Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to wash and care for cloth diapers

Washing and caring for cloth diapers is very easy although many people think it is difficult and time consuming. I keep my routine as simple and natural as possible. I use vinegar and homemade laundry detergent.

Here is what I do:

First, I rinse wet diapers in the sink or dispose of solid waste in the toilet and then rinse off in the sink. (A shower sprayer would work better; I have this on my list of things to get since it would get double use.)

I place rinsed diapers in a pail with water and a splash of vinegar. I use plastic one-gallon ice cream buckets (great use for all those buckets we accumulate) but a larger pail would work just fine. The diapers stay in these buckets until I get ready to wash, which is every 2-4 days.

When I get ready to wash, I dump the buckets into the washing machine and do a cold rinse. Then I add detergent, fill the washer with hot water by starting the wash cycle and let the diapers soak for a while. If I need to whiten and further disinfect my diapers I add a little hydrogen peroxide, about half a cup or so. I use a few drops of tea tree oil on occasion.

My detergent recipe is one bar of grated up Ivory soap, 2 cups borax, and 2 cups washing soda. Store in an airtight container and use one teaspoon to one tablespoon depending on load size. You don't need a lot of detergent to wash your diapers especially if you have rinsed the diapers off as soon as they come off the baby.

When the regular wash and rinse finishes I rerinse with about a half a cup of vinegar and then dry in the dryer without a dryer sheet. You don't use a dryer sheet on your diapers because dryer sheets coat your clothing and reduce absorbency.

Here is another slightly different method of caring for cloth diapers, from the book "Organic Housekeeping" by Ellen Sandbeck. (My method is very similar to hers, I was delighted to discover.)

Managing the Messy End of the Diaper Cycle

1. Half fill the diaper pail with warm water and add half a cup of borax. The borax will help reduce odors and staining. Or if your baby is having trouble with diaper rash, soak the diapers in water with a couple cups white vinegar instead of the borax and water. The vinegar will help kill the bacteria that can cause diaper rash.

2. Rinse out the urine and scrape the solid waste into the toilet before putting diapers into the diaper pail.

3. When the diaper pail is full, drain as much of the water as possible into the toilet, and lug the pail to the laundry room.

4. Put the diapers into the washing machine, and set the dial to the heaviest wash cycle and the hottest water setting. If your machine has a separate setting for the spin cycle you may want to use it to spin the excess liquid out of the diapers before starting the wash cycle.

5. Soap can leave a residue that may irritate baby's skin. Use a gentle unscented detergent. For the sake of the baby's future, try to choose a detergent that is biodegradable and phosphate free. For the sake of the baby's skin, try to choose a detergent that is free of fragrances, dyes, bleaches, and brighteners.

6. Add one cup vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

7. Dry the diapers using the cotton setting of the dryer.

8. If your baby is having problems with diaper rash, try drying the diapers outdoors in the sun. Sunlight is a very strong disinfectant.

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