Cool Diapering in Hot Weather

Baby at the beach in summer

A sweaty baby bottom in the hot summer heat is more likely to get not just diaper rash but heat rash. Keep your baby’s bottom clear and dry by choosing cloth diapers carefully when it’s hot outside.

The main concern in extreme heat is air circulation. This should be a concern in all weather, but the consequences are more pronounced in the summer. Despite the wetness of a diaper, you need to keep your baby’s skin dry in order to avoid most diaper rash. When you read about cloth diapers and diaper covers and see claims of breathability, meaning that air can move through the fabric of the diaper, this is the time that matters most of all.

Choose cool diapers. When breathability is your main goal, don’t choose PUL covers, pocket diapers, or AIOs. These diapers and covers have a plastic layer laminated to the polyester fabric. Laminated fabrics keep moisture in, but they also keep your baby’s bottom hot in the summer. Some of these diapers might allow some air circulation, but your baby’s bottom needs the most air possible in the heat. Save these diapers for cooler weather. Use cotton fitted, flat, or prefold diapers for the coolest summer diapers.

Use wool diaper covers. That sounds counter-intuitive if you think of wool as a warm sweater, but wool actually absorbs moisture then evaporates it into the air around your baby. Wool diaper covers create a moisture and air insulator that won’t trap wetness and heat against your baby’s skin.

Change diapers often. When you need to keep your baby dry, change that wet diaper. You should be changing your baby’s diaper every time it is wet.

Go coverless. If you will be at home, you can allow a lot more air circulation by using no moisture barrier at all. Sure, you need to change the absorbent diaper more often to avoid wet furniture or floor, but you should be changing every time the diaper is wet anyway. If you aren’t using a cover, don’t put clothes over the diaper. That just begs for a wet mess.

Go diaperless. Especially if your baby is recovering from heat rash or diaper rash, the best air circulation comes from going completely bare. Be prepared to clean up. While your baby is diaperless, what better time to start infant pottying, if you aren’t using this method already.

Wear a swim diaper. When you want to cool off, stay home and swim. Hang out in the pool in the shade with your baby in a swim diaper. If you don’t have a pool, let your baby play with a bucket of water. It’s all fun and splashing.

Choose cool wool for a long car ride. If you will be going on a long car ride, you can still use wool to stay cool, but keep in mind that wool can leak when compressed for a long time. Think of squeezing a sponge. The moisture will wick toward the dry car seat. You can avoid that by putting a sheepie or sheepskin rug between your baby and the car seat.  The wool on the sheepskin will absorb the moisture and will not let it through to the carseat. If you don’t have a sheepskin rug, a wool changing pad will do a similar job, though it could leak if you wait too long to change a diaper. Just plan regular diaper change stops. If you use a sheepskin, make sure you understand how to adjust the carseat safely because the sheepskin will make the seat a bit tighter.

Summertime Bonus

Save energy by line drying your cloth diapers. This is especially helpful if you want to get rid of stains on cotton. Just leave them in the sun, and watch the stains fade. For diapers with stubborn stains, spray a little lemon juice on the stain before you hang the diaper on the line. Be sure to rewash that diaper so you don’t put lemon juice on your baby’s sensitive skin.

What do you do to keep summer diapering cool? Please share your tips.

Image © Markcarper | Dreamstime.com

What’s the Deal with Charcoal Bamboo?

Charcoal sticks

We often get questions about charcoal bamboo rayon and its emerging trend as a cloth diapering fabric. We don’t carry charcoal bamboo, and we want you to know why.

You may have seen charcoal bamboo rayon used for cloth diaper inserts or the absorbent inner layer of a diaper. You will notice because the fabric is charcoal grey. Charcoal doesn’t just refer to the nice, grey colour, though.

Charcoal bamboo is rayon with added nanoparticles of charcoal, which is made from bamboo. During the process of making rayon from bamboo (drying, aging, ripening—essentially cooking), other materials can be added. Any cellulose fiber can be used to make rayon, and many materials can be added to the goo phases of the process. In this case, bamboo is heated, creating charcoal, then the charcoal is ground into a very fine powder so small that the particles are called nanoparticles. (Nano refers to size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter like a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter.)

