What about laundry detergent?

One of the questions I hear a lot about cloth diapers is “Wait, don’t you have to use “special” laundry detergent?”  I’ve even heard the need for special laundry detergent listed as a reason why using cloth diapers really doesn’t save money, with the assumption that these special detergents are more expensive than regular.  I’d like to give an example of how the math actually works out in laundry detergent choice, and then explain why it matters which detergent you use. 

Compare the “special” detergent with regular detergent and you’ll find it’s not more expensive. Example: a 90 load bag of Charlie’s soap costs $14. Price per load: 15.5 cents per load. A 5 gallon bucket does 1280 loads, and costs 143.99. Price per load: 11.2 cents per load.

A 120-load box of Tide original costs 22.99 from the P&G website. Price per load: 19.1 cents.

Let’s put this in perspective. If you did 7 loads of laundry a week (pretty realistic for a family of 4 including a baby, I’d say), using the bulk Charlie’s soap you’d be spending 78.4 cents per week on detergent, or $3.13 per month, or $40.77 per year.

Using Tide, you would spend $1.34 per week, or $5.35 per month, or $69.68 per year. So even if you don’t even use diapers, by using the “special” detergent over Tide, you are saving nearly $30 per year!

So besides the obvious cost savings, why is it important to use a residue-free detergent on your cloth diapers? 

Regular detergents have a lot of additives in them.  There are scents, colorings, fabric softeners, optical brighteners, and sometimes enzymes.  Let’s go through the list and see why each of these things are bad for cloth diapers. 

Scents: Most regular laundry detergents are heavily scented.  Besides the fact that your baby may be sensitive to these scents, especially if your family has a history of asthma or allergies, heavily scented detergent means that the detergent smell can mask the smell of the diapers, making you think they are clean when they’re not.  Remember, when you take clean wet diapers out of the washer they should smell like clean wet towels.  A bad smell is a sign that the diapers either have some bacteria or waste matter still in them that didn’t get washed out, or that they have residue in them that is holding on to smells.  Either way, this is an important sign that you don’t want to miss!

Colorings: This one isn’t such a big deal, unless your baby is sensitive to the colors used. 

Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners make fabrics feel softer by leaving a waxy coating on the fibers so that they slide over your skin more easily, making the fabric feel softer.  But for absorbent diapers, a waxy coating is exactly what you DON’T need!  It will cause your diapers to repel moisture and hold onto smells, causing leaks and stinkiness. 

Optical Brighteners: This is a tough one, because the ingredients of the detergent won’t list “optical brighteners.”  But anything that says “now whiter whites!” or anything like that has optical brighteners in it.  These brighteners leave a coating on the fabric that is tinted blue, so it makes your whites look whiter by making them slightly blue.  Again, anything that leaves a coating on fabric is something you want to avoid. 

Enzymes: Some detergents have enzymes in them to help with cleaning and stain-removing power.  While not a bad idea, some babies are very sensitive to enzymes and can get bad rashes from enzyme residue left in diapers.  To be safe, avoid detergents with enzymes. 

One more rule of thumb with cloth diaper detergents, and that is that some fabrics are more forgiving than others.  Cotton, especially cotton flats or prefolds, is pretty easygoing.  You can get away with using some regular detergents on them and not have a problem.  Hemp is denser than cotton, and picks up residue more easily, so you have to be more careful with hemp.  Anything polyester – suedecloth, fleece, or microfiber – is the pickiest.  In a mixed bunch of diapers, if you switch from residue-free detergent to regular detergent, your polyester will be the first to have problems. 

This is why you’ll hear some people say “Well I use [Tide, All, etc] and have no problems with my diapers.”  Chances are, they are using cotton.  But when it comes down to it, why spend more money for something that’s not as good for your diapers?  Choose residue-free detergent instead and you’ll spend less money and worry less about your diapers.

Prefolds, they’re not as bad as you think!

Sorry I’ve skipped a couple days of posting.  My morning sickness has been especially bad for the past few days.  But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about THAT, so let’s get to diaper talk!

For today, let’s talk prefolds.  A lot of people get scared off by prefolds – one look at the rectangular burp-cloth type diaper and you start to think about pins, dunking, and rubber pants!  So let me assure you, it is possible to use prefolds without any pins, dunking, OR rubber pants. 

