The first thing you need to figure out is what type of water you have. Kelly’s Closet sells a water test strip for under a dollar, and you can find kits at any home improvement store. You simply run the strip under your water for a few seconds and compare the color to the enclosed chart. Knowing what type of water you have aids you in determining how much detergent you will need and if you will need any additives to soften your water. If you water is hard, you most likely will want to add Calgon (a water softener available in the laundry aisle) and use slightly more detergent than directed. If it is soft, you will want to use slightly less detergent.
The next step in calculating your perfect wash routine is to figure out your washing machine. I have washed diapers in both a traditional top load machine and a HE top load with no agitator. Both properly cleaned my diapers, but I had different routines with both. With a fancier HE machine with more options, you will have to play around with the different wash cycles to find out which works best for washing diapers.
To properly wash cloth diapers, you want to first run a rinse cycle with no detergent (having sprayed off any solids beforehand). This gets some of the “yuckies” out of the diapers before they are actually being washed. My traditional washer didn’t’ have an option for just a rinse cycle, so I simply turned the dial to the rinse part of the wash cycle and started the machine. It would fill up, agitate for a few minutes and then spin and drain. My HE machine has a rinse and spin cycle, but I actually prefer doing a “quick wash” in warm water since I can’t select the temperature for the rinse and spin cycle. Doing the initial rinse in cold is fine, I have just found that I get less stains pre-rinsing in warm.
After the diapers are rinsed, you will want to run the longest wash cycle in hot water with the appropriate amount of detergent (and Calgon if you have hard water). In the traditional machine, I simply choose the longest cycle on the normal wash setting in hot water. I normally would use the “medium” load setting. You want enough water to cover your diapers, but don’t want too much that the diapers are floating and not able to agitate against one another. Most HE machines don’t allow you to select the load size, so you will have to try out the different settings to see which one gives you the right amount of water. The rule of thumb when washing diapers is to have them look like a stew in the machine and not a soup.
Determining the amount of detergent to use depends on what type of water you have and how many diapers you are washing. You may have to increase the amount if you have hard water or decrease if you have soft. Many will argue that only using a few tablespoons of detergent will never clean diapers, but I haven’t had any issues in the 14 months that I’ve been washing diapers.
After your wash cycle is complete, you will need to run one additional rinse to insure all of detergent has rinsed out. My HE has an option for an extra rinse. In the traditional machine, I just did the same as the initial rinse.
A few tips I have found out along my way: rinse poopy diapers as soon as possible to help to avoid stains and rinse overnight diapers to help prevent stink buildup. Also, wash every 2-3 days.
All of these factors and steps may seem like a lot, but it really, truly isn’t. There will be some trial and error in the beginning of your cloth diapering journey (I had barnyard stink from not using enough detergent), and it may get stressful (especially if you are trying to figure it out in the first sleepless weeks after bringing home your newborn like I did), but it is worth it in the end! Once you figure out your routine, you will wonder why everyone doesn’t cloth diaper.
I will share my wash routine, but remember, there are many different factors that affect everyone’s washing routine differently. I have a Samsung HE top load machine with no agitator and a glass lid (so I can check on the diapers). I have slightly hard city water. I wash Monday, Wednesday and Friday, usually consisting of 14-18 diapers (pockets and inserts) and cloth wipes. Monday’s there are a few more.
- Run a quick wash, warm water, no detergent (37 mins)
- Run a wash cycle on the “deep clean” setting, hot water, prewash and extra rinse option with 2 ½-3 ½ T Rockin Green Hard Rock plus 2 T Calgon (1:47)
Bio: Jamie is a SAHM to her 14 month old daughter (and a boy due in September) a Marine wife, and a knitter/crocheter in her free time.
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