How To Ruin Your Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapering can be an eco-friendly, cost-effective, and healthy choice for your baby. However, just like any other investment, it requires some care and attention to make the most of your cloth diapering journey. While cloth diapers are really pretty hardy in general and should last you about 250 washes or so (especially if you purchase good quality ones) there are a few ways that user error can shorten their lifespan.
So, first and foremost, follow the washing instructions on the tag just like you would for any other piece of laundry. The manufacturer that made it knows the materials best and can give you the most well rounded washing advise.
Second, if you have washing issues, again, defer to the manufacturer for help and advice on fixing it first - don't go to Facebook groups etc. They generally aren't the experts.
But there are a few overarching things to keep in mind that will affect any kind of cloth diaper and reduce it's useful life and they are as follows:
This function is available on some newer washing machines and while it can be great for other laundry, skip it with your cloth diapers. Same goes for any advice you get about boiling diaper inserts to prep them. It gets really really hot and long term use of it can be hard on elastics, and the PUL resistant outer lining.
Another no-no for elastic health is soaking. Sure, your Grandmother might have done this, but it was with old fashioned one layer cotton flats. So with modern fabrics, velcro closures and elastics, skip the soak or limit it to a short time once in a while within your washing machine when possible. Soaking in bathtubs or other containers should be closely monitored as it can be a drowning hazard for kids and pets.
Now, while bleach can sometimes be useful such as when sanitizing second hand diapers, or dealing with buildup issues from a less than ideal wash routines, using chlorine bleach in undiluted concentrations or using it often will start to wear down your fabrics. 1/4cup of bleach in the bleach tray of your machine say, once a month or so, probably won't be an issue, but soaking in bleach repeatedly or adding lots to your wash every load with eat away at the fabric.
Vertical Hang Dry
Line drying is a wonderful way to conserve energy and dry your diapers, but if you have diapers or covers with elastic, fold them over the drying line rather than using clothespins to hang them vertically. Hanging vertically when wet stretches out the elastic and with the added weight of a wet diaper will reduce the elasticity. This isn't such a big deal with say diaper covers, but for heavy wet AIOs it will make a difference.
If you're washing your diapers with other laundry or wet bags, be aware of sharp metal zippers on jeans, jackets, baby items or for other things that could snag on your diapers. Turning wet bags inside out is a good idea to keep those zippers tucked away.
Creams, Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets
Fabric softeners and some diaper creams can coat the fabric of your diapers and cause repelling issues and ultimately leaks. Sometimes if baby is on a really high fat diet (like full fat goat's milk etc.) this can happen too, but it's more rare. Dryer sheets can also be a culprit since they are literally designed to leave a film on fabrics. An oily layer of buildup will make the fabric unable to absorb properly and cause leaks. So avoid those with your cloth diapers - it's ok to use them on your other laundry - sparingly. Try wool dryer balls instead and you can ditch the dryer sheets and softeners altogether and get similar results naturally.
Keep those few things in mind with your cloth diapers and you'll be well on your way to hundreds of washes of clean fluffy diapers to use over and over again with your baby.
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