Charcoal nano-particles can be added to any extruded fiber. You might find charcoal polyester fleece or charcoal microfiber in addition to charcoal bamboo rayon. All of these fibers are extruded—like pasta dough through a spaghetti press.

Charcoal bamboo and other charcoal fibers first came to the North American market through import co-ops—the same import co-ops that bring us cheap, unsupported diapers. We’ve talked before about the hidden costs of cheap diapers and of imports (labour, safety, quality, environment, sustainability). Basically, these products externalize costs. You save money in the short run while you and others pay in other ways. Cheap is only inexpensive when you don’t notice the ripple of consequences.

Questions We Hear about Charcoal Bamboo

Doesn’t bamboo charcoal nanotechnology kill bacteria?

First of all, what are you trying to kill? Washing diapers kills bacteria through heat and detergent. What more needs to be killed? Even if charcoal nanotechnology does kill bacteria, I’m not sure that this is a desirable characteristic of a diaper.

Second, I don’t know. I see that manufacturers of fabric make this claim, but I also see those selling bamboo rayon continuing to claim antimicrobial properties of bamboo rayon when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission absolutely states that there is no evidence in support of this claim for rayon. According to the FTC, “Even when bamboo is the ‘plant source’ used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product.” Manufacturers and retailers continue to fight the FTC over this, and I see small cloth diaper sellers repeating claims that have been debunked. The only difference I see so far with charcoal bamboo rayon is that it is newer, so the claims haven’t been argued with regulatory bodies—yet.

Isn’t charcoal bamboo just another natural fabric?

What is often just called “bamboo” is bamboo rayon, a manufactured fiber. We wrote about the process of creating rayon from bamboo in “Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers.” This manufactured fabric is made from natural inputs (bamboo and other cellulose), but the processing is far from natural. This is another issue that U.S. FTC takes seriously. Claim this is a natural or environmentally-friendly fiber, and they will sue. If you still see the claims, maybe they just haven’t gotten around to the lawsuit yet. They are already busy with bamboo rayon marketing and labeling claims.

I heard charcoal bamboo contain natural oils. Does it?

Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with no. Bamboo rayon has no natural oils. Even mechanically processed (non-rayon) bamboo has no oils. Rayon is not a natural fiber; it is manufactured fiber. If there are oils in your fabric, they are the oils added during the knitting or weaving process to help the fibers move through the machines as the fabric is created. Oils, sure; natural oils, not so much.

Is charcoal bamboo rayon approved for the North American market?

That is an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer.

I heard that charcoal bamboo rayon calms the mind.

I’ll just wait until the science comes in on that one.

Are You Willing to Submit to an Experiment?

I would like to go back to one very important point: safety. One of the most important complaints made about co-op diapers that are imported without regard for legalities is their lack of compliance to safety regulations.

The problem with cheaper materials isn’t just the potential de-lamination of a diaper cover, as an example. Smell that off-gassing? Those molecules escaping from unstable polymers have an effect on your brain and your body when you breathe them. That is why some phthalates have been banned in certain children’s products. Imagine what those unsafe soft plastics can do when placed against the most sensitive skin on your baby’s body. Soft plastics, though, are already under regulation. If you buy diaper covers that are CPSIA compliant, you know they don’t contain banned soft plastics.

What about nanotechnology? We mentioned the nanotechnology in conventional sunscreens last month. Those particles “are designed to be absorbed into the skin.” Can nano-particles of charcoal be absorbed into the skin? What are the potential consequences of that? Are other nano-particles added to rayon? Some textile processes use both nanosilver and nanocharcoal. Is that true of charcoal bamboo? We wrote about the use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial and found that the science showing potential harm is building up. Where is the independent science that shows no harm will come to your baby from absorbing nano-particles of charcoal through the genitals? What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects?

If that science isn’t available, using nanotechnology on your baby in this way is experimentation. This is the wrong way around. We don’t just try things out on our babies first then work out whether it’s safe. Prove safety first.

Let’s back up a long way and start over with the first question.

Why don’t you carry bamboo charcoal diapers?

