In a green city like Albuquerque, more and more moms are trying to raise their kids with sustainability in mind. Which means the 2,000+ diapers a baby goes through in the first year of life alone are no longer just accepted as a fact of life. Cloth diapers not only address that issue, but they’re also gentle on baby’s skin (my oldest son’s severe allergy to disposables is what sold me on cloth), and if you wash them at home, they’re much cheaper than disposables.
It sounds great, but ask any cloth diapering mom, and she’ll tell you, the only downside to cloth is figuring out a good wash routine. But if you pay attention to just four simple things, your cloth diapers will come out of the wash looking brand new.
1. Your Pre-rinse
There’s no need to do anything special to the diapers of breastfed babies, just throw them in the diaper pail as is. But if your baby is taking formula or has started solids, you’ll want to remove as much of the poop as possible before binning the diaper.
There are spray attachments for your toilet, you can use the dunk and swish method, or some people even use a dedicated spatula, but however you choose to remove solids, its important to do so to keep your diapers clean when washing at home.
2. Your Water Hardness
If you’re on city water here in Albuquerque, chances are your water is very hard (filled with microscopic minerals). And that same water hardness that causes buildup on your faucets also builds up on and inside of your diapers, taking up the spaces in the fabric that are meant for absorbing pee.
Luckily, there’s an easy fix. If your water measures over 150 ppm, just add a water softener (like Borax or Calgon) to your wash. Using a powder-based detergent can also help, as they contain more water softeners than their liquid or pod equivalents.
3. Your Agitation
Detergent alone isn’t enough to get diapers clean, you also need agitation. This is achieved by loading your washer with the right amount of clothing. For a top loading washer, you want it half full; for a front-loading washer, three-quarters full. This allows the diapers room to move against each other and loosen soil.
Don’t have enough diapers? Not to worry, you can bulk up your load by adding either baby clothes or other laundry no larger than a kitchen towel.
4. Your Drying
Cloth diapers can just be thrown in the dryer like normal laundry, but if you’re concerned about your eco-footprint or keeping your diapers in top shape, you may want to consider line drying. Anything with elastic or PUL will benefit from air drying (when it’s cold out, I hang mine on our stair railings), because the heat from the dryer will weaken the elastics and cause delamination of the PUL.
But also consider line drying your inserts. This further reduces the environmental impact of cloth diapers, and the Albuquerque sun is the best bleach for stubborn stains. Most importantly, never use fabric softener on your diaper laundry. The softener (whether sheet or liquid) will build up on the diapers and cause them to repel liquids.
Cloth diapers are a great solution, and with just a little work, you can develop a wash routine that leaves your diapers sparkling clean every time. Or if you want to go green, but can’t stomach the thought of dealing with so much poop and pee, considering trying out a diaper service.