Okay so this is not the most glamorous part of the process but here’s a description of how it goes and some of my hints along the way. Check out my other posts on cloth diapering, Cloth Diapering: Getting Started.
We use Charlie’s Soap exclusively for all of our laundry and cloth diapers. We love their soap. It has absolutely no scent, is all natural, works in high efficiency washing machines, and cleans really well. I could go on and on and maybe I will in another posting. We purchased a 1 gallon to get started and then by the 5 gallon bucket to save money. You use very little soap so it lasts forever. I would say in 16 months we have used maybe 4 or 5 gallons compare that to how many giant tubs of Tide you have lugged home. Okay I will step off my soap box now…
The cleaning can be a little gross but everytime I have my hand in the toilet swishing out a poopy diaper I think to myself “I am saving a thousand dollars.” So here’s how it works. Wet diapers are easy, they just get thrown in the pail. The poopy diapers are a bit more time consuming. There are a few things you can do with them, one is get a pail and put it next to the toilet, the other is put the entire diaper in the toilet. I have done both but usually putting in the toilet is easiest. After you have changed the baby and set them on their merry way you should don a pair of disposable rubber gloves and get to work. Now here comes the hardest part, rinse off the diaper in the toilet, ring it out and throw in the pail. It sounds bad but really it’s not, you’re a mom now nothing can scare you, right? The diaper doesn’t have to be really clean just shake and swirl until the bulk of the poop is off the diaper. Sometimes I just leave the diaper in the toilet until I have time to deal with it, this always freaks out the daddy when he goes to use the bathroom.
Now speaking frankly about poop, if you are breast feeding and your baby is small and so are the stools then just throw it all in the pail. It will come out in the wash. Over some holiday I left a dirty diaper at my mom’s house and she and my dad thought about throwing it away it was so dirty they said. But my mom thought that I might notice a missing diaper so she threw it in the wash and she was amazed at how clean it came. Yep, I later confirmed, I would have been mad if you had thrown out a good diaper.
Once you notice your supply is getting low it’s time to don the gloves again. Throw them all in the washing machine, set it to hot water, and the longest cleaning cycle. You will add one pump of Charlie’s Soap and maybe a 1/4 cup bleach depending on the needs of the load, you really don’t need that much bleach as you will find out. Run a complete cycle then add another pump of Charlie’s Soap without bleach this time and run it again. The second cycle is to wash out the bleach. If you have a really yucky dirty load or you just tossed the diapers in without rinsing in the toilet then do a pre-rinse with no soap. And if your child has sensitive skin then add an extra rinse at the end to make sure nothing is left on the diapers. Most of your diapers will just be a basic two cycle cleaning. Then if you are like me, you will forget about taking them out of the washer and the next day stumble upon them.
I have never had to use a stain pretreatment on my diapers but I have soaked them in some diluted bleach water. This made them kinda yellowish and didn’t help much for the stains. I find the best stain treatment is the sun.
Hanging them to dry is pretty self explanatory. I use wooden pins because they are the cheaper than plastic. Depending on the weather they can be dry in a couple of hours or it might take all day. One little known fact is that breast fed baby poop stains will disappear in the sun. Try it, it works. Actually any poopy stain will fade in the sun but breast fed poopy spots just disappear.
I wash about 2 to 3 times a week. Less as the baby gets older and he doesn’t have as many wet diapers.