Thoughts on baby poop and pee… and getting it out of your diapers
- Julie Hertzog
Now that you’ve ventured into the super awesome world of cloth diapers, there’s an inevitable hurdle coming your way: washing those soiled diapers! A cursory Google search will yield a ridiculous amount of overwhelming information that can easily leave one’s head spinning. I prefer a much simpler, and more logical, approach. There’s waste in your diapers, and it needs to come out! In nearly two years of cloth diapering, I’ve found that a smaller load of diapers (about 18 to 24 pocket diapers, including 2 nighttime diapers or 2 to 3 days worth overall) is much easier to get nice and clean. Here’s our routine:
1) Rinse / soak. I subscribe to the cold soak method. Also known as, I started a wash cycle and forgot to shut the washer lid. I prefer to do a wash cycle (once I shut the lid) with no detergent; the extra agitation helps work out some of the gunk before you even add detergent.
2) Hot wash with detergent. Finding a detergent (and amount) that works for your diapers and your water type can take some finagling and experimentation.
The general rule of thumb with detergent is to avoid artificial softeners, fragrance, and optical brighteners – essentially anything that can be left behind in the diapers and lead to build up. Most people suggest avoiding a detergent with enzymes (such as those found in Tide) – in my opinion, that factor comes down to the individual baby and how their skin reacts. We’ve personally used All Free and Clear, Tide Original, and Stinkpot Cloth Diaper detergent successfully. Other people make their own detergent, or have success with Ecos, Charlie’s, Soap Nuts, Rockin’ Green, etc.
Regarding the amount of detergent to use, it is recommended to start with half of the recommended amount for the load size. People with hard water generally need to use a touch more detergent to help get the diapers just as clean. The diapers should not have a smell once clean and dry. If you’re getting a barnyard or funky smell as soon as your child wets, try adding a bit more detergent. Too much detergent can lead to irritation of your baby’s skin – check during your rinse cycles and make sure that there are no bubbles. Are you seeing a lot of bubbles, even after 2 or 3 rinses? If so, try using less detergent. We’re currently using Tide with our diapers, and for the small load size, I use about halfway to the first line on the detergent scoop.
3) Rinse. Now that you’ve cleaned the diapers, you need to rinse the detergent out of the diapers. Again, I prefer to use a wash cycle for the extra agitation. One to two rinses are recommended (or until you don’t see detergent bubbles in the water).
4) Dry. I try to line dry as much as possible. The sun acts like a natural stain remover, and it’s so much more economical. Line or air drying helps extend the life of PUL and elastic. On rainy days, or when you’re in a hurry, machine drying on medium heat is perfectly fine.
An extra note on poop: the poop factor can be one of the hardest things for new parents to deal with when starting cloth diapers. Babies that are exclusively breastfed produce (often explosively) water soluble waste that does not need to be dumped and flushed in the toilet – just toss in your pail or wetbag, and that first rinse in the washer will take care of it. Stains? Try that sunning trick! Formula fed babies and kiddos eating solids make poops that take a little more involvement. This waste needs to be flushed down the toilet. Some people luck out with “ploppables”, others need to use one of the methods listed below.
1) Spray it off. You can purchase a diaper sprayer, or MacGuyver your own with supplies from Home Depot or Lowes. This is a hose and sprayer attachment for your toilet that allows you to literally spray the poop off the diaper into the toilet with water. Some people use their detachable shower head, either into a bucket in the shower (then dump the bucket water into the toilet), or use the shower head over the toilet if it reaches.
2) Dunk and swish. The most “hands on” approach. I prefer to remove the insert beforehand, and then you dunk the soiled part of the diaper into the toilet bowl to loosen and swish the diaper around to remove the waste. This method is sometimes accompanied by using a dedicated spatula or some toilet paper to remove pieces.
3) Liners, including flushable. These are awesome if you have a predictable pooper. Liners can either be reusable, washable ones made of thin fleece or other materials, or a thin paper-like material similar to dryer sheets that you can flush with the poop. You simply lay the liner between the diaper and baby, and then lift out when changing. Reusable liners will require a poop removal method such and spraying or dunking, but can be easier to deal with than an entire diaper. They can then be washed together with your dirty diapers. Liners, whether flushable or reusable, are handy to have around just in case you ever need to use a diaper cream that is not cloth diaper safe (such as Desitin, A&D, and Boudreaux – any cream containing zinc oxide).
+ Real Diaper Industry detergent checklist: http://detergent.realdiaperindustry.org/
+ Woodland Babies Rockin’ Green: http://www.woodlandbabies.com/Rockin_Green_Hard_Rock_p/rg-hard-rock.htm
+ Homemade detergent recipe: 3 Boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz each), 2 Boxes 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz each), 1 Large Tub OxiClean (96 oz), optional - essential oils (lavender, etc) to preference. (Recipe courtesy of The Eco Friendly Family Blog; http://theecofriendlyfamily.com/2009/08/cloth-diaper-detergent/)
+ DiaperSprayer.com diaper sprayer: http://www.diapersprayer.com/products.php?cat=35
+ How to make your own diaper sprayer: Gidget Goes Home blog http://gidgetgoeshome.com/2008/08/25/diy-tutorial-make-your-own-diaper-sprayer/
YouTube instructional video (2 parts) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyn0RSkIWpg, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xz6ncDECSg
Wool is a fabulously wonderful fiber when used in conjunction with cloth diapers. Longies, shorties, and soakers offer an easy, low maintenance and naturally antibacterial option for use with flats, prefolds, and fitteds. It does require some gentle handling to avoid felting. Bare bones wool care requires room temp water, gentle baby shampoo, and lanolin (like the nipple cream!). Prior to their first use and every few weeks (generally once it starts to hold a smell), your wool will need to be lanolized so that it will properly repel moisture.
Cleaning: You can add a little baby shampoo during the lanolizing process, or you can hand wash separately.
Lanolizing: I turn all wool pieces inside out, and fill a sink with room temperature water. I place about an inch sized dab of lanolin (for 3 large wool pieces) on a coffee mug with water and heat in the microwave to melt. I add the lanolin water to the sink, then gently submerge all the wool pieces and let soak. Nighttime garments should be soaked overnight, sometimes twice. Use a dry towel to roll up the pieces and gently squeeze out the excess water. Lay flat to dry.