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Friday, 19 July 2013 22:08

Cloth Diapering 101: Part 2 Washing

In Cloth Diapering 101: Part 1 we discussed what you would need to start your cloth diapering journey, the different types of cloth diapers and accessories, and where to purchase them. In part 2, we will discuss tips and tricks for washing your cloth diapers.

Storing Diapers Before Washing

The majority of people I have talked to keep “dry pails,” which is essentially just a wet bag or pail liner that they keep the diapers in before washing. There are also “wet pails” which are buckets of water, or a solution (such as water and borax), which the diapers soak in before going in the washing machine. Be sure to check the manufacturers recommendations, as most pocket diapers should be kept in dry pails.

Taking care of the poop

When my son was eating only breast milk and his poops were the mustard yellow, seedy, liquid kind, I would simply put them in the wet bag and then run an extra rinse cycle before washing. Now that he is on some solid food and his poop is more solid, I rinse his diapers in the toilet before putting in the wet bag. If I had a diaper sprayer, this would be a much easier task. I would simply turn the diaper inside out and spray the poop off into the toilet, then wring the extra water out of the diaper and put in the bag. However, since I do not (yet) have a diaper sprayer, I currently use the “dunk and swirl” method. Turning the diaper inside out, I swish, dunk and swirl it in the toilet until most of the solid pieces comes off into the toilet. I then wring out the excess water and place it in the bag. Gross? Yes. But it works.


Flats, prefolds, AIO/AI2s, covers, and soaker pads aren’t very picky when it comes to washing. Flats can even be washed by hand in the bathtub or sink and hung out to dry. Almost any type of detergent will work for these diapers, though personally I recommend a free & clear type, or even homemade. Pocket diapers must be washed in an “approved” detergent, and should not be used with any fabric softener. It is also recommended to dry on low or line-dry anything with a plastic snap, as the snaps can melt in the dyer. Plus, the sun has wonderful bleaching effects on the inside liner, and air-drying cuts down on your energy bill!

My washing routine goes as follows: cold rinse, hot wash with cloth diaper approved detergent (I use Rockin’ Green or 7th Generation), and a cold rinse. Line dry pockets and covers, machine dry any flats, prefolds, and soaker pads. If for some reason I am hand washing flats, I will let them collect in the tub (or the sink if I’m only washing one or two), rinse with cold water using my hands and/or feet, drain, then run hot water with a dash of detergent. Swish, squash, swirl, etc to get the hot water all through the flat, then do another warm rinse and rinse until the water runs clear with any soap bubbles. Hang to dry. If flats are hung outside to dry on a warm, sunny day, they could be dry in as little as half an hour. As you get started you will gradually develop you own routine as you figure out what works for you and your family.

Homemade Soap Recipe

To make homemade laundry detergent, simply mix 1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda), 1 cup borax, and 1 grated bar of soap, such as Dr. Bonners (or other castile soap), Ivory, ZOTE, or Fels-Naptha. Mix thoroughly and store in an air-tight container. Use 1-2 tbsp per load.

So there you have it, the basics of cloth diapering! You can go as basic or fancy as you like, depending on your budget and needs. Either way you are keeping the toxic chemicals in disposable diapers away from your precious baby, reducing waste, and almost certainly saving money. There are many CD groups on Facebook and the Internet should you need more support, and you might also be able to find a CD exchange, or a buy/sell/trade group where you can buy used diapers that are still in good condition. A word of warning though: once you start cloth diapering, you won’t want to go back!


Published in Baby's First Year

Are you interested in cloth diapering, but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re just curious about it, and want to learn more. Maybe you’re reading this article because you’ve already decided you are not going to be putting poopy diapers in your washing machine, and you’re hoping this article will cement that decision. Whatever the reason, and wherever you are on your personal cloth diaper (CD) journey, here are the basics of cloth diapering.

