An unpleasant reality for parents (new and seasoned) is the high cost of diapers. Unless you practice elimination communication, your baby is wearing something on her bottom. There are lots of options out there, but if you choose to use cloth, how do you keep them from poop staining?
While they may seem daunting at first, cloth diapers aren’t that difficult to clean, and they provide an economical, Earth-friendly alternative to regular disposable diapers.
There are many types of cloth diapers, from the old-fashioned cloth and safety pins to newer all-in-one kinds.
A big concern for many parents is how to keep these diapers from staining and smelling bad without investing a lifetime into this chose.
There’s a happy ever after ending to this story, though: a little scrubbing, a decent washing machine, and the sunshine are usually all you need to keep them fresh.
Elimination Communication Is Sometimes An Option
If you really wish you could skip diapers altogether, or nearly so, elimination communication (EC), or natural infant hygiene, might be for you.
Parents who practice this technique learn to recognize cues from the baby when they need to potty.
EC works because babies typically relieve themselves at predictable times, like after eating or when they wake up. Disposable diapers or a washing machine are not available to everyone across the entire planet, so parents turn to EC to potty train early.
However, EC depends on location, location, location. It might be possible to practice this technique in the privacy of your home, but it would be frowned upon at the mall, walking down the street, at daycare, or during dinner at Grandma’s house.
The Dark Side Of Diapering
Disposable diapers are no doubt extremely convenient, especially when you’re busy and on the go.
However, the EPA reports that disposable diapers account for over 3.5 million tons of waste—every year! Around 20 billion diapers are tossed in the trash annually, and they must go somewhere. The dark reality is that disposables take hundreds of years to break down in landfills.
Disposable diapers also require lots of resources to make, including over 200,000 trees a year for babies in the United States alone. Disposables need twenty times the amount of raw resources to produce compared to cloth diapers.
Choosing To Use Cloth To Save Money And Trees
People have many reasons for wanting to use cloth diapers over disposables.
Cloth diapers come in all sorts of patterns and colors, they look cute, and are more environmentally conscious options than disposables.
Cloth diapers can also be reused, over and over, from one baby to the next.
The Rainbow World Of Cloth Diapers
Once you’ve made the decision to go cloth, you get to go shopping! And then, you might find yourself confused – yay! “What kind of diaper to use?” is usually the biggest sticky point many parents and caregivers find themselves coming up against.
Some popular choices include:
All in One
The entire diaper is one piece, with an absorbent inner layer and a waterproof outer layer.
Sometimes the inner layer can partially be removed to dry faster, but these kind of cloth diapers are suitable for one use before washing.
All in Two
The inner layer attaches to the outer shell using Velcro, button snaps, or they fold into the shell.
Depending on the mess, the outer shell may be reusable with a new insert.
These are the more old-fashioned type that can be fastened with safety pins. A separate cover can help control liquid messes.
Don’t Forget The Wet Bags
You should also pick out two or three wet bags. These bags are waterproof and can hold your diapers until you’re ready to wash them. Best of all, you can usually toss the bag in the wash as well.
You’ve Got Your Stash, So What’s Next?
Once you have accumulated a stash of your chosen type, don’t be afraid to give them a go. You might still rely on disposables for daycare or while on vacation, but you can learn how to incorporate cloth diapers into your daily routine.
Diapers with urine are easy to handle. Simply rinse and toss into your diaper bag. Poop, however, can stain and discolor your new stash, so follow these steps to ensure that your diapers look and smell fresh and clean.
Cleaning Poopy Diapers Without Getting It All Over Yourself
Cleaning up soiled diapers isn’t rocket science, and anyone can do it.
While you might be a little more up close and personal to what your baby had for dinner last night, you can rest assured that you can quickly and effectively clean up the mess.
First, wash the diapers and especially the inserts or inner linings before you use them to increase absorbency. Wash them at least once, but two or three times is better.
Pay attention to the instructions on your particular diapers. Some outer shells can’t be washed in hot water or a sanitize cycle.
Dry your diapers, again paying attention to the heat setting. Plastic outer shells are going to be more sensitive to high heat.
Fasten any Velcro or buttons, so the diapers don’t stick to each other.
Hang them outside as an alternative to the dryer.
Fold your stash and look at your pretty patterns and colors proudly! Then, put them on your baby’s rear end.
When your baby poops, dump any large pieces into the toilet. Use some toilet tissue to wipe solid waste from the diaper or liner.
Rinse the diaper immediately if possible. Then toss the diaper and liner (if yours has one) into a wet bag.
If the stain is particularly sticky, smelly, or colorful (think food dyes), you probably want to soak the diaper for a few hours before stowing it in the wet bag.
However, some diapers don’t tolerate soaking, so double-check your directions first.
What To Do And What Not To Do While Washing Your Diapers
The prospect of more laundry is about as exciting as mowing the yard or watching paint dry.
Depending on your washing machine, you may need to adjust how you treat your poopy diapers and liners.
Tip #1: Choose a good detergent. Some detergents give off toxic chemicals. You don’t want to use anything with fragrances or brightening agents, which are often the culprit for unwanted chemicals.
Tip #2: Use bleach very sparingly. Bleach can kill almost anything, including bacteria on the diapers. But your baby’s bum is sensitive, and bleach can break down your diapers prematurely. Plastic shells may be irreparably damaged if you bleach them.
Tip #3: Use the pre-wash cycle if your machine has it. You can also try using an extra rinse if you know a particular batch of diapers is extra stinky.
Tip #4: An especially soiled batch should also get the heavy-duty wash treatment if your washer has this option.
Tip #5: Have enough diapers or liners to wash every other day or every third day. Don’t let your diapers sit for a week before laundering them. Your nose will thank you!
Things To Avoid
