Monday, May 6, 2013

Cloth Diapering Basics Part 3: How to Launder

Let's talk dirty (diapers, that is)

I didn't know where else to discuss this, so the "laundering" page seems a good place to touch on it.  When you baby soils the diaper, you need "shake off" any poop in the toilet and you need a place to put the diaper until wash day.  Some people are blessed with an extra washing machine and just store their dirties in there until it's full.  Good for them.  I don't have that option.  Nor do I have the room for such a thing.  Most people have a large wet bag or pail with a lid that holds the dirties until wash day.

There are two main ways to go here, too.  Either your pail is wet or dry, meaning you either keep it full of water and some sort of stain fighter or you keep it dry (or as dry as is possible with wet diapers).  I go the dry route because I have babies and there's this whole concern about a baby drowning in a bucket.  Toddlers are top heavy AND love to play with water.  Somewhere someday there's bound to be a lid isn't on just right and while drowning would be awful and sad, who would want their child to drown in sewage?  So, that's my two cents.  There is merit to both sides, but this is my opinion.

Some people put some baking soda or vinegar in the bottom of the pail to help with the stink.  Either is really fine, though if I put vinegar in, I'd want to be sure the covers weren't directly in the bottom, since it CAN make the laminate deteriorate more quickly.  There are also some great commercially available products you can add to your pail.

At any rate, it's probably best to wash at least every 2 to 3 days.  Some people wait as long as a week, but there is a significant build up of bacteria that you'll have to deal with.  You should consider this if you plan to only wash weekly.

So, you've changed a diaper.  If it's a "wet" you can usually hang the cover to air dry and re-use several times.  If it was a "dirty" you usually need to wash the cover, especially if "it" got on the cover.

Washing is very simple, actually.  I have a rhythm down now, so I don't even hardly think about it.  Your machine has to go through several cycles to get it all cleaned right, but that's one reason you have light, medium, and heavy cycles and why you have temperature settings. :-)  Detergent is an important factor, as well.  You can't use most regular laundry detergents because the chemicals will react with the urine and feces and cause chemical burns.  You can either buy the special cloth diaper detergent, which I'm told is miraculous, or you can make your own detergent.  The basic recipe that's been on pinterest for years is perfectly fine.  I've used it on my cloth diapers from day 1 and it's been great.  You don't need to use extra detergent when washing cloth.  In fact, extra detergent is a problem.  Use a regular scoop or whatever your commercial available cloth diaper box recommends.  Experiment a little.  You may need to use as much as 1/2 as much as for regular clothes.  Or you may use the same amount.

Here's my cycle for anything except wool:
1. Wash the diapers on COLD with NO detergent for at least one cycle, so light to medium setting, with the highest water setting.  This is the first rinse cycle.  It gets down the excess poop and urine.  Ammonia from the urine will react with detergent and makes poisonous gas when mixed with bleach.  If you're having extra stinky diapers, you can add 1/4 to 1 full cup of vinegar in this rinse to neutralize those odors.
2.  Wash on HOT WITH detergent for 3 cycles or the Heavy setting with highest water setting.
3.  Rinse on HOT, no detergent with the highest water setting.  This is the 2nd rinse cycle. It gets out all the extra soap.  You may choose to wash with 1/4 cup of vinegar in this cycle as well as it removes soap quite well.
If you ANY smell remains, you need to wash more.  If they stink, repeat steps 2 and 3.  If they smell like soap AT ALL, repeat step 3 and next time add vinegar if you didn't before.  If you had used vinegar before, cut down on the soap next time.
4.  When drying, dry on the HOTTEST setting for at least 70 minutes. If the diapers are still at all wet, dry some more.  This is the sanitizing step.  As often as possible, dry them in the sun.  This helps with any and all stains and does a great sanitizing job, too.

A friend showed me this great trick.  When hanging your covers to dry, just snap or Velcro them to themselves.  This way you can hang them anywhere, with or without clothespins.  To keep them from getting scrunched together from the wind, I pin my cloth wipes in between them.

For wool, it's simplest to get specialized lanolin soap and wash and re-lanolinize at once.  Honestly, I never spent the money for the special soaps.  I just checked handy Pinterest for ideas on how to make my own.  I can't find that particular pin, at the moment, so I'll tell you as best I can how to make it.  Lanolin is the waterproof oil naturally made by sheep.  When it contacts urine, it actually chemically changes to salt water.  The wool absorbs a LOT of liquid before feeling wet and can air dry quite well, so when the wool cover gets wet, it absorbs the urine, the lanolin converts it to salt water, and the water evaporates.  That means, eventually the lanolin runs out and the diaper starts to get an odd odor.  This means it's time to wash. 

To make your own lanolin soap, you'll need a small container that can handle heat with a tight fitting lid (I used an old baby food jar.), some lanolin (I used my container of Lansinoh I got for breastfeeding.), some HOT water, and some mild soap, like baby shampoo.   Place a pea-sized amount of lanolin in the container with water as hot as you can get it to melt and disperse it a little.  When it's liquid, add about a bit of soap.  A teaspoon is plenty.  You can always add more when you're washing, if needed.  Shake the mixture to disperse the oil throughout the water and soap.  It's a good idea to use this fresh because as the water cools the oil tends to clump again.

To wash your wool, consider washing only 1-3 items in the above mixture.  If it's a large pair of longies, you should wash it alone.  Fill a large container such as a bucket or large bowl with lukewarm water.  Hot or very cold water and vigorous agitation can cause wool to shrink.  That's the whole point of this handwashing.  Pour in your soap to disperse.  Add your wool and begin handwashing.  I usually just kneaded the wet cover like bread then lift it out of the water and squeeze the water out.  Repeat this until the water the drips off is coming off cleaner.  Any bubbles are fine.  Allow it to soak in the solution at least 20-30 minutes to allow the lanolin to absorb into the wool properly.  Then gently squeeze out the water without wringing your wool.  When it's no longer dripping, lay out a towel and place the wool on it.  Then roll the towel with the wool inside and squeeze out more water.  When you're satisfied that you've gotten as much water out as possible without wringing, unroll the towel and lay out your wool where it may dry for about 24 hours.  Try to keep it away from heat sources and cold drafts to prevent shrinkage.  I just left mine on the top shelf of the bathroom cabinet or on the shelf in the laundry room.

Did I miss your favorite washing method or hint?  Please tell me!

Next time: Everything else

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