Often we see customers who do everything right when washing their diapers, yet still have leaking, stink or buildup on their diapers. Usually by the time they get to us, they've tried a million different things to fix their diapers, and they're frustrated. What we've come to realize is that how you do your non-diaper laundry matters, too. Buildup from other detergents, bacteria and grease will transfer from your washer to your diapers and causes rashes, leaking and buildup, no matter how carefully you wash your diapers.

1. Start with a clean washing machine, and clean it regularly.

The combination of dirt, grease, bacteria and detergent forms a biofilm residue around the drum of your washing machine (and inside the seal if it is a front-loader). This is similar to what grows inside a dirty toilet or in your mouth if you don't brush your teeth, and it is just as important to clean your washer as your toilet and your teeth. Most front-loading machines have a self-clean cycle that you are supposed to run once a month; check your manual for instructions. If it doesn't have this cycle, or if you have a top-loader, you can make a self-clean cycle by using the longest, hottest, highest water setting with two rinses. You need to use a special washing machine cleaner to break up the biofilm. I recommend Clorox Washing Machine Cleaner. It only costs about $1 per use, and it works amazingly well. Before using your cloth diapers (or now if you have already started CDing), I suggest running three cleaning cycles with the cleaner to really get your washer sparking clean. For maintenance, do the self-clean at least once a month. Also, if you have a front-loader, leave the door open when you are not using it so that mold doesn't grow.

2. Use a good powder detergent on the rest of your laundry.

All detergents used to be powdered detergents, but then the manufacturers began to sell us on the idea that liquid detergents are better. The problems with liquid are that the ingredients that keep them in liquid form can be hard to rinse thoroughly, and it is very easy to use too much liquid. Detergent manufacturers make the lines on the inside of the cap very hard to see because they want you to use too much product and thus need to buy it more often. If you are just filling the cap all the way and dumping it in, you are likely using way too much detergent. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of powder HE detergents, and powders tend to clean better than liquids anyway. You can use your cloth diaper detergent for all your laundry (we like Rockin' Green, Lulu's in the Fluff and bumGenius Diaper Detergent), or you can use a different powder detergent for your clothes. Make sure you are not using too much - read the box to see the amount they recommend, and do use a measuring scoop like the one made by Rockin' Green so that you are not wasting detergent.

3. If you're going to use a liquid detergent, don't use too much, and clean your washer more often.

Liquids build up quicker and cause more problems than powders, especially in front-loaders.

4. Don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets on any of your laundry.

Fabric softeners and dryer sheets "work" by coating your clothes in a layer of grease to make them seem softer. This grease will add to the residue in your washer and also coat the inside of your dryer, and it will transfer onto your diapers and make them leaky. I can always tell when a customer has fabric softener residue because their diapers will feel waxy, creamy or even greasy. Pee cannot soak through a diaper that has this residue and the diaper will leak. It will also causes rashes and stink, as the grease provides a matrix in which bacteria can grow. To lift, fluff, de-static and decrease drying time, try natural wool dryer balls. These can be scented if you like a scent on your laundry. They work even better than fabric softener or dryer sheets, and they won't hurt your diapers. You need to clean your dryer out before putting cloth diapers in it. To do this, soak a rag or sponge in white vinegar and a drop of dish soap and thoroughly wipe out the inside of your dryer, then rinse with more vinegar. Then run a load of towels in cloth-diaper safe detergent and run them through the dryer to "scrub" it thoroughly.

5. If your diapers have already been affected by residue in your washing machine and dryer, you need to rehab them.

You will need to do a thorough deep-cleaning, soak, and stripping to get them clean if they are really waxy or greasy. Start by washing them all on a super-long and hot cycle with twice your normal amount of cloth diaper detergent. Then soak them overnight in more cloth diaper detergent, or Funk Rock if you have been having trouble with ammonia. Then wash them on hot with no more detergent for two to three cycles until no bubbles form in the wash water.

6. If you have shared laundry machines and cannot control what detergents others use, consider only using natural fibers and handwashing any polyester parts such as covers.

In shared laundry situations, you may not be able to stop other people from using a ton of greasy liquid detergents and softeners.

Here are some tips:
-Run an empty load with washing machine cleaner first, or if this is not feasible, wash a load of towels or clothes in the machine first to remove some of the residue.
-Consider using only natural fiber diapers such as prefolds, as cotton tends to be less fussy about buildup. Microfleece is the most fussy about buildup.
-If using prefolds and covers, consider hand-washing the covers in your sink. PUL covers are sensitive to residue and will often stink of urine and leak when they have residue build-up.


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