This post will address some more common questions about cloth diapering.
What do I do when they’re dirty? I use a large Planet Wise wet bag as a hanging pail. Others use a kitchen trash can with flip lid and line it with a PUL pail liner. When your Grandma cloth diapered, she may have used a wet pail with water or vinegar in it, but that’s not necessary, not safe around little ones, and really, not great for the diapers. If you wash daily or every other day, you shouldn’t have much issue with smell, but there’s no shortage of pail powders and things on the market if you need them.
Breastfed baby poop is water soluble, so just toss it in the wash on wash day. When BMs are more solid, just flip them into the potty and flush. That in-between peanut butter consistency is tougher. Some people dunk and swish them in the toilet, some scrape them in the toilet with a dedicated “tool” like a plastic knife and some people use purchased or homemade diaper sprayers. I’ve coveted a diaper sprayer, but I’ve gotten along fine without one, and I’ve never dunked a diaper!
How do you wash them? Washing cloth is simple. People have tons of washing routines and additives, but I’ve found that the simpler I keep it, the better off I am. I do a cold wash if there are dirties, then a hot wash.
I’ll occasionally do an extra rinse and I’ve found that about once a month I need to use some RLR (a laundry treatment that lifts mineral deposits and residue from laundry and it’s kind of the unofficial “diaper stripping” product) followed by some extra rinses.
The biggest problem I had was with microfiber “stinkies” especially in my Bumgenius. When I notice it, I wash the inserts separately with a dab of bleach and extra rinses.
Your wash routine is something you really have to work out based on your water type, washer type, how many diapers you wash at a time, what you’re washing and so forth.
I either hang my diapers dry or, dry the inserts on high, then toss the diapers in on medium for 30 minutes or so. I make sure they are completely cool before I stuff them, so I’m not stretching hot elastic!
What detergent do I use? This is the last thing that stopped me from putting my son in cloth at the beginning. There are several “Cloth diaper safe detergent” charts out there that rate detergents based on whether or not they contain things like enzymes, fragrance, optical brighteners, whiteners, fabric softeners and dyes. “Safe” detergents can be expensive and hard to find.
Different manufacturers have different opinions on detergent, and different requirements for detergent use under their warranty period. If you have brand new diapers under warranty, make sure you carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Right now, I am using soap nuts and they’re working great, but I’ve used many other detergents of varying pricing and with varying ingredients.
I’m no expert and again, please follow manufacturer instructions, but here’s my opinion: if all that’s keeping you from cloth diapering is detergent, just use whatever you have/can get. Use a tiny, tiny fraction of the amount (like ¼ of the smallest recommended load size or less.) Rinse until you don’t see any bubbles, and if you keep seeing bubbles after a rinse or two, use even less. If you have any issues with rash, repelling or stink, strip the diapers in RLR and try again. Even when you think you’ve found a detergent that works, don’t stock up like I did, because it might not work forever! Some people find that keeping two detergents on hand (that both work well for them) and alternating, keeps things running smoothly.
Can I use diaper cream? Before we switched to cloth, we were using thick layer of diaper cream at every change. Since switching, we very rarely have any redness. You don’t want to use traditional diaper creams with cloth diapers since they can stain them and/or cause repelling. (You can use traditional diaper creams if you need to, by using a fleece liner inside the diaper.)
There are several “cloth safe” diaper creams out there; my favorites are Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm and Grandma El’s. My son gets a little red after a dirty diaper and a thin layer of either of these has him good as new by the next change. You can apply either of them at every diaper change to provide a barrier as well. I have heard of people using olive oil and similar but I don’t have any experience with this.
Even cloth safe diaper cream can cause buildup if you glop it on, so use sparingly.
Wipes/Solutions It was a pain to use disposable wipes with cloth diapers. With a cloth wipe, you can just stick the wipe inside the diaper instead of having to pick the wipe out and throw it away. You can use just about anything as a cloth wipe; I started out using cut up burp cloths. There are lots of soft, squishy cloth wipes available too.
You can use water or any number of dissolvable solution cubes, pre-made solutions or homemade solutions on your wipes. Use them in a spray bottle, pour over wipes in a container or wipes warmer, or store the solution in a peri-bottle to squirt on the wipes. I’ve even heard of people warming the solution and storing it in a thermos.
Cost You can spend a little on cloth if you buy used and use prefolds and covers, or you can spend a lot if you buy new, brand name diapers made with luxurious materials. Just be aware that cloth diapering is addictive and even if you have a nice stash, you will want more! You have to look at the big picture and realize how quickly you will recoup the cost of cloth.
But what about the cost to wash? I have an HE washer and well water, so I don’t pay for water, and my water heater is heating very little for the diapers. I did not notice an increase in my electric bill when I started cloth diapering. I probably do less laundry now, even with the diapers, since I had constant blowouts with sposies, forcing me to change my son’s outfit multiple times throughout the day.
Fluffy Butts I have heard some people say they have to buy a bigger size pants to contain that fluffy butt. I don’t. I buy pants for length and they work just fine with cloth, though it is a fluffy booty!
Have I missed anything? What other questions do you have about cloth diapers?