Cloth Diaper Care & Troubleshooting
What do I do with poop?
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, simply toss the diaper into your dry pail. Breastfeeding poop is completely water soluble!
If you are formula feeding, or your baby eats solids, we recommend either disposable liners or a diaper shower. A diaper sprayer attaches to your toilet allowing you to easily rinse off your diapers. Even easier, and our personal favorite, are disposable liners. These liners are simply laid on top of a fresh diaper. When your baby has a poop, simply lift the poop and liner into the toilet or turn the diaper over and let it drop into the toilet. It’s that easy! No scraping needed.
How many extra loads of laundry will I have to do a week?
As you’ll see from our chart on how many diapers to purchase, cloth diapering involves 2-3 extra loads of laundry a week. Given how much laundry you already will be doing with a baby, you’ll barely notice it. Many of us love to wash diapers at the end of the day, and toss them in the drier / hang them to dry before bed. We then wake up to fresh diapers.
What does a regular wash routine look like?
Your washing routine is absolutely critical to ensuring your diapers remain in tip-top shape with no funky smell or repelling issues. Always wash your diapers separate from clothing!
Here is the washing routine that we recommend:
- Run a cold or warm wash with no detergent (set water to highest level).
- Run a HOT wash with detergent (set water to highest level).
- Run an extra rinse
- Place in the dryer on medium or hang to dry.
We particularly recommend hanging diaper covers and pocket diaper covers to dry to lengthen their life. In certain cases cloth diaper manufactuers will recommend a wash routine that differs from what we recommend here; you should always follow the manufacturer washing guidelines to ensure your diapers stay under warranty.
The water level when you wash is extremely important. If you have a high efficiency front-loading machine, check with your manufacturer if there is a way that you can set the water level manually. If not, you may need to “trick” the machine by tossing in a wet towel with your diapers (a light colored one!). The wet towel adds extra weight which makes the machine think there is more laundry, thereby adding extra water.
You can also set the machine to 'no spin' following the first wash cycle so that the diapers go into the main hot wash cycle heavier which will cause the machine to add more water. Selecting a heavy soil level on your front-loading washing machine, if applicable, will also help to increase the water level.
What detergents do you recommend?
The detergent that you use to clean your diapers is also critical.
We recommend the following detergents:
- Rocking Green Detergent
- bumGenius Cloth Diaper Detergent
- Allen's All Naturally
If you are partial to traditional detergents, then we recommend the original Tide powder (not the free and clear version).
It is particularly important that you do not add too much detergent or it will build up on your diapers (not rinse clean) and cause repelling and leak issues. In most cases, you will only need about 1 tablespoon of detergent! For front loading machines, typically 1-2 tablespoons is enough, and usually 2-3 tablespoons in a top loading machine. If you add too much detergent, it will build up in the fibers of your cloth diapers causing repelling issues and you will need to strip them down (see below) to fix them.
How can I speed up drying time in the machine?
Toss in a dry towel with your diapers to speed the drying process. Or check out our wool dryer balls – they’re fabulous! Remember, we recommend hanging diaper covers and pocket diaper covers to dry as much as possible.
Do I need to wash my new diapers before using them on baby?
Yes! Cloth diaper covers and pocket diapers, and any diaper featuring microfiber or minky should be washed at once. Although it is typically recommended to hang dry diaper covers, we recommend drying them on medium-high heat the first time to seal the PUL.
Cloth diapers made from natural fibers (hemp, cotton, bamboo) need to be washed 5+ times. This process will strip the natural oils from the material and will also build absorbency into the fabric. It is not uncommon for it to take 8-11 washes (or more!) for these materials to reach their full absorbency.
You should not wash unbleached cotton or hemp with your other cloth diapers initially as the natural wax will transfer to the diapers and cause repelling issues. Some folks report great success with boiling unbleached cotton prefolds to remove the wax! After washing a few times, hemp and unbleached cotton products can be washed together with all your diapers.
**If you do not wash your unbleached cotton or hemp multiple times on hot before use, leaks will occur.
How do I care for wool products?
The wonderful part of wool is that it is largely self-cleaning! Unless wool is soiled or smells like urine, you can simply air it out and re-use over and over again.
We recommend washing wool every 2-3 weeks, or when soiled. When you do wash wool, we recommend using Eucalan wool wash which has lanolin included. Simply hand wash in lukewarm water, leaving the cover to soak for approximately 15 minutes. After, roll the cover in a towel to remove moisture (do not wring it) and lay flat to dry.
Don’t be afraid of wool! It sounds intimidating to many parents, but it is a wonderful natural fibre that truly is easy to care for. And it’s not itchy either!
What can I do to lengthen the life of my cloth diapers?
Line drying will extend the length of your diapers.
In addition, having a slightly larger stash will also extend the life of your diapers as you will use each one less frequently. Although a larger stash costs a bit more, this can help maintain your diapers in good condition which is helpful if you are hoping to diaper a second child or sell your diapers when your little one is toilet trained.
Can I use bleach or fabric softener on my diapers?
No! Regular bleach will break down the material of your diapers. Fabric softener will cause the diapers to repel rather than absorb liquids.
