Cloth Diaper Mythbusting

Cloth Diaper Mythbusting: Can you use mainstream detergents or not?

by shethinksmedia

mythbusting,cloth diapersCan you use mainstream detergents to wash your cloth diapers?

This week we tackle the next hurdle in a good wash routine, which is detergent choice and amount.

Now, I know throwing in links is an easy way out of this topic, but we have taken time to write up solid and thorough articles on our website and our blog. So, I am going to link you to one article, and then copy/paste the other. Our easy detergent chart and information can be found here:

After taking a peek at that, you may be saying “but EVERY manufacturer doesn’t recommend mainstream detergents!“, to which I will answer “but they DO! And we have proof!“, in our article here:

Wash problems generally fall into two categories, tonight we are tackling the problem of the diapers smelling out of the dryer. This is usually caused by one of two problems

1) Wrong detergent


2) Not enough detergent.

Let’s start with number one, the wrong detergent. Here are some cliff notes for choosing a detergent:

  • Powders generally rinse out easier than liquid
  • The more natural the detergent, generally the less effective it will be with very few exceptions
  • Free and clears, especially liquid ones, can be notorious for buildup.
  • Mainstream powders and liquids are *fine* to use, you do not have to use a cloth diaper detergent to get your diapers clean.

Over 9 years of troubleshooting wash issues with thousands of clients, and our own 6 babies, we find one detergent leading the pack over and over again. Tide.
Tide? Before you shoot the idea down completely, take a peek at who else recommends Tide:

Fuzzi Bunz (recommends Tide Free, over 10 years in the business):

Tiny Tush (over 10 years in the business):

Rumparooz (over 5 years in the business):

GroVia (over 10+ years in the business):

And for giggles, back when we opened in 2004 we (Abby’s Lane) started to advise Tide:

That being said, if you hate the idea of Tide, try another mainstream store powder, even a generic one if it fits the budget better. Worst case scenario, you strip and start over. In our first link we discuss some “green” detergents that work well, including Country Save and Planet, many of our eco-friendly households use those with a good amount of success.

The second part of this equation is using enough detergent. Unless you are using Rockin Green or Thirsties super wash, 1-2 tablespoons will not cut it. You have to use enough detergent to get them clean ( I use to the 3 line on my Tide powder ultra scoop for a load of diapers).

On January 24th, Bummis (over 20 years in the biz) had on their Facebook page:

Had a wonderful discussion with Steve “the detergent guru” again. We discussed how many people recommend using so little detergent and recommend Dawn to strip detergent residues from “suede cloth”, microfiber and other synthetics.

He does not believe it is a “detergent” residue that is causing repelling or stink in these synthetics. He believes what is really happening is that consumers are crea…ting a self-filling prophecy by not using enough detergent. This leads to microscopic soil being left behind. In fecal matter there are oils/fats from digestion. Polyester loves fats and oils and forms a chemical bond with them. If you are using too little detergent to release this soil, you will then get a microscopic build up of oils on the surface of the fabric eventually causing it to repel or stink.

While great at releasing grease on solid surfaces (think dishes) Dawn is not super effective on fabric. Hence it would work with a mild build up of oils causing repelling/stink but not on all cases. Best to avoid oily build up by using enough detergent to release oils from synthetics and enough rinsing/water to get rid of all detergent/soils left behind in the wash cycle.

Make sure you are using enough, remember that seeing suds does not mean you are using too much. Some detergents are more sudsy than others, unless you have odors with the diapers out of the dryer or once freshly peed in, don’t sweat the suds! Really, if you don’t smell anything, don’t lift the lid, don’t even peek at the rinse cycle. If they smell great out of the dryer, and once freshly peed in, don’t worry about suds.

Email us with questions! Next week we wrap with final rinsing and drying!

Cloth Diaper Mythbusting: Washing diapers, Do you need a pre-rinse?

by shethinksmedia

mythbusting,cloth diapers

Washing Tips and the pre-rinse cycle!

This week we start a series on washing issues and the “right” routine for you and your baby.
To do this, we will tackle each step in the wash cycle, this week focuses on the prerinse. The prerinse cycle is a short 2-3 minute cycle that sprays down your diapers and spins the water out. No detergent is used, or should be added.

