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Diaper Care

General Care and Washing Instructions

Caring for cloth diapers is usually as simple as doing a couple extra loads of laundry a week. We recommend you start with a simple routine, then if you have problems, start trying variations. Your water, detergent, washing machine, and climate can make a difference in what works.
NOTE: These instructions apply to everything except wool. Istructions for washing wool are at the bottom of this page. Here is the basic routine:
  • Wash no less frequently than every 4 days.   A 2 - 3 day wash cycle is best.
  • Store wet and soiled diapers directly into a dry diaper pail until wash day. (We do not recommend wet pails.) Some people choose to line their pail with a pail liner. If you are past the exclusively breastfed stage, shake off any solids into the toilet, or rinse with a mini-shower
  • On wash day load all your cloth diapers, cover, wet bags, and pail liner together in the washer.
  • Start with a warm pre-rinse cycle.  You may use a cold pre-rinse, but warm is better.  Do not put detergent in this cycle.  This cycle is to flush as much debris out as will come out.
  • Follow with a hot wash cycle. Our recommendation is to make this cycle as hot as possible, as long as possible, and as vigorous as possible.  However, different diaper manufacturers have slightly differing care recommendations.  Check your manufacturer's care instructions to ensure that you do not void your warranty.
  • Lastly, do two rinse cycles.  The second rinse ensures that all the detergent gets rinsed out.  When first settling in to a wash routine check the second rinse water.  If you can see suds in this water you are probably using too much detergentin the wash cycle, next time cut back.
  • Put everything (diapers, covers, wet bags, liners, wipes, inserts*, doublers, pockets, all-in-ones) in the dryer for 60-80 minutes. You may wish to run a shorter dryer cycle, remove wet bags, covers, and pocket diapers (since they'll dry quickly) and then continue to dry everything else longer. Alternatively, hang everything outside for fresh air and sunshine!
    *NOTE: Microfiber inserts will stay absorbent longer if line dried or dried on low.

Choosing a Detergent

The only thing less convenient about using cloth diapers today as compared to 20 years ago, is that detergents all have so much *stuff* added to them that doesn't react well with diapers. I personally love Charlie's Soap, but you can use what you like as long as you look at the ingredients. You want the simplest detergent possible, which happily is often the cheapest.

Ingredients to avoid:

  • optical brighteners
  • fabric softeners
  • bleaches, including color safe
  • enzymes
  • fragrances
  • dyes

Specific Brand Care Instructions

Click on these links for instructions specific to these products:

DOs and DON'Ts

DO fasten hook/loop closures onto fold back tabs to prevent diapers from getting stuck together into a "diaper chain". Diapers and covers that do not have fold back tabs should be turned inside out and fastened closed.

DO use the highest water level available in your machine to help rinse diapers completely.

DO unfold/unstuff diapers before placing in the washer to allow complete cleaning.

DO smell your diapers after washing. If they smell stinky or smell like detergent, do another hot rinse to get all the detergent out.

DON'T use bleach or fabric softener on any diapering products. Beware that "baby" detergents and "free & clear" or "natural" detergents can contain oils that leave a coating and affect absorbency.

DON'T use natural soaps, as the natural oils can leave a residue on microfleece causing it to repel liquid.

DON'T use Desitin or other diaper creams containing zinc oxide, as that is very difficult to wash out of diapers. You can use our Angel Baby Bottom Balm safely with cloth diapers, or if you need to use stronger medicated creams, use a flushable liner.

Washing New Diapers

All new diapers need to be washed before use. Everything (except hemp and prefolds) only needs to be washed once.

Brand new prefolds will be flat and stiff, not soft and quilted as you might expect. Don't worry, they will soften up! Bleached prefolds need to be washed in hot and dried on high 2-3 times before use. Unbleached prefolds need to be washed 4-5 times to remove the natural oils and waxes in the cotton. Or you may boil unbleached prefolds to remove the oils and waxes.

Hemp products will be ready to use after one wash, but they will continue to become more absorbent through the first 8-10 washes. They also may shrink about 10%.

We recommend that the first few times you wash hemp products or unbleached prefolds, you do not wash them together with microfleece products (like liners or pocket diapers). The natural oils in the hemp and cotton may stick to microfleece and cause it to repel moisture, which will cause leaks.

Care of Wool

You will need to re-lanolize your wool every third washing or so. After washing with a mild soap in lukewarm water, melt about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of lanolin per cover (out of a tube like Lansinoh) in some hot water. Add the melted lanolin to a basin full of warm water, then add your covers. Let your covers soak for at least 30 minutes, then roll in a towel and hang to dry.

NOTE: We recommend using lanolin or lanolin soap in a basin, then emptying the water outdoors. Over time, lanolin used in a sink can create a wax build up in your pipes.

Stains and Odors

For diaper pail odor, try deoderizers, or simply sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the pail.

Some people don't mind stains, as these are diapers, but if you don't like stains you can avoid them with the help of the sun! Just check your diapers for stains as you take them out of the washer.  Take any stained diapers outside and hang in the sun (this works even on cloudy days and in the winter). Usually the stain is gone in just an hour or two, then throw it in the dryer with the rest of the clean diapers to fluff it up.

Ammonia smell is a common problem with cloth diapers. (Urine gradually turns into ammonia as it sits.) The first thing to do is to check the ingredients in your detergentand possibly switch brands. You can also try BumGenius Odor Remover Spray.

If you still have ammonia smell after trying the above, try stripping your diapers. This simply means running several hot wash cycles in a row without detergent, until the water is free of suds. Then dry as usual.

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