Cloth Diapering 101
Are people really still cloth diapering? Yes! These are not your grandma’s cloth diapers. Cloth diapering has come a long way in recent years to offer stylish and convenient options for parents who wish to experience the benefits of cloth.
There are several reasons why parents decide to cloth diaper including they are environmentally friendly, cost effective, and are made from natural materials.
Cloth vs. Disposable:
Environmental Reasons- Our society has begun a major shift towards green products including cloth diapers. No one knows for sure how long disposable diapers take to decompose but it is estimated to be between 250-500 years! The Real Diaper Association estimates that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year and taken to landfills. One child in disposables will use 20 trees and 420 gallons of petroleum oil and generate 1 ton of landfill waste.
Economic Reasons- Let’s face it, disposable diapers are expensive! According to estimates you can expect to spend approximately $2000 on disposable diapers for one child. Depending on the cloth diapering system you choose, you can diaper your child for only $300-$1100 through potty learning. The best part is that those same diapers can be reused with additional children, maximizing your savings!
Health Reasons- A baby’s skin is delicate and can be irritated by the ingredients found in disposable diapers. Disposable diapers contain many chemicals including Dioxin, Tributyl-tin (TBT), sodium polyacrylate, and super absorbent polymer (SAP). Dioxin is an extremely toxic by-product of the bleaching process found in trace amounts in disposable diapers. It is a carcinogenic chemical, listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all chemicals known to cause cancer. TBT is a toxic contaminant known to cause hormonal defects in humans and animals. SAP becomes a gel-like substance when wet. A similar compound had previously been used in super-absorbent tampons until it was linked to an increased risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.
No matter what brought you to inquire about using cloth diapers, know that even using cloth part time will help the environment, reduce cost, and be healthier for your child.
What will I need?
Cloth diapers- How many diapers you purchase will depend on how many diapers your child uses in a day and how often you do laundry. Some people choose to launder every day or every other day; you may be able to get away with every third day depending on the climate where you live. A newborn will go through 10-12 diapers a day, so we recommend purchasing at least 12-24 newborn size diapers. You may have to do laundry more frequently initially, but remember your baby will grow quickly out of this newborn size. An older child will use approximately 6-8 diapers a day. You should plan on about 8 diapers a day plus a diaper with greater absorbency for overnight use. Remember all diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours for maximum comfort, especially cloth since they do not contain the synthetic absorbent chemicals found in disposables.
There are several diapering systems to choose from which include fitted diapers which come in sizes X-Small, Small, Medium, and Large and One size diapers that grow with your child. After you decide which cloth diapers you will use, don’t forget your accessories!
Many parents find it easier to use cloth wipes with cloth diapers since you can put the wipe right in the laundry bucket along with the diaper. You will need approximately two to three dozen wipes. You can use a commercial wipes container or any air tight container along with wipe solution. These wipes will only keep for a couple of days before smelling musty, so make sure you only wet enough for two to three days. Another option is to keep the wipes dry and use a spray bottle to wet them as needed.
There are two options for your diaper pail: a wet pail or a dry pail. For a dry pail system you will need a diaper pail and pail liner. Wet pails contain a solution in which the diapers are soaked in until they are washed. We recommend using a dry pail system because you will use fewer additives which can damage the waterproof capability and elasticity of your diapers. For more information please see our diaper care section for further instruction.
A wet bag is a nylon waterproof bag used in your diaper bag as a tote to carry dirty diapers while out and about. Wet bags generally come in different sizes including travel size and those large enough to be used in diaper pails. Wet bags are great not only for transporting wet/dirty diapers but also for soiled clothes and wet bathing suits.
For most cloth diapering families, a diaper sprayer is a necessity. The diaper sprayer simply attaches to the plumbing on your toilet and allows you to easily spray waste from the diaper directly into the toilet. It is also great for cleaning out potties during potty learning.
