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Cloth III: Caring for Your Cloth

August 27, 2009

This comment was left by Allie in a previous post:

“I think many people shy away from CDing because they think you need to be a chemist to launder them.”

I’d say that about sums it up!  I have to say that when we first received our cloth diapers I was a little mind-boggled as to how to take care of them… and terrified that I would ruin them.  Why can’t I use regular laundry soap?  Isn’t “special cloth diaper soap” kinda expensive to keep buying?  Which cloth diaper soap is best?  How do I and when is it necessary to “strip” the diapers?  What’s the deal with wool?  What if my diapers leak, stink, give Baby O a diaper rash, and then spontaneously combust!?!

If you’ve yet to begin cloth diapering and are having some of these same questions, first of all take a deep breath.  Secondly, do not be afraid.  You’ll be alright.  Caring for your cloth is not any more difficult than caring for any of your other clothing, and perhaps less difficult than some of your more delicate items.  Cashmere, anyone?  Yeah.  Bet you aren’t afraid of that, are you?  Then please do not fear the cloth!

To properly care for your cloth you need just a few items:

  • a wet bag*
  • detergent that will not leave additives on your cloth
    (I’ll help you with this.  Reviews/Give-Aways Coming Soon!)
  • cloth-friendly diaper cream
  • a washing machine
  • a dryer/clothes line

A wet bag is where you keep soiled cloth diapers.  It does not need to be complex.  You can find an array of wet bags online (many WAHMs do great work) or even make one yourself.  Many families line a lidded trash can with a wet bag to control smells.  Our current wet bag is a canvas bag on a hook near the changing station.  (I’m hoping soon we can do a little better as Baby O is getting to be a bit older.)  When you wash your cloth you generally can just throw the wet bag right in with the diapers, keeping it nice and fresh!

Washing your cloth is not a big deal either.  Just throw ’em in the machine with some cloth-friendly detergent (examples are Charlie’s Soap, Country Save, and Sensi-Clean) and wash as usual.  It seems every family has a different method they prefer for washing their cloth.  This is what we do:

  1. Set machine to highest water setting.
  2. Start regular cycle and add chosen detergent in recommended amount.
    We now wash all of our laundry in the same detergent we wash our cloth in.  That way we don’t have to worry about having different detergents for us, our baby, and our cloth.  (Cloth-friendly detergents are usually fine for baby clothes as well.)  Doing our laundry this way saves time and money.
  3. Dump diapers (previously separating inserts from pockets and so on) and wet bag all into the machine.
  4. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda on top as a booster to liquid detergents.
  5. Wash as usual.
  6. Put freshly washed cloth in dryer or hang on line to dry.
    Putting the cloth on the line may take longer but is the best way to remove stains.  Plus it’s greener!
    Putting the cloth in the dryer helps seal PUL and gives waterproofing extra life.
  7. Re-stuff pocket diapers, fold prefolds, covers, and fitteds.
  8. Put freshly laundered cloth in Baby O’s nursery in diaper holder.

I know some families give their diapers a prerinse or a hot wash.  So far, we have not found this to be necessary.  We do occasionally give them an extra soapless cycle, but certainly not every time.  Our diapers generally do not leak, stink, spontaneously combust or give Baby O a diaper rash.
Speaking of diaper rash, your baby is much less likely to get a rash while using cloth!  (Baby O has only had one, ever.)  If you do experience diaper rash, it is important to use a cream that is cloth-friendly.  Some examples of that include California Baby and Burt’s Bees.  We’ve found these diaper rash creams are also a great hand moisturizer!

If you do accidentally or unwittingly use a detergent or cream that is not cloth-friendly, do not panic.  You can strip your diapers.  By removing any additives or residues that may have built up on your cloth, your absorbency and wicking properties should return.  Sometimes, after a bit of regular use, it’s nice to strip diapers just to freshen them up.
One easy way to strip funky cloth diapers is to wash them in a few squirts (maybe a tablespoon?) of dawn dish soap with hot water.

Easy, right?

Wool for your cloth requires special, but not difficult, care that we will get to in another post.

Remember, all parts of the Cloth series can be found together on Oh Baby O’s Cloth page.

*A wet bag differs from the old way of using a wet pail in that a “wet” bag isn’t actually wet at all.  It is a dry bag that you put wet things (cloth) in.

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