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How to Wash Cloth Diapers

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Many parents choose cloth diapers for their baby. And within the cloth diaper community there are strong opinions on how those diapers should be cleaned. Some parents insist that only natural cleaning products should be used. Others are concerned about bacteria and disinfecting fabrics. Some choose to use a diaper service that takes care of all of the cleaning and simply leaves snowy white diapers at the door.

All in all, they are most concerned about the health of their baby and preventing skin reactions. If you get overwhelmed with all of the internet theories, talk to your pediatrician and other mothers in your community.

If you don’t plan to use a diaper service, keep these essentials on hand to make laundering easier: a pail with a cover, borax, baking soda, chlorine bleach and white distilled vinegar. If you don't do laundry every day, it is best to wash diapers at least every other day.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

Step One - Prepare the Diaper Pail

How to Wash Diapers
Microsoft Publisher 2003
Fill the diaper pail with warm water and 1/2 cup of borax per gallon of water.

Step Two - The Soak

Before placing the used diapers in the pail, remove any solid matter and flush it away in the toilet. You can use a spatula dedicated to only this use or simply dip the diaper in the toilet bowl water to loosen the fecal matter.  Place the soiled diaper in the borax solution. The borax, a natural mineral, will help remove stains and deodorize the fabric.

Some parents choose to add 1/4 cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water to the pail as well. The bleach will also help with stains and odor. However, this concentration of chlorine bleach will not completely disinfect the diapers by killing all bacteria.

If you choose to add chlorine bleach, select a non-scented variety to avoid any possible skin irritation from the fragrance.

Step Three - The Wash Cycle

When it is time to wash the diapers, always wash diapers separately from other laundry. Use hot water and a gentle detergent. You can opt for a detergent labeled specifically for baby or one that is simply dye and fragrance free.

Following the instructions for your washer, add the detergent to the washer drum or dispenser. Pour the contents of the diaper pail in the washer and then select the hot water cycle.

Do not overcrowd the washer - a couple of dozen diapers is the maximum you should try to launder at once.

Step Four - An Extra Rinse

Add a second rinse cycle when the regular wash cycle is complete. Add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar to this rinse cycle to get rid of any detergent residue and whiten the diapers.

Do not use commercial fabric softeners on diapers because they reduce the absorbancy of the fabric. Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle will help soften the fabric if needed.

Step Five - Drying Time

If you are drying diapers in a clothes dryer, do not use a dryer sheet. The fragrance can cause problems for babies with sensitive skin and the dryer sheet will reduce absorbancy.

Line-drying cloth diapers will make them whiter and brighter. The sun's ultra-violet rays give that extra boost.


Step Six - Removing Those Stains

There comes a point when diaper stains may become excessive and you want to give the diapers some extra attention. Set aside those diapers that need attention. Allow time for them to soak in a oxygen-based bleach and tepid water solution. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the stained diapers and allow them soak for at least eight hours. Check the stains. If they are gone, wash as usual. If they remain, mix a fresh solution and repeat.

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