We prefer domestic products over imports, and bamboo charcoal fabric and products are all imports. The same companies referred to in our Cheapie Leakies post are importing a lot of charcoal bamboo rayon products. Low-quality imports like this are just a non-starter for us.

We will not test new technologies on your baby. Until a product or material is proven safe, we will not carry it in our store.

We choose the simplest solutions that work for our customers. When there are already basic, natural materials that do the simple job of a cloth diaper, there is no need for nanotechnology just for the sake of the technology—especially when questions of safety remain.

So, no, we won’t be carrying charcoal bamboo products until or unless we become convinced that it is safe for your baby, until the benefits have been proven, and until the benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the benefits of natural fibers.

You can count on bynature.ca to look into new products, but we will not jump on bandwagons.

Yesterday, we asked what our Facebook followers thought of charcoal bamboo in diapers. Not one of the dozen people who answered was willing to experiment with this nanotechnology in diapers.

Related Articles

Cheapie Leakies - Cloth diapers in general have SO much value compared to single-use products. And, many cloth diapers that seem higher priced actually reflect the value of products made ethically and sustainably, not cheaply and without care for workers or the environment. These high value products are also safety tested to the highest standards, so you can be assured you’re buying something that is safe for your little one.

Cheap Products—At What Cost? - You already know what we think of cheap imports if you read our 6-part “At What Cost?” series last year on labour, safety, quality, environment, and sustainability.

Antimicrobial Overkill – Use of disinfectants such as nano silver in everyday situations is overkill. Even in more extreme situations, there is a lot of debate about whether the antimicrobial benefits outweigh the potential risks.

6 Questions about Natural Sunscreen That We Hear Daily – What are nano particles, and why does it matter if my sunscreen is free of these? The concern is that nano particles could enter the human body.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers – There are efforts to add nano-particles of charcoal to make the fiber antibacterial.

Image © Dianazh | Dreamstime.com

Baby Needs a Swim Diaper

Mother-ease Swim Diapers Poolside

Uh-oh. Baby in the pool! Do you worry that your baby will leave a mess in the pool? The answer is easy: use a swim diaper. The idea of a reusable swim diaper is very simple: catch poop and let the pee flow through.

A soggy, leaking mess of a plastic or paper diaper leaks everything, not just urine. That is what gives swim diapers a bad name. Avoid those.

A swim diaper is not designed to hold in urine. If it were absorbent, it would weigh the baby down, which would make swimming a much less pleasant activity for a child. Babies need swim diapers just to hold in solids and prevent those getting into the pool. A great reusable swim diaper also has mesh to hang on to what needs to stay and to let flow what needs to go.

Reusable Swim Diapers – How novel!

Anything but a reusable swimsuit, even for a child, confuses me. After adults and older children swim, they don’t toss their suits in the garbage. We rinse, dry, and repeat.

It’s very easy to do the same for your baby. Your baby deserves a soft, comfortable swim diaper that won’t weigh her down or get in the way of her doing what we should be doing in the pool— having a great time and learning how to swim.

We’ve noticed at byNature.ca that even parents who use disposable diapers otherwise will often buy a reusable swim diaper for the pool because it just makes sense. Granted, some of them are completely wowed by how cute reusable swim diapers are.

Really, Use a Swim Diaper

Cloth diapering parents ask us if they can just use a diaper cover for swimming. Yes and no.

If you use a diaper cover as a swim diaper, you risk chlorine destroying the laminate that makes the cover waterproof. More chlorine means greater chance of leaky cover. Leaks don’t matter with a swim diaper, since they are designed to let urine and pool water flow through.

If you do use a diaper cover as a swim diaper then as a diaper cover again, you may find that you have leaks. If your child has grown out of the cover or it isn’t holding in leaks well enough to pass it on to another child, you can use a polyester or laminated cotton diaper cover as a swim diaper. (Don’t try this with wool! Wool absorbs and stretches, so you will have a baggy, soggy mess.)

Baby Swim Diapers Made in Canada

A note from Nature Mom:

“I realized when talking with a customer in the store the other day that all of the swim diapers we carry are made in Canada. That wasn’t done intentionally, but I certainly wouldn’t change it!”