Folding a prefold isn’t hard, actually – there are a lot of videos on YouTube that show you how to do it better than I could describe here.  But you need something to hold the diaper on the baby, right?  Some people still do prefer pins, but I always struggled with keeping them sharp enough to easily go through all those layers of fabric and worrying that I’d stab myself or my baby.  Now there is a different diaper fastener called a Snappi – I like it much better than pins.  It’s a T-shaped piece of stretchy plastic that has little grippy teeth on all three ends of the “T”.  These teeth grip the diaper fabric just like those things you use to put on ace bandages.  So you fold the diaper onto the baby, run the Snappi across the diaper fabric on one side, stretch it to the other side and attach, and then pull the center part down and let it grip there.  Ta-da!  You’ve just put an elastic waistband on the diaper, resulting in a good, snug fit. 

How does a Snappi work?

Okay, so what about dunking?  Well, first of all, before your baby starts eating solids, you don’t have to do anything with a poopy diaper besides put it in the diaper pail for laundry day.  It’s all water-soluble and will wash right out.  If you already have a baby you’ll know I’m not lying when I say that breastfed poo really does not stink.  Once your baby starts on solids, you will need to shake any poop into the toilet before you put the diaper in the pail.  When your baby starts eating lots of solids (not purees), the poop will shake off quite easily.  For that in-between stage, I LOVE flushable liners.  Flushable liners are paper-towel sized sheets of flushable, biodegradable material that catch any solid waste.  They come in rolls of 100-200 and cost ranges between $8-12 per roll.  To use, you just lay one liner on the diaper before you put it on your baby.  Then, when changing the diaper, just lift off the liner and flush!  It will easily lift off any poop, and the amount of waste is comparable to the amount of toilet paper an adult uses.  If your baby usually poops at a certain time each day, you can even just use the liner for that diaper change only. 

Ah, you say, but what about those horrible rubber pants? I know, I’ve used them!  They don’t last very long, because if they get a hole in the plastic they’ll rip all the way down, and they always seem to be either too big (leaks!) or too small (red marks) around your baby’s legs.  Plus, if you have a really messy diaper, you have to pull them down the baby’s legs to take the diaper off, and I’ve found that in that case you have to wipe off so much of your baby’s bum AND legs that you might as well put them in the bathtub.  The good news is that today’s diaper covers are very different from the old rubber pants.  First of all, instead of being made of vinyl, they’re made of PUL, which is a waterproof polyester fabric.  That’s right, it’s a real fabric – not plastic-y feeling and won’t rip!  Secondly, the covers wrap around your baby and velcro (or snap) on in the same way that a disposable diaper would.  This is good news for two reasons.  One, you can get a better fit around the legs and waist with the adjustable velcro/snaps.  This means leaks and blowouts are almost nonexistent!  Yay!  Two, when you have those epic poopsplosions, you can change the diaper without getting the mess everywhere – just open up the cover, remove the snappi, and wipe your baby’s bum. 

Bummis diaper cover

One more thing about prefolds, and that is how to pick a good quality one.  Not all prefolds are created equal.  First, you want one that is 100% cotton (or hemp or bamboo, but the point is you want natural fibers).  Some Gerber prefolds actually have a layer of polyester in the center to pad it up, but unfortunately polyester is NOT absorbent.  Once you have narrowed it down to all natural fibers (let’s assume cotton), the next step is to figure out how many layers are in the diaper.  Most standard diaper-service quality (DSQ) prefolds are 4x6x4.  That means they have 4 layers of fabric on the side, 6 layers of fabric down the center panel, and 4 on the other side.  Slightly more absorbent and thicker are the “premium” prefolds, which are 4x8x4.  I prefer those because they are more absorbent.  Finally, you will encounter Chinese and Indian prefolds.  Chinese prefolds are a little sturdier, made from stronger fabric and the edges are sewn with stronger thread.  They tend to pill a little bit more than Indian prefolds.  Indian prefolds are softer than Chinese, but they are a little less durable.  Personally, I can’t really tell a difference by touch, but I prefer the Chinese because they last longer, and since we pass diapers down in our family of soon-to-be 4 kiddos, that’s important.

Exciting things are afoot in our local store!

Today my kids and I went to Ikea and got stuff to make a children’s play area in our store.  Being a cloth diaper store, most everyone who comes in has one or more kids with them, so I thought it would be nice to have a corner of the store with some fun kids stuff so the kids can play while their parents shop. 

