**edited because, phone blogging = technical difficulties**
So, I joined this Facebook group, Fluff Love and CD Science and it rocked my cloth diapering world. Turns out, the ubiquitous advice about washing cloth diapers is pretty much wrong, all wrong.
Cloth Diaper Laundry Myths
If you cloth diaper or have spent any time researching it, you’ve heard all these (crappy- get it?) lines:
1. Detergent build up will cause stink, so you need to use only a tiny bit of detergent.
2. You need many, many rinse cycles to prevent said build up.
3. You need to use “cloth safe” detergent so you don’t void your warranty.
4. Bleach will ruin your diapers.
5. You will need to strip your diapers every so often, using Blue Dawn, to remove detergent build up which causes stink.
6. Homemade detergent is a great way to save money and keep nasty chemicals off baby’s bottom.
No, no, no, no, no, and no.
Cloth Diaper Laundry Truths
1. Detergent is formulated to rinse clean and not leave residue behind. That’s what makes it detergent. Detergent “build-up” is a myth. It simply doesn’t exist.
A little bit of detergent ain’t gonna cut it. You are washing filthy, dirty pee-soaked poop catchers. You need the full recommended amount of a full-strength mainstream detergent.
This image pretty much sums it up:
2. Multiple rinse cycles redeposit minerals on your diapers, and that does cause build up; mineral build up. No extra rinses!
3. “Cloth-safe” detergent, such as BumGenius or Rockin Green, is nothing but softeners and boosters. It may have a teeny, tiny bit of detergent in it. This is not going to clean your diapers. If your dog pooped on a towel, would you wash the towel with a little bit of detergent or a lot? Guess what? The same principle applies to your diapers. They’re dirty. Really, really dirty. You need a mainstream detergent that actually cleans. Tide and Gain seem to be the ones people have the most success with. (If you are adamant about using a plant based or Free and Clear detergent, you can, but you need to use twice as much because it’s weaker and you must wash in hot water.)
Yes, this may void your warranty. Two thoughts on this:
First, how are they going to know what detergent you used? Clean diapers?
Second, better clean diapers without a warranty than stinky, warranteed diapers that give your little one ammonia burns or diaper rash.
4. Bleach, properly diluted, will not ruin your diapers. It will sanitize them. And PUL is colorfast so they won’t fade either.
5. If you have a solid wash routine, you won’t need to strip your diapers. Like, ever. (Sorry, I was channeling my inner T. Swift for a minute there.) But seriously, if you need to strip, something about your wash routine isn’t working and your diapers aren’t getting clean.
If you do need to strip so you can “reset” your diapers and start over, Blue Dawn isn’t what you need. It’s a degreaser, it’s not going to get out bacteria, mineral build up, and ammonia crystals, all of which are causes of stink. Blue Dawn is also a no no for going into your washing machine. It can break the machine and will void your warranty.
Full Disclosure: before I knew better, I used Blue Dawn to “strip” a couple of times. No adverse washer reactions were noted. It is my personal opinion that while pouring a cup of the stuff into your machine weekly is a bad idea, a tablespoon here and there is not going to cause a problem. That said, it doesn’t do what you need it to, so why bother?
More on how to properly strip and bleach your diapers further down…
6. There is no such thing as homemade detergent. The ingredients needed to make detergent are not available commercially. You simply cannot make it. What homemade detergent is is actually a bunch of softeners and boosters mixed together with grated up soap. This is no bueno because soap doesn’t rinse clean like detergent does. You will end up with soap residue on all your stuff. And softeners and boosters don’t clean. That’s not what they meant for.
So….how should you wash your diapers? And if you already have stink or ammonia issues, what should you do about it?
How do I strip my cloth diapers?
Start by stripping. A real strip, not a Blue Dawn “strip.”
You can use RLR packets, or make your own using 3 tablespoons each of Borax, Washing Soda, and Calgon (not the type that takes you away).
Full your tub halfway with hot water. Mix in the RLR/homemade mix and toss in your diapers. Allow to sit until the water cools completely (5ish hours) or overnight.
The strip draws all the gunk out of your diapers. This may be revolting. I had some ummm, particles, floating in the tub. I know. I’m throwing up a little bit in my mouth too. However, better in my tub than on Will’s bottom making him red.
When you take the diapers out, run them through a cold rinse and spin cycle.
How and why do I bleach soak my cloth diapers?
Now you’re going to fill your tub halfway with cold water and a 1/2 cup of disinfecting bleach. Not the splashless kind, the real stuff (on the bottle, it probably says that it kills the flu virus).
Toss those diapers back in and soak for at least 30 minutes. The strip brought all kinda of yuck to the surface so now you’re going to kill it all with bleach.
When you remove them, throw them in the washer for a hot rinse and spin. (Heat is needed to break bleach down.)
Now wash them, with a mainstream detergent, 3-5 times.
(Will takes laundry supervision duties very seriously.)
What should my new cloth diaper wash routine look like?
Your diapers are now reset and good to go!
Your new wash routine can use any mainstream detergent without fabric softeners. Generally speaking, you should do a prewash with line one of detergent, and then a main wash with the full amount of detergent.
You need to have enough stuff in the machine to agitate properly in order for your diapers to get clean. If you have a top loader, you want a stew-like consistency (not soup). If you have a front loader, you want it 2/3 to 3/4 full.
Cold vs. hot water is a personal preference unless you are using a plant based detergent, in which case you must use hot.
I am so very glad to know I won’t need to strip again and not to have stink creeping back. It seems like people try to make cloth diapering and wash routines complicated, when in reality, all you need to do it use enough detergent that actually works. I am kind of starting to seem like a crazy person, going around preach the Fluff Love Gospel all over the place, to Theresa and Kate and Michelle, among others, but seriously- life changing. I’m not an expert, but happy to answer any questions if I can. And if I can’t, I recommend joining Fluff Love & CD Science. (Well, I recommend that anyway.) The admins there are super knowledgeable and can answer really specific questions about your washing machine, water, diaper brand, and detergent preferences.
Once your diapers are clean and ready to go, you have the pleasure of seeing a cute little fluff butt cruising around: