Friday, August 17, 2012

My New Cloth Diaper Ritual

A LOT has changed about my cloth diaper care routine since I wrote my original post about the subject.  Though some of it is still good advice, I don't even follow all of my own tips anymore! Sooooo.... I thought I would do another then and now comparison in order to highlight the changes I've made, explain why, and hopefully help some other cloth diaper users in the process. Text will be blue for "then" and red for "now".

How I use them:
Cloth diapers are great!  I think they are stinking cute, too!
When I decided to try cloth diapers, I knew that I wanted something that would just velcro on rather than having to be folded and pinned, then covered with rubber pants.  I no longer use velcro diapers for 3 reasons- the company I get them from only makes special or bulk orders of velcro diapers, velcro is much easier than snaps for a toddler to unhook, and velcro will wear out faster than snaps.  My first step in my cloth diaper journey was picking them out.  After lots of research, I decided that I wanted to use pocket diapers.  Yup... I still love pockets.  The versatility is unmatched, in my opinion, and they are simple and fast for daycares and grandparents to use.  I got 36 of them so that I wouldn't have to do wash every other day!  Getting many diapers was truly a mistake!  Diapers really should be washed every 2-3 days in order to limit bacterial growth.  I only have 32 diapers now for 2 kids and I still have enough to get me through wash day without running out!  

Pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer (not rubber pants, but a shell with elastic and velcro or snaps) with a slot at the back of the waistline that is stuffed with some sort of insert.  The fabrics used on the outer shells and inserts vary from diaper to diaper and you need to weigh the benefits of each when choosing.  My pocket diapers consist of a fleece lined PUL outer.  I still have some diapers with this fabric combination, but I also have diaper combinations with suedecloth inners and Minky outers.  The PUL or laminated Minky makes the diaper waterproof and the fleece or suedecloth pulls moisture away from baby's bottom.  Also, poop tends to roll off of fleece and suedecloth a bit better than some other materials.  For my inserts, I use 3 layer microfibers.  Microfiber has a great level of absorbency and really keeps baby feeling dry.  When Brennan, my baby boy, was younger I would just put two microfiber inserts in his diaper and that would keep him dry all night.  Now, even that isn't enough, but one still works great in the daytime.  Two microfibers is enough to keep Bryleigh dry all night, but they are really saturated by morning.  I guess I have two pee machines.  Microfiber does have a downside.  It tends to cling on to stains and smells more than most other materials.  I seem to have the problem with smells figured out, but my inserts do still have some stains.  I may have had the smell problem mostly fixed, but I didn't realize that I was damaging my covers with each and every wash.  More details on that coming...

I chose to make my own cloth wipes to accompany my diapers.  I care for them the same way that I care for my diapers, which is outlined in the next paragraph.  Wipes are extremely easy to make and work better than purchased disposable wipes.  Still in love with my cloth wipes.  I've made several sets, because they do wear out with repeated washing, but they are fast and cheap to make.  I cut both flannel and terry cloth into 5 x 7 in rectangles (The size is really not picky.  You can make them to fit in your storage container.).  I normally make them about 4x6 now.  I place one flannel rectangle on top of one terry cloth rectangle and sew an X across them diagonally from corner to corner.  Then I serge around the edges.  I then store all of my wipes, pre-moistened with only water, in a wipe warmer.

One of the cutest ones I made makes for a cute butt!
I care for my cloth diapers and wipes in a way that works well for me.  I know a lot of people do it differently, but this is my plan of action.  (Note: Always follow the instructions from your diaper manufacturer!)  After a diaper change we head to the bathroom to take care of the dirty diaper.  If we are not at home and cleaning the dirty diaper isn't convenient, the diaper gets wrapped up and thrown into a Ziploc bag.  I have a wetbag that I use most of the time now.  It holds several diapers and is washable, just like the diapers it holds.  We just take care of them as soon as possible.  If the diaper is only a pee diaper, we separate the insert and the outer, rinse both, give them a gentle wring, and toss them into the empty diaper pail.  I don't put any water, baking soda, tea tree oil, etc. in my pail- it's just empty.  If the diaper is a poop diaper, we pull the insert out and rinse, wring, and toss into the pail and use our diaper sprayer to spray the poop off of the outer and into the toilet.  We get it so all of the little pieces are cleaned off and it looks pretty darn clean, then wring it and throw it in the pail.
  Here is one of the biggest changes I've made and it only happened yesterday!  I just started using Bac-Out by BioKleen to control the stinkies.  I got a bottle of the foaming spray and sprayed down each insert and inside of each diaper.  I started my wash load with a presoak, then continued with a normal wash and an extra rinse.  Since it was nighttime, I used the dryer to dry them. They came out of the diaper smelling SO much better!  With continued use, I think they will only get better.  In related news, I've found a recipe for DIY Bac-Out that I plan to make soon.  I'll give you more details and my opinion of it soon!

The diaper sprayer is a Godsend.  All it is is one of those sink sprayers that attach to the plumbing behind your toilet.  It makes cleaning a poop diaper a lot less messy and you don't have to dunk or soak the diapers in the toilet so less mess gets on your hands.  I can't recommend any specific brands because we made our own with plumbing parts from the hardware store, but there are several brands out there.

The pail I use is not a typical diaper pail- it's better!  I use a dog food storage container with a rubber gasket seal around the lid.  It works great!  It keeps all the diaper smells inside when it is sealed, so you can keep it right in your bathroom without the stink.  Honestly, I leave the cover open quite often because my diapers don't stink much anyway!  Most also come with caster wheels that can be attached to the bottom so that if you have your washing machine on the same floor, you don't have to pick up the heavy pail and lug it to the washer.  You can push it instead!  I wish!!!

When I'm running low on diapers (every 4 days or so (every 2-3 days)) I carry my bucket down to the basement where my washer is.  Unfortunately, my washer is not on the main floor, so I can't take advantage of those caster wheels.  I load all of the dirty diapers and wipes into the washing machine.  I use a front loader, so it is very important not to overload it.  Most of the time I start with a pre-soak.  I wash my diapers on the heavy soil cycle with warm water and a cold rinse.  I also run an extra rinse. Woah... So now I don't do a presoak very often (but I'll probably start once I make my own Bac-Out).  I wash with cold water on normal soil and only use an extra rinse if I'm switching up my detergent.  I then dry on the clothesline if at all possible because of all of the benefits, but if I can't do that because of weather or time restraints, I machine dry them on low.  As far as water temperature goes- be sure to follow the manufacturer instructions.  If you can, washing on warm or hot is helpful.  My current cloth diapers, AlvaBaby, need to be washed in water temps below 95 degrees.

Detergent is one of the most important things to pay attention to with cloth diapers.  You should NEVER EVER use any sort of softener on your diapers, including dryer sheets! Also, don't use any sort of oil based diaper cream as it builds up and hurts absorbency.  For each load of my diaper wash, I use one scoop of Charlie's Soap Powder, one scoop of Sun Oxygen Cleaner, and a tablespoon or so of baking soda.  I guess I really don't have a favorite detergent anymore.  The Charlie's Soap seems to clean fine and not leave residue, so it is a good choice.  The number one thing is to avoid any softener and bleach, and it is also a good idea to avoid unnecessary ingredients like chemicals and brighteners.  Many cloth diapering families also like to avoid enzymes, but I truthfully believe that it is a good idea to either use an enzyme spray or detergent with enzymes, especially if you use microfiber inserts, and just make sure to rinse the diapers very well to avoid skin irritation.  I use the Sun Oxygen cleaner about half the time to help keep stains at bay, and I quit using the baking soda all together.  I add all of these things at the beginning of the wash cycle, right in with the diapers.  I also place about 3 tablespoons of vinegar in the softener dispenser of my washer.  This was a big mistake!  Vinegar is fine and helpful to use on the microfiber, but it degrades the PUL!  I learned this the very hard way.  I no longer have any of my original cloth diapers because they all began leaking terribly right through the PUL.  This helps to fight the ammonia smell that you'll sometimes begin to smell on your diapers after extended use, such as in the morning.  It does help fight the ammonia smell, but PLEASE only use it on inserts if you choose to use this tip.

Diapers drying on my line.

After the cycle is done, I always check to make sure there are no suds left.  If there are suds, you need to run another rinse.  If there aren't suds, you are ready to dry your diapers.  My favorite way to dry diapers is outside on the line!  Not only does this extend their life by not running them through the dryer, but it also saves energy and helps to bleach out poop stains and kill bacteria!  You can't use bleach on microfiber because it wrecks the absorbency, however you can hang microfiber inserts in the sun.  You'll be surprised how well the sun takes out stains, especially ones that haven't set.  If you choose you can dry your diapers in a dryer instead of hanging them out to dry.  If you choose to do this, dry them on low or medium to extend their life.

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