Disclaimer: As the most effective wash routine will vary depending on water quality, etc., the following recommendations are only general guidelines. Certain washing practices may void your warranty (see "DO NOT" section below).
- Empty waste into the toilet (rinsing diaper if necessary), remove any inserts from pockets, and stash dirty and wet diapers in a dry pail until wash day.
- Every 1-3 days, empty your pail into your washing machine and prewash with warm water and a little detergent.
- Wash diapers on the hottest and highest water settings. Add detergent according to bottle directions. Wipe around top of drum etc. to prevent "cross-contamination" when pulling out the cleaned diapers.
- Do an extra rinse on warm or hot.
- Line dry, preferably in the sun, or tumble dry according to tag instructions.
- set your water heater to 120°F, but at your own discretion (safety concerns here), especially if you are using a detergent without enzymes.
- choose a detergent that will work well with your water quality/hardness levels.
- stay alert for signs of build-up. Diapers can be stripped of detergent residue by washing several times on hot with no detergent.
- use soaps or detergents containing optical brighteners and/or fabric softeners (which can cause repelling), if you can avoid it. Some babies are also sensitive to detergents containing enzymes, perfumes, and/or dyes.
- skip the first or final wash/rinse.
- use chlorine bleach on anything with PUL (such as covers and pocket/AI2 shells). This will void your warranty.
- boil anything with PUL or elastic in it (pockets, shells, covers, wet bags, etc). This will void your warranty. Boiling snap-in inserts (separate from the shells) may carry the risk of damaging the snaps, but will not automatically void your warranty; however, your warranty will not cover snaps damaged during boiling.
A good cloth diaper detergent is one that works well enough with your water to get your diapers clean, doesn't bother baby's skin, and doesn't contribute to build-up/repelling. In my opinion, an ideal detergent will also be free of 1,4-dioxane and eco-friendly. The following detergents are ones that I have personally tried and would recommend (note that I do not have very hard water):
- Ecos Free and Clear (contains no enzymes or optical brighteners)
- Seventh Generation Free and Clear (contains enzymes)
- Sun Free and Clear (contains optical brighteners)
- All Free and Clear (contains enzymes and optical brighteners)
- Chlorine bleach will whiten and disinfect, but is highly toxic. Using it on anything with PUL will void your warranty. If you choose to use it, rinse very thoroughly.
- Vinegar is non-toxic but can damage fabrics with repeated use. Adding it to the first of the final rinses may help to clean and soften your diapers.
- Baking soda is eco-friendly but can also be hard on fabrics if not completely dissolved. It can be added to your main wash cycle to help soften your water and aid in cleaning.
- Vinegar PLUS baking soda may sound like a natural, non-toxic powerhouse, but they react to form mostly water (and a little sodium acetate), so if you use them, use them in separate cycles.
Re Diaper Rash Preventatives/Treatments
To help prevent diaper rash, change diapers promptly. Avoid using wipes that contain harsh chemicals, or simply spray clean with water and pat dry with a cloth wipe/towel. Some regular diaper-free time (or time in a loosely closed prefold) can help. A preventative (such as plain coconut or olive oil) can be applied at each diaper change.
Creams/ointments that contain cloth-unfriendly ingredients (such as petrolatum, zinc oxide, or cod liver oil) should be screened off from the diaper with a liner (such as a paper towel); or, switch to disposable diapers/inserts (such as gRefills) for the duration of treatment.