Tag Archive | "washing cloth diapers"

Getting over the Cloth Diaper Blues

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You aren’t human if you consistently go through life without ever getting a little lazy, or feeling “done” with any part of your life.  Heck, there are some days when I am “done” with just about everything except sleep and coffee ice cream.  This can happen with your commitment to your reusable paper towels, your compost pile, your garden, and yes- your cloth diapers.  There are some days when a modicum of convenience and an extra day off from laundry can feel way more inviting.  Is that ok?  I think so.


In the beginning everything is exciting and new.  Fluffy mail days are the VERY BEST DAYS and prepping the new diapers is even better.  Expecting moms get to gaze at baskets full of perfectly folded cloth diapers in the basket and go to the baby’s nursery the next day to do it again.  The miraculous part of that last sentence is that when you go back in the diapers are still there!  No baby to use them! Then the baby arrives and reality sets in.  Babies are hard, man.  They cry, they poop, they eat, they sleep, they poop, they cry, they poop, they sleep.  Shuffle and repeat.  Whether you are a first time, second time, or fifth time mom newborns are hard.  Those once perfect diaper baskets are more often than not- empty.  Instead, your laundry baskets are full to the brim with diapers needing to be stuffed or sorted and put away. Even if you are in the later stages of babyhood or toddlerdom this is often the scene.  A few of you are reading this and saying to yourself “my diapers are always folded nicely and put away fresh off the line, right after I take out my soufflé from the oven.”  Good… good for you.  This blog post isn’t for you then!  I was able to do that kind of thing too (minus the soufflé), on occasion.  Consistency was never my strong suit and for a lot of moms, having a day to catch up is the norm.  Being done every day is just not an option nor is it realistic. firstworldclothdiaperproblems So how do you get over the hump, and fall back in love with your cloth diapers?  A break.   *ducks* If it becomes more of a dreaded activity and you find that you’re up half the night just to catch up on your diaper laundry then maybe dip into that emergency hybrid insert stash (or disposable stash if you have it.)  Take a day off, maybe three.  A little distance, time to catch up on other things, these all make coming back to cloth diapers so much easier.  I will admit to taking a mini-break just to get over the “I’m always washing diapers and never even have time to put them away” blues.

I took a break both times I was pregnant with another baby. I just couldn’t deal with spraying poo with my nausea. That and my energy being zapped meant practically all my laundry was on hold as well- Katherine Loichinger

Then there are the times you want to quit because things are just not working out.  Leaks, rashes, smell… sometimes it happens and it is beyond frustrating if you can’t pinpoint why!  If the diapers aren’t even working, it could be time for a little break to re-group.  By using hybrids or disposables you can have all of your diapers clean at once.  Take a breather, ask for advice from a trusted friend or from the place you bought your diapers from, and try again in a few days.

I quit cloth for about a month because I couldn’t figure out why they were all leaking. Finally after trying to wash on super hot water the leaks were gone and we’ve been back on cloth ever since and happy.  -Angie Hayter

As a cloth diaper advocate coming out and saying that is kind of risky.  I’m not saying cloth diapers suck… overall I enjoyed my diapering days and I miss them.  I also recognize that we are all humans, and busy humans that have other mini-humans who rely on us for virtually every need.  Our days are long, our downtime is valuable, and a rest and reset period can make the difference between giving it ALL up forever and picking up right where you left off.  My ultimate goal is to help parents cloth diaper, and to do it successfully.  If and when the blues set it, it is better to distance yourself from the problem for perspective than to trudge through and eventually give them up completely. A small break may even make you appreciate the oft forgotten benefits of cloth diapers, like their blow-out holding ability or their fall catching padding that keeps butts bruise free.

I took a few mini breaks with E. We were in a new house, J. was potty training and I just stopped for a day or two. Then the blowouts would get to me and it was easier to wash diapers than poopy clothes. I did it a few times. -Leigh Peters-Fransen

Have you ever taken a break from cloth diapers and started back?  Why did you stop and how was it when you started back up?

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Prevent and treat ammonia in cloth diapers

Ammonia- Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.

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is the most feared word in the cloth diaper community.  It is the scourge of the earth, a menace to society, some even call it a “beast” because it is so hard to get rid of.

Ammonia is unmistakable, and if you aren’t sure if you have build-up in your diapers all you need to do is take a whiff of a wet diaper.  If a diaper that has been urinated in smells strongly, and singes your nose hairs, it is ammonia.  Ammonia is used in cleaning products like window cleaner  (and can be purchased in pure form) so you have that smell to compare it to.

There are acceptable amounts of ammonia and if your diapers only smell strongly after a few days in your wetbag or pail then this is quite normal, though you may want to increase the frequency of your washing to prevent a problem.  When the smell is acrid and “knock you over” strong this should be addressed as soon as possible.

Other than just an offensive odor, ammonia can cause topical rashes that often present as flat and red, though in severe cases they can leave open sores. Ammonia “burn” is the worst presentation of the rash and is a chemical burn on the skin that is very painful.

I am not a chemist or a laundry scientist and I won’t start spouting off a lot of chemical explanations of why and how ammonia builds up in cloth diapers.  There are many resources for that, including this one from Rockin’ Green.

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advertisement from 1929

Ammonia in diapers is a problem that is as old as cloth diapers themselves.  Instances referring to the “ammoniacal diaper” go back to the early 1900’s in newspaper advice columns, baby care handbooks, and advertisements.  There was even a study done on why and how ammonia builds up in cloth diapers done in the 1920’s.  Many products were designed to wash the ammonia from the diaper, and some ads for washing machines even claimed to prevent ammonia build-up!  This problem has been around so long and yet no one has created a magical cure, which goes along with my stance that there is not a single method for washing diapers that works for everyone.

