There is nothing more therapeutic, so relaxing and stress busting than cloth diaper laundry. You may not believe me right now, but once you’ve taken the plunge into cloth diapering, you may agree wholeheartedly. I do my CD laundry in the evenings after babyT has drifted into slumber-land and I look forward to it with so much enthusiasm, almost getting crabby on the nights when babyT refuses to fall asleep and thus delaying my laundering plans. It’s the same kind of high I used to get on weekday mornings, after the maids would leave and the husband left for work, and I would settle down from the whirlwind chaos with a hot cuppa in hand and the day’s papers.
But many cloth diapering discussions I’ve had with newbies begin with cringing at the thought of washing pee and poop laden items. They find it to be an added chore to their already burgeoning list of things to do around a new baby. I can still reminisce about my early post partum days when I would be spraying poop off for the n’th time off a diaper and getting all splashy and pooey in the process and that too at some un-Godly hour of the night. Scary, but I soon found my mojo and I was so fond of it, that I did not let anyone else in the house have the privilege of doing CD laundry. 😀
CD laundry is not really complicated, but it is very important. You are, after all, using and reusing an item of clothing which holds not so nice body waste (although pee is sterile) and you need to ensure that the items have got a thorough cleaning and safe for the next use. Again, not at all scary to achieve this, follow a few simple steps, make it a routine and it will work like magic. So here is my washing routine and I can now safely say at this juncture, almost a year of cloth diapering, that this has worked like magic. I have arrived at this after quite a few trials and some faulty steps, but this is now a win for me.
Do note however, that I do not have hard water issues and so I have not encountered much of the issues which cloth diapers face (read: stink, mineral build up.) This is really a CD laundry for dummies kind of guide. It is simple, no frills and easy to follow.
For ease of understanding, I’ve divided this into three categories:
- Pre-laundry prep
- Wash routine
- Post wash care
Cloth diapers need to be changed immediately upon a poopisode or after a gap of 2 to 4 hours (day time, that is. Overnight diapers really do last overnight and don’t need changing until the morning, unless poop.) While many people are content just tossing the soiled diaper into the pile, I don’t advise it as it can lead to stinks, stains and not to mention degradation of fibres, fungus etc. Cloth diapers must be given a basic rinse before storage for laundry day.
- Remove all poop with a scraper or spray off with the jet spray attached in most modern Indian toilets. or simply wash under a tap.
- Rinse peed in diapers under a running tap or swish around in a bucket of water.
- Squeeze off excess water. Avoid wringing.
- Store either in a wet bag or hanging against the rim of an open pail/bucket or on the towel rod in the bathroom or airy place. Closed rooms and spaces are hotbeds for micro-organisms to grow on damp items.
I would recommend doing cloth diaper laundry on a daily basis or at max alternate days, I find it leads to lesser damage of any kind to the diapers. And for the hot and humid Mumbai weather, this is highly recommended. I have had a case where I left an organic cotton diaper in a wet bag for barely over 24 hours and it developed spots of fungus, nothing that a bleach couldn’t solve, but avoidable for sure.
If for any reason you must go beyond a day or two, dry the pre-washed diapers entirely rather than leaving them damp in a pile in the wet bag or the pail. I’ve had situations where I have a few wet diapers and going out of home for a weekend away, with no time to do laundry I’ve just hung the rinsed diapers to dry and then returned home to give them a thorough wash.
I have a top loading washing machine, with separate inlets for hot and cold water, however the plumbing in my house doesn’t cooperate and it just too tedious for us to connect the hot water. So cold water it is. And the machine is a very simple one, no built in programs where only some higher power knows what the settings are. Below is my wash routine, which I ensure is sacrosanct, no matter where I travel to with my diapers.
- Pre-wash cycle: this is a 15-20 minute cycle (depending on number of diapers and water level I set) and includes a quick wash, spin and rinse. I do add about 1/2 or 1/3 teaspoon of detergent at this stage. This stage basically removes any remnant solid particles and pee.
