Making Wool Dryer Balls

I’ve never been much of a knitter, but I have to tell ya, making wool dryer balls is so calming, it’s addictive!  Although you are more than welcome to purchase yours from Babies Bottoms and More, I thought some of you might be interested in a DIY post on how to make them. 

First, though, I’m sure you’d like to know what wool dryer balls are and why anyone would make them.  Dryer balls are basically soft, weighted balls that you toss in your dryer with your wet clothes.  They bounce around in there, breaking up pockets of wet clothes so the air can circulate better.  While bouncing around they also bump into the fibers of your clothing, making the clothes softer and less stiff.  So they can reduce drying time (saving energy) and replace fabric softener.  Many dryer balls are made of plastic, but wool ones have several distinct advantages:

1. They’re all natural and free of BPA and harmful chemicals.

2. They last longer.

3. They can be scented with essential oils.

4. You can make them yourself and/or support a work at home mom who makes them!

How to make them:

Step 1, start with 100% wool yarn.  Bulky yarn is better than worsted – the fluffier the yarn is the better it will felt (shrink and stick together) and you’ll get a sturdier ball. 

Step 2, (optional) cut a long strip out of an old wool sweater and wrap or braid it into a tight ball about the size of a golf ball.  This will be the core of your dryer ball.  If you don’t have an old wool sweater to cut up you can skip this step and just start wrapping a ball of yarn, but your dryer ball will use more yarn.

Step 3, wrap yarn around the core, pulling it tightly where needed to make a nice even ball shape.  I like to turn the ball a little bit with each time I wrap the yarn around so it makes an asterisk pattern on the ball.  This way all sides get even coverage.  Do this until the ball is about 2/3 the size you want your finished dryer ball to be. 

Step 4, cut the yarn and tuck the end under other yarns to make a ball that won’t unravel.  Put it inside a sock and fasten the end with a rubber band.  If you’re making multiple dryer balls you can use knee socks and fit about 3 balls per sock, just use a rubber band in between each ball to keep them separated. 

Step 5, Grab that load of laundry you needed to do today.  Put it in the washer and add the dryer ball(s) in their socks.  Run a load on warm or hot water.  When done, toss it in the dryer (dryer balls too) and dry on high or medium high heat. 

Step 6, When the clothes are dry, get the dryer balls out.  Leave the clean laundry to deal with later, you’re making dryer balls! (ha ha, just kidding, you can fold it if you really want to).  Add another layer to the dryer ball, winding the yarn around and around in an asterisk pattern (once you complete one asterisk you can shift the ball so you’re doing another one with the center point in a different place on the ball).  You want the yarn to be firmly on there, so keep some tension in it, but you don’t have to make it super-super tight.  Make the ball about 20-30% bigger than you want your final dryer ball to be. Just like the first layer, it will shrink when you wash it.

Step 7,  repeat steps 4 and 5.  When the second layer of yarn has been washed and dried, it will be felted and will not unravel.  You’re done!  Felting the two layers separately makes the dryer balls sturdier and less likely to fall apart.  Ideally you’ll want 3 or 4 of them in your dryer at all times. 

I get my yarn from www.knitpicks.com.  If you would like to buy dryer balls from Babies Bottoms and More, click here: http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/dryer-balls.html

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Leaks. And How to Fix Them.

Yes, cloth diapers do occasionally leak.  (So do disposables, by the way).  Here in blog form is the checklist I usually run through with parents who are experiencing leaks with their cloth diapers.  Probably 96% of the leak problems can be solved by going through this list. 

1. Fit.  Is your baby in the weight range suggested by the diaper?  Do the legs and waist fit snugly with no gapping?  Is your baby at least 10 lbs? (Most “one-size” diapers that claim to fit babies 8-35 lbs do not fit well until around 10 lbs.) 

Never use fabric softener on cloth diapers

2. Repelling. If when you change the baby’s diaper, the diaper is dry or mostly dry but their clothes are soaked, you either have an issue with fit (if the legs aren’t snug enough they’ll pee right out the side of their diaper) or repelling.  So if you’ve checked the fit, and the diaper is still leaking but when you change it a large area of the diaper inside is still dry, you probably have a repelling issue.  Repelling is caused by residue on your diapers.  It can be caused by diaper ointments, detergents that aren’t clean-rinsing, or sometimes minerals deposited from hard water.  Make sure that you are using a cloth-safe detergent like Rockin Green or Ruby Moon, NO fabric softeners, and cloth-safe diaper ointment like Grandma El’s or Earth Mama Angel Baby.  You may need to strip your diapers to get the residue out, which can be accomplished two ways.  One, soak for 30 minutes in 3-4 tbsp of Rockin Green detergent, then launder normally.  Two, you can wash the diapers in hot water with no detergent but a small squirt of liquid dish soap.  Then continue to run wash cycles on hot until there are no more bubbles, usually 3-4 cycles. 