We advise that our customers do a WARM prerinse to begin their wash routine. In years past, we actually advised doing a hot pre-rinse, the reason for hot being that many water heaters didn’t get up to 120 in the pre-rinse, so setting it to warm gave you “just above cold” temperature water, setting it to hot gave you the higher temperature that is needed. In recent years with more sophisticated machines, we are adjusting our advice to say warm pre-rinse, not hot or cold.

If you don’t have the option for a warm or hot pre-rinse, you can do a little trial and error to see if your water conditions make it better to skip the pre-rinse completely ( I would advise using a diaper sprayer to rinse the poopy diapers individually before going in the pail if that is the case), or using a cold pre-rinse. Depending on how “pre-cleaned” the diapers are from your sprayer, many customers found they could eliminate this step completely, however if you don’t have that option or are running into issues getting them cleaned, opt for the cold. I would say for HE machines, go with the cold over opting out of the pre-rinse, if your machine is water efficient using as many rinse cycles as you can will help in the water-efficient wash cycle.

Bummis has a great article for some of the science behind the warm pre-rinse:!/2011/10/laundry-science.html

In our practical experience and lots of testing with our customers, we found the cold pre-rinse set in stains and make it much harder to wash the fresh feces and urine out of the diapers. Switch your pre-rinse, see if it helps. If your water heater doesn’t get very hot, consider doing a hot pre-rinse to boost those temps a little.

Next week we go past the pre-rinse into the wash routine itself.
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Cloth Diaper Mythbusting: Is there such a thing as a truly cloth diaper safe rash cream?

by shethinksmedia

mythbusting,cloth diapersIs there such a thing as a cloth diaper safe rash cream?

Last week we tackled the myth of having to start over if your child shows a fabric sensitivity, by employing fleece or flannel liners (depending on why the child is reacting).  This leads into this week’s topic that you are restricted on diaper creams you can use with your cloth diapers. *BUT* you do need a liner.

Unfortunately we have yet to encounter one single diaper cream we can safely say “across the board” will not cause any problems.  Diaper creams work because they cause a barrier against wetness and your baby’s skin. This causes problems with cloth diapers because they can adhere to the fabrics and cause a barrier against the diapers absorbing urine. This is referred to as “buildup”.

But, there are some ways around this:

What we recommend, is the fleece liner system, or flannel liner if your baby is allergic to fleece, to use any cream you wish with your diapers. We do sell fleece liners, but you can make them for pennies (flannel, too). At your nearest fabric store, get a yard or so of fleece or flannel, and cut into rectangles to fit your diapers, roughly 15 x 5 inches. Fleece doesn’t need to be sewn on the edges, flannel does because it frays. Make a bunch, about two dozen. Put the cream directly on these liners, against your baby’s skin. Keep a grocery bag or wet bag handy just for these liners once they are used, don’t mix them with the rest of your diaper laundry. Wash separately from the diapers, so the creams don’t rinse off in the wash cycle and adhere to your diapers~

After about a week, check the liners. If they are slimy, stained and smelly, continue using this system, or try another cream to test. If they are washing clean, it is safe for your diapers :)
Even if you find a cream that is washing out clean, hang onto these liners. If you run into a medical issue and wish to continue using cloth, you may not have the option of a cloth-safe cream. Yeast, ezcema and antibacterial creams can all be very thick and tacky, so keep those liners handy to keep your baby in fluffy diapers without causing a headache to wash~
Washed your diapers with creams and having odor and buildup issues? Shoot us an email at!

Cloth Diaper Mythbusting: Do you need 3-4 dozen cloth diapers in order to cd full time?

by shethinksmedia

mythbusting,cloth diapersThis is week #2 in our “Mythbusting” series, week one covered natural fiber washing and “stripping”, it can be viewed here.

So how many cloth diapers do you really need?

This week brings us to our next topic, which is focused on cloth diaper quantity.  I think a big misconception on many cloth diapering forums is that you have to invest in 3-4 dozen diapers to get a “full” stash for one child, which of course is a tremendous investment for a family new to cloth.  Of course if you want to purchase that many, and absolutely have a large stash, that is your right, but our point today is that it isn’t *needed* to get into a regular cloth routine.