Swimmis from Bummis is a version of their original diaper cover with fun cotton prints on the outside and a cool mesh lining inside. Lycra bindings are stretchy and comfortable for babies. Made in Canada.

Swimmis Bummis baby swim diaper

Mother-ease swim diapers are made of soft, stretchy, bathing suit material. If you have ever caught hook-and-loop closures from you baby’s swim diaper on your swimsuit, you will understand why some parents prefer snaps. Netting on the inside of the swim diaper catches messes. Made in Canada.

Mother-ease baby swim diapers

 

AMP swim diapers have two layers of micro mesh to catch messes. We like that snaps will last a long time, but wiggly babies and anxious toddlers might not stick around long enough for snaps. Made in Canada.

AMP swim diapers

Apple Cheeks swim diapers have one layer of knit and one layer of mesh to let the water flow through easily. This two-size system adjusts with a snap at the waist and another at the thigh. Made in Canada.

Apple Cheeks swim diaper

When you get home, either toss the swim diaper in the diaper pail if soiled or rinse the swim diaper and wet bag with the rest of the swimsuits if it’s just wet.

Have a great swim!

Cloth Diaper Laundry Hub

Dad holding baby in laundry basket

Once you understand the basics of pH, water quality, your machine, and your materials, you will be able to choose the best laundry routine to get your diapers clean. Once you really get those basics, washing cloth diapers is easy.

Seeing through a mystery and mastering your own choices is invigorating. That’s how understanding laundry science feels for me. I’m not a scientist, but I have plenty of scientists who have willingly answered my questions over the past couple of months as I’ve been writing about cloth diaper washing, and now I GET the science of cloth diaper laundry.

If you want the easiest possible solution for washing your cloth diapers, use Allen’s Naturally laundry liquid (the cleanest rinsing laundry detergent we have found, but not the only detergent we recommend) and follow Real Diaper Association’s simple 5-step guidelines.

  1. DUMP solids into the toilet
  2. RINSE on warm, because soils come out better at the temperature they went in (body temperature)
  3. WASH with detergent in hot water
  4. RINSE twice in warm water
  5. DRY

For most people, that’s all you need to know.

If it doesn’t work every time, that doesn’t mean cloth diapers don’t work. It means that you need to adjust your laundry routine for your situation. If it seems too difficult to understand your situation, remember that you could just dump your diapers in the garbage after every change. If you are here, you probably don’t want to do that. So, just invest a little time to learn laundry science, so you will no longer have to rely on advice that isn’t grounded in evidence. Back away from secret, proprietary formulas and mystery fixes to take charge of your own wash.

Laundry science knowledge will set you free.

Just wash the diapers and focus on the rest of your life!

 

The Basics

Get Cloth Diaper Washing Right from the Start

Mother with Stinky Baby

Our customers come to us for troubleshooting when cloth diapers are stinky or leaky. We can help, but we also know that you will save time, money, and grief if you understand your situation before you get into a laundry routine that will leave you with a stinky mess. Look at water quality, your washing machine, the materials used to make your diapers, then start simple.

Your Washing Machine and Cloth Diapers

Cloth diaper washing machine

When you are washing cloth diapers every few days, your washing machine is one of the important variables in the laundry routine. Whether you use top-loading or front-loading, HE or an old clunker, you can get your diapers clean with some adjustments. Keep in mind, though: your washing machine is far less important than your washing process. Read that twice if you need to because I’m telling you that you can get your cloth diapers clean in any washing machine.

Baby Diaper pH: An Intro

Stiny baby diaper

pH is measure of whether a solution is acidic or alkaline. Did you know that newborn skin is more alkaline than yours? A little background in science will help you keep your baby healthy and your diapers clean.

Wet Pail or Dry Pail?

Diaper Pail

Which will work better for your diapers? We will walk you through the pros and cons of your diaper pail choices. The short answer: there isn’t a lot of difference in choosing wet or dry pail. Starting with a dry pail is simple, and many families don’t find the need to try a wet pail.

