaper Pail?: Simply toss a cloth wipe (or torn piece of t-shirt) with a few drops of essential oil on it into your diaper pail and don't close the lid all the way. Wash with your diapers every 2 days. Air circulation is your friend in the diaper pail. We also love hanging wet bags at our house. Some even have an essential oil swatch inside the bag for safely adding odor helping aromas!