For those of you with younger infants you may not experience this issue.  This is for several reasons

  • Younger babies are changed more frequently.
  • Younger babies are on pure breastmilk or formula
  • Younger babies have less concentrated urine due to their diets of pure liquids and they drink often.

The older the baby, the more ammonia… One you begin introducing solid foods and your baby starts sleeping for longer stretches at night you may notice the increasing odor of ammonia creeping in.  The diapers used overnight are the biggest offenders, and babies who sleep all night are usually not changed so by the morning the diaper can reek of the scent!

All diapers are not created equal

Now that you understand why ammonia builds up (concentrated urine, longer times before changing, varied diets and older babies/toddlers) you should also know that all diapers are not created equal in how they wash.  This can greatly affect your chances of success and your method of attacking the ammonia.

Microfiber is the cheapest absorbent material and therefore a popular one for cloth diapers.  Pocket diapers often come with microfiber inserts and some All-in-Ones or All-in-Two’s use this material as well.  Very few fitteds use them but a couple come to mind.  The thicker the microfiber the harder it is to get clean.  Microfiber strands, when looked at under a microscope, will explain why they hold onto the ammonia so effectively.  The same design that makes them so absorbent is their weakness.  Avoiding diapers with super thick layers of microfiber, or microfiber that is sandwiched under a stay dry synthetic layer and sewn down is good advice when you consider what a pain the ass butt it is to wash the ammonia out.  The highest amount of agitation is needed.

That being said, the thicker the layers of any diaper and the inability to wash and clean them throughly, the more likely you are to have odor/ammonia build up.  If you are up for the challenge (and the immense rewards) you can opt to use flat cloth diapers.  These are one layer and fold to various diaper shapes or rectangular diaper inserts.  Being made from natural materials, and a single layer, means the chances of ammonia build-up are practically impossible with an effective wash routine.


Natural fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp) have smoother strands, making the ammonia build-up less likely.  I’m not saying diapers with natural fibers won’t experience ammonia, but if they do, ridding it will be easier than microfiber diapers. If at all possible, using natural fibers at night is a wise choice for many reasons.

Treatment This becomes a touchy subject because some treatments that I may suggest, and that are often effective, may void the manufacturer’s warranty on your diapers.  Please be aware of this fact and check the warranty (if you still have one) before trying any of these methods.  Also know that I cannot be responsible for the results of your efforts and this is strictly advice.  

Oh I wish, I wish I could solve all of your problems with ammonia.  I myself have never truly been able to cure it, though many times I was able to keep it at bay.  I can offer tips that are based on my experiences, the experiences of others, and other literature.

Chlorine Bleach is effective against ammonia.  Some brands, like bumGenius, suggest using bleach regularly.  1/4 cup added to the wash once a month.  In my experience, bleach can work, especially when nothing else will.  If you use microfiber diapers you may want to use it monthly to prevent ammonia.  If you are treating diapers with severe build-up strip them first, then bleach and wash again.

Stripping your diapers with many hot washes (no detergent) and using a laundry additive designed for removal of ammonia like Funk Rock is another option.  Usually you will need to let the diapers soak in the Funk Rock for several hours or overnight, then do many hot washes with no detergent.  Soaking will allow the Funk Rock to penetrate into the thicker diapers.

RLR is another laundry additive used for stripping.  If you suspect the ammonia is trapped thanks to other build-ups in your diapers (minerals from hard water or laundry soaps) the RLR soak will remove the build-up. (You can find RLR at many cloth diaper retailers including DDL affiliate Kelly’s Closet)

Eco Nuts makes something called “Ammonia Bouncer” that I’m just giving a try.  It does remove ammonia from the test swatches immediately (when I first saw it at an expo, a swatch was soaked in pure ammonia and the product was added to the soak and the odor was gone!) but will it work on diapers?  I hope so.

Switching detergents can help too.  As much as I hate to say it, one of the ways we got rid of ammonia odor after moving states and changing water types was switching to Tide Original.  Sometimes that switch is all it takes, and then I switched back to a more natural detergent after the ammonia was gone.  Using the Tide on occasion worked best for us.  I wouldn’t use it full-time since in previous years that led to repelling issues.


If you know your baby is prone to ammoniacal diapers you can try a few things to prevent the build up.

Pre-rinse the wet diapers (or just overnight diapers if you know that is the main issue) with the diaper sprayer or in the sink and put them in the pail after a squeeze.  Rinsing the urine away before letting it sit until wash day can prevent more ammonia from occurring.

Make sure your baby is well hydrated!  Let them drink plenty of water.  The less concentrated the urine, the less ammonia will be present.

Be sure the diapers are well rinsed after washing.  Removing any alkali already present or bacteria will reduce the chance of ammonia building in the diapers.

Very hot washes will kill ammonia and bacteria (unless there is already build-up).  You may consider temporarily raising the temperature on your hot water heater to 135 or above for washing the diapers.

Spraying the wet diaper inserts with a solution called “Bac-Out” before placing in the pail/wet bag has been testified to work by several friends.  Bac-Out contains an enzyme and could potentially irritate the baby’s skin.  Bac-out is often found in natural food stores or on Amazon.com.

Ammonia is a bitch (we are all adults here…).  I understand why many cloth diapering parents take breaks when this problem arises, or quit altogether.  There is almost a science to washing cloth diapers and finding the right method can be downright impossible.

That being said, you have invested a lot of money into your cloth diapers!  Taking steps to get rid of the problem, even if you take a break while doing so, will ensure you continue cloth diapering for many months or years to come.