 

Common Issues

Residue in Cloth Diapers

Residue on Cloth Diapers

Are your diapers repelling and your covers leaking? Do clean diapers smell like a barnyard and wet diapers burn your nose? You may have residues in your diapers. Before you contemplate throwing it all away, learn the fix.

Hard Water and Cloth Diaper Washing

Cloth Diaper Washing Water Hardness and pH

Hardness refers to mineral content in the water (usually calcium and magnesium). Most of us have hard water, and some of us have very hard water. Hard water doesn’t react as much with soap. Why? That’s a science lesson. And, once again, basic science has saved your cloth diapers.

How to Ruin Your Cloth Diapers

Don't ruin your cloth diapers

You can avoid laundry crazy by understanding laundry reality. We walk you through the Goldilocks Laundry Solutions—not too much; not too little; just right. With detergent, water, bleach, heat, sun, enzymes, or essential oil, it does sometimes matter whether you use too much or too little.

 

Detergent & Additives

Cloth Diaper Detergent Choices

Cloth Diaper Detergents

Understand hard water, pH, washing machine, and residue before deciding on your cloth diaper detergent because these factors all matter. Unless you just want a very simple detergent that does the job. We’ve got that.

Artificial Fragrances in Your Home

Fresh outdoors smell

Artificial fragrances lurk unmarked in many of your household cleaning products. These fragrances can be bothersome as they leave residues, irritating when they are allergens and harmful when they pose known health risks.

Fabric Softeners

Cloth Diaper Fabric Softeners

We all love truth in advertising. “Hydrophobic chemicals in fabric softeners reduce absorbency of your cloth diapers but feel smooth against your baby’s skin.” Making your cloth diapers soft has to be a good thing, right? Of course, but don’t be fooled into using chemical fabric softeners to do it or you will be in for a leaky, repelling surprise. First rule of fabric softener for cloth diapers: don’t use it. There are natural ways to soften cloth diapers.

Enzymes

When to use enzymes with cloth diapers

Enzymes are naturally occurring, biodegradable, and they help break down the organic matter in dirty diapers. What’s not to love? Enzymes too often end up on the list of bad additives, and that place just isn’t justified. Learn what enzymes do to clean cloth diapers, when they work, when they don’t, and how to use enzymes. Don’t be the person who says, “Enzymes don’t make sense to me, so I don’t use them.”

Cloth Diaper Detergent Additives to Avoid, Usually

Cloth diaper detergent additives to avoid

The no-nos, the naturals, and the basic cleaners. There are some firm rules, but a lot of additives matter only depending on your specific situation. Once you understand the additives, you can choose a detergent that works well for your diapers, your water, and your machine. Stop believing that some additives are just bad for cloth diapers.

Do You Use Baking Soda and Vinegar?

Using baking soda and vinegar to wash cloth diapers

You will find a lot of advice about using both baking soda and vinegar on cloth diapers. Do you know which situation calls for which solution? If you don’t know the difference and you use the wrong cleaner, it won’t help. We explain for each: what it is, what it does, when to avoid it, and when to use it on your cloth diapers.

 

Materials Matter

Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

Woman outside with laundry

Different materials need different treatment to keep them functioning well for diapering. Animal (wool diaper covers), vegetable (cotton, hemp, bamboo rayon), and mineral (polyester, laminate, microfibre) are easy ways to understand diaper fibres and what they need to get clean.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers

bamboo plants

We get a lot of questions from customers in the bynature.ca store asking why they would want to choose bamboo vs. hemp for cloth diapers. Short answer: choose hemp for environment or absorbency, and choose bamboo rayon for softness.

Cotton Diapers: Do You Choose Organic or Not?

Organic cotton prefold cloth diapers

We were surprised when we asked customers about organic cotton diapers because their reasons for choosing organic don’t always match what we know about the benefits of organic. We recommend organic over non-organic, but our reasons might not be what you expect.

Cheapie Leakies

Unhappy baby

Why we don’t carry cloth diapers that come without support or warranty. In our eight years of experience, the bottom line is: you get what you pay for. When you buy your diapers from us, you’re also investing in our experience helping thousands of clients along the way to getting off to a great start, with product support, laundry advice, and troubleshooting.

