Before I started using cloth diapers, I had a few important questions.
“What do you do with the wet diapers?”
“What about the poop?”
“Will it smell?”
“How do you clean them?”
“What on earth is a wet bag?”
Here’s what I learned.
“What do you do with the wet diapers?” and “What on earth is a wet bag?” kind of go hand in hand.
A wet bag is a bag designed to temporarily hold wet items. Some people use them for going to the beach or pool for wet bathing suits and towels. They’re also great for cloth diapers. I have a Planet Wise Large wet bag and a small wet bag. I keep the large one in the bathroom for the main storage of dirty diapers, and the small one in her room for the immediate storage after a change. Then they get dumped into the large bag. Planet Wise is the only brand I’ve used, and I like it for the most part, though there are some tweaks I wish they would make. Like making the zipper openable with one hand because really, sometimes you don’t have both hands to open a zipper.
Diapers soaked in pee, or poo diapers that have been sprayed, go into the wet bag. They stay here until wash day which should be about every 2 days. (My daughter goes through 8-10 diapers a day.) I also have a lined pail next to the toilet where I put the sprayed poop diapers.
“What about the poop?”
When they’re on breastmilk/formula only, the poop will be watery and not-so-solid. This generally washes off easily with the toilet sprayer and Spray Pal combo. What doesn’t come out (stain-wise) with the bathroom sprayer will come out in the wash.
Once they’re older and eating solids, the poop is solid too. I call them “Easter Egg Poops.” You bring the diaper to the toilet, plop the poop in, and then drop the dirty diaper into the wet bag or poop-diaper-specific diaper pail. I keep mine separated – not sure why, since they go to the same place in the end. Maybe it’s like divided plates. Just a preference thing.
“Will it smell?”
The correct answer is “It shouldn’t.” The real answer is “It probably will.”
If your child’s urine is healthy it shouldn’t have a smell. And, if you’re cleaning the diapers properly, ammonia crystals should not have the chance to build up. Once they do, you will know immediately when your child pees. The smell is horrendous.
Once this happens, you need to strip the diapers which is a process involving a lot of hot water and time. It breaks down the crystals so your diapers are soft again and don’t stink when wet.
Let’s just say I got cocky with my cleaning methods and gave those crystals ample opportunity to build up. I’ve stripped my diapers twice, and since changed my washing method, and they’re getting back to normal.
“How do you clean them?”
There are many ways to clean cloth diapers, and it all depends on your machine. I have a high-efficiency (HE) machine which uses limited water and recycles water, so I have to use a longer cycle and multiple cycles to make sure the dirty water is really getting rinsed out.
The main goal is to make sure you’re using enough HOT water to break down those crystals.
First Method – WRONG: I started by soaking the diapers in my utility sink in extremely hot water with a scoop of OxiClean. Then I would wring them out and put them into the washer for a soak, a normal cycle, and a rinse/spin cycle. I dried them with hot air and air dried the covers. I should have put the covers in the dryer, too, as they retained the scent of the ammonia. I learned, and started drying those too. I thought nothing of the scent and was only looking at the diapers themselves. They were clean – no stains! So I reduced the amount of cycles I was using. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Second Method – WRONG: Before I realized the ammonia scent was the diapers and not her urine, I washed them only with a normal cycle and a scoop of OxiClean diluted in hot water.
The pediatrician apparently didn’t know about ammonia build-up either. After I got fed up with smelling it, I brought a diaper in to see if it was normal for her urine to smell that way and they said, “Yup, totally normal.” They mentioned NOTHING about the cloth diaper and ammonia build-up.
As I mentioned above, I had reduced the amount of water I was using which meant the ammonia was building up. This caused the diapers not only to stink when wet, but to become rougher to the touch. I noticed when I changed from Size 1 to Size 2 that the new diapers were so soft, while the old ones were rough. Little did I know.
One day after a bath, she was diaperless for a few minutes and peed on the bathroom floor. I dabbed it with a tissue and smelled it. No smell. Hmm. It wasn’t her urine – must be the diapers. After talking to a fellow cloth-diapering mom of 3, and researching online, I found out about ammonia crystals building up and methods of stripping.
I started with no additives. I soaked them in the bathtub all day in a number of hot water baths. I’d let them soak for 30-60 minutes, drain the bath, wring them out, and then start all over. Then I washed in a normal cycle, dried, and all was well for about a month. Then the smell started coming back.
I tried Rockin’ Green Funk Rock. Didn’t do anything. My other friend swears by it, so maybe I wasn’t doing something right.
I tried OxiClean. I read this helps break down the crystals and it might be working – I use it every cycle.
I tried rinsing every diaper in the sink before putting it in the wet bag to reduce the urine that was sitting idle in the bag before wash day.
I was still determined not to use so much water/energy washing them, so I kept washing them in a normal cycle. I might have added a soak beforehand. Either way, it wasn’t working.
I tried stripping them again. The smell came back almost immediately.
I was pretty frustrated. I realized everything I read mentioned “the amount of water.” I knew I had to give in.
Third Method – SEEMS TO WORK: Now, I’ve given up on not “using so much water” and am washing them on the Heavy Duty cycle plus Sanitize which brings the water to Extra Hot, adds a rinse, and it takes 3 hours to finish the cycle. Then I run it through a normal cycle with extra rinse, with detergent (another 70-ish minutes).
That cycle length used to scare me until I remember how much time I was wasting between changing the cycles from Soak, to Normal, to Rinse/Spin. That was about 3 hours too.
The diapers are becoming softer, the smell isn’t quite so strong anymore, and I think I’m finally getting them back to normal. Whew.
If you have any better ideas please send them my way!