Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Cloth Diaper Laundry Routine - PLUS Mobile Cloth Diaper Trouble Shooting App!

This post is part of the weekly Cloth Diaper 101 Blog Hop hosted by My Cloth Diaper Stash. The topic from 2 weeks ago was about cloth diaper laundry routines, I am a little behind...so please forgive me!

My Wash Routine

Laundering cloth diapers should not be that complicated, but there are certain factors (type of washer or water type) that do cause problems. Luckily these problems can be easily adjusted. Almost two years ago, our family had moved to an area with EXTREMELY hard water (I hadn't even thought to have tested it after moving into our new home). Up until this point, I could use any detergent with a simple cold/warm cycle and my boy's diapers would come out clean every time.

Suddenly, both of my toddlers would wake up each night needing multiple diaper changes. Any amount of wetness, no matter how small, would result in an eye-watering, ammonia-wreaking diaper, complete with a screaming frenzy from both of them.

After much experimentation, I have found the fail proof routine with my top loading washing machine and my personal favorite top-performing (cloth-friendly) detergents (which are listed below). You can also find other detergents to meet your needs here.

Step 1 - Pre-rinse. I usually do this on cold since my goal is to rinse off the urine and remaining "ick" left on the diapers while saving energy (versus using warm or hot water).

Step 2 - Full hot/cold cycle using the large load setting. I add the desired amount of detergent (which varies by brand) while the washing machine fills with the hot water and let the washer do its job. If I am switching detergent brands, I stop the washer when it is first agitating and let the diapers soak for an hour or so that the detergent can remove any build up left on the diapers.

Step 3 - Extra rinse (with no detergent) to remove remaining soap.

That's it!

The Detergents

When it comes to washing my son's cloth diapers, I will have to admit that I practice what I call "detergent infidelity". In all honesty, I have three detergents that I love equally because they are biodegradable, toxin-free, and most importantly, do a superb job at cleaning cloth!

* Eco-Sprout

Three words describe this detergent : "ammonia issues solved". This was the first detergent that helped me acheive cloth diaper washing success after our run in with the hard water issue. I literally cried tears of joy after my boys diapers came out of the wash completely smell-free! Unlike many detergents, the Eco-sprout package had specific first-timer directions when using it for the first time (soaking diapers in hot water with the detergent for at least an hour to remove residue), which I wouldn't even thought of prior to reading it.

* Rock In Green

This detergent comes in 3 formulas tailored to your water softness/hardness levels. In the past I had rash issues with my oldest son while using this detergent, so I gave it up. However...I blame this on myself. Recently I found out from water testing, that our household has EXTREMELY hard water, which caused quite a bit of build up on our cloth. "Silly me" had been using the "classic" Rock In Green formula which did not cut it. So when I was out of my other cloth detergents, I used the "hard rock" formula sample that I had received from a previous cloth diaper order. After soaking the diapers in hot water for a few hours, added an extra wash, and the result - bright, fresh, and clean smelling diapers! BAM! Rock In Green is back on my list of favorite detergents! Note - I suggest testing your water yourself, or look up your city's water pH levels, or contact Rock In Green prior to determining the most effective detergent for you rather than basing your decision on the very hard to read map on their website.

Eeeew! What Is That Smell?

Keep in mind that my routine my not be for everybody, and overtime, you may experience smell issues with your diapers. In my experience, most of it was due to hard water. Recently, I found this handy little mobile app (you can access it from your PC as well!) from Bummis, from which, you can troubleshoot your cloth diaper problem in SECONDS!

If your diapers are suffering from residue on the diapers (caused by diaper ointments and balms), you can "strip" them. "Stripping" of course, is a term that is often overused. Most problems occur because too little detergent is being used or you are not using hot water. Keep in mind that in order for your diapers to be cleaned properly...you need enough detergent. 

If you have diaper cream stains/spots, you can scrub them out with dish soap (Dawn original, or cheaper store brand version is my favorite!) and rinse prior to washing in you washing machine.

* Some cloth diapering parents will tell you use the Dawn stripping method, but USE WITH CAUTION, because this soap is extremely sudsy. If you choose to do so, only do a squirt or two in a top loading machine. If you have a front loading machine, it is best to wash them by hand in a tub with a squirt of Dawn and rinse them in the bathtub or "spot treat" the diapers as described in the last paragraph above. Note that using Dawn may void your diapers' warranty.

Bottom line, if you care for your diapers properly...you should not have to strip them. Here is a great tip from the Grovia blog :

S - Simple wash routine. Wash every two days with a hot or warm wash and an extra rinse. No soaking or watching for bubbles during the rinse cycle. Just throw them in and go play with your kiddo!

U - Use enough detergent. Use the FULL amount of detergent recommended on your detergent packaging. Eco friendly detergents are great but don't always clean really well. If you go with an eco friendly detergent pick a salt based one (not one with coconut or other plant oils as a main ingredient), and use enough. In fact, you may need to use a bit more than recommended.

D - Duration. Your diapers must be exposed to the proper concentration of detergent for at least 45 minutes to get fully clean. A 15 minute wash cycle won't cut it!

S - Stay away from additives. Baking soda, vinegar, boosters, essential oils etc. While when used seldomly won't harm your diapers, they are not good to use constantly. They can impede your detergent's cleaning ability, can cause rashes, and can ultimately ruin elastic and laminates. If you are adamant about using them, check with the manufacturer of your diaper first.

A quick note about hard water...

As mentioned above, I struggle with hard water which is caused by calcium and magnesium. If not rinsed away, these minerals can interfere with your detergent's cleaning effectiveness (even using the recommended amount of detergent), and diaper smell can occur. Calgon water softener and RLR laundry treatment works great and is cloth diaper safe.

Others swear by Rock In Green "Funk Rock" ammonia bouncer or Grovia Mighty Bubbles to help retain their cloth diapers' cleanliness. I have used both products and they work wonders with a smelly stash. I have only need to use either of these products once every month or couple months or so.

Cannot decide on a cloth diaper-friendly detergent? You can buy samples of those listed above and others here.

Cleaning Your Washing Machine

Yes! You read it correctly, from time to time your washer is in need of a good "stripping" too! When cleaning my washing machine every month or two, I take a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar solution, spray the washing machine tub, and scrub away all residue/build up with a plastic dish brush. In addition, I will also clean the agitator as instructed by The Cloth Diaper Geek in her wonderful tutorial on how to clean your washer. Cleaning your washer regularly will also ensure cleaner diapers!

If you are struggling to find a new wash routine, check out the posts from these cloth diapering bloggers below!

Do you have a favorite detergent or a wash routine tip? Share below!

Disclosure : Leettle Baby is an affiliate of one or more of the products and banners you will see on this site. Regardless, all opinions expressed are still 100% my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials In Advertising.

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