Washing and Stripping Cloth Diapers
For every diaper, there are 5523 different opinions on how best to wash them (a highly scientific estimate reached by mashing my hand on the number pad of my computer). So which advice should you follow?
I recommend customers following the manufacturer's recommended wash routine. For one, they are the holders of the warranty. If their instructions are not followed, they can (and often do) void the warranty. Most importantly, however, the manufacturers have spent years researching and testing what works with their product. They know better than anyone what will work to keep those diapers squeaky clean.
To help you make heads from tails, here are the specific instructions from each of the manufacturers that Bumbini carries. Note: stripping instructions are included in case you need to strip due to smells or repelling - it does not need to be done on a regular basis. If you do find you need to strip often, please contact me and we will tweak your wash routine.
Recommended Wash Routine:
- Prewash cold
- Heavy duty wash hot with the recommended amount of detergent
- Double rinse (very important to prolong the life of PUL)
- Hang dry if possible, or dry on delicate cycle. Inserts can be dried medium.
- Zero reside. No perfumes, fabric softeners, natural oils, dyes, enzymes, UV brighteners or stain guard ingredients.
- Do not use bleach, products with sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleaches) or RLR. Use caution when adding vinegar or baking soda.
Stripping instructions: (From Applecheeks Blog)
- Cold pre-rinse.
- Add usual detergent plus 1/2 cup of baking soda. Do a heavy hot wash
- Do a second heavy hot wash with no detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda
- Run as many heavy hot water washes with nothing added until the diapers smell REALLY clean (1-3 additional cycles)
- Cold pre-rinse (or cold quick wash) with no detergent
- Warm or hot wash with additive free detergent. Use the highest water level possible.
- Rinse twice.
- Tumble dry inserts, line dry cover (or tumble on low)
- No fabric softeners, bleach, vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, borax, oxyclean etc.
- Additive-free detergent is recommended. Best Bottom has done extensive testing with Tide Original and recommends it for their diapers.
Stripping instructions: (from Official Best Bottom Facebook Chat Group)
For smells with no repelling/leaking:
- Possible cause: urine buildup
- Solution: add more detergent to wash cycle and ensure you are using the highest water setting. Also, start wash routine with a quick cold wash to make sure all urine and solid matter is flushed out before full wash.
For smells WITH repelling and leaking:
- Possible cause: the buildup of minerals, creams or laundry additives
- Do a deep cleaning:
- Start with clean diapers
- Do several hot washes with twice the amount of recommended detergent.
- Do 2-3 hot washes without detergent.
- Handwash inserts in a tub with Dawn Blue dish soap to break down detergent or creams that could be built up in the insert. Rinse well, and do several rinse cycles in the washing machine.
- Prewash cold or warm with 1/2 amount of detergent recommended for a full-size load.
- Heavy duty washes on hot with enough detergent for a heavily soiled full load.
- One cold rinse
- Line dry covers/shells, tumble dry inserts.
- Whatever works for your family, but cautions against using detergent with perfumes, dyes, optical brighteners or fabric softeners.
No specific "stripping" instructions found, but BG recommends adding 1/4 cup of bleach to wash load monthly.
- Warm prewash (or short cycle) with no detergent
- Hot wash with detergent
- Rinse with lots of water (do multiple rinses with an HE machine)
- Dry in dryer or on a clothesline.
- Zero residue. No fabric softeners, natural oils, perfumes, dyes, UV brighteners, stain guards or enzymes.
- Do not use baking soda or vinegar unless specifically suggested by the manufacturer.
- Bleach alternative (sodium carbonate or sodium percarbonate) can be used on occasion for stain removal)
For suspected detergent residues (repelling, smell, rashes) - wash several times in hot water with no detergent. Make sure you are using enough water to rinse out all detergent in future wash routine.
For suspected organic buildup (strong ammonia or barnyard smell, rashes) - wash several times in hot water with detergent. Consider increasing amount of detergent or switching to another type.
- Prewash/rinse cold to remove waste and fight stains
- Wash at a maximum of 60 degrees C
- Follow with the second rinse if necessary
- Hang to dry or tumble dry on low temperature
- No fabric softeners.
Stripping instructions: (From Funky Fluff Laundry Guru)
Use one packet of RLR per 20 diapers
- Fill the bathtub with hot water and add RLR and 1/2 cup of detergent. Mix well.
- Add diapers and mix.
- Soak for 4-8 hours, stirring occasionally
- Wash one hot cycle with no detergent.
- Proceed to bleach soak (if necessary) or wash again in detergent.
Use disinfecting bleach (will say disinfecting/kills bacteria etc. on the label)
- Fill tub 1/2 full with cold water
- Add 1/3 - 1/2 cup of bleach. Mix well.
- Add diapers and mix well
- Soak for 30 minutes
- Drain the tub and rinse diapers with HOT water in the tub
- Wash 2-3 times in washing machine with detergent.
- Rinse cold
- Wash warm or hot
- Rinse warm
- Hang or tumble dry. Dry on medium heat at least every 4-6 washes to maintain wet-proofing.
- No brighteners, whitening agents, oils, softeners, perfumes, bleaches etc.
- Do not use vinegar on a regular basis.
- If a detergent residue is suspected, wash on warm without detergent. Stop machine mid wash cycle and observe if there are bubbles/foam. If so, continue doing washes with just water until the water is clear.
- For other residues, strip diapers using 1/4-1/2 cup of oxygen stain cleaner and white vinegar (1/8 cup in HE). Wash several times after in clear water to make sure all residues are removed.
- If disinfecting is necessary (e.g. yeast rash or gastrointestinal illness) use Omaiki O Disinfectant (not bleach)
- Wash hot (60 degrees Celsius)
- Line dry or tumble dry on a cool setting
- Non-biological detergent (containing no enzymes). Powder is recommended, as it is less likely to cause buildup.
- No bleaches, fabric softeners, baking soda or vinegar.
- Recommended to strip every 3 months to prevent buildup problems
- Do 2-3 hot washes with no detergent
- Tumble dry until dry and then 15 minutes longer (to fluff up pile)
Even the manufacturers disagree on the best method - a fact that made my head hurt compiling the information for this post. There are many reasons behind this. Different brands of diapers are made from different materials. Even the same material may differ between suppliers, for example, Applecheeks PUL may be entirely different than Funky Fluff PUL. So while instructions may be perfectly sound for that particular brand, it may not be fantastic for another.
There are lots of groups on the internet that (very kindly) try to guide people to the perfect wash routine. However, a lot of their advice can be harmful to the diapers and void any warranty you may have, especially advice regarding stripping and bleaching. Several manufacturers have many unhappy customers with diapers with extensive damage from following this well-meaning advice. And unfortunately for the customer, this damage is not covered under warranty. If your goal of cloth diapering is to save money, keeping those diapers in good condition is a good way to do it!
As always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me :)