We got a kids rug about 7×10′, the small dome ladybug tent, a wooden push toy, and the wooden-beads-on-wire toys that you see in doctor’s offices a lot.  Now I just have to figure out how to get them out of the living room and into the store, my kids love all “their” new toys so much!

Hopefully in the next 4 weeks or so we’ll have a grand re-opening with nearly twice as much square footage, plus a play area, mom’s nursing nook, and a full-length mirror for trying on baby carriers, so stay tuned!

Which cloth diaper is the trimmest?

Cloth diapers are known for being a little bulkier than disposables – at least when you’re comparing DRY diapers.  Wet disposables blow up like a balloon and out-bulk ANY cloth diaper I’ve ever seen!  Most of the time, I don’t mind the cloth bubble-but and think it’s kinda cute, but every once in a while I want to put my daughter in some jeans or yoga pants, and a trimmer cloth diaper makes it so much easier to pull her pants up. 

So, which cloth diaper is the trimmest?  Here’s my list of winners:

1. Babykicks one-size Bumboo pocket diaper. 

Bumboo Pocket Diaper

This one-size pocket diaper is super trim for two reasons.  First, the insert that comes with it is hemp, which is more absorbent than cotton, as well as being less “fluffy” than microfiber.  Second, instead of having the inside of the diaper made of something like polyester fleece or suedecloth, which contributes bulk but no absorbency, the inner is actually made of soft bamboo fleece, which is also more absorbent than cotton.  Bamboo absorbs more quickly than hemp too, so layered together like this you get a VERY trim, VERY absorbent diaper. 

2. BumGenius Organic One-Size All-in-one. 

BumGenius Elemental one-size organic diaper

The absorbency in this diaper comes from tightly knit, super soft cotton, which is less “fluffy” and therefore less bulky than diapers made out of microfiber.  I gave this one second place, because as an all-in-one, you can’t just use a smaller insert for a smaller baby as you could for the Bumboo pocket. 

Honorable Mention: Bamboozle fitted diapers. 

Bamboozle fitted diaper

I wanted to have at least one diaper that can be used with a separate cover in here, and I will say that of all the fitteds I’ve used, Bamboozle takes the cake.  I think the fact that less fabric is used because bamboo is more absorbent than cotton, plus the snap-in soaker adds absorbency only where it’s needed.  Pair this diaper with a Bummis Superbrite cover and you’ve got one trim diaper system!

Have a cloth diaper question you want answered?  Comment or email and your question may be featured in a future blog post!

Rockin’ Soak

I just discovered the “soak” feature on my front loader washing machine, and was so excited to see the difference it made in my cloth diaper wash routine!  Front loaders are designed to use less water, which is great from an environmental point of view, but not so great for washing cloth diapers.  When it comes to diapers, you really want as much water as you can to get them really clean and to rinse the detergent out really well. 

My wash routine is generally prewash + hot wash, heavy soil + rinse + extra rinse. 

I throw the extra rinse in just for peace of mind; it’s probably not necessary.  Anyway, my rule of thumb is that if the diapers don’t smell like clean wet towels when the cycle ends, I wash them again.  As my daughter is getting older (2 years and then some) it seems that the diapers get stinkier, and I was having to do this second wash cycle more often than I would have liked. 

But yesterday, I saw the “soak” button.  “What would happen,” I asked myself, “If I soaked these for 30 minutes before washing them?”  What happened is that the soak (with 2-3 tbsp of Rockin Green Hard Rock detergent) was more effective than an additional prewash at loosening grime and getting the diapers clean and sweet-smelling by the end of the wash cycle!  I am definitely adding this soak to my wash routine. 

If you don’t have a soak feature on your machine, you can get the same effect by letting the washer fill with water and then pausing it for 30 minutes.

Hello World!

Welcome to the new blog of Babies Bottoms and More, DFW’s only cloth diaper store!  I’m Elisa, shop owner, mom to 3 kiddos, and cloth diaper expert.  I learn new things about cloth diapers just about every day, from tips and tricks to first hand experience of new products. 

You can find us on Facebook, or at our website, www.babiesbottomsandmore.com.  I hope you enjoy reading this blog, though if you have any questions and would like to talk to a real person, feel free to email me at admin@babiesbottomsandmore.com, call me at 972.424.4994, or come to our store any Saturday from 1-4 pm!