I am a woman of the cloth…cloth diaper that is. My love affair with cloth diapers runs so deep it is almost a religious experience. No, I am not the Holy Grail of cloth diaper knowledge. I am not even a Mama of multiple children yet. I am just a girl who is deeply committed to cloth diapering her baby’s bum, and I am happy to share my tips, tricks and wipe outs, err, blowouts, along the way. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out; there is always poo to humble you…
From my diapering experience, which isn’t much, the leaks Sweet Baby and I have experienced were from a fit issue around the legs. I just didn’t know it at the time. Sweet Baby eventually gets fatter and the diaper eventually fits better. My skinny little cub had to plump up a bit for the pocket diapers to fit her properly. In the mean time we went through a whole host of explorations to arrive at that deduction. A key feature that most good diapers possess, or ones that work well for our family, are ones with leg gussets. Otherwise known as ruffley little poo catchers or pee sponges, those leg gussets are there for a reason. Appreciate them and use them wisely, my friends. And if you’re lucky enough to have a stash gifted to you like I was and the diapers are on their third stinky butt, check those leg gussets often because with heavy usage and with age they will in fact, gusset no more. I had to learn the hard way.
From what I have been told, disposables leak too? It is perhaps, if not the rite of passage for any parent; the creative ways you cleverly disguise bodily fluids of any nature. I eventually developed a system in which I evaluate the DNA sample on display by type, size, and smell. I then: decide to do nothing, get a rag and wipe it up, or rub it in. This is sort of how I eventually came to feel about my cloth diaper leaks. They were small, not a big deal, and were going to be changed shortly anyway because in newborn babyland, outfits are selected by the hour, not the day. So, unless we are talking about ruin-the-sofa size leaks, I decided I had better things to do than care.
Repelling is actually something other than an outdoor activity! Oh, the shock and the horror… Repelling is a nasty little issue that can arise with improper washing and detergent buildup. Repelling is not mutually exclusive to cloth diapers. It occurs in the clothes we wear too, but we just don’t notice it because we aren’t asking the clothes we wear to hold water. How to deduce if whether or not you have a repelling problem is simple. Take your eye dropper, preferably not the one you use to administer Sweet Baby’s cod liver oil with, but a clean one in fact. If you don’t have one in your baby-rearing arsenal I think if you were slick you could achieve the same results with a straw that you meter with your finger placed on the end of it, (like a kid does with their soda) or maybe even by dripping water down a chopstick. What you are going for is water droplets. Drop a few drops onto your diaper and hopefully they will eventually absorb. By eventually I mean like sometime before you get bored rolling the droplets around. If they don’t absorb before you bore, then it might be time to strip…
First, get your mind out of the gutter. I caught you there, eh?
Stripping is something you can do to a cloth diaper to remove excess build up, in turn making your diaper more absorbent. Some strip bi-annually, some annually, and some never. When diapers are washed properly stripping is a rare occurrence. If stripping is needed the best way I have found is to soak your stash in a rubbermaid tote with warm water, a bit of bleach and a generous helping of blue dawn. Agitate each diaper before rinsing. The “agitate” step is in fact exactly that, (agitating!), but I have found without it the strip isn’t as effective and I ended up doing it over. Blech. Why the rubbermaid tote? Because I had one around and it was a great water-saving tool and was just the right size, and I felt like I didn’t have to scrub out my bathtub before or after the process. Ha! Mama, for the win!
To me, the very most important part of the strip is rinsing. I rinsed in the bin a few (hundred) times and then ran seriously probably 8 cycles in my HE front loader because the thing is yes, very efficient, but is downright cheap with the water. When washing cloth diapers, don’t skimp on the water. You need an adequate rinse to remove the detergent because detergent mixed with pee = sad baby. Sad baby = sad Mama. You get the gist.
There are two camps: The wet pail and the dry pail. I store Sweet Baby’s dirties in a dry pail. It’s actually a plastic trash bin with a lid. Emphasis on “lid.” I use a dry pail first for safety. My cub is nearly mobile, a.k.a. “on the prowl” and it’s my first priority to keep her safe. Second, the wet pail, (where you soak the dirties in water until wash day) can actually break down your polyurethane laminate (PUL). To extend the life of your diapers toss them in a dry pail and forgettaboutit. I say this now that Sweet Baby is exclusively breastfed and breast milk poo is water soluble. I have a diaper sprayer installed on my toilet for when the solids come. That’s food and poo.
I sewed a simple wet bag from PUL from my local craft store and I have 2. I keep a spare for wash day. I toss the dirty one into the wash with the diapers.
There’s a rumor going around that cloth diapers need to be washed 4-5 times between each wear. That is absolutely not true…well at least for Sweet Baby and I. (And don’t let her name fool you, her poo is anything but sweet).
I have a Samsung HE front loader, and after MUCH trial and error, this is the method that works for me:
- Dump diapers from wetbag into washer. Get (hopefully dirty) bath towel, roll up, and saturate with water. Use the wetbag to transfer the soaking wet towel from sink to washer. (To trick washer into giving more water for the load)
- Wash on cold/cold, a regular cycle, with an extra rinse, and no spin. NO DETERGENT. (Basically a cold “soak”)
- Wash on hot/cold, with and extra rinse, no spin, with detergent.
- Rinse and spin.
- Tumble dry low.
Takes 2 hours, 30 minutes to wash, (if I remember to follow up) and 30 minutes to dry.
I use Country Save detergent in the powder form. It’s dirt cheap, I buy it in bulk at my local co-op. There are many options for great detergents, but it is important not to use any detergent with brighteners, whiteners, bleach, fabric softeners or scents. They will again, break down the PUL in the diaper covers, not to mention you don’t want that crap anywhere near your sweet baby. So, that pretty much leaves natural detergents, which we were using anyway so it wasn’t an ordeal.
I have seen a lot of charts online about which types of detergents are good and suggestions for different wash methods by which unit you have. This one from the folks at Rock’n Green have been compiling a list from their customers that you may find helpful. I’d like to point out that I am in no way endorsing or am affiliated with this product. I just share helpful info when I see it. The beauty of the information age.
I wash every other day or every two days, and I don’t even notice the ‘chore’ anymore. The worst part for me is the wet towel ‘cuz I’m lazy/tired/ornery sometimes.
Waiting any longer than a few days at most, I fear a mold issue. I have a huge stash so I’m tempted to go longer, but I have seen mold before and ended up tossing a few diapers, so it’s best to avoid it. Pee is usually o.k. but the breast fed poo was what did it. If you were traveling and weren’t going to be able to wash for a few, then a rinse would probably help quite a bit. I recently did a 3 day trip to the eastern part of the state and Sweet Baby’s dirties did fine. (So did Sweet Baby!)
Stains and tough jobs:
There is an enzymatic cleaner by biokleen made from lime and other non-scary stuff that I really like for stains. It’s called Bac-Out and it is like a natural Spray and Wash. It smells great and does the trick. I think it will be most helpful when Sweet Baby starts solids and who-knows-what will turn up in her diapers. For tough stains, grandma was right, and the only thing that removes them is sunshine! So once it’s back, they will all go out on the line and be good as new. For now… I just deal with it. As long as they don’t smell like poo, pee or detergent, we’re good! Because after all, I am asking my baby to poo in the diaper, not eat off it.
Cloth wipes are a “no-brainer” if you’re already doing CD. I cut and surged old flannel to make wipes. You could hem too if you don’t happen to have a Mother-In-Law with a surger. Another option would be get a screaming deal on a big pack of baby wash cloths and use those. They are great to have handy for any type of baby clean up, face hands, bottom… whole body. They go right into the diaper pail and wash up great.