Cloth Diaper Care & Cleaning
Anytime you buy new cloth diapers, you will want to wash them prior to first use. Generally, any diapers with polyester fibers only need to be washed once. Diapers with unbleached cotton, bamboo, and hemp should be washed multiple times before use to strip the natural oils which may inhibit absorbency. These diapers should be washed at least four to six times in hot water using a small amount of detergent (approximately 2 tbs) prior to first use. Dry the diapers completely each time before washing again. Hemp is the type of material that doesn’t wear out, it wears in. Hemp becomes more absorbent the more it is used. White prefolds only need to be washed three to five times before first use. You should always follow manufacturer’s instructions. When you buy our products you will receive instructions for first use and cleaning.
Diaper Pail Systems
This is the system we recommend because you will use fewer additives which can damage the waterproof capability and elasticity of your diapers. You will need a pail/container with lid. It is not necessary to have a locking lid, as with the wet pail, and a flip top wastebasket will work well. You will also need a mesh or nylon pail liner which will make laundering easier. These liners are reusable and can be thrown into the wash with the diapers. We recommend having at least two so that you can continue diapering even with a load in the wash. Nylon pail liners will need to be air dried. Using a cotton mesh or woven liner will require you to also wash out your diaper pail after each laundry load.
Optional products for dry pail smells include:
· Spraying a little Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover on each diaper before putting in pail
· Sprinkle a little Rockin Green Pail Refresher in the bottom of your dry pail
· Place a couple of drops of essential oil onto a small piece of fabric and leave at bottom of pail
Wet Pails: Wet pails contain a solution in which the diapers are soaked in until they are washed.
You will need a waterproof, lidded container that will seal. It is essential that you have a diaper pail with a lid that seals/locks, not only to contain the smell but to ensure that your child does not fall head first into the pail and drown. This must be taken into consideration before using a wet pail system.
When using a wet pail system you will not need a nylon liner. You will fill the pail approximately ¼ full with water. You can add any of the following to pre-soak the diapers and decrease odor:
· ¼ cup of Bac-Out Stain and Odor remover per gallon of water
· ¼ cup of vinegar (also neutralizes urine)
· ¼ cup of Borax
· ¼ cup of baking soda
· 3 drops of tea tree oil
**Do not add detergent to your wet pail. Detergent is harsh on diapers and will break down their fibers over time. Do not add chlorine bleach to your wet pail, this will deteriorate diaper fibers and affects absorption. **
It is important to change pail water daily in order to avoid odors and build-up. Make sure you use a smaller diaper pail for a wet pail as it can become difficult to lift into the washing machine. Make sure when you put the diapers into the washer that you unfold and open them up for a thorough cleaning.
Some parents will also use a top loading washing machine as a safe and effective wet diaper pail alternative. Keep your washing machine filled either ¼ or ½ full with COLD water and add one of the above listed pre-treaters for stain and odor treatment. Again you must change the water daily by spinning it out and re-filling it at night.
Washing Cloth Diapers
Only certain detergents can be used on cloth diapers in order to maintain absorbency and prevent build-up. For a complete list of acceptable detergents see Diaper Jungle’s list or view the detergents we have available for purchase. Do not use detergents containing pure soap, enzymes, fabric brighteners, whiteners, softeners or those that are artificially scented. You don’t need very much detergent to get your diapers clean, less is more. Use about ¼ to ½ of what you would normally use for a load that size.
General Washing Routine:
· You will want to separate your diapers into like materials, washing synthetics separate from natural fibers. Always make sure that any diapers with hook and loop (Velcro) closures are fastened to avoid pilling.
· You will want to perform two wash cycles: Either a Cold/Cold wash without detergent or a Cold water rinse followed by a Hot/Cold wash with detergent. If you are experiencing odor problems, 1-2 squirts of Bac Out Stain Remover can help.
· After washing is finished, your diapers should smell clean without any hint of odor from urine or feces. Once in a while you may need to perform an extra rinse to clear up any residual odors. Most odors are caused by a build-up of detergent, so rinsing is the most important part of cleaning cloth diapers. Always make sure your rinse water is free of bubbles, otherwise perform another rinse.