For newborns we recommend 18-24, older babies around 12-15, toddlers will be using 6-9 diapers a day. Some will say if you buy twice as many diapers, the wear and tear will be cut in half, and you will see them last twice as long. This may or may not be true, anecdotally I can vouch for many brands being washed daily with hot water and machine dried and lasting for years, and others will see they have worn out within a year’s time. The advice is kind of “six of one, half dozen of the other”.

You can buy twice as many, but on the off chance yours would have lasted, you would have spent half as much, and saved that much more money for the next size. If they wear out anyway, you will have to purchase more, and spend what you would have in the first place, so it didn’t cost you anything extra.

Also, we tend to see customers with dozens of diapers washing every 3-4 days, which causes huge amounts of wear and tear, the longer a diaper sits in ammonia in a dark pail, the shorter the life span of the elastic will be. Even if you swear you will be disciplined and still wash frequently, it will creep up on you that if you don’t *have* to, it won’t get done daily or every other day. Our advice, start small, enough for daily or every other day. If they go, buy more and you would have spent the same, if not, you just saved half of your diapering budget.

You can always add to your stash,we feel it is better to be diapering and say “gosh, three more diapers will be exactly where I want to be with my wash routine” then “man, I never get to the last 6 diapers in my stash, I could have used that money for the next size up.”

For tips on frugal cloth diapering, and making things around your house count as a diaper, take a look at our youtube video below.

Cloth Diaper Mythbusting: Do you need to prep or pre-wash certain natural fabrics?

by shethinksmedia

mythbusting,cloth diapers

This week I want to start a series of “Cloth Diaper Mythbusting” articles, to ensure our customers are getting good information on how to use and treat their cloth diapers, and also make it easy and fun to do so.

This week I want to focus on the topic of…


A topic that can be very confusing and overwhelming for a new customer, especially if you are purchasing a mix of fabrics. If you have bamboo, Cotton, Hemp or other combinations of these 3 fabrics, your diapers are considered “natural fibers” and ideally should get 1-2 pre-washings with your household items before using/washing them with the rest of your stash. You will read on other websites about very complicated ways to pre-wash things 6-7 times on hot with lots of detergent, or these “oils” will rinse out of your new natural fibers onto existing diapers and cause everything to leak.

Let’s start with a few points to remember:
1) If it is stay-dry, it isn’t natural. Polyester fabrics such as microfleece or suedecloth do not require any pre-washing at all, if you wish to do so once to wash off manufacturing residues or fluff them up,  that is fine, but technically they are good to go right out of the mailer.
2) If you completely forget pre-washing steps, it can be fixed. There isn’t much you can do to your cloth diapers, short of cutting the up or setting them on fire, that isn’t fixable. Just send us an email and we will figure it out 😉

For years now I think “they” have scared new customers into overestimating the powers of natural fibers in diapers and inserts. “They” referring to online support forums for cloth diapering families, even manufacturers and other retailers. One, two, three and four new natural fiber inserts or diapers just do not have the power to completely ruin an entire stash of diapers. Could they possibly not be in peak shape to absorb themselves?  Possibly, but I have seen too many people pre-wash one or two inserts 6-7 times before using them, which is a huge waste of time and water. If your wash routine is so sensitive to one or two inserts coating your existing 15 other diapers in the washing machine, you do not have a good wash routine. By the time you introduce a good detergent, hot water and several minutes of agitation, those tiny, tiny amounts of natural oils aren’t going to do anything to your diapers.


There are far easier and less hazardous ways to prewash your diapers. Boiling will melt snaps, melt elastic, melt PUL, and greatly shorten the life of your fabrics, PLUS, it introduces a potentially dangerous situation trying to boil fabric on your stove. Take your diapers and/or inserts, wash them with your household laundry once, then after that wash and use them with your other diapers. There are VERY few exceptions to this, at Abby’s Lane I would say those exceptions are GroVia soakers and Sloomb/Sustainablebabyish Bamboo Overnight Fitteds. Now, do the exceptions listed there get 6-7 washings? No way, 3-4 is fine, and truly if you are using them during daytime periods where you can change as needed, do them 1-2 times and get them going in your rotation. They will get better with age.

