Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In Defense of Cloth Diapers - Part 2 - Laundry and Logistics

Continued from yesterday's Part 1. Completed in Part 3.

Here are the basics you’ll need to start cloth diapering (besides those cute diapers!)

1. A method for storing soiled diapers. There are a variety of methods, and I was busy researching my options when my diapers arrived. I hadn’t decided on a system yet, but I was so ready to start using my diapers. I had a standard, 13-gallon, lidded trash can with a foot pedal lifting mechanism out in the garage, so I grabbed that and stuffed a trash bag in it. Surprisingly, that took care of it. I didn’t need to spend a fortune on a fancy system. I am, however, upgrading to a reusable pail liner (I recommend having two so that one can be in the wash and a fresh one in the pail).

2. If you plan to use cloth diapers when you’re out and about, you’ll need a system for storing them. You’ll want to buy a waterproof, zippered wet bag. Target sells one, or you can find a ton of options in cute prints on the internet.

3. A good, cloth diaper friendly, laundry detergent (I’ll address that in a bit), and a laundry system.

That’s all you actually need, although I will go ahead and recommend cloth wipes. Yes, I know – here’s where it sounds like I’ve dropped off the eww cliff. But trust me, it’s a million times easier to throw the wipes and the diapers in the same pail once they’re dirty. And otherwise, you’ll be pulling bits of paper wipes from your diaper’s Velcro tabs after you do laundry because you are guaranteed to accidentally throw at least one wipe in with every cycle. You can use either small wash cloths or bits of soft flannel for the wipes, and keep a spray bottle of wipe solution nearby.


Thanks to Jana and Laura (my cloth diapering mentors), I knew the diapers would need a few laundry cycles before they reached maximum absorbency. I ran the diapers through three wash/dry cycles, and then stuffed each diaper with a single insert. I laid Larkin down, and played with the sizing snaps until I figured out the perfect fit for him. It may sound obvious, but make sure you do this with the insert in. I sized him without it, and snapped about half of my stash before I thought to check the fitting WITH the insert. Yeah, I had to go back and change them from the smallest to the medium setting.


I will admit that cloth diapers involve a bit of maintenance. However, it’s only a hassle in the beginning, when you are working out the kinks through trial and error. This is especially true with the laundry factor, but once you figure out what works best for your schedule, your washing machine, and your water situation (especially the hard water we have here in Texas) – it’s honestly (at least in my opinion!) way less of a hassle than always needing to run to the store for another box of diapers.


Cloth diapers have to be laundered in a specific way in order to maintain absorbency. I won’t go into the million and one methods of laundering cloth diapers, although I will share my routine (which is significantly less complicated than many I’ve seen described).

Once a diaper is used, we pull out the insert, and toss it and the diaper in the pail. I do diaper laundry about every two or three days. This may seem like a lot, but not to most moms out there. I was doing baby laundry every other day anyway; the diapers just create a single extra load for me.

I had done my research, and chosen a detergent that was suitable for cloth diapers and available in my local grocery store. I chose Arm and Hammer Essentials, and used it happily for almost a month. Then my diapers started leaking, and nothing helped. I was ready to give up cloth diapering, when Laura encouraged me to give in and buy the detergent her and Jana had recommended in the first place, Rockin’ Green. Best purchase ever. Seriously. Turns out that the super hard water we have here in Texas can cause a lot of detergent build up. RG was designed by a cloth diapering mom here in Texas, specifically for cloth diapers (although you can use it for all your laundry, of course!) It’s made our laundry routine a breeze, plus it smells AWESOME. And it’s all natural, so you don’t have to worry about it irritating baby’s sensitive skin. Plus, it’s always nice to support a family business like that!

To launder our diapers, we do a quick cycle on cold without detergent, just to wash away the ickies. Now that Larkin has started solids, we use flushable diaper liners to flush away any solid waste before we toss the diapers in the pail (this is rapidly becoming unnecessary as his body adjusts to the solid foods. We’re pretty much at the stage where any solid waste can just be plopped into the toilet). Then I do another cycle with hot water and 2 tbsp of Rockin’ Green, and follow it with a cold rinse. Because I do large loads at a time, I use the highest water level setting. Then I throw it all in the dryer on medium. THAT’S IT. THAT’S HOW COMPLICATED IT IS.

Once they are out of the dryer, Jonathan usually stuffs the inserts. He actually enjoys timing himself, and trying to beat his previous time. He has done our entire set of 30 diapers in about 12 minutes, without much effort. Then we have a stock of diapers ready at the need.

About once every two months, I “rock a soak”. That’s Rockin’ Green’s term for a deep clean process. I just do our usual wash cycle, then once the washer is full on the detergent cycle, I pause the machine and let the diapers soak for about 30 to 60 minutes. This just keeps away any residual buildup, and keeps everything at the ultimate absorbency.

Okay… that covers it. The “scariest” part of cloth diapers – revealed! Not so scary, is it? Tomorrow (hopefully) I will post a review of our Kawaii diapers and the details of the specific diapers we chose. If you have any cloth diapering questions or concerns, ask me in the comments and I will do my best to address them!

As an aside, I wanted to let everyone know that I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies I have or will be talking about on these entries. They simply produce a product that has worked well for me, and I believe in passing on the goodness to other like-minded parents! (However, if you happen to be a representative of any of these companies and would like to send me samples, I would not be opposed to accepting them because you guys rock!)

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