10 Tips To Make Your Cloth Diapers Last
Congratulations! You’ve chosen to use cloth diapers. Now all your friends and family members have proof that you’re a little crazy! The truth is, cloth diapers have come a looooong way in recent years and are at least as easy to put on your
wiggly worm child as disposables. All you need now are these tips on how to properly care for and clean your cloth diapers. With a little TLC, your cloth diapers can make it through several kids and may still even be re-sale worthy. Check out these 10 tips on how to make your cloth diapers last for years and be sure to add your own ideas in the comments.
1. NO fabric softener
- Fabric softener can sneak in through your detergent (some detergents include fabric softener) and through your dryer (do not use dryer sheets if drying your diapers). Fabric softeners coat the fabric with oils and enzymes to make it soft, and the left behind oil builds up on the diaper making it less absorbent. Obviously, you want those diapers to be ULTRA absorbent, so skip the softener!
2. Banish smell with baking soda and vinegar
- Even with proper care, over time your diapers will likely build up an ammonium smell (re: urine). A natural way to help get rid of the odor is to start with a cold water rinse. Next use 1/2 c baking soda and a Downy ball filled with white distilled vinegar in a HOT wash. Once the washing machine has filled with the hot water and been agitated, stop the machine and let the diapers soak overnight. Do not use any regular detergent with this method. Finish the wash cycle the next morning and your diapers should be stink free and squeaky clean!
3. Replace old elastic and snaps
- If your diapers have been used with several children, or you bought them used, chances are that the elastic and snaps could use a little TLC. For a great tutorial on how to change the elastic yourself, see this article. Snaps are a little trickier to replace on your own and require some special tools. However, if you’re up to the task, give it a whirl with this tutorial. If the thought of replacing the elastic or snaps is too overwhelming, have no fear! You can send them away to a diapering professional. We recommend Diaper Snap Conversions for the job.
4. Ditch the dryer!
- The dryer is elastic’s worst enemy. Anything with elastic should be hung to dry in order to preserve the stretch and life of the elastic. While an occasional spin in the dryer should be O.K., make it a habit to wash your diapers in the evening so that they have enough time to dry overnight. Diaper inserts or prefold diapers can be dried safely and drying them will fluff them back up for the next usage.
5. Use correct laundry detergent:
- Using laundry detergent specially formulated for the wash is essential for maintaining your cloth diapers. Since cloth diapers need to be washed every 12-48 hours (depending on your stockpile), that means they get a lot of contact with the washing machine. You need to use a soap that will remove the stink and help clean away stains, while also not adding gunk to your diapers or wearing them down. One of our favorite cloth diaper detergents is Rockin’ Green.
Rockin’ Green seriously knows how to get the funk out of cloth diapers with their Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer. Use this detergent once a month to help keep your diapers stink free. They also make great regular detergents for everyday diaper washing. For everyday washing, we recommend getting Rockin’ Green Classic Concentrate Laundry Detergent in unscented (or–if you know you have hard or soft water, they make special formulations for both water types!). However, if you love the smell of fresh laundry with a little scent for yourself, you won’t want to miss their detergents in Lavender Mint Revival, Motley Clean (ocean scent), or Smashing Watermelons.
6. Strip the soap
- If you accidentally washed the diapers with a dryer sheet or maybe your washer or dryer has build-up from washing other items, your diapers are likely to build up gunk over time. Stripping your diapers periodically will help remove the build-up and return them to their original absorbent selves. If you’re using a regular front-loading washer, all you need is regular blue Dawn dish soap to do the job. Wash the diapers with 1T Dawn with hot water. Run 2 additional rinses (or more) until the water is free from suds.
7. NO bleach
- Some diaper manufacturers recommend the occasional use of bleach to kill any lingering bacteria or to whiten up your diapers. However, the regular old sun is a great way to naturally bleach out your diaper stains and doesn’t require the use of a harsh chemical like bleach. With overuse, bleach will increase the wear on your diapers, so if you do use it, sparingly is the key word.
8. Trick your washer
- If you have an HE washer, it probably washes your diapers with less water than is optimal to get them fully rinsed and clean. Washing cloth diapers is one instance where it is important to make sure you are getting ample water through the machine or you may start to feel that your diapers just aren’t quite clean enough.
- To trick your washer, add 2 saturated bath towels for your first rinse cycle. This adds additional weight to the machine, releasing extra water to help clean your diapers. After the first rinse, re-saturate the bath towels for the wash cycle and final rinse. You may be able to just add an extra gallon of hot water from your tap instead or re-saturating the towels for this second step. Play with your machine and see which method works best for you.
9. NO enzymes
- If you use any of the detergents recommended above, you won’t have a problem with enzymes in the wash. However, if you have your own favorite brand of detergent, make sure that it doesn’t have any enzymes. Most diaper brands recommend a hot wash for your diapers and enzymes do not work in hot water. There is also anecdotal evidence that detergents with enzymes may cause diaper rash. When in doubt, leave it out!
10. Follow wash instructions
- Each diaper brand usually has its own rules for how to wash the cloth diapers. Follow their instructions! For a fairly comprehensive list of all the washing instructions by the most popular diaper brands, go here.
Feel ready to troubleshoot your cloth diapering woes? These tips should hopefully help solve most common cloth diapering problems. Take good care of your diapers and they are sure to save you money in the long run as well as reduce waste in your household. Have any other tips that we missed? Please share them in the comments!
Make sure to check out this informative post on Cloth Diapering on a Budget.
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