Friday, February 17, 2012

Cloth Diaper Care--Stripping Diapers

I didn't get back to writing on this subject because I decided to do some research on it. Frankly, I haven't stripped my diapers but once and that was when Skinny was in diapers. My problem was that I was using too much detergent. With cloth diapers you want to avoid detergent buildup. This can make your diapers stink as well as make them water repellant rather than absorbent. Either way, it smells pretty nasty.

Now I've mentioned before how I wash my cloth diapers/prefolds are first to wash in cold water with about a tablespoon of soap on the largest capacity setting. Then I wash in hot water with a half cup of white vinegar. Then onto to drying. As I put the put the diapers into the dryer, I sniff them. If they smell clean they go into the dryer, if they smell bad then I look for the culprit and get rid of it and wash in hot again with a touch of soap. Weird I may be, but I can usually smell right when I lift the lid if I didn't scrap very well. This method has worked for me from Skinny onto Rockbiter. And I haven't needed to strip diapers.

That is to say that if you didn't want to go through two washings, you don't have too. Wash once on hot water with a small amount of detergent/soap and make sure to put in the extra rinse. You will most likely have to strip your diapers every so often, but this method generally does get the cleaning done sufficiently.

I must say that apparently stripping diapers has changed since I last looked it up. So I'm just going to let you know what I learned from before. Wash your diapers in cold water with a small amount of soap/detergent. Then when the cycle has finished, take them out and put them into your largest stock pot and add water to nearly the top. Boil. This will help kill the bacteria living off the buildup of detergent. Carefully dump back into the washing machine (You can just dump the water into the sink as well and transfer the diapers into the washing machine. After all, if you have an HE machine, dumping the whole thing into the machine will only make a mess.) Wash in hot water without any detergent/soap and 1 cup of white vinegar. If you notice any bubbles at all after, repeat with warm water until there is no bubbles at all. Dry as usual.

If, after stripping, your diapers are still stinky, then you will have to do the following. Wash diapers on cold with the maximum amount of detergent recommended by the detergent company plus 1 drop of Dawn Dishwashing Detergent. Then wash and rinse until no bubbles are evident. After which you will have to adjust your detergent/soap to your normal loads since you haven't used enough to get them clean. Adjust by a teaspoon or two at the most. See if this helps, if not, add a bit more.

When should you strip your diapers? When the diapers get stinky right after your little one wets, trust me, you will know. When you notice your little one is always getting diaper rashes for no apparent reason. And when the diapers are stiff and hard.

I'm gonna put a set of links to other places that have instructions for stripping diapers. You might find their ways a little more easy to bear or work better. I must say that I am kinda sad with their "uneducated" treatment of soap vs. detergent. I use my own homemade Laundry Powder which I make using some of my own handmade soap. Granted, soaps like Dove Moisturizing have added oils and such to make their soap especially skin loving aren't very good for making laundry soap, but not all soap used for laundry soap has added oils and most commercial soaps do remove the glycerin from the soap to sell separately. I specially make my cleaning soaps without any extra free floating oils. Yes, they will strip the oils from your skin like that, but they were formulating for cleaning the house, not for taking a bath in. Also, while I do know that hard water and soap don't play nice with each other, that is why I add the washing soda and borax. Those are water softeners and I believe borax will bind with the minerals in hard water to make the soap more efficient. Sorry just a little rant about soap. Actually, since the move, I hadn't had time to make laundry soap until recently. I am so glad to start using it again. My diapers are so much more softer now and that ugly ring around my washing machine is going away. LOVE my laundry soap!

Here are some links: Zany Zebra Designs; Cloth Diapers made Easy; Lite Green Living; My Baby First and The Diaper Jungle.

A few caveats:
  1. Stay away from bleaching your diapers. Bleach will break down the fibers of your diaper faster than you think and it needs to be rinsed out thoroughly. If you really can't stand the stains, try line drying diapers. The sun is great about bleaching without harsh chemicals. Sun and grass do wonders I hear, but don't take my word on it. Drying your diapers in the sun on grass is something I've come across, but I can't do that here, too humid. LOL
  2. You may be tempted to use the smallest setting for washing your cloth diapers, DON'T. Always use the largest capacity and do not overload your washer with diapers. I only wash about 15 or so diapers plus all the fleece liners, cloth wipes and doublers that go a long with them. Water is the true cleaner. Soap and Detergents' job is to make the water more able to penetrate by breaking the surface tension. If you have an extra rinse cycle, use it.
  3. NEVER use a fabric softener on your cloth diapers. It makes them water repellent and that of course defeats the purpose of a cloth dipe. Same with the dryer sheets. If you must use something, use white vinegar. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Getting Ready for Baby--My Prefold Stash

I am about six weeks away from having baby #5. I had been contemplating cloth diapering since my second child. I started with my third, Skinny, but didn't continue because I was didn't have a stash. I had a total of four one size all in one diapers plus about a dozen Gerber prefold cloth diapers. I had problems with Skinny in the beginning. There's a reason he's called Skinny. Let me tell you, a one size isn't really for a newborn, let alone one who was 5lbs. Those diapers were HUGE on him. So cloth diapering went to the wayside while I did more researched and dreamed of saving money by using cloth diapers.

