Back when E was the size of an avocado and I was first looking into cloth diapering, I kept seeing people on discussion boards talk about their cloth diaper wash routines. Wash routines? Don't you just toss them in the washing machine with some soap and call it good? Well, yes…and no.
To start, what do you do with dirty diapers before they're ready to go in the machine? We use a Planet Wise pail liner in a generic kitchen-sized trash can from Target. It has a lid but we rarely use it and I have yet to have any issues with odor. (Of course, we have yet to have many solid food diapers, if you know what I mean…) We have two pail liners and I wash one with the load of diapers every time, so we always have one available. I also sprinkle in some Rockin' Green pail freshener whenever I think of it, just because it smells so yummy.
Basically there are three steps to washing the diapers – a cold rinse, a hot wash with soap and an extra cold rinse at the end. The first cold rinse washes away all the ickies. The hot wash with soap really gets the diapers clean and as sanitized as possible. The final cold rinse removes (hopefully!) all the soap residue so that the diapers will continue to be their merry little absorbent selves!
Here's what I do. When it's time do a load, every 2-3 days here, I just grab the pail liner, dump all the diapers in the wash, add the pail liner itself and set the machine. Using the highest water setting ("super" on our machine) and cold water, I do a short regular wash. (Or rinse.) Then I go off and entertain the baby/eat lunch/take a walk. When the machine is done, I add my detergent (2-3 scoops of Rockin' Green Classic Rock), set the machine to HOT and do a "heavy" wash. Then, again, I go off and take a nap/eat a whoopie pie/make some tea. When that's done, I do one last cold rinse before hanging everything to dry. It's our preference to hang all our diapers (mainly because we don't have a dryer…is that really a preference?) but many people dry theirs in their dryer. I believe it is recommended to not dry the covers, pocket diapers and all-in-ones in the dryer because the heat can break down the waterproof layer, though I know that many people do. Prefolds and inserts are just fine in the dryer. However, I love drying our diapers on the line – the sun really works wonders on any residual stains! No, really. There have been times when I've taken diapers or inserts out of the wash and thought, "Oh dear. These will never look clean again!" only to have them look spotlessly white by the time I bring them in off the line. Amazing, really.
Then when I bring them in, I stack all the prefolds and wipes, stuff the pocket diapers and voila! Laundry: done! Easy as pie. And since it only happens every two or three days, it's really not as big of a burden as some people seem to think it is.
A few notes!
Solids… As I mentioned before, we haven't really gotten into the whole big world of solid foods yet, so our diapers are still pretty easy to deal with. I've heard that a diaper sprayer can make everything easier once things start, well, you know… We have one ourselves but haven't needed to use it yet. (I've also heard folks say not to bother, so you never know…)
Traveling? So what do we do with dirty diapers when we're out and about? No problem! I stick 'em in another lovely Planet Wise bag, this time the wet dry bag and then once we get back home I empty it into the larger pail. If we're gone for an extended period time, say a few days, I just bring the pail liner. Longer than a few days and I would make sure to find a place to do laundry, or probably use (gasp!) disposables.
Detergents! There are some particulars about laundry detergents and cloth diapers. You don't want your detergent to cause buildup or you will have repelling issues where the diapers don't absorb. There are some charts detailing many different detergents and how they might work for cloth diapers. There's one here, one here and another one here. Charts! Graphs! Yay!
Isn't it…icky? No, not really. If you can change a diaper, you can wash a diaper. It doesn't leave your washing machine covered in baby poo, as I saw someone suggest. (Yeesh! Really?)
And that, my friends, is how we wash our cloth diapers.