Now that you've decided to make the commitment to cloth diaper your baby's precious bum, you ask, how about the wash routine?
Don't be alarmed. Succeeding in washing cloth diapers is more realistic and achievable than you think. You may feel overwhelmed in the beginning but trust that your super unicorn mommy magic will kick into high gear and you will have a successful wash routine.
The key is to understand what you have to deal with when it comes to washing your baby's cloth diapers. First, you must know you will be faced with pee and poop. So if you don't like to handle that, get over it now and accept that at some point in your wash routine, you will smell ammonia from peed diapers and that awful barn yard stink from pooped diapers. Having said that, it's all about managing and organizing when it comes to the wash routine.
First, let's line up the tools. In my experience, having the right tools in your laundry arsenal is the best way to stay in control when it comes to cleaning your diapers.
1. Gloves - most important so you can use hot water when needed, without getting scalded, not to mention the ease of removing them when baby or other people or pet in your house come calling.
2. Buckets - depending on your laundry space, a dedicated bucket or two will help with sorting what you need to soak, if any.
3. Scraper or Diaper Spray
4. Deep sink / Toilet bowl
5. Deep Cleaning Solution, Bleach, Stain Remover, etc. - this will depend on your preference
How to sort cloth diapers: I personally like to have two storage sacs in my baby's changing station so that I can easily put the pooped diaper in one storage sac and the peed ones in another. Color-coding each one helps also as I usually have seconds to put away that dirty diaper when I'm changing my baby. AppleCheeks carries these storage sacs at Size 2. More about product here.
Depending on your baby, you will find yourself with about 6-10 dirty diapers per day. I usually like to wash every 2-3 days to avoid the accumulation of stench in the laundry room. I remove the sac of dirty diapers from my baby's room once a day after I put her to bed.
Poop Be Gone!
When I'm ready to do diaper laundry, I usually start with the pooped diapers. My cloth diapers are layered. With AppleCheeks diapers, you can put the insert inside the pocket or lay it on top of the actual diaper fleece. These days I prefer to put the insert inside the pocket. On top of the diaper fleece, I place another Fleece Liner, then I add a thin disposable liner (from AppleCheeks). Because I use disposable liners to come in contact with my baby's bum, the poop usually stays on this layer.
During sorting, I simply remove that liner and throw it into the garbage bin. Some soils will come in contact with the fleece liner and even the cloth diaper fleece, but this is usually minimal, unless baby had a poop explosion. In these cases, I exercise patience during clean up.
So after removing the disposable liner, I check the fleece for soils and with trickling warm or hot water pouring out of the tap, I lay the fleece liner flat in the sink and scrape the remaining poop off the fleece. With warm or hot water trickling down, this process is efficient - while you scrape, the water trickles down onto the fleece and you are able to direct and flush the remaining poop down into the sink hole. I will not recommend blasting the water because this will just mean poop can travel in all sorts of direction. Hey, if you want it to hit your face, go ahead. Be reckless! Kidding aside, as you practice, you will find and define the proper water pressure from the tap.
The scraper I use is an old spoon and it works wonders! You can grab a tablespoon you don't like from your kitchen and have it as a designated pooper scooper! Just mark the spoon and make sure it never makes its way back to the kitchen. I do the scraping process with the cloth diaper fleece as well but instead of laying the cloth diaper flat on the sink surface, I usually hold it up higher halfway up near the water spout and scrape gently to avoid stretching out the elastics on the ruffle areas.
Once I've rinsed out the poop from the diapers, I inspect the diaper for tougher stains. If even after the rinse I still see dark stains, I place a dab of the stain remover directly onto the stain and rub the fleece together to take out the stain. I use Unicorn Clean Beyond Clean stain remover. If after that, the stain remains, I know it's time to place this diaper in the soak bucket.
So I repeat this process until I've gone through all the pooped diapers and then I soak them with Beyond Clean. (See Soaking with Beyond Clean below.)
Note that not all pooped diapers will have tough stains. If you are lucky, you may come away with 'white fleece' after the rinsing process. In this case, just throw these diapers in the laundry machine for general washing along with your rinsed pee diapers.
*There are those who use Diaper sprayers connected to their toilets. I personally haven't tried this method but I'm sure it works well also. If you have any feedback or experience on diaper sprays, please share. Thanks!
Pee Pee Go Away!
What I noticed with peed diapers is that, they are actually harsher on your nose and eyes during the pre-rinsing process. This is mainly because of the ammonia build up in the inserts and fleece.
Side Note: I like to make sure my laundry routine is as pleasant as I can make it because this, in some way, is a break from taking care of baby. A sort of mini-break from the day. I get to step away without having to police her and looking her way every second. I love to light a candle to give my laundry room that spa feel and to help with removing the stench that fills the air. So I bring out my precious beeswax votive from Honey Beeswax Candles (More about product here).
Peed diapers are challenging because of the stench so the key is to rinse out the ammonia before I throw these diapers in the wash. The sorting process is easy, I just remove and throw away the disposable liner and rinse the fleece liner, the insert, and the cloth diaper.
I am lucky to have a set up that allows me to just throw the diapers directly into the washing machine after I rinse them in the sink as they are literally beside each other.
Once this sorting and rinsing process is complete and my washer is loaded with both rinsed pee and poop diapers, I run this diaper load in hot water with my detergent of choice. (Note: Use only detergent without built-in fabric softeners! - Fabric softeners are not recommended for diapers that have PUL or polyurethane laminate because they break down the PUL film).
After the wash cycle, I hang dry the diapers.
Benefits of Pre-rinsing Process
This religious process is KEY to keeping your diapers and washing machine in the best shape. You may find this process daunting at first as I had. But with time and repetition, you will get efficient and fast.
Personally with this method, I find that our cloth diapers never get to a point where I need to strip them. This also prevents ammonia build-up. Best of all, my laundry machine stays cleaner and hence, no transfer of unnecessary build-up smell to my other laundry items as I use my laundry machine for clothes that I spent hundreds of dollars on as well! This very important, though tedious effort, translates to cost-savings in my cloth diaper budget and maintains the life of my washing machine.
Soaking with Beyond Clean
Barn yard stink and soil stains in your cloth diapers? Unicorn Clean can fix that in a spiffy. This is a great product and an excellent soaking solution. It works well for either hard or soft water.
Tip: Remove solid soils and hand rinse cloth diapers to ensure all soils are removed (diaper should not have poop stains when placed in tub!). Add hot water in tub and 1/2 to 2 oz. of Beyond Clean (1/2 oz. for every 6 soiled diapers). Place diapers in tub. Soak for 12 hours. For tougher stains after soaking solution, apply a dab of either solution directly on stain and rub.