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How to Sanitize Cloth Diapers in the Wash

October 28, 2019

You’ve probably heard this before but diapers can be expensive. This is especially true if you have a newborn—after all, they’ll be soiling themselves quite frequently. Put it this way, it’s not uncommon for you to have to change up to 10 diapers a day if your baby is under one month old. Multiply that by 30 and that’s 300 diapers per month. Depending on what you buy, that can easily be $100+ a month!

It’s not just a problem of cost either—they also have an environmental impact. Given that most contain plastics, they’ll take hundreds of years to decompose. As you can imagine, this can have a significant burden on the environment. Not to mention the issue of contamination. That’s right, there’s always a possibility that they’ll contaminate the groundwater.

Sure, there are biodegradable diapers that you can get but let’s face it—those are more expensive and not everyone can afford them. Fortunately, however, there’s a cheaper and better alternative. Can you guess what it is? Yup, cloth diapers.

How do Cloth Diapers Work?

Cloth diapers are exactly what they sound like—they’re diapers made from cloth material. Generally speaking, they are two “parts”—an outer shell and a removable insert that you place inside. At the end of the day, however, how you wash them depends on the type that you have. For example, all-in-one cloth diapers are pretty much like disposables—you wash the whole thing when it’s dirty as opposed to just washing and replacing the insert.

how do cloth diapers work

Benefits of Using Cloth Diapers

There are many reasons why people choose to use cloth diapers. The notion of it might seem repelling at first, but the truth is, they are several benefits. Why do you think they’re so popular in the first place? Anyway, let’s take a look at some of them below.

1. They Are Much Cheaper

We mentioned this earlier but disposable diapers are not cheap. Generally speaking, you can expect to spend at least $2000 before your child is potty trained. Obviously, this number would be even higher if you opt for premium options. In contrast, cloth diapers will only set you back a few hundred dollars. There will be a large investment upfront since you have to get all of them at once, but in the long run, you’ll definitely be saving money.

2. They’re Better For the Environment

Did you know that more than 3 million tons of diapers end up in landfills every year? And that’s only in the United States. Why contribute to the problem when you can use something that won’t have an impact on the environment at all?

disposable cloth diapers

Compared to disposable diapers, which quickly end up in the trash, cloth diapers can be used over and over again. All you have to do is wash them with a bit of detergent in your washer. Sure, it requires power and energy but at the end of the day, your environmental footprint will still be much less significant.

3. They Don’t Contain Chemicals

Most disposable diapers contain chemicals. For one thing, many are bleached with Dioxin—a substance that’s been shown to cause birth defects and nerve damage in animal studies. In fact, it’s considered to be a possible carcinogen.

Not only that, but they often contain sodium polyacrylate—a chemical that increases the material’s absorbency. Put it simply, it allows your baby to go for longer periods without needing a diaper change. There are downfalls, though. It’s been linked to asthma, allergic reactions, as well as toxic shock syndrome.

Sure, the chemicals might only be present in small doses but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a risk. Instead of worrying about that, why not use ones made out of cloth? They’re bound not to contain any chemicals.

4. They Come in Various Colors and Designs

Cloth diapers also are cute in that they come in various colors, patterns, and designs. In fact, you can even choose your own fabric if you plan on making your own! It’s easier than you think—you just need a pattern to follow.

Best Washing Instructions for Cloth Diapers

With cloth diapers, you’ll have to do a bit of extra laundry. But for most families, the hassle is worth it. Now, if you search around, you’ll probably find plenty of washing routines—some crazier than others. The truth is, however, you can wash them regularly with the washer—there are just a few extra steps that you have to do.

First things first, though, you want to pick an appropriate detergent. Ideally, you want to go for something gentle without any chemicals. The last thing that you want to do is to expose your baby to harsh substances!

How to Wash & Sanitize Cloth Diapers

washing cloth diapers

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to wash cloth diapers. Here’s one way that you can go about it:

Step 1: Remove Any Solid Waste From the Diaper

The first thing that you want to do after removing the diaper is to get rid of the solid waste. The easiest way to do this is to dump it into the toilet. Once you’ve done that, you can put the diaper in with the rest of the dirty diapers. Similar to clothes, you want to wash a load of them at a time. As a general rule, you don’t want to wash more than 12-18 at a time. Stuff too many in there and they won’t be washed nearly as well.