I learned a lot about cloth diapers; most of my research on the internet. My friends knew that I really wanted to cloth diaper by the time Rockbiter came along a few years later. I had heard about the miserable results of using Gerber prefold diapers, but that was all some of my friends had access to. Meanwhile, I had sewn a lot of flannel pocket diapers. I was on the lookout for diaper covers and settled on making some wool covers from recycled wool sweaters.

I found out why Gerber prefold diapers got such a bad rap in all those Diaper Forums I read. While the outside is covered with quite acceptable birdseye cotton, the padded part was a type of polyester batting. It leaks like a holey cup. It was around this time that I bought my first real honest to goodness prefold cloth diapers online. They were 2 dozen Unbleached Indian prefold seconds infant size from They were so wonderful. I saved a little by buying second prefolds and they worked so much better than those other prefolds.

Now in the world of Cloth Diapering today there are many different ways to diaper your child. Designer Diapers can be very expensive on the onset but save you money in the long run. Plus they are generally cute and decorative. I didn't go that way, which is not that I didn't want to, but I didn't have the initial investment to make which is why I made pocket diapers and the wool covers. I'm also practical; I know that I don't have to spend money on cute material which will only probably get stained. In the end I've tried a few different methods and have found my favorite, most practical and frugal way to diaper. Prefolds are for me.

I went with Indian Prefolds over Chinese Prefolds because the Indian were said to be softer. Unbleached because I didn't have to prewash as many times as the bleached prefolds. I have used these same 24 prefolds for nearly 2 years and they are holding up great. Quite simply, I love them. These diapers were a life saver when our family was without employment for a year. You can't buy disposable diapers when you have no money and what little comes your way goes to keeping the electricity on or buying essentials or any number of other things. So let me tell you a few things about prefolds.

1. When you first get them, they will need to be washed several times. Up to 3 to 5 times for Unbleached prefolds. I wash them in hot water right from the start. Warning, they are supposed to shrink 10% to 15%. Please know that you will have to adjust how you wash cloth diapers compared to your regular clothing. Most people use too much detergent to wash their clothes as it is, but you will need to use a lot less detergent to wash cloth diapers. The key to fresh diapers is more water, which means more rinsing.

  1. Use 1/4 of the recommended amount of detergent. I make my own laundry soap and use only a tablespoon of that powder for my regular clothes, for diapers I use about a teaspoon. When I happen to use store bought, I only use a tablespoon or less for cloth diapers.
  2. Wash first with cold water, this is where I add the detergent or soap in my case with extra rinse if you can. Then wash in hot water adding a half cup of white vinegar. ****NEVER use fabric softener on cloth diapers, especially prefolds**** The idea of the extra wash and rinse is to make sure that any detergent is completely rinsed away which is also why you use vinegar, which cuts through buildup. Detergent buildup on cloth diapers means the diapers will not hold onto as much liquid and will become more stinky. You will have to strip your diapers if you come across this hazard. I'll be having another blog post on stripping later on.
  3. Dry on the hottest setting. Now in the desert, I only needed to dry once using my wool dryer balls. But here in the humid South, I need 2 cycles. One full and a half cycle to completely dry these prefolds. If I had a clothesline, I would dry them that way. The sun is really good about helping with stains.

2.  Prefolds can be used many different ways. My chosen method of diapering is to do a newspaper fold and lay it into a diaper cover. I recently bought 3 dozen preemie/newborn sized prefolds to fit better into my newborn and small diaper covers and to reduce the bulk a bit. Also, the newborn size prefolds will make great diaper doublers for night time diapering and are small enough to use as a big wipe if I need it. I also am contemplating taking a few hours during the day to work on Elimnation Communication in which I'll just have the prefold on my #5 with no cover. So in total, my prefold stash consists of 36 newborn prefolds and 24 infant sized prefolds. This is all I intend to get. I wash every other day and frankly it does stink too much if I wait too long.

3.  Second Prefolds are a pretty good deal to get. These are prefolds that are not of the standard of "first water". Some of the stitching may be undone. One of mine came with holes. It was not problem to take some cotton thread and reinforce those seams and mend the holes. Seconds are a frugal way to spend your money.

4. What are the differences between newborn prefolds and infant prefolds? Newborn/preemie sized prefolds are 2x6x2. The middle padded section has 6 layers and the outer portion are 2 layers. Prefolds are all folded from one large piece of material and then stitched together, thus the term "prefold". These diapers come to you from the store about 9" x 13" and will shrink to about the size of a sheet of copy paper. Infant sized prefolds are 4x8x4; 4 layers of material on the outside and 8 in the padded area. Unwashed and new they are about 12" x 15" and shrink down to about 10" x 12" or so. I have no intention on getting more bigger prefolds since Rockbiter is potty training and had used the infant sized until that time.

I love prefolds. They are a very frugal way to cloth diaper. They aren't very trim, but they work. I've heard great things about hemp and bamboo fabrics, but really I know that these cotton prefolds work great for me and I have a system that works good for a great price; so I'm happy. Join me as I continue to take you into my world of cloth diapering these next weeks as I get ready for # 5.
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