Please note that if you regularly use fabric softener on your own personal laundry, a film may build up in your machine that can transfer to your cloth diapers.
What about dryer sheets?
If you use dryer sheets, a film in the dryer can build up and interfere with the diaper absorbency. You don’t want to deal with this problem if you can avoid it!
Did you know that static only presents an issue with synthetic fabrics? One option with your regular laundry is to always hang dry such materials (e.g., polyester). Another option is to use dryer balls, such as Nellie’s dryer balls. Finally, if you absolutely want to use dryer sheets with your regular laundry, we recommend running your dryer with a large wet towel prior to drying your diapers. This should help remove some of the residue left behind by dryer sheets.
How about free and clear detergents?
No, please do not use free and clear detergents. Although it sounds like it might be a good choice for cloth diapers, these detergents typically clean with enzymes. Enzymes are designed to attack organic matter. Sweat, urine and poop are all organic matter so if any enzymes linger on the cloth diaper fabric, sensitive babies may experience a reaction that appears as a rash, blister, or sore.
Is oxygen bleach safe for cloth diapers?
Yes, oxygen bleach or oxy-powder may be used periodically on your diapers to freshen or sanitize. We always recommend that you follow the washing instructions set by the manufacturer(s) of the diapers that you use as many manufacters note that using any kind of additive will void the warranty.
My baby had a yeast infection. How can I disinfect my diapers?
We highly recommend using HOT water to wash your diapers. You might want to temporarily turn up the temperature on your hot water tank or use the sanitization cycle on your washer if it has one.
Other options include using some oxygen bleach or placing your diapers out to sun (the sun is an excellent way to naturally brighten and sanitize diapers).
Many parents will do a combination of these as it is incredibly important to clear your diapers before putting them back on baby or else you will re-introduce the infection.
How can I avoid stains on my cloth diapers?
The best way to avoid stains is to wash your diapers regularly, washing no less frequently than every third day.
The first washing step with a wash on cold/warm is also very important to removing stains. Hot water will set stains.
Finally, the use of a microfleece or disposable liner can help by minimizing the amount of solid waste that comes in contact with the diaper surface.
How can I remove stains from my cloth diapers?
No matter how diligent you are with following a great care routine, stains are bound to happen. One of the absolute best stain removers is the sun. Yes, the sun! Whether it is summer or winter, take your diapers outside and lay them face up to the sun for a few hours. Make sure they are really wet when you do this.
The natural bleaching power of the sun is truly incredible! The sun is also a great sanitizer.
What is detergent build up?
Detergent build up occurs when the detergent does not rinse clean from your cloth diapers.
How do I know if I have detergent build up?
Detergent residue can present in a variety of ways. Your diapers may leak or wick; urine may repel or bead rather than absorbing into the diaper; your diapers may stink; off-coloration of your fabrics (particularly for synthetics) may occur; or your baby may even develop a rash out of sensitivity to the detergent film.
How do I fix detergent build up?
To fix detergent build up, you need to strip your diapers. There are a number of different recommendations on how to strip diapers. We recommend the simplest approach, which is to use RLR and run a number of consecutive hot wash cycles with no detergent afterwards. You may need 5+ hot rinse cycles with no detergent; just continue to look for bubbles in the water on the final rinse. If you see bubbles, continue with more cycles until no bubbles remain.
My diapers stink...how can I fix this problem?
If your diapers smell of urine even after washing, or immediately after your baby pees, you most likely have a detergent build up issue. Fixing detergent build up is actually quite simple! As noted above, simply run your diapers through multiple hot washes (3-5) with NO detergent until no suds remain after including RLR in the initial wash.
I sometimes hear about using baking soda and vinegar when I wash.
We prefer not to recommend additives to your washing routine aside from detergent and perhaps the odd cycle with oxygen bleach. Vinegar can potentially break down the elastic in diapers given its acidity.
Help, my diapers are leaking. What do I do?
Diapers may leak for three main reasons.
Absorbency -You need to change your baby every 1.5-3 hours. Some babies are heavier wetters than others. If you leave your baby for 4+ hours in a cloth diaper, it is bound to leak.
If you need some additional absorbency, don’t hesitate to add a doubler or use more absorbent inserts in pocket diapers such as hemp or bamboo.
Fit - The correct size of diaper is important to ensuring a proper fit. If the diaper does not fit properly, it will leak. For example, most one size diapers do not tend to fit most newborns very well.
Some diapers fit certain babies better than others. Babies come in all shapes and sizes so it’s not surprising that not every diaper on the market is going to be a great fit for you little one. This is one of the reasons we recommend building a variety of diapers into your stash, rather than simply purchasing all of one kind.
Residue / Detergent Build Up - Over time, your diapers may begin to repel liquid for a variety of reasons, ranging from detergent buildup to the use of certain diaper creams etc.
We strongly encourage you to use a cloth diaper friendly detergent and only use a small amount (approximately 1 tablespoon). If you have a residue/detergent build up issue, you will need to strip your diapers.
We also encourage the use of disposable liners when using diaper creams.
If you have other questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch at any time. We're here to help make your cloth diapering days fun & easy!