Have you had an ammonia problem and been successful at getting rid of it?  Please share in the comments and include your type of washer and water if you can!
Disclosure: I am not a scientist.  Please use this post as a guide, not a guarantee, and take any advice at your own risk.  


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If my cloth diapers are stained, are they clean?!

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The fact of the matter is this: cloth diapers catch poop.  Poop, especially if your kid has a thing for blueberries, stain.  If your child pooped on your favorite white shirt you would probably expect it to be stained.  But you would wash it (perhaps pre-treat it) and hope for the best.  When you pulled it from the dryer and saw it was stained your first thought wouldn’t have been “this shirt must still be dirty”  it would be “well, guess that shit did leave a stain.”

Why on earth people get confused about stains on cloth diapers is beyond me!  They are the one thing in your life you should be ok with having a stain on!   When you remove them from your dryer and notice a stain, why is it that your mind is blown?!  “B-b-b-b-u-t I washed these.  Why are they stained?  I guess they must not be clean…”


Stains on your cloth diapers do not mean they didn’t get clean enough.  Sometimes, diapers aren’t getting clean enough, but let your NOSE be your guide on that one.  Visually, unless you did something REALLY wrong, your diapers will and should appear clean every time!  If they don’t, you have way bigger problems than a poop stain!


Stained diapers are still clean.  Just stained.



What if you’d like to get rid of the stains?  Sun!  Lay your diapers flat to dry out in the sunshine.  9 times out of 10 the stain will be gone in a matter of hours.  If the stain is not gone completely, try adding lemon juice and sunning again.  You’ll want to wash your diapers again if you use lemon juice.  You can see an example in a post on this topic I did in 2009.

Take a whiff!


If it turns out that your diapers smell- stained or not- you will need to adjust your wash routine.  A barnyard smell often means that your diapers aren’t getting clean enough so add more detergent.  Ammonia smells mean you have a build-up of ammonia salts from urine.  Ammonia is very often left in that thirsty microfiber.  Stripping, often with 1/4 cup of bleach to kill it, is usually the way to go (but check your diaper’s warranty because some are voided by using bleach.)  Another common problem is that a diaper will still stink when wet from the washing machine, or right after the baby urinates in it.  This again, is a sign you aren’t getting your diapers clean enough.  Either use more detergent or make sure you’re using very hot water to kill the bacteria.  Molly’s Suds suggests using 130-140 degrees, which is more than the default setting in your water heater.  Change, wash, and reset to default if you decide to try this method.

So the takeaway is this- ignore the stains.  If they bother you, sun your diapers.  If you want to resell your diapers, sun them regularly.  If you aren’t reselling then stains are a fact of life you can ignore.  Save the mental energy you were using worrying about your stained diapers and go read a magazine.

Do stains on your diapers bother you?  Tell us in the comments! Pin It

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Confession: My Cloth Diapers Aren’t Color Coded

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The Pinterest effect spreads far and wide, including to the cloth diaper community.  That elusive “perfect stash” and beautifully organized collection of diapers look gorgeous in the photos, don’t they?  Who wouldn’t want their diapers to appear color coded in the baskets or drawers, or organized by diaper type and brand?

I’ll admit that I used to.  When I only had one child and he was not mobile I had lots of time to slowly fold my diapers, lovingly organize them by shades of color, and put them away in a perfectly organized changing table.  My color coding was flawless since I used to work retail and knew the correct color scheme for clothing.  I often went into my son’s room, which was never used for sleeping mind you, just to look at how pretty and neat everything was.

Our Empty Drawers

Our Empty Drawers

Fast forward to almost 4 years later.  My second son’s diapers are currently sitting in a laundry basket, hanging on the wall.  There are 2 loads worth.  Well, there used to be except I was pulling diapers from the basket so by now there might be a full load in there, maybe less.  Each time I need to change him I run to his room only to forget I don’t have any clean diapers.  Sometimes he is naked already so I have to run across the house, grab an insert and shell since I already took all of my “easy” All-in-One’s out, and stuff the diaper while sprinting back.  Repeat multiple times a day until I finally decide to stuff my diapers and put them away.  Usually by then the pail is full and I already have another load ready to wash.  I can’t get my head above water in the laundry department.

Current view of my landry room

Current view of my laundry room

I should just start changing my son’s diapers in the laundry room because I can’t seem to get his diapers past that room and back into his drawers.  I hope I’m not the only one whose stash lives in a basket and not organized in drawers.  (The time it took for me to write this post and edit photos was probably enough to catch up on folding clothes… ironic right?)


Image for diapers in baskets via: http://mcbabybump.blogspot.com/2011/12/cloth-diapering-my-system.html

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What happens to your cloth diaper wash routine when you move?

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Ask anyone what their cloth diaper washing routine is and you will get 20 different answers from 20 different women.  There are just so many factors at work in washing cloth diapers and that is why it is the toughest part of cloth diapering for most parents.

For most of us we work on our wash routines for months before finding what works.  What if life throws you a curve ball and you move to a new area?  

I hate to break it to you but your wash routine might be obsolete.  Due to the variables in water hardness and mineral content what worked for you in Point A might not work for you in Point B.  This might not be evident right away but there are signs that you need to change your routine and finding out sooner is better than later- trust me!  For an idea about the variations in types of water across the country Rockin’ Green has a chart, although you will want to double check once you get settled in.  I also highly suggest using Bummis as a resource for washing cloth diapers in general.