Thirsties hemp doublers boost absorbency without adding bulk

 

3. Absorbency. If, on the other hand, the inner of the diaper is completely saturated when you go to change the diaper, then the problem is not repelling but simply not enough absorbency.  There are two ways to fix this.  First, you can add absorbency, for example by adding a hemp doubler to the inside of the diaper.  Or, you can change your baby more often.  Personally I go towards the “add absorbency” method. 

4. Re-waterproofing.  Sometimes PUL (the laminated waterproof outer of a diaper or cover) can get tiny invisible holes in it, usually around the stitching at the legs.  This can be fixed by tossing them in the dryer on medium-high heat for 15 minutes or so.  The heat from the dryer will reseal the PUL. 

If you’re still having trouble after going through these steps, feel free to contact us and we’ll do what we can to help.  You can also call the manufacturer of the diaper.  Most cloth diaper manufacturers are moms themselves and are happy to help other parents succeed at cloth diapering.

Best Diapers For…

Frequently we will have new parents come to the store and ask us “What’s the best diaper?”  The thing is, I can’t answer that question, because it’s not the same for everyone.  But after getting to know the parents a little bit, learning about their lifestyle (stay at home parent or daycare?  Washer and dryer in home or laundromat?), preferences (Need the easiest solution?  Want only natural and organic fabrics?) and budget, we can help our customers find the perfect diaper for their baby.  Here’s a list of some of the “bests” for certain situations.

prefold diapers cost just $2-3 each

Least Expensive

The least expensive diaper will be a prefold or a flat diaper with a cover.  Used is even cheaper (we have quite a few gently used prefolds in stock right now).  We will teach you how to fold them and put them on with a snappi fastener (no need to use pins!) or you can fold them in thirds and lay them inside the cover.  The least expensive cover is the Econobum, a one-size cover for $8.95, however it will not usually fit a newborn.  The least expensive to fit a newborn will be the Thirsties XS cover at $11.25, or for $1.50 more you can get a size 1 Thirsties Duo Wrap which will fit up to 18 lbs.  You can also make your own wool covers from upcycled sweaters from the thrift store – super cheap!

Flat diapers dry the quickest because they are just a single layer, folded

Quickest Drying

A flat diaper is the quickest drying since it unfolds to only a single layer of fabric.  Pocket diapers with microfiber inserts also dry pretty quickly.  A quick rule of thumb is that man-made fibers dry quicker than natural fibers like cotton, bamboo, and hemp.  All-in-one’s generally take the longest to dry, except for the Mommys Touch all-in-one, which due to its unique design and being made of microfiber, will dry faster than even a prefold. 

Best Bottom shells are one-size but the inserts are sized - very trim.

Trimmest

In my experience there are two things that contribute to a trim diaper: cut and fabric.  A diaper that has absorbent material only down the center of the diaper and none wrapping around the baby’s hips will be trimmer than one that wraps thick absorbent material around the baby like a prefold does.  As for fabric, microfiber tends to be “fluffy” while tightly knit cotton, bamboo, and hemp can be denser and therefore trimmer.  Finally, a diaper that is sized as opposed to one-size (or at least that has the inserts sized) will be trimmer on a smaller baby because you will have less material on the smaller size.  Some of the trimmest diapers that we carry are the BumGenius Elemental (all-in-one) and the Best Bottom Diaper (all-in-two).  The hemp/cotton insert is trimmer than the microfiber insert in the Best Bottoms. 

BumGenius diapers are easy to change from small to large

Best for Two Kids in Diapers

The nice thing about one-size diapers is that when you have two different-size babies both in diapers, you can still use the same diapers on both kids.  So, one-size diapers are a given, but which ones?  For easier switching between sizes, steer clear of diapers that change size by adjusting the elastic (like Fuzzibunz, Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, and SoftBums) and pick one that changes size by snapping down in front.  The external snaps just pop open or snap down quickly so you can easily change the diaper’s size to fit whatever kid you happened to grab!

Best Overnight Diaper

Although some parents have success using pocket diapers overnight, for those that don’t, we recomend a  double-layered prefold or heavy-duty fitted diaper such as the Tiny Tush Trim with an extra doubler or a Happy Hempy stuffable fitted stuffed with a hemp prefold.  Usually PUL covers work fine, but for a super-soaker baby you can try a wool cover like the Tiny Tush organic wool soaker. 

What about you?  What special situation makes you seek out YOUR perfect diaper?

News You Can Use: Dry Skin and Baby Rash Tips

 The following article is from our friends over at Rockin’ Green, another Texas-based mom-run company.  I use their Hard Rock Formula for my diapers (and all my laundry, actually) and we have had NO AMMONIA PROBLEMS since switching to Hard Rock.  Click the link to order your own!  http://babiesbottomsandmore.com/rockin-green-hard-rock-formula.html

Baby dry skin or rashes are no fun at all! You just want to make your baby feel better and get rid of those painful rashes! Here are some tips from the Rockin’ Green team for preventing dry skin and rashes, as well as what to do when problems arise:

· Bathe your children every other day (vs. daily) in the winter (unless they get really dirty of course) to prevent drying out their skin.