I make a solution to wet them with:
4 cups boiled water (in my electric teapot)
2T olive oil
2T Castile soap (Dr. Bronners Unscented)
5-7 drops lavender or tea tree (or both) essential oil (optional)
It all fits in a quart mason jar. I use it because it can withstand the boiling water. Alternatively, you could wait till the water has cooled and then mix it up.
Or, buy distilled water.
Or say “F it” (as in forgettaboutit) and use tap water.
I then store it all in and old dish soap container and store my clean dry wipes in a mixing bowl in the cub’s room. I squirt the solution and “mix.” You want the wipes damp, not sopping. In my exhaustive, crazy, pregnant, first-time Mom research, Prince Lionheart wipe warmer is the only one that warms cloth wipes.
In my market research, (a.k.a. my SIL, who is also a first-timer), that theory has been confirmed. She has some random warmer off her registry and it’s not warming her wipes properly.
How do I possibly manage to go out into the world with a cloth diaper? So easy my friends. You guessed it…another wet bag! I have a wet bag for the dirties and a wet bag for the pre-moistened wipes. I’m not always on top of grabbing pre-mades, so in my diaper bag I have a squirt bottle filled with butt-wipe solution, and a handful of dry wipes.
You could very easily sew your own diaper bag wet bag. Again, it’s PUL with a drawstring at the top.
“Diaper types” really is a whole other tutorial. All-in-Ones, All-in-Twos, pocket diapers, prefolds, wool soakers, longies and shorties, swim diapers, snappis, hemp inserts, microfiber inserts, flats, fleece and contours…OH MY! It’s definitely not yo-mama’s cloth diapering world anymore. However, I can’t resist sharing this aweome pocket diaper with you. They are called Sun Baby diapers and are a pocket style diaper. Again, I am not affiliated with nor am I compensated for, (a girl can wish), sharing this diaper with you. I just REALLY love them and I don’t see them mentioned much and the price it totally right. Check out the site yourself and though the diapers are made in China, they are made without child labor and the owner of the company oversees the whole operation HERSELF. It’s one of the best deals around for a quality diaper, but you have to buy a dozen at time. Whomever needs less than a dozen at a time is beyond my comprehension anyway.
I digress, but that is one of the things I treasure about cloth diapering is never worrying about how often I am changing Sweet Baby. I have nothing to compare it to, but I think if I were in disposables I might feel pressured to make her stay in her diaper a little longer to get my money’s worth. Not because I am evil but because I am not rich. Even at the slightest hint of pee I can change her and not worry about how many diapers I am going through in a day, because it doesn’t matter. Let’s be honest here: the more money I spend on my child, the more I have to be away from her working. No one wants to work for poo.
You can’t use Desitin and that other stuff on CD bums. Sometimes if the baby has a bad rash the Mama uses sposies for a few days until it clears.If you need diaper rash cream you should use sposies because the Desitin doesn’t wash out and ruins your stash in a hurry. I use coconut oil for maintenance. A light layer rubbed in on her bum at (nearly) every change. I also have some amazing salve I made that is super healing that I also use for maintenance or for healing. Sweet Baby has only had a teensy bit of rash 2 times and I think it’s from me eating too many tomatoes, not from the diaper. She is most often in her diaper from bedtime, between 7 and 9pm until she fully wakes, between 8:30-10am. I stuff the pocket diaper with two inserts stacked on top of each other (think a pancake stack) for nighttime. Her bum does well with this. At any sign of anything less than spectacular, I will let her play without a diaper on (the best medicine), or put her in my wool setup, (the most breathable).
Coconut oil is amazing, and if you’re not familiar, has many uses. It is anti fungal, bacterial and viral! It comes as a solid-ish form in a jar. I just keep it on the changing table.