Things to look for:

An increasingly strong stink-

Your diapers shouldn’t stink after being washed and dried.  They also shouldn’t stink after being washed and still wet.  Typically your diapers should have no odor at all.  Take a moment to sniff test your diapers before hanging them to dry or putting them in your dryer.  There are different kinds of smells but the most common one you can detect while they are wet is called “barnyard stink” and this is a sign that your diapers are not getting clean enough.  Due to changes in water from moving this could mean using more detergent than you used previously (especially if you have harder water) or adding a water softener like Calgon in with your wash.  It might also mean that you should change detergents if other fixes don’t solve the issue because frankly- some detergents don’t work well with certain water types.

A “nose stinging” odor-

Whew!  Your diaper pail seems to be a toxic waste factory each time you open the lid and you have started closing your eyes and nose each time you have to open it.  That my friends is a sign of ammonia build up in your diapers.  Ammonia is one of those dreaded words in cloth diaper land because it can be a BYOTCH to get rid of.  It is important to take action at the earliest signs of ammonia build up because not only will it be harder to get rid of as more takes up residence in your diapers but it can cause serious rashes for your baby.  To get rid of ammonia you will need to strip your diapers (a process of removing build up through continuous washes with either plain hot water or Dawn dish soap among other products-find what will work best for you situation) and bleach them.  There I said it.   Bleach is a necessary evil in my opinion and is recommended by many manufacturers, including Cotton Babies, for diaper washing on a monthly basis.  You will want to check your warranties on your diapers before bleaching however as some do not cover them after that.  Once you have tackled the ammonia and your diapers smell odorless after your child has peed in them you will need to re-evaluate your routine to avoid another round.  It is normal to smell ammonia faintly on diapers after they have been sitting in your wet bag or pail for long periods but it shouldn’t knock you over so keep that in mind as you go on.


Any time there is a rash you will want to isolate the cause.  Rashes can be caused by so many things, not just diaper laundry.  Common rash causes include too much detergent build up (and your baby is sensitive to your detergent), ammonia in the diapers (usually these are flat and bright red rashes), yeast (which is another problem, related to diapering but not to moving), a reaction to new foods, sensitivity to wet diapers if not changed soon after wetting, etc.  If you rule out the rashes caused by other environmentals like food allergies then it is time to step back and look at your diapers for the cause.  Ammonia and build-up are both issues that could be caused from a new location and a bad fit from your old wash routine.  Treating the rash with a cloth diaper safe cream and revamping your routine should cure that rash and keep it at bay.


Repelling is another ugly word in our land.  With repelling your diapers have built up a barrier of detergent (or have rash cream build up or even softeners on the lining) from not being rinsed thoroughly enough or using to much detergent.  This is an easy fix when you notice your diapers are repelling or suspect that small leaks could mean the absorbancy rate is decreasing.  It can happen slowly or in one wash too.  If it happens slowly you will notice small leaks from the legs or back, usually because the urine escapes before soaking in all the way.  Leaks will happen more often and will get increasingly worse over time if you don’t fix what is leaing residue.  If you just happen to drop in a bottle of softener then you will have immediate repelling and no urine will soak in leaving you with a potentially soaked crib sheet or jeans with a baby on your lap.   First you need to strip the diapers of the residue, sometimes RLR is the best for removing detergent build up.  I uaully buy mine from Mom’s Milk Boutique because they offer free shipping on it!  After a good soak and strip look to detergents formulated for hard water if you have it now, or use less of your current detergent because you may have moved from a harder to softer water system.

Catching your problem early is the best way to tackle it before it becomes a beast!  I personally fought this battle after moving from NY to FL and had to change detergents and start using Calgon in my wash and this has killed the barnyard stink that my diapers were experiencing.  After moving I wouldn’t change your routine off the bat unless you for sure know what the differences are in the water and feel comfortable making that change.

Even vacations can have take a toll on your diapers.  I have taken mine with me many times to various parts of the country and experienced near immediate repelling due to a water change that didn’t agree with my wash routine.  This is hard to know until you try but consider asking others in that area about the water type and look up how that differs from your own, then make a small adjustment for that time.

My biggest tip is to join a local cloth diapering group after you move and ask about how others wash their diapers!  Asking on a worldwide forum is going to leave you with more questions than answers, but usually there is a theme within a community in the amount used, the detergent used, and any additives.  Try local boards on cloth diaper forums or even Facebook!  


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Washing Cloth Diapers is the Easy Part…

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How can you possibly find time to wash cloth diapers?  Isn’t it hard?  These are questions I am often asked by the people I meet in real life when they learn that I use cloth diapers.  Washing cloth diapers only adds a tiny bit of extra work into my life.  What people without kids don’t realize is that washing diapers is the easiest part of my day.  Just raising the kids is the hardest.  Retreating to my laundry room for two minutes to add detergent or toss my diapers in the dryer is a quiet oasis away from the children.  I know that when I emerge I’ll come out to one kid screaming because he is locked inside of his toy box or another kid jumping from the coffee table onto the couch exclaiming “I’m Spider Man!.”

Washing cloth diapers is easy.  Keeping my kids alive, fed, my house clean, my sanity in tact; these are all things that are difficult.  Since cloth diapers save money and waste less I’ll choose taking my washer and dryer’s time for a few hours.  Because let’s face it- your washer and dryer do the dirty work!  The time I actually spend on laundry is about 10-20 minutes.  I’ll take it.

To show you what washing diapers really looks like I filmed everything that happened in my day while I did my laundry.  You’ll see that my time “working” on laundry is overshadowed by the time I’m doing other things in my home.  It’s a brutally honest look at my daily life.  I am in pajamas during the entire film and my house isn’t ready for company.  I get a little pass though since I just moved in a couple of weeks ago!