We Can Help!

If you have laundry issues, come by the bynature.ca store in Orillia.  We want you to succeed in using cloth diapers, and a very big part of your success is getting the care of your diapers right. We can help you find solutions that work for your cloth diaper laundry.

Image © Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

How to Ruin Your Cloth Diapers

Don't ruin your cloth diapers

What’s the craziest way you’ve ever heard of to ruin your cloth diapers? How about putting them in the dishwasher or adding fish tank ammonia remover. You don’t need crazy solutions to get your cloth diapers clean.

We joke in the store with customers, asking them to please avoid reading online forums and following random advice they find for helping with odour issues. A so-called solution that we’ve had customers tell us about more than once is putting their diapers in the dishwasher. Before you resort to the dishwasher, please come and talk to us instead.

Avoid Laundry Crazy by Understanding Laundry Reality

One of the crazy town solutions that makes the rounds of cloth diapering forums at least every year or so is fish tank ammonia remover. This is a good example of tossing mysterious solutions at mysterious problems—until you decide to look at the evidence.

Let’s just back up here to the basic messages we have been focusing on for the past two months in our cloth diaper laundry posts.

  • We want you to get cloth diaper washing right, or as close as possible to right, from the start so you don’t get the problems that cause chronic laundry issues.
  • By understanding basic laundry science, we hope you won’t be tempted by wildly inappropriate solutions that don’t really address your issues. When you have issues, basic science helps you find solutions. Once you solve the problem, you adjust your wash routine to avoid the problem.

So, now let’s say that despite your best efforts you have cloth diapers that smell painfully and nose-burningly of ammonia. You know that you will need to adjust your laundry routine, but you have to get rid of the ammonia first. You need to start clean.

To breakdown the residue that holds on to the ammonia smell, use washing soda in addition to your regular detergent. If plain washing soda (sodium carbonate) doesn’t do the job, use RLR Laundry Treatment. The main ingredient is still washing soda, but this is a stronger formula than the washing soda you can buy in the grocery store.

Washing soda softens your water. The calcium and magnesium that have deposited in the fibers of your diapers and that are in your hard water waiting to deposit more are countered by the washing soda as it bonds with the minerals. Washing soda can also remove oily or greasy stains. If the problem is residue from oil-based detergents, washing soda can help you remove the oily residue.

Should you add RLR or extra washing soda regularly? No. You shouldn’t need to strip your diapers regularly. If you do, you have problems that you aren’t addressing with your regular laundry routine.

Will the washing soda hurt your diapers? That depends on your diapers. If you use bamboo rayon diapers, you might want to avoid sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Most manufacturers will tell you to avoid ingredients that will damage the specific materials of your diapers, so do pay attention to recommendations. Alkaline ingredients in detergent can be caustic, causing damage over time. The ammonia you smell after concentrated urine reacts with oxygen can also cause damage. So, let’s get it out! You don’t want to use extra washing soda for every load, but you do need enough to break down the residue that is holding on to smell in your diapers. And, you need to make sure it is all rinsed out. If not enough water or rinsing could be the reason for your build up in the first place, make sure that you rinse well so you will have no trace left of the detergent and washing soda. Don’t make the problem worse.

Why not just use the fish tank ammonia remover? What we hear is, “Seems like it must be gentle if it’s OK for fish.” Fish tank ammonia remover is sodium methanal sulfoxylate (or sodium hydroxymethane sulfinate or sodium formaldehyde bisulfate), not formulated for laundry. That is definitely not on the list of recommended laundry additives given by cloth diaper manufacturers. It isn’t gentle just because it’s used in fish tanks. You already have the right additives that are formulated for your laundry. Don’t resort to mystery ingredients that you don’t understand.

Stop cloth diaper washing gimmicks before they start. Investigate the science of what is happening in your diapers, what you want to happen in your diapers, and how to bridge the gap between the two.

Goldilocks Laundry Solutions

So, if a little washing soda is good, a lot is better. Right? Not so fast. You know that isn’t true. Some washing soda in detergents is good. That does the job of cleaning. Extra washing soda for occasional stripping is a symptom of an unbalanced wash routine, but it still won’t hurt most diapers. It does not follow that all diapers should be washed with extra washing soda for every wash.