Step 2: Run the Washer

Once you’ve got your load, dump them into the washing machine. This goes without saying but you always want to wash them separately. Before adding detergent, run a cold water cycle—that will help to get rid of the “gunk” that’s on the diapers. After that, you can add your detergent. Make sure not to use too much as that can actually have the opposite effect when it comes to cleaning the fabric!

The next step is to run a cycle with warm or hot water—the heat will help to kill off any bacteria that might be present on the fabric. Consider selecting an extra rinse if your washer has that option. Never use fabric softener or similar products. Why? They can cause buildup, which is not something that you want.

Step 3: Dry the Diapers

Drying instructions depend on the type of cloth diaper that you have—different fabrics behave differently, after all. For example, some may be able to go into the dryer. Others, you’ll have to air dry on a clothesline. When in doubt, opt for the latter. Never place a diaper into the dryer without first confirming the drying instructions. You never know if it might shrink or get damaged!

Tips for Washing Cloth Diapers

  • Always wash the diapers with hot water—that will ensure that they’re clean and sanitary. It’s fine to do the pre and final rinse with cold water, though
  • Poopy diapers should always be rinsed first before being put in the diaper pail. Don’t want to deal with that? Consider using liners
  • Use the longest hot wash cycle—longer agitation times will allow the detergent to work better

Removing Stains From Cloth Diapers

Chances are, your cloth diapers will develop stains over time. The good news is that they don’t affect the utility of the diapers—they just well, don’t look very good. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can remove them. For example, you can use lemon juice. How it works is that its acidic properties will help to “bleach” the stain out of the cloth. All you have to do is lay it out in the sun afterward. For the best results, cut a lemon and squeeze your own juice. Just remember to wash the diapers again after applying lemon juice!

lemon juice for stains

Another way that you can deal with stains is by using chlorine bleach. Simply add 1/4 cup to the washer when you’re washing the load. Not only will it remove the stain, but it’ll help sanitize the diapers too! Keep in mind, however, that this should only be done in moderation. Bleaching too frequently can cause the cloths to break down prematurely.

Getting the Smell & Odors Out of Cloth Diapers

It’s not uncommon for cloth diapers to start to smell after a while, even if you’re washing them properly. Don’t worry, though—you can get the smell out of them easily.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the best deodorizers that you can use. What you want to do is mix one part baking soda with ten parts water (use hot water for the best results). Once it’s combined, place your cloth diapers in and let it soak for at least one hour—the longer the better. From there, you can remove them and wash them as normal in the washing machine.

Using White Vinegar

Vinegar is fantastic at getting rid of smells—it directly combats the ammonia that’s within the clothing fibers. There are two ways that you can use it: you can either soak the cloth diapers in a vinegar-water solution or add some to your washing machine cycle. The diapers might smell a bit like vinegar afterward but it’ll go away once they’re dry. Or if you want, you can always add an extra rinse cycle.

Using Deodorizing Detergents

There are detergents out there that are formulated specifically for removing odors. Keep in mind, however, that they tend to contain extra chemicals, which you may not want to expose your baby to. For this reason, they should be used as a last resort.

Pre-Washing Cloth Diapers Before the First Wear

It’s a good idea to pre-wash new cloth diapers before putting them on your baby. After all, they might not be as clean as they look! How should you do it? The answer is—it depends on the type of fabric that you’re dealing with:

prewashing cloth diapers

Cloth diapers made from natural fibers such as cotton or bamboo need to be washed a few times prior to being used. Why? They have oils that can hinder the cloth’s absorbency—the goal is to wash them off before using the diaper. The easiest way to do this is to put them in the washing machine.

In contrast, cloth diapers made from synthetic fabrics such as microfiber only need to be washed with detergent once prior to being used. In other words, you can start using them much quicker. While they aren’t as absorbent as cotton or bamboo per se, they tend to soak in urine quicker.

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