· Once the diapers are cleaned they can go into the drier or be line dried. Generally, in a drier, you will want to dry your diapers for 60-90 minutes. Some All In Ones and thicker diapers may take longer, however. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning of diapers. All our products will come with detailed cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer.
If you’re having problems with diaper odor or absorbency “stripping” may be necessary. To test your diapers for absorbency slowly add one cup of warm water to diaper or insert. Let it rest for at least a minute then gently place the palm of your hand on diaper. If the water pools on top and does not absorb even with the pressure of your hand, it needs stripping. There are a couple of ways you can do this:
· Wash your diapers three times on Hot without detergent. They do not need to be dried between wash cycles.
· You can add 1 teaspoon in a front loader and 1 tablespoon in a top loader of liquid Original Dawn dish soap (the blue formula) instead of your regular detergent. Rinse well. Be careful! Dawn is not a low sudsing, HE approved detergent for high efficiency washing machines. Consult your machine manufacturer prior to use.
· For inserts: Take clean inserts and boil in water on the stove for approximately 30 minutes. Drain then complete a wash cycle without detergent.
· If all else fails, a last resort is to use ¼ cup of Bleach in a hot water cycle followed by an extra rinse. Do not use this method regularly as it can cause your diaper fibers to break down.
Stains- Any residual stains left on your diapers after washing can usually be removed by placing the diaper directly in the sun to dry or prior to placing in the dryer. It works great and also sanitizes the diaper. It usually only takes an hour or two but if some remnants of the stain remain rinse the load again and repeat.
AIO: Abbreviation for All in One diapers
All in Ones: All in One diapers consist of a waterproof cover, absorbent inner liner and closures all in one piece. They are usually available with snap or hook and loop closures. All in Ones are diapers, most similar in design to disposables, so parents find them convenient to use in day care or for those who want the advantages of cloth with the convenience of a one piece design.
Cloth Diaper: A reusable, washable diaper made of natural fibers.
Contoured Diaper: A diaper without elastic that must be closed with a diaper pin or Snappi. Contour diapers must generally be worn with a diaper cover.
Diaper Cover: A cover used on top of a cloth diaper to keep babies clothes dry. They come in fitted and one size in a variety of colors and styles.
Flat Diapers (Flats): Grandma’s diapers. These are generally a flat 27x27” square of fabric including gauze, hemp, birdseye cotton, and flannel. There are many uses for these diapers including burp cloths, nursing cover up or as an extra diaper insert.
Fitted Diapers (Fitteds): A fitted diaper has elastic at the legs and waist and is kept on the baby with either a hook and loop or snaps. Fitted diapers are made with a variety of fabrics and the type of fabric will determine the diapers absorbency.
Hybrid Diapers: A hybrid diaper consists of a snap in liner with insert and an outer shell or cover. The inserts can be made of cloth or be disposable. These disposable liners are biodegradable and do not contain the harsh chemicals found in disposable diapers.
Nylon Pants: These are covers similar to the traditional plastic diaper covers but are now made with breathable nylon.
One Size Diapers: One size diapers utilize a snap system on the front of the diaper allowing you to adjust the size as your child grows. The different settings allow for waist and leg growth. They will usually fit a child from birth to 30 or 35 pounds.
Pocket Diaper: A pocket diaper consists of an outer layer to contain leaks and forms a pocket with an inner layer in order to add an absorbent insert.
Prefold Diaper (Chinese or Indian Prefold): A flat cloth diaper with a thicker middle that comes in a variety of sizes and absorbencies. These are part of the most economical diapering systems and are worn with a cover. They are available in unbleached and bleached white. The unbleached variety must be washed several times before use in order to strip the natural oils from the cotton which affect absorbency.
Sposie: Cloth diaper talk for disposable diaper
Wool Soaker: A diaper cover made from wool. Wool can hold up to 40% of its weight due to its high lanolin content making it a very effective cover for any diaper.