What You’ll Need To Get Started:

  • 18-25 diapers (plan to wash every 3 days. If you need to go longer between washing, you’ll need more. If you can wash everyday, you won’t need so many). I would recommend trying a variety of different diapers to decide what works best for you and your family before committing to one type. If you can find a diaper swap or a buy/sell/trade group, you may be able to try out several types of used diapers at a discounted price.
  • 20-30 cloth wipes, depending on how often you plan to wash.
  • 4-8 polyurethane laminate (PUL) or wool diaper covers (only if using flats and/or prefolds).
  • 1-2 wet bags or pail liners for dirty diaper storage at home
  • 1-2 wet bags for dirty diaper storage while out and about.
  • Diaper Sprayer
  • 3-5 Snappis or Boingos              

Types of Diapers:

Flats (with covers): Perhaps the cheapest option in the CD world, flats can by any single layer square (ish) piece of absorbent material, which is then folded (there are various types of folds you can use. YouTube is an excellent resource to learn these folds) and used underneath a waterproof cover. They can be purchased from various CD retailers or even at Target or Wal-mart (Gerber brand bird’s eye flats). They can also be made from old t-shirts, flour sack/tea towels, receiving blankets, etc. Your local thrift store is a great place to look for cheap receiving blankets and shirts. Flats can be folded small, large, or in the middle depending on the size of your baby. This means your stash could theoretically last from birth to potty training. Depending on the flats you use and the types of covers you buy, you could purchase your entire stash for less than $80! You could spend that in a month on disposables!!

Prefolds/fitteds (with covers): Prefolds are rectangular, multi-layer pieces of material, also used under a waterproof cover. You can purchase them from various CD retailers, or from Wal-mart or Target (again, Gerber brand prefolds). Prefolds are very easy to use as there is no folding or stuffing required. However, prefolds are not necessarily “one size fits all,” so you may need to purchase different sizes as your baby grows. They average around $20-25/dozen, depending on the size, brand, and type you get. Fitted diapers are absorbent diapers look like a “normal” diaper, but still need to be used with a cover.

Covers: Covers are waterproof outer shells to go over diapers that aren’t waterproof: flats, prefolds, etc. They are usually made from either wool or Polyurethane Laminate fabric

(PUL) and can be purchased from various CD retailers. Cost is between $12-$20 a cover. Since most do not need to be changed with every diaper change, you could survive with as little as 2-4 covers. If you are a handy, DIY type person, you could knit diaper covers out of wool yarn, or make some out of old wool sweaters from the thrift store.

Pocket Diapers: Pocket diapers are a waterproof outer shell (usually PUL) with a moisture wicking inner lining (usually fleece). They are then stuffed with an absorbent pad (usually microfiber, cotton, or hemp). The soaker pad is removed for washing, and then replaced before use. Because of the moisture wicking nature of the inner liner, one must be careful not to use any detergents or creams that might clog the lining. The manufacturer will usually recommend a safe type of detergent to use, and advise against the use of any fabric softener or diaper rash creams (There are some creams that are safe for use on pocket diapers, but usually not A&D or Destin type creams). Pocket diapers look the most like disposables, except they use snaps or Velcro. They typically run anywhere from $10-$40 per diaper, depending on the brand. Some can be adjusted to grow with baby (one size), making them last longer. However, they may not fit on a very small or very large child, depending on the brand. They can also be found in xs, s, m, l, and xl sizes.

AIO/AI2: All in One’s are just that: diaper and soaker pad in one piece. No need for stuffing, removing inserts before washing, etc. They are also very much like disposable diapers in both design and use. They do however take much longer to dry, as it is such a thick piece of material. AI2 are basically the same thing as an AIO, but the inner soaker pad can be removed. Both of these diapers typically run about $20 a diaper.

Other Accessories:

Snappis and Boingos: These are wonderful inventions that take the place of diaper pins on flats and prefolds. They can be purchased for around $3-$5, and while they make life easier, they are certainly not necessary.

Diaper sprayer: This is a tool that hooks up to your toilet and is used to spray poop off the diaper to be flushed away. They are not necessary per se, but unless you are ok with the “dip and swirl” method of rinsing diapers, I highly recommend one. They retail for around $40+ (Some have used a shower head to spray their diapers, but personally I have not found this to be an effective method).

Wet bag/pail liner: A wet bag is a waterproof bag that keeps wetness and stink inside, and not out. The usually have a zipper closure and some sort of strap for hanging. Pail liners are similar, though they may not have a zipper. These can be tossed in the wash with your diapers and retail between $12-$30+.

Cloth wipes: These can be purchased or you can make your own out of towels, blankets, old pajamas, old wash cloths etc. They are very practical as they can just be tossed in with your diapers. They also save money, and are much better for your baby (disposable wipes contain a number of toxic chemicals). Price depends on what type of wipes you decide to use. You can also buy or make your own wipe solution using water, coconut oil, and baby soap.

Where to Buy/Sources:

See part 2 for care and washing tips!

Published in Baby's First Year

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