Now that you’ve read part I of the cloth diaper tutorial, you’re familiar with cloth wipes and diaper pails. Now you’re ready for the part people dread the most about cloth diapers: washing.
A lot of people like to soak their diapers and then wash. Others, lazy like me, wash them twice. It uses the same amount of water as soaking-then-washing and almost the same amount of electricity (the difference is negligible), but it has the added benefit of agitation thrown in. I like to wash the first time in cold water to help reduce staining and wash away all the solid matter (translation: poop). The second wash is done hot to get the diapers really clean. You don’t want to do both washes with hot water because hot water on poopy diapers may set the stains in.
Let’s begin. Washing cloth diapers is actually very easy. Ideally, you wouldn’t wait until your diaper pail looks like this:
However, even if it does, it’s still no problem to wash them. Just take the liner out of the diaper pail and carry it over to the washing machine you’ll be washing the diapers in.
Open the washing machine and dump the dirty diapers into it like so:
Notice how my hands don’t touch a single diaper. Once the bag is empty, turn it inside out (again, you can do this without ever touching the yucky inside part) and throw it in the wash as well:
Now, add the detergent. I recommend using a detergent that has no colors or fragrance added and that is preferably vegetable-based. One detergent I’ve been using for years which fits all these characteristics is Seventh Generation Free & Clear. I’ve also used Ecover (even though it has a slight fragrance), Charlie’s Soap, Oxy-Prime, Allen’s Naturally, and Method free and clear. My favorite for diapers is Allen’s Naturally. My second favorite would have to be a tie between Seventh Generation Free and Clear and Ecover (even though some people don’t recommend Ecover for diapers, I’ve found it to be quite effective). Allen’s Naturally is expensive and can be a hassle to find (though it is worth the money), but Seventh Generation Free & Clear and Ecover can be locally bought, which makes them more convenient and affordable. I do not recommend: Oxy-Prime (super-expensive, the company that sells it surprises you with very costly shipping after you enter your credit card information, and the product is nothing to write home about either), Charlie’s Soap (has a weird natural gas smell to it once you put it in the wash which is a little alarming), nor Method free and clear (leaves a residue and diapers don’t feel clean after washing). This site has detergent recommendations but I followed some of those recommendations (like crappy Oxy-Prime, which comes highly recommended on the pinstripes and polka dots site) and found them not to my liking, which makes me think that maybe the ratings do not work out for everyone the same way. The site does mention that “Even from the recommended detergents all of the detergents may not be compatible with your water or washing routine,” so the ratings do take these possible differences into account. Overall, though, it’s an excellent diaper detergent rating site (the only one I know of), so it’s definitely worth a look.
Anyway, for our tutorial, I’m using Seventh Generation Free and Clear. I don’t use the recommended amount. I only use about half of a capful, sometimes even less:
The detergent goes in along with a dash of baking soda, say, 1/4 cup (you don’t need to measure it; just pour a bit in). Do not use bleach. It is not necessary for getting diapers clean and over time it will break down the fibers in your diapers. Set the water temperature to “cold” and the wash cycle to “regular.” Close the lid and start the machine.
After the cold cycle is done, run another regular wash, but this time, switch the water temperature to “hot.” Both times the diapers are washing, you can be doing all kinds of other things. It’s just like washing anything else in your washing machine.
When the diapers are finished with their second wash, remove the Bummis bag from the washing machine and hang it up to dry (I accidentally dried one in the dryer once and had it come out fine, but the washing recommendations are to hang it up to dry). Transfer the clean wet diapers to your dryer or line-dry them. The time for drying in the dryer varies. Experiment and find what works for you. Sometimes if you put in a load of washed diapers into the dryer with some clean dry towels, it speeds up the drying process. Line-drying in the sun is free and may help reduce or eliminate stains.
Some people are understandably squeamish about putting poopy diapers in their washing machine, but here’s the key thing to remember: it’s a washing machine. It washes not only the diapers but itself in the process. It’s not like you pull out clean diapers when it’s done and find that the inside of your washing machine has been smeared with feces. Look, I’ll show you:
This photo was taken immediately after finishing a diaper wash. The rust stains and the spilled baking soda notwithstanding, the inside of my washing machine is as pristine as yours.