I want to send a special thank you to my cloth diaper laundry detergent of choice, Rockin’ Green Soap!  I’ve been using their products since they came out and buying them when I run out (I don’t get free soap, ya’ll).  They also happen to be my BlogHer 2012 sponsor and are generously covering the cost of travel and lodging for my trip next week!  Their detergent makes my job a little bit easier by not having to worry about repelling diapers and other issues that happen with grocery store brands.  Thanks RnG!  

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How to Prep Cloth Diapers: Your Questions Answered

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Not all cloth diapers are made from the same material, therefore not all cloth diapers can be prepped in one single load.  I’m answering the most common questions I’ve been asked over the years in hopes that I can just refer future readers here and save my hands some typing.  Just kidding…  kind of.  If you are completely new to cloth diapers you will find a lot more helpful information on my New to Cloth Diapers.

So exactly what does “prepping” mean?

Prepping is the process of washing your cloth diapers repeatedly before the first use in order to help them reach their maximum absorbency.  Prepping will also remove any excess natural oils from the diapers (those with natural fibers) and clean away any dirt left over from the manufacturing process.  

Do I have to prep my diapers?

Yes, at least once.  If only to remove any leftover chemicals that might be present on the diapers from manufacturing.  I always wash my diapers at least one good time before using them, just in case.  If you do decide to only wash once then use that diaper during the day and not for a nap.  It won’t be fully absorbent until it gets washed a few more times.

Can I wash my synthetic cloth diapers with my diapers made with natural fibers?

No!  Cloth diapers made from cotton, bamboo, and hemp will have a natural oil in the fibers that will wash away within the first few washes.  Organic, unbleached natural fibers (especially organic cotton) have even more oils.  These oils can wash onto your synthetic materials, especially the stay dry layers of pocket diapers made from microfleece and suedecloth, and leave a build-up that leads to repelling (when liquids don’t absorb).  All natural materials should be washed at least three times alone.  If you receive a pocket diaper in the mail that comes with a hemp insert you still need to wash those two pieces separately.  I have a materials glossary for cloth diapers if you need a reference.

How many washes does it take for a diaper to be fully prepped and absorbent?

There is no definite answer because every diaper is made from a different material, however an average number is 6-8.  Microfiber inserts will fall on the lower range, even less than 6 usually.  Natural materials, especially hemp, will take 8 washes.

Do I need to dry the diapers between each wash when prepping?

Eh……..  I don’t.  The drying will exponentially increase quilting (this is when the cotton puffs/wrinkles up which makes them more absorbent) when prepping prefolds, however I don’t find this necessary for other inserts or diapers.  So basically- inserts, flats, fitteds- no.  Cotton prefolds- yes.

Boiling a load of flats

Can I boil my diapers to prep them faster?

You can, but take my advice:  don’t unless you understand what you are getting into!  Boiling looks like the easy route but unless you have a witch’s cauldron or you only need to boil a handful of diapers you’ll want the capacity of a washer.  I gave my tiny apartment kitchen a steam bath when I boiled about 52 prefolds in batches.  It took 5 hours of constant work.  The steam “cleaned” my wallpaper, leaving disgusting yellow streaks down my walls.  I ended up doing even more work than just boiling diapers- I also had to wash all of my walls.  You can NOT boil any parts of a cloth diaper that have PUL, TPU, elastic, or snaps.  Really the only things you can boil are prefolds, flats, and inserts.

What if I just have one brand new diaper?  Do I really need it wash it all by itself to prep it? 

This will all depend on the materials.  If it has organic, natural materials, I defintely would still wash it by itself.  This will be less work than stripping all of your diapers later.  If the diaper is made from synthetics,  non organic cotton, or non organic bamboo velour then I would say it should be ok and you can sneak it into a load of your dirty diapers.

How much detergent do I use when just prepping my diapers?

There is conflicting information on this (just like all diaper washing articles) but I use the tiniest amount.  Usually just a teaspoon or two.  Since prep loads are usually less than full wash loads this gives you enough to work out the oils but not enough to cause any repelling problems.  Some people prefer not to use any soap.  You can adjust the amount if you are prepping an entire load of brand new diapers- so if you have a full wash load of 12-15 new diapers you could use the full recommended amount by your soap maker.  In my case it would be 2 tablespoons of Rockin’ Green.

Do I need to prep my new covers?

Covers aren’t absorbent therefore you don’t need to “prep” them in the sense that they need washing to work effectively.  They will work right out of the package as intended.  You will still probably want to wash once but you can throw these into your dirty laundry (if you have any).

Should I prep my “new to me” (previously loved) diapers?

Assuming they were loved more than a few times they will already be fully absorbent.  You might want to “strip” your diapers, however.

Stripping gone wrong- Image from a friend

What is “Stripping” and why does it sound so dirty?  

Stripping refers to the removal of any soap, minerals, and stink that sometimes accumulate over time in the fibers of cloth diapers.  All fabrics cling to these things during the wash but unlike cloth diapers, our sheets and clothes don’t need to hold liquid so this isn’t usually a concern.  When stripping diapers there are several approaches, some of which could void the warranty of your diapers, so do your research and understand what you are getting into.  The simplest form of stripping just involved repeated HOT WASH CYCLES with no detergent.  The hot water will remove the built up soap and rinse it away.  Other stripping methods will recommend using Original Blue Dawn (just a drop…) and bleach.  If someone tells you to strip your diapers using your dish washer- DON’T DO IT.  This is extremely unsafe since a diaper could land on a heating element inside and start a fire.  Not only that, but you can potentially ruin your diapers.  If you are looking to go the unconventional route read about how to use fish tank ammonia remover.  Why does “stripping” sound so dirty?  Because your mind is in the gutter, that’s why!

