The first thing you need to know now that you’re ready to jump into cloth diapering is how many to buy and how to wash them! I think you will be happiest with the pocket diapers, but even if you choose to use a different type of diaper, this information will be very useful to you.
I really like the pocket diapers because the layer closest to the baby’s skin is generally a fleece or other wicking type of fabric that keeps the wetness off of your baby. The inner layer (insert) is an absorbent piece of cloth and the outer layer is a waterproof cover. With a pocket diaper you can easily increase the absorbancy by adding more inserts. As I mentioned before, I double up the inserts for our night diapers.
Of the list of things you’ll need, here are how many of each I currently own:
- 1 Diaper pail
- 2 Pail liners
- 1 wipe warmer
- 3 dozen Cloth Wipes
- Natural soap or solution – I started with 2 orders of Baby Bits which lasted quite a few months. I drop in 1 or 2 Baby Bits each time I fill the warmer.
- Country Save Detergent - I will share how much of this I use for washing diapers later in this post.
- Wet bag for traveling – I have one large bag I use for traveling away from home for a few days.
- A basket to keep your clean diapers in.
- 2 Changing pads – such as these. If your cloth diapers have velcro, I recommend washing these pads separately as the velcro will stick and ruin them. I wash Eliana’s pads with her clothes.
- 42 Diapers - I had 3 dozen Kissaluvs which required me to do laundry every 3 or 4 days. Newborns go potty a lot more often. I believe I had 4 or 5 covers. I currently have 42 bumGenius diapers. Now that she’s older and going less often, these last nearly a week. 8 of these are white and used only for night time. I wanted to have enough so that I could have a real full load and save the washing for the weekend whenever possible.
For the Kissaluvs, I also had doublers for night time. I still changed her at least once in the middle of the night. I was up at night more often when she was still a newborn anyway, so I never tried going all night without changing her. Once she got older and slept for longer periods of time, I quit changing her in the middle of the night. However, by this time she was in the diapers she is in now.
One of the first questions I get asked is what do I do with all the poo? Eliana exclusively nursed for the first 6 months, so during this time I didn’t have to do anything with the poo. I put the diaper straight in the pail and it washed right out. Once she started eating solid foods, I started dumping whatever I could into the toilet. Cotton Babies sells a sprayer that you can attach to your toilet, but it leaked before I ever had a chance to use it. I just grab a wad of toilet paper and wipe whatever I can into the toilet. The rest comes out in the laundry. For all you squeamish types – I rarely get any on my hands. The wipes do a great job of getting everything off of her bum and a nice wad of toilet paper does the wiping the diaper trick nicely!
It took me probably a year before I came up with a washing system that worked well. One thing that went wrong with another washing method was they would smell horrible as soon as they got wet. This is usually caused by bacteria or soap residue being left behind. I now bleach every time and run extra rinses to keep this from happening. I cringe at having to run my washer 4 times, but this has worked out best all around. I don’t feel as bad about these 4 washings since I wash once a week rather than every 2 or 3 days. Once I get a high efficiency washer, I will use much less water and energy. My diapers will probably end up cleaner too! I plan to get a washer that can run a prewash and an extra rinse. So if you’re in the market, keep an eye out for these features. I look forward to the day when I only have to touch the washer once for a load of diapers! At this rate I probably won’t get a new washer and dryer until the next baby comes along!
Cotton Babies is against using anything other than mild detergent, bleach, and Dawn dish soap on their bumGenius diapers. I experimented with vinegar, tea tree oil, and other natural bacteria killers, but when it was all said and done bleach was the best. Perhaps if I washed my diapers every 2 or 3 days the bacteria buildup wouldn’t be as much therefore keeping me from having to bleach every time, but I wash more like once a week, so bleach it is. Be sure you carefully read the washing instructions for any diaper you purchase. Most diaper companies will void the warranty if you do not follow their instructions. Be sure you pay close attention to the max temperature information and make sure you’re water heater or washer does not exceed that temperature. High temperatures can ruin your waterproof covers.
Here is my laundering method:
- Step 1 – Pour about half a scoop of Country Save into the washer and start the water. I run my machine on the Heavy Duty Cycle on Large Load for all washes. The first wash I set the water to Warm/Cold . This is the first wash/rinse to get all the gunk off.
- Step 2 - Pull the liner from the diaper pail and dump the diapers directly into the wash. Again – no touching diapers or messy hands!
- Step 3 – Turn diaper pail liner inside out and put in with the diapers.
- Step 4 – Wash
- Step 5 – Wash again – this time set on Hot/Cold with very little soap and a half a cup of bleach (for a full load of diapers). This is the cleaning/sterilizing wash.
- Step 6 – Wash 2 more times with no soap or bleach set on Warm/Cold. These are the rinses. I do not want the diapers to have a bleach smell at all, so this requires two more full wash cycles.
Once the diapers are done washing, I hang the covers on a rack and put the inserts, pail liner, and wipes in the dryer for about 50 minutes. Again, my washer and dryer are over 10 years old, so this method would require much less water and time if I had a high efficiency set!
The liners dry very quickly – usually within 6 – 8 hours, so we usually just leave them over night. If you’re lucky enough to live some place with SUN, I highly recommend line drying your diapers outside. The sun works as a natural sterilizer and will even make stubborn stains disappear. I take advantage of this whenever I can during the Summer here in the Northwest. They smell better after drying in the sun and it feels good to use less energy for my diaper system.
About once every 6 months or so, I will use Cotton Babies instructions for stripping my diapers: Wash once in hot water with one teaspoon (for high efficiency machines) to one tablespoon (for regular washing machines) with original liquid Dawn (blue formula) and up to 1/2 cup bleach in the wash cycle.
Do two additional hot water washes with no detergent to completely rinse the diapers clean. If you still see suds, keep rinsing until the diapers are rinsed clean.
In Part 3 I will show you how I stuff the diapers and and put them away. I will also give you tips on how to make an efficient changing station.