When people approach me about their diapers stinking and/or repelling the first question I always ask them is what kind of cloth diaper detergent are they using. It is not surprising that most of them reply: homemade, All Free and Clear, or another mainstream brand. Cloth diapers don’t particularly take extreme special care, but just like your favorite outfit they do have wash instructions that need to be followed.
So how do you wash cloth diapers?
I subscribe to a KISS method of cloth diaper laundry. I only use water and cloth diaper safe detergent regularly. This keeps my laundry simple and keeps my diaper troubleshooting to a minimum.
- Short Cold Clear Rinse Cycle
- Warm Wash with Cloth Diaper Detergent
- Cold Clear Rinse Cycle
Seriously that is all I do.
But I am trying to be green why can’t I use my homemade detergent?
While homemade detergent may be fine for regular clothes, realize that cloth diapers touch the most sensitive areas of an already sensitive baby. The slightest change in chemistry for the area could mean disaster.
Here are some issues that arise from common homemade detergent ingredients:
Washing Soda – People have been using washing soda for generations to get rid of stains. However it is known to age elastic and a potential cause of diaper rash resembling burns.
Borax – Another natural alternative for many people. While it is effective at stain removal Borax has a similar effect on PUL and Elastic that Washing Soda does. I have not found any research linking it to burns, so this may be effective on your flats and prefolds, but not modern cloth diapers.
Oil – Basic chemistry says that oil and water do not mix. Yet people routinely add it to their detergent. This may be fine for regular clothes that stay dry 98% of the time, but for diapers that are designed to absorb water this is a problem. Oils could be in the soap base, fragrance oil, or even essential oils.
Have you ever seen a t-shirt that is no longer brilliant white?
We’ve all seen the bleach commercials that reference the dingy white shirt and the bright white shirt. The reasons whites get dingy is due to residue from wash routine. That residue is sticky on the molecular level, and traps dirt, body oils, etc. When they build up over time the shirt gets dingy. The same is true for cloth diapers. Build up enough body oil and you will have repelling issues.
Bacteria – Remember that cloth diapers will get wet and remain wet for several hours to several days, while trapped inside a plastic bag. It’s a prime location for bacteria to grow. This is not normally a problem when using a detergent specifically designed to balance the pH enough to eliminate the problem. However, when the pH is not raised or lowered properly bacteria can get out of hand. This is when yeast rashes get out of control. If your baby has a rash in cloth but not in a disposable diaper, 9 times out of 10 wash routine is to blame.
Water, water is your friend when doing cloth diaper laundry, keep your wash routine as simple as possible to reduce the need for diaper troubleshooting, and use a cloth diaper safe detergent instead of a mainstream or homemade detergent.