So anyways, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. [Is your brain going to Nacho Libre?]
Let’s start by answering what’s on all our minds when we think of cloth diapers: isn’t that, like, really gross?
In a nutshell, yes. The human body is kinda gross. Waste is gross. So are diapers, toilets, fart noises, and cleaning the bathroom. It’s all gross. I have a long list of things I think are gross, cloth diapers included. A conservative 10% of being a mom to a boy is the ability to clean up and participate in gross. Dealing with poop is a mom’s rite of passage. It’s how you know you’ve really arrived. And if you think you won’t get up close and personal with poop at some point in your career as a mother, you need to work through your stages of denial, my friend. That potty chair isn’t going to clean itself.
Despite being a little gross, it’s really not that bad. I’d say it’s on par with cleaning out the potty chair. Sometimes I wear disposable gloves. Sometimes I don’t need it. Whether or not I do just depends on my mood, and it’s probably more psychological than anything.
Prepping the Diaper
You probably want to clean your diapers before using them. Pockets, fitted, and all in one diapers only need to be rinsed (warm setting, no detergent). Prefolds and flats need to be washed 5-6 times in a hot wash (I boiled mine before use). When you buy new prefolds or flats, you’ll notice they’ll be stiff and creased from packaging. Once you wash them a few times, they’ll become more fluffy and soft. It’ll also help make them more absorbent (you can run into leaking problems if you don’t wash ahead of time).
Newborn diapers are easy. Breastfed babies have runny poo, and it’s water soluble so you can throw it in the wash without rinsing and the washer will easily take it out. I’m sure my washer can handle it, but I do find any kind of poo in the washer pretty nasty (again, probably a psychological thing), so I always rinsed mine first. The rest of the diaper care is the same.
Storing Until Wash
How often you wash will probably depend on how many diapers you have. I could comfortably go 2+ weeks before I ran out of diapers for one child, but I typically washed every 5 days to prevent massive diaper build up. Whenever possible I’ll flick poo into the toilet and then plop the dry diaper into my diaper bucket. I bought the Bambino Mio cloth diaper pail. (Click photos for links)
The Bambino Mio comes with a few reusable liners to make it easier to transfer the diapers to the wash. I never had any issues with odors using this bucket, and it has a nice lock feature so my little couldn’t get inside and throw dirty diapers around the house. The biggest con is that it’s small. It holds about 3 days worth of diapers, so I’ve started recommending a simple 5 gallon bucket with lid. It’s really about the same and a lot cheaper.
I also invested in a few wet bags. Wet bags are kinda the best. They make cleaning easy because you just stick them in the wash with the diapers, and they’re a must have when you’re out and about. I’ve used plastic bags in a pinch when we’ve been out, but plastic bags are messy and smelly. The wet bag keeps it all contained. It’s also a great option to use at daycare because it’s easy to transport back and forth.
My first wet bag was a knock off from China that I got on Ebay. I still use it, but it’s small, the print is upside down, and the liner is very thin. I eventually caved and bought a Planet Wise wet bag. This is another example of “you get what you pay for.” Planet Wise is a great company, and they make a good product. Their wet bags have a thick, waterproof liner, and the bags are made of quality material. I have the medium size but wish I would have gotten the large one below.
Planet Wise Large Wet Bag
My first mistake in cloth diapering was choosing the wrong detergent. I put a cloth diaper detergent (Charlie’s Soap) on my baby registry thinking you needed a special detergent for diapers. I was wrong. After a few weeks, I would wash and wash but my diapers would still smell like ammonia. I went on a cloth diaper forum and found out the detergent was the culprit, so I switched to Tide Original Powder. I haven’t had a problem since.
Washer Settings and Drying
A lot of people rinse their diapers right away and throw them into their pail wet, but I like doing my rinsing right before washing. You can hook up a sprayer onto your toilet and use a spray shield (the shield keeps the splatter down) to make things convenient.
I’d like that set up, but right now I have a utility sink to work with. I flick poo into the toilet and spray soiled diapers in the sink. If there’s a little residue on the diaper, I will hold onto the outside of the diaper and rub it together (that’s the worst part of cloth diapers). The friction of rubbing it together is akin to the old washboards, and it really does work. The sprayer on my utility sink isn’t powerful enough to do much good, so there are times I have to get a little elbow grease into it.
I do a short cold rinse cycle (occasionally I add bleach to my wash routine, and bleach goes into the cold rinse cycle). Then I put the detergent in and do a heavy duty hot wash, followed by an extra rinse if needed. If you have manual settings, I find it’s best to have the water level just covering the diapers. The diapers rub against each other that way, and they’ll be cleaner. I like the analogy of soup vs stew. If you have a soup (too much water), the diapers will slosh around but won’t rub against each other. You want stew, not soup.
When you dry your diapers, don’t add a dryer sheet. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners can cause build up on your diapers. Put it on an air dry, low heat setting (some liners can melt and then your diapers will leak), or hang it on the clothesline outside.
I like putting my diapers out to sun every once and a while. It’ll take any stains out. We call it solar bleaching 🙂