· When bathing – try lukewarm water – the heat can make skin drier.

· Use a cream/balm for dry skin after the bath. Try Delish Naturals or CJ’s bum butter.

· If you are a cloth diaperer or just have a baby with sensitive skin – wash all diapers and clothing in Rockin’ Green – it’s gentle on baby’s skin. It’s one of the reasons we invented it. Trust us.

· Use a humidifier in your baby’s room or in a few rooms of the house to create moisture.

· Always change a baby when they are wet (especially during a rash outbreak), as infrequent changes can be the culprit of diaper rashes.

· Rashes can also be caused by sensitivity to perfumes or chemicals (disposable diapers, wipes, fabrics) – so try switching products to something more natural and fresh

· If the rash doesn’t go away – always see a doctor. Many things like yeast, require special treatments.

· If you need to use a more intense diaper rash ointment, first put it on your baby’s bum and then cover it with a cut up piece of fleece. It will protect your precious diapers and allow your little’s ones bottom to heal.

· Air is really good for curing rashes so let your kids run around naked for a bit to let the rash get some air circulation. And remember, Rockin’ Green works on carpets too! (hehe)

Stripping Diapers

Q. How do I know if my diapers need to be stripped?

A. You may start to experience one or more of the following problems: repelling, decreased absorbency, stinkiness even after being washed, or intense ammonia smell when your baby wets.

  Repelling means that instead of urine being absorbed into the diaper, it is rolling off and leaking.  It’s different than just needing more absorbency, because when you go to change your baby’s wet clothes and diaper, you’ll find that the diaper itself is not that wet. 

Q. How did my diapers get residue in them?

A. There are several ways a diaper can get residue: incorrect laundry detergent, rash creams, and hard water. 

 First, of course, cloth diapers need to be washed in a clean-rinsing and additive-free detergent like Rockin Green, Charlie’s Soap, or Tiny Bubbles.  NOT Dreft!!  If they are washed in a conventional laundry detergent with additives like scents, colors, fabric softeners, and optical brighteners, they can pick up residue from the detergent. 

Another frequent culprit is rash creams.  Many diaper rash creams work by making a waterproof barrier on your baby’s skin – which is good for protecting their skin, but bad if it gets on the diaper.  Be sure to use a cloth-safe rash cream like Grandma El’s or Earth Mama Angel Baby.  If you must use a cream that is not safe for cloth diapers, be sure to use a liner to protect your diapers. 

Finally (and we get this a lot here in the DFW area), hard water is often the culprit, especially if you are already being careful about your detergent and your rash cream.  “Hard” water is water with a high amount of minerals dissolved in it.  (It’s opposite, “soft” water is what you have when the soap is very difficult to wash off and your hands feel slippery even after rinsing, when washing your hands.)  These minerals in the hard water can be deposited onto and into the fibers of your diapers, where they decrease absorbency and hold onto stink – especially ammonia.  This happens to my kiddo’s diapers about once a month or so, even though I use residue-free detergent and cloth-safe ointment.  When this happens, I strip my diapers. 

Q. What exactly is stripping diapers and how do I do it?

A. Stripping your diapers is just removing the residues from them.  You can use the multiple-rinse method or the soaking method.

The multiple-rinse method is one that I have seen a lot on online cloth diaper communities.  Basically, you wash your diapers in HOT water with just a squirt of Dawn liquid dish soap.  Then you continue to run hot wash/rinse or just hot rinse cycles until there are no suds left.  This method works best for top-loading washing machines where you can lift up the lid in the middle of the wash cycle to look for suds.  It’s a bit difficult for me to use with my front-loading machine, so I use the soak method.

To use the soak method (as found on the back of packages of Rockin Green detergent), you will soak your diapers in double the normal amount of cloth-safe laundry detergent for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight.  Then, wash as usual (prewash + hot wash + rinse + extra rinse), but don’t use any detergent in your prewash.  If your diapers were clean before you did the soak, you don’t have to use detergent in the prewash or the regular wash. 

If your washer doesn’t have a “soak” button there are two ways to do this.  In a top loader, just set your washer for a regular laundry cycle, and then as soon as it is full and agitates for a minute or so (to make sure everything is wet through), turn your washer off and let everything soak in there.  You can also take your clean-but-not-stripped diapers and soak them in your bathtub.  (I suppose you could soak your dirty diapers in the tub too but then you would have to clean your tub afterwards.)  If you soak in your bathtub, it goes without saying to make sure you keep your bathroom door CLOSED since a tub full of water is a safety hazard for small children.

Giveaway Time!

Yes, it’s Friday and today we are giving away a package of the NEW Rockin Green Funk Rock Natural Ammonia Bouncer.  So new, it’s not even on the market yet, but we have one!  One package of Funk Rock will de-stink your diapers AND keep the stinkies away for a full month when added to your pre-wash cycle. 

To enter, please leave a comment with one question you have about cloth diapering, babywearing, or breastfeeding.  The winner will be chosen randomly, but questions will be answered in future blog posts.

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.

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.