A Note on Newborns:
When she was first born we used sposies until her umbilical stump fell off. You need to keep it unobstructed and that’s easiest to do by folding down the disposables. We then had a set up different from the pocket diapers where we used newborn sized prefolds (Indian unbleached cotton, not Chinese), and used a snappi and a newborn sized cover. It was for a short period of time until she got enough bulk on her to fit into the pocket diapers. Also, when the baby is very first born, and you are putting on the first diaper, slather the bum up really well with olive oil! It prevents the meconium from sticking… You can thank me later 😉 Do the olive oil all through the meconium poo and apply liberally!
Like I said before, I am not an expert, just an aficionado. I love to chat about cloth diapering like some like to chat about sports. It’s just harder to start my ideal conversations when out in public, so how about we chat about it here…
Are you a woman (or man) of the cloth? Ask your questions and post you comments below!
**This post was shared with: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Sunny Simple Sundays, Empowered Living Social, Wildcrafting Wednesday
Every detail covered. Talk about an exhaustive tutorial….and funny too.
My hope was to portray the ins and outs of daily life with cloth diapers to make them more accessible to folks.
Very informative and funny! I was so intimidated and confused with cloth diapers for my first child, so I took the easy way out 🙁 Next babes with get the cloth! Thank y
Very informative and funny! I was so intimidated and confused with cloth diapers for my first child, so I took the easy way out 🙁 Next babes with get the cloth! Thank you!
Successive babies after the first always have it better! 🙂
WOW! This is the holy grail of cloth diapering info! I am so happy to find it, I will spread it to all of my baby-rearing friends!
Thanks for the links, too 😉
Such great info, and very humorous as well. Thanks so much!! One question – you say you dry the diapers on low. Does this include the PLU covers as well? I have been drying the covers on air/no heat or ultra low heat and then drying the inserts on regular heat.
Yes, I dry everything together on low and it works fine for us. The PUL is doing great. Your way sounds great too though! 🙂 I do what works and what’s easiest.
YAY for cloth diapering!!! Best thing EVER!!
I wish I would have had this information a few years ago! What a great resource for cloth diapering. Thanks!
Thanks for reading!
I had been using cloth diapers for a while but it seems like it gives my son a terrible diaper rash and it won’t go away.
It’s gotten so bad that my husband does not even want me to use the cloth diapers anymore….
What do you think it could be that’s causing him to rash? He’s 22 months.
I’m sorry to hear that! It could be a number of things. I can try to help you troubleshoot. What kind of cloth diapers are you using, and what is your wash routine? What type of detergent? Could there be remaining detergent in the diaper so when he pees it reacts and irritates him? I also use coconut oil, or a homemade salve that I make on my daughter’s bottom, just a really light coating and rub it in, and I think that acts as a barrier to protect her skin.
My son is 8 now, but when he was a baby we loved cloth diapers! This was our system.
I like your detailed article! Cloth diapers are fun but take a certain amount of thought, with all the choices available.
What a thorough post! I was back and forth with cloth and disposables…but those days are over. 🙂 To someone in the throes of diapering, this will be an extremely helpful read! I’m tweeting and pinning! Have a lovey day!
Neighbors About Town Blog
I love cloth diapers and I hope that this post does find it’s way into the right hands of those who need the info! Lucky you for not being in the throes of diapering. I’m kinda jealous 🙂
This is an excellent expose on my favourite method of covering my babies’ bums. I started using flats right from baby #1 and we’re expecting baby #3 this year to also use the same set of diapers and wipes that my mom and I whipped up over 8 years ago.
However, I will ask you to advertise and/or try one little trick that I learned about diaper rash. The best “solution” to use on a healing baby’s backside is breastmilk. I simply applied the milk straight from the “cow” and spread it around. I played a couple of games with baby while the milky coating dried and then diapered as usual. Diaper rashes never lasted longer than a day! It was a miracle for my little acidic babe and kept the commercial diaper rash chemicals out of my nursery. Please share this [cheap] good news.