For pre-washing, no detergent is needed, just warm to hot water, these temps combined with agitation will do the trick, which is why washing them with household items is ideal.

Now, some of you will follow this advice and start seeing leaks on your diapers? If this is the case, before you think your other diapers are repelling due to natural fiber oils and need to be “stripped”, please read this article on our blog, I am even going to copy/paste the relevant part for you below.

Stripping: We are going to cover how to strip the diapers.
Stripping refers to an action of doing something to the diapers to disinfect or strip them from detergent buildup, ointment buildup, old feces or urine buildup, fabric softener, basically anything that is hindering absorbency. Today I am going to review what does need to be stripped versus what doesn’t.

Many times, truly most times, when a customer thinks the diaper needs to be stripped, it is actually a scenario where more absorbency is needed, or the fit is incorrect for the baby. You do NOT need to strip if:

  • The diapers leak, but more than 30-60 minutes has passed
  • The diapers leak, but the entire diaper/fitted or insert is wet
  • The diapers leak but do not have odors to them

If you are having leaking but find that the above fits, you likely have an absorbency or fit issue, not a need to strip. Very, very rarely will buildup occur without an accompanying odor. If you have enough buildup left to hinder absorbency, you will be trapping old feces and urine, and it will stink. What may be a cause a need to strip is:

  • Odors out of the dryer, or once freshly peed in.
  • Leaking within the first few minutes of the diaper being on.
  • Leaking and the diaper is wet in spots only.
  • Use of creams, and you can see and smell spots where ointment has been.
  • Use of the wrong detergent, this is also evident when you take the diapers out and they have a sticky or tacky feel to them, almost like they are coated with something.

I like to highlight the odor key in all of this, remember you cannot ever mask the smell of poop. You can spray perfume on it, put bleach spray on it, it will smell like perfumed and bleached poo. It is incredibly rare when we see buildup not accompanying odors, it can happen, but really is very rare. If you suspect buildup and do not have any odors, we will first go the route of more absorbency/checking the fit. If you strip and it is an absorbency or fit issue, you won’t solve anything and be right back where you started with leaky diapers.

I do want to throw one more tidbit in,I see websites promoting the “water drip test” to see if your diapers are repelling. The idea being you dribble a few drops of water on the diaper, if it doesn’t sink in right away the diapers need to be stripped. The truth is I can do this on my perfectly fine pocket diapers and you won’t see it sink in, the pressure of the baby against the diaper pushes urine into it, so don’t rely on that test to see if you have buildup and need to strip.

There was a method that was very popular a few years ago in stripping, and I sincerely hope it has completely died out but I know some still recommend it. It involves using your dishwasher to strip the diapers. Now, this is a fire hazard, and will render your snaps and elastic pretty useless, so under no circumstances should you ever put your diapers in the dishwasher, please please please.

Another popular method is to put Dawn dish soap in the washing machine. We don’t recommend this either, your washing machine wasn’t made for dish soap, it is high sudsing and can clog the hoses. If you have a new washer under warranty you could void it. We have had customers who used Dawn, and when their machine broke and the repairman came, it was very easy to tell soap had been used, and the warranty was voided, so please take note of those problems if you go the Dawn route.

What is safer for you and the machine, is to bleach the diapers if you have buildup. 1/3 cup of chlorox in the detergent cycle with clean cloth diapers, and hot water, will take care of the problem. If you have cotton print diapers, dyed fitteds or prefolds, or cotton outer wet bags, you can use color safe bleach. That is the best method to strip, and safe for your machine. For disinfecting purposes, color safe bleach may not be appropriate as it uses hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine to bleach, but for residue purposes it can work.

Make sure the diapers have been washed and dried, if they are soiled the bleach won’t do much. Once in a blue moon bleach is fine on your diapers, it is when it is used on a regular basis that you see premature wear and tear, just like you would on your clothing. PUL is dye fast and will not bleed from bleach.

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