How will I know that my diapers are fully prepped?

There won’t be an exact moment where you look at your diapers and know for certain that they are fully absorbent.  With prefolds you can kind of tell by how quilted the cotton appears, but even at full quilt they will still become more absorbent for a few more washes.  With pockets, All-in-Ones, All-in-Two’s, Fitteds, Flats, and other types of cloth diapers you’ll just have to work on the honor system.  If you decided to only wash once and let the dirty washes do the rest of the work give those diapers a few weeks or even a month before trying them overnight.  You won’t want to use a half-prepped diaper overnight because you’ll likely get unfavorable results.  Don’t rule out a diaper if it leaks and it is new- chances are it just needs a few more washes.

Do you have a prepping question that wasn’t answered?  Leave a comment and I’ll answer it if I can!

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Traveling with Cloth Diapers- Can you do it? SHOULD you do it? A Pro Answers.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Traveling with cloth diapers isn’t a cut an dry topic.  There are just so many variables that a simple “Yes you can use cloth diapers while traveling” or “No, you shouldn’t cloth diaper when traveling” is impossible.  I hope my vast experience with practically every type of scenario will shed some light on how to cloth diaper while traveling and maybe even when to skip it.

Air Travel- Flying with a baby can be a stressful idea even if the flight itself winds up being a breeze thanks to heavenly white noise and a baby happy to nurse and nap the whole way {as an experienced flyer with babies I have tips for this}.  There are ways to bring cloth diapers with you if you are so inclined.  I’ve snuck an entire stash of diapers inside of my carseat which was bagged up and checked.  If you need to pack cloth diapers in your luggage consider sticking to enough for 1.5 days and washing frequently.  Extend your stash by using All-in-Two’s and lots of extra soaker pads, or ultra compact flats with 4-6 covers.

As for washing your diapers, flats make the best choice because they work better even if your destination has a different water.  They can easily be washed in your hotel bathroom tub or washer and hung to dry over shower racks and even the luggage caddy that most every hotel room has.  If you are staying with family you may want to check that washing your diapers there is OK (some people might balk at the idea).

Car Travel-  If you are packing the family into the car you have an obvious advantage because you control the space and will likely be able to fit an entire stash of diapers into your car.  From experience I would recommend sticking to the basics of your stash if you are washing while away.  If you plan on washing when you return home then by all means bring every diaper you have.  To those washing while away save the space in your luggage for souvenirs and only take 2 days worth.

Camping- I can’t speak from experience on camping and using cloth diapers.  I defintely know it can be done and would suggest a small stash of flats and covers.  Flat cloth diapers can pack small and be handwashed while camping.

Other options:

Hybrid cloth diapers that will work with disposable inserts are a way to either thicken your stash while you are away, save the day when you get too busy to wash diapers and run out, or can be used full time inside of your covers or shells to make your packing load lighter and your vacation a little more convenient.

Use a Diaper Service on longer trips and leave all of your diapers at home!  I’ve done this twice myself while attending a conference with a nursling in tow.  Once in Las Vegas and once in Louisville Kentucky.  Both diaper services were happy to work with me and both also received extra business while offering the service to other attendees.  Win/Win.  They dropped off a large bag of clean prefolds and a diaper pail/bag to my hotel and I met them or left the bags at the desk for them when my trip was done.  You’dd have to diaper your baby from home to the hotel and back but for the rest of your trip you are will be worry free and waste free too!  Find a list of diaper services on Real Diaper Industry Association or simply use a search engine for your destination’s city.

Should you cloth diaper while away from home?  

Most of me says yes.  I’ve done it many, many, many times.  I’ve flown with diapers to Texas and North Carolina a few times each.  I’ve driven my diapers to Massachusetts (3 times, once with 2 babies in diapers), North Carolina, and various weekend trips around NY State.  Then I’ve used a diaper service in Las Vegas and Louisville.

I’ve also used hybrid systems and on one occasion, have used disposables exclusively on one trip.  I much prefer to travel with cloth and have made it work for almost every trip we have taken as a family.  That being said, I do understand that we moms tend to make life harder on ourselves sometimes and if a weekend away from diaper laundry while on vacation is what you crave you are entitled to that!  Cloth diapering families are vastly reducing the waste being left by their children.  I do feel guilt when the occasional disposable on a trip or at night is used but I try to put this into perspective.  If only disposables were used for these occasions by everyone then they would be fulfilling their original purpose!

I’ll leave you with my “Expert Tips” for traveling with cloth diapers.

  • Pack only what you need.  I stick to about 15 diapers worth, 1 Large wet bag and 2 medium for the diaper bag.
  • Remember to bring your own detergent and a way to measure it!
  • Cloth wipes and water from the sink.  Or your disposable wipes.
  • If you are handwashing pack latex gloves.
  • Diapers pack smaller if you pack the inserts seperatesly from the shells.  Pre-stuffed diapers take up more room.
  • Be aware that your destination might have a different water type and this could afect your wash routine.
  • To prepare for packing your diapers consider having hybrids or a disposable on hand to put on while washing the last load.  If you will be gone longer than 5 days you don’t want to leave one last dirty diaper at home to be washed before you leave.
  • If you have to cloth diaper until the last moment before leaving home toss that final dirty diaper or two in the washer and run a rinse with a bit of detergent just so it isn’t growing mushrooms before you get home.
  • My best piece of advice: be realistic with yourself.  Try to do cloth diapers if you desire but if you just can’t make it work logistically then use plan b or a mixture of plan a and plan b.