Hi Michelle, I’m glad you liked the post. We often use breast milk, and in fact, I am working on a post right now for herbal baby bottom care, so I will be sure to include that info 😉
any suggestions on how to deal with strong ammonia smell once diapers are peed on? my babe is 9 months old and the smell is starting to get really bad! diapers smell fine out of the laundry but once in the dry pail – WATCH OUT! we use mainly prefolds and some pockets as well. thanks for any suggestions! not sure if we have a detergent build-up….we use tide free.
If your diapers smell fine out of the laundry, I don’t think you have a build up issue. After the pee sits for a while the ammonia small gets stronger. It happens to me too. I think that it is normal. If you can’t stand the smell between washes, maybe put some essential oils on an old rag in the bottom of the pail, or some baking soda. I just accept the smell now. It’s not bad until I open the pail. My baby is one now and her smells in general are only getting worse! 😉
Excellent and helpful information. I am semi-new to cloth diapering and my CDs just starting having a stench so I needed a step by step guide to help me comprehend stripping as my diapers were 2nd hand and it had been done for me at first. Thank you so much for all the additional information on storing and washing…adds the extra confidence to keep cloth diapering! If only more Mamas knew just how simple it can be and how much money can be saved…especially for me with baby #3 coming in March! Thanks again!
I’m so glad you found it helpful! This was my very first blog post ever, and when I sat down to “write about what I know” I started spewing cloth diaper info! LOL the things Mom’s get excited about… My sis is having her third child this month, and is giving cloth diapers a try. I figure if I can keep her on the bandwagon, my work is done. Best of luck to you, I hope your stripping went well!
Hi there.. Quick question. I am using a small plastic tote to collect my dirty cloth diapers in and this is my very first time using the cloth diapers. I went to do my first wash and it had only been about two and a half days, and I found a tiny bit of mold on the bottom in a corner. I dumped the diapers all in the wash with just detergent and inspected the diapers after the wash and can’t find anything on them. Are they still ok to use??? I had a couple diaper covers, some CB pocket diapers, and some prefolds washed with clothes also. The pail was dry I don’t soak in water. How do I prevent this from happening again? What did I do wrong? Thank you!
Yes, they are still fine to use. You could try putting baking soda in the bottom of your pail. I don’t think you did anything wrong. Mold just thrives in moist, warm environments. I’d just keep an eye out. It could have been a fluke. I always lined my plastic bin with a bag made from PUL waterproof material. You can buy premade liner bags too. I’ve seen many on Amazon. I’m not sure if that plays a factor or not, but it sure does help with laundry! I empty the bag, toss it an and wash.
Thank you! The baking soda helped
Thank you so much for responding, really it means alot I think you might be right I will try switching the inserts for prefolds and see if that helps :). I’m also wondering if the bag doesn’t allow for enough air flow even though I don’t close it, so you think that could be a problem? Hmm maybe I’m also just pushing the days.. Anyway thanks again!!!
ok help!.Heres my routine. hot cold cycle with bigger load size than actual amount of diapers. Free and clear sun liquid laundry detergent, use over half the clear cap full and i have hard water. charlie banana diapers, microfiber inserts and a couple kanga something pocket diapers also. A kanga diaper hanging pail, i do not close, but put a little bit of baking soda in bottom to help absorb moisture. Diapers smell and look clean and i hang dry the diapers and lately have been machine drying inserts with other clothes because they dont fit on the drying rack. I leave diapers in pail approx three days and wash on third night or 4th morning. Lately after he pees some of the diapers have a horrid farm fish smell though. Its kind of hard to describe and before i wash them the pail and dirty diapers have this smell also. Again diapers come out smelling and looking clean. approx once every few weeks i wash all diapers with a little vinegar and Clorox two. I have had a few leaks but i think its more of a heavy wetting thing than a repelling issue. I really would appreciate any help. Thank you!
My guess is it’s the micro fiber inserts. I ditched mine after a while and moved on to cotton prefolds
The babies r us wipes warmer is perfect for our wipes.
Good to know, Meagan. Thanks for sharing!