Not too much. Not too little. Just right.

Detergent. I hope you would be surprised how often we hear that a family has stinky diapers, and we find out that they are using only a Tablespoon of detergent for a whole load of diapers. If you add too little detergent, you will get a build up of organic materials in your diapers. That’s still residue, but it’s a residue of urine and feces. Nice, huh? If you add too much detergent, you will get a build up of detergent in your diapers. That residue holds smells. So, taking into account your washing machine, especially if it is a high-efficiency (HE) machine that needs less detergent, and your water quality, since hard water needs more detergent to clean well, you find the balance. Water quality, machine type, and diaper material are all important considerations when you decide how much detergent to use. Need help navigating through it all, come see us. If you don’t live nearby Orillia, write to us. We know cloth diapers very well, and we want you to succeed.

Water. Another issue we see, especially with HE machines, is not enough water to wash or rinse adequately. Too little water, your diapers can’t move around and the water doesn’t move through them, so you get residue. Too much water, your diapers don’t get enough agitation to help remove soil. Again, residue. Watch the wash cycle in your washing machine. Can you tell whether you have enough water? Can you adjust your water? Even with an HE machine, you can often choose a different setting to get more water to your diapers. Not too much. Not too little. You know the rest.

Heat. If you dry without heat, your diapers will dry eventually—probably. If you don’t live in extreme humidity. There isn’t much danger with too little drying heat. If you use too much heat in the dryer, though, you may find the thin layer of soft plastic that provides waterproofing to your diapers separates completely. It looks cool to see a clear balloon of plastic blow up off your diapers. Not so cool when you realize your diapers don’t work anymore. So, go ahead and try very little heat, but don’t try too much heat.

Sun. Beautiful, natural sun. Can’t have too much, right? Wrong! The extreme heat of direct sun is fine for your cotton prefolds, but you should take them out of the sun once they are dry. There is just no reason to break down the fibers in the heat once you have taken full advantage for drying. Polyester diapers with layers of laminate and elastic and snaps would be better off out of the sun. Dry them flat or on the line. Dry them inside or outside, but you don’t need that direct sun—unless you are really curious to see what cracked laminate looks like.

Bleach. If a little bit of oxygen bleach is good, is does not follow that a lot is better. Much as in the case of washing soda, you shouldn’t need it every time, and you don’t need a lot. If you use chlorine bleach (which we do not recommend), you can dissolve your wool or bamboo diapers. You can even break down the fibers of cotton if you leave it in bleach long enough. Just avoid chlorine bleach and go with oxygen bleach, but only when you need it.

Essential oil. A little essential oil smells nice, so a lot will smell nicer, right? Well, it might smell nicer until the oil builds up a residue on the diapers—leaving you with the stink magnet that you are trying to avoid. Clean diapers keep coming back to residue and stink. There is no particular reason to add smells, even nice smells, to your diapers just for the sake of fragrance.

Enzymes. Avoid them because of a rumor that they are no good very bad, or use more than could ever actually do any good? I choose neither. Enzymes break down organic materials. Different enzymes work on different materials. Using enzymes to start the work of cleaning your diapers is very helpful. So, add more to clean them even better? No. The same enzymes will keep eating through the waste on your diapers until there is no more waste to break down. Adding more doesn’t help. It just gives you more enzymes to rinse out. A little squirt or spray on the diaper before it goes in the dry pail is enough.

Does some of the advice in this post seem familiar? I hope so. I’ve tried to review the guidelines we’ve given you. I want you to hear the basics of laundry science until you no longer feel tempted by half-truths and all-out misunderstandings about diaper laundry. Once you understand the basics of pH, water quality, your machine, and your materials, you will be able to choose the detergent, the water temperature, the wash cycle, and the rinses to get your diapers clean. Once you really get those basics, it’s not so difficult. Good for you choosing cloth diapers. It really is worth it.

Next week I will wrap up our laundry series with a recap of each of the articles, all gathered up in one handy place so you can remember where to start when you need help.

Image © Luis Viegas | Dreamstime.com