Other posts about traveling with cloth diapers:

Cloth Diapering at a Home Away From Home (my recent post on KellyWels.com about cloth diapering while living with family)

Roadtrippin’ With 2 Kid and Cloth Diapers

Roadtrippin’ With 2 Kids and Cloth Diapers Pt. 2

Last Minute Trip to Texas (and packed cloth)

Traveling With Cloth Diapers (with map of travels)

Using a Diaper Service on trip to Las Vegas

This post is part of the Real Diaper Week BlogHop hosted by The Eco Chic.  Visit her blog to see the other entries for today.  Don’t forget that the Great Cloth Diaper Change is this Saturday.  Help set a World Record for most cloth diapers changed simultaneously.  I’ll be in Charlotte, NC!

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Flats Challenge on the Road- on a BIKE. Guest Post from The Pedal Powered Family

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This guest post is from The Pedal Powered Family.  I first learned about their adventure after they signed up for the Flats Challenge.  I asked Heidi if she would write a guest post about using cloth diapers and touring North and Central America by bicycle with 2 children!  I hope you will all follow their journey on their blog or Facebook Page.

It would have been difficult to take on the Flats and Handwashing Challenge while living at home – having the washing and drying capabilities and a good stash of fitted diapers that worked fantastically, I didn’t want to invest in another type of diaper. You would think that doing this challenge would have been even more difficult to attempt while travelling, however that’s when I realized that unless I did so, I wouldn’t be able to continue cloth diapering at all during the next year, as I would be spending the next year on my bike.

On May 21st, I left with my family (myself, husband, and 2 kids ages 4 and 18 months) on a year long North and Central American bike tour. We’ve gone on shorter bike trips in the past where it has always been easier to just switch to disposable diapers for the duration of each journey, but we didn’t want to compromise our eco-friendly values for an entire year as we continued to diaper little Harper on the road.

Better for Babies generously supplied us with a complete collection of fitted diapers and wool covers for our travels. We wanted to utilize wool covers as we would only need a rotation of 2 or 3, and wool doesn’t need to be washed very frequently. When they do require washing, they have a pretty long dry time, so we did take along a few Bummi’s Super Whisper Wraps for back up. After using the fitted organic cotton velour diapers from Better for Babies for several weeks prior to the start of our bike trip, we determined that they work very well, fit great, and never leaked. However, they did take forever to line dry. So we looked into flats as a faster-drying solution. Re-diaper, our local cloth diaper resource supplied us with some Osocosy flats. We learned how to fold them and have since taken 13 of them on our travels. We also took 9 flat hemp inserts, figuring this would be about a two day supply.

We have been on the road for about a week, and the diapering is going pretty smoothly. We wash each diaper as it is dirtied in whatever resource we have – a hotel bathtub, sink at a campground or in a bathroom in a gas station. Then we dry them on the back of the sun shade attached to my husband’s bicycle and they dry in the sun and wind. One night, we did a load of about 8 flats in a hotel bathroom and they were almost completely dry by morning after hanging all over the hotel room.

Ok. I’m struggling here. I have a confession. The diapers are currently in an electric dryer and I’m cheating. However, there was no way around this situation! Being on the road by bicycle means you are out in the weather almost 24 hours a day. And it has rained straight the last 2 days! We have no indoor drying rack as we are sleeping in a tent so the diapers had to be dried in a dryer. For this challenge I may have cheated but I’ll make up for it by participating in the handwashing challenge for the next year as we continue to travel by bicycle around the continent. {Editor’s Note- You are totally forgiven!  Your dedication to cloth on your journey more than makes up for using a dryer this week!}

Pros – we continue to use cloth diapers while travelling and don’t contribute to the mounting landfills with diapers that will never decompose; Harper is happier in cloth!
Cons – handwashing each individual diaper as we can uses so much water and takes a considerable amount of time – 7-10 min per diaper can equal almost 1 hour of the day – we have to wash them when we can as we can never predict where the next available resource to wash them will be; unpredictable and rainy weather means that we will be using a dryer when we have to; flats don’t contain poop as well as fitted diapers which means our wool covers will need washing more frequently which may be a challenge due to their drying time.

So far, this handwashing challenge has been just that – a challenge. I admit, I sometimes long for a disposable diaper that I can just throw in the next trash can. I dread every time I see Harper straining with his next #2 because I know I’ll have to scrape it out and get my hands dirty. But it does warm my heart every time the diapers dry within an hour on the bicycle or over a lunch rest stop hanging on a fence. Perhaps my next stop should be looking into “elimination communication” to eliminate the messy parts of this challenge… {Editor’s note: I posted about EC coincidentally today, check it out}

About The Pedal Powered Family: We are a family of four seeking to live simply, give generously, and travel slowly on our bikes. On May 21, 2011 we plan to live out our dream of exploring our continent on a year-long, 20,000km bicycle tour, starting and finishing at our home in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Diaper Pails Versus Hanging Wet Bags- Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage Debate

Diaper Pails Versus Hanging Wet Bags- Dirty Cloth Diaper Storage Debate

This post may contain affiliate links.

So you have decided to use cloth diapers.  Awesome!  Now you are wondering what you do with the dirty diapers?  Disposable diapers go in a diaper pail or trash can.  Where can you put your dirty diapers until wash day where they won’t stink up the joint?

Diaper pails or hanging wet bags for cloth diapers?

Most families choose between 2 options: A traditional Diaper Pail or a Hanging Wet Bag.  In either case, you will need a PUL (waterproof material, same used for most cloth diaper covers and shells) lined bag of some sort to either put in your pail, or to hang in the nursery to place your dirty diapers in.  There are certainly other options, and I will list those at the end as well.  Full disclosure: some of the links provided are affiliate links.