- The actual wash cycle I follow and which has worked for me despite no hot water: 30 minutes of wash cycle, 2 or 3 rinses and spin. I use about 1 – 1.5 tablespoons of Rustic Art detergent for a full load of laundry (that’s around 10 – 15 diapers and other baby clothes) Basically, choose the cycle on your machine which runs the longest wash.
- Water level you use is quite important. While the perception may be that a lot of water will clean better, what is more important is if the CDs and other items in the machine are getting a good scrub (against each other) during the wash cycle. This scrubbing action is what helps remove all dirt and grime off the items. Again beautifully described by Fluff Love University.
- If you are handwashing diapers: Please consider machine washing as I have found it to be so effective in cleaning CDs. But if you still must, then
- Soak the diapers in warm soapy water (same quantum of detergent) for 20 – 30 minutes. Avoid longer soaking as it is not needed at all and will only add to degradation of fibres.
- Agitate them well, like really well. This can be done by dipping your hand in the bucket and swishing things vigorously or lifting and dropping the items rapidly. A good 10+ dunks should be good.
- Throw out the soapy water and fill up some clean hot/warm water. Dunk/swish multiple times till the water runs clear of any soapy suds/ bubbles. This could take like 6+ rinses also.
- For stains that refuse to go make a paste of detergent in water and rub onto the stained part. Let it stay on for about 10 minutes and then follow the regular wash routine. You can give it a light scrub if you like, too. Do remember, never soak stained diapers in hot water as it sets stains, rather than removes.
I’ve not bleached or had the need to strip my diapers. The wash routine I’ve followed works well for me and wherever I’ve felt that I have slight issues of repelling or decreased absorbency, 2 to 3 hot water hand washes have helped deal with the problem. I also follow the multiple hot water washes technique before I sell my diapers and using preloved diapers.
Do keep in mind though that if your child is fighting off infections like UTI or yeast, you may need to bleach your diapers before reuse. You can refer to the bible of CD laundry for this here.
Post Wash Care
After one successful year of cloth diapering I can safely say come rain, shine or snow (I wish!) CDing is easy and possible in any weather. Drying cloth diapers is child’s play and all it takes is back to basics:
- Line dry in sun or shade. Sun is highly recommended for getting rid of stains, drying diapers faster and to kill any micro-organisms.
- A combination of sun and shade drying is best, especially if you have a lot of natural fabric diapers (hemp, bamboo, organic cotton) as only sun drying tends to leave these materials crisp and hard. Nothing wrong with that, but the general perception is that only buttery soft stuff next to baby’s skin is to be used.
- Oh but the horror of monsoon! Fear not – make the fan your BFF. Cloth diapers and other clothes dry well under a fan running at high speed. Depending on the type of diaper you use they can take anywhere between a few hours to overnight, to dry. For more details on successfully CDing in the monsoon read one of my first blog posts for Cloth Diaper Shop.
ProTip (geek alert): Hang the diaper such that the weight of the wet diaper is evenly spread out and not causing extra stretch of the elastics. Also avoid PUL being exposed for far too long to the Indian summer sun. Both can damage the diaper beyond repair.
After being very nitpicky about the detergent I use, I have come to relax my rules and say any detergent is safe as long as it does not contain added fragrances (there is no such thing as natural fragrance in any item you buy off a shelf), softeners or brighteners or enzymes.
I would recommend using Rustic Art, it has worked well for me for washing CDs and baby clothes. But I have also used Tide regular and Surf Excel at times, although I do find even regular Surf is pretty strong and harsh on my skin.
I would also highly recommend soapnuts for washing your clothes (baby et al) It is completely natural and leaves clothes ‘oh-so-soft’ It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that I am not adding to water pollution. However it did not clean my natural fabrics such as hemp as thoroughly as the material warranted. Also soapnuts tend to leave a yellowish-creamish tinge on the bright white coloured clothes, redundant on coloured clothes of course.
My learning from CDing babyT for a year now are keep it simple, make sure its effective and be regular with it. Have a particular cloth diaper laundry query? Leave a comment here and I will respond to you asap.