Diaper Pail:

If you have ever walked inside of a Target and shopped for baby stuff you have seen the aisle of large boxes containing a variety of different diaper pails.  The most famous being the “Diaper Genie.”  Unfortunately, most pails designed for disposable diapers are simply not cut out for cloth diapers.  Pails that have turning lids like the Diaper Genie don’t have room enough in their openings for many cloth diapers to fit through.  Other brands, like the Diaper Dekor (which I use) can be modified to accommodate cloth diapers and an elastic edged reusable pail liner.

Diaper Dekor Plus Diaper Disposal System

There are also cloth diaper pails which have locking lids.  I have not personally used one since I prefer the convenience of a step can.  Some of these pails use mesh bags to hold the dirty diapers.  The good news is that the mesh allows the diapers to breathe which can prevent odors.  The bad news is that the wet and soiled diapers could get the pail itself dirty.  You would have to wash the pail more often than if using a PUL pail liner.  Locking lids are great for curious little ones.  Since most people do not keep wet pails (pails with water and bleach to soak diapers between washes) at least there isn’t a worry about drowning.

Bambino Mio Dirty Nappy Cloth Diaper Bucket & Lid

A third pail option isn’t technically a pail at all.  Plastic or Metal step lid trash cans can work as a pail also.  You will just want to check the sizing and make sure a pail liner will work.  Many of these trash cans are too big or too small.  I found a hard time locating one to fit a pail liner when I shopped for one, so I bought my Dekor.

Umbra 12-Gallon Trash Can

With a pail you have the option of using an elastic edged pail liner, which functions like a trash bag, but that you wash over and over with your dirty diapers.  Many major brands make their own version.  Wahmies has a popular model which also has an elastic loop that you can use to hang it from a door knob if you choose.

Wahmies Diaper Pail Liner

I can’t forget those who want form with their function!  The Ubbi pail is a steel diaper pail that combines good looks with a smart design.  It works with disposables and cloth and you can purchase their reusable pail liner separately.  While it comes with a hefty price tag, it will last many years through many children and can then be resold or passed on to a friend or family member.   Steel, unlike plastic, won’t absorb odors over time.


Ubbi Diaper Pail

Wet Bags:

Hanging Wet Bags come in a large variety of options.  There are long skinny bags, short wide bags, zippering bags, drawstring bags, colorful print bags, plain solid colored bags, and so on.  These bags also come in a variety of sizes.

The best hanging wet bag is going to have an unsnappable handle.  These can be looped around anything sturdy enough and closed.  If you have bars on your changing table this is a good place to put one, other than a door knob.  Or, you can opt for a bag made to go on a door knob like the Knickernappies.

Knickernappies Doorknob Diaper Pail

For a less-mess approach when it comes time to dump the dirties into your washer try the GroVia Perfect Pail.  It has a handy bottom zipper that makes wash day a breeze.  Inserting diapers is easy too- a slit is at the top so there are no zippers to fuss with when you have a potentially explosive and drippy device in hand!  The Perfect Pail comes in a small color selection but makes up for that in functionality.



GroVia Perfect Pail

Another cool option out there is the wet/dry bag.  This bag has a front pocket that can be used for clean diapers, and the main pocket is lined with PUL for dirty diapers.  I usually recommend this bag for daycare families.  They can send the bag with clean diapers and have it returned with dirty ones, all in one shot.

Planet Wise Wet/Dry Diaper Bag

You don’t HAVE to put a wet bag in your nursery.  There is the option to hang a wet bag in your bathroom.  Since you will at some point likely be spraying down dirty diapers, this is a convenient place to put them, especially if your bathroom is far away from the baby’s room.  Some people also hang them in their laundry area.

If you are in the market for a MASSIVE bag because you either have more than one child, like to go a while before doing laundry, or will be going on a long trip, then you need the Bummis Fabulous Wet Bag.  I use this one every time I go on vacation!  It can be hung on a door knob or used as a pail liner.  It can hold enough diapers for 4-5 days worth of dirties.

Bummis Fabulous Wet Bag (Large)

(All of the wet bags I mentioned can also be purchased at my affiliate, Kelly’s Closet, if you would like to support my blog!)

Diaper Pails:


Can contain Odors

Some are lockable

Those with step lids are hands free and easy to use.


Take up more space

Might be hard to find one that works with a pail liner

If they don’t lock, toddlers can explore them and add/subtract items

Eyesores in the nursery

Hanging Wet Bags:


Take up less space

Can be placed on door knobs, changing table, etc.


Choice of cute patterns

Choice of various sizes to suit your needs


Zippering/ Unzippering can be a pain

Drawstring bags might not close all the way

Might not be as smell proof as a pail

Other Options:

There are also other options for storing dirty diapers.  Many of them cost little to no money.


Some families wash so often that they go ahead and throw the dirty diaper directly in the washer.  Once they have a load they start it up.  There is no middle man and no cost to this method.  If you have basement laundry then this is probably not a great option, unless you are trying to tone your legs!


You could also put the diapers in a hamper, which will more than likely be stored in your laundry room.  The obvious issue here is getting the hamper dirty.  You may or may not care.

Utility Sink:

Same concept as the washer.  You can use a utility sink to rinse off diapers and leave them there until wash day.

Plastic Bags:

Not the ideal option, however those grocery bags many people use as trash can liners can also be used as travel wet bags in a pinch.

Pail with no liner:

Some bucket type pails can be used with no pail liner.  You will likely end up washing the pail often, or ignoring the mess the diapers are leaving.  This method requires you to take the pail with you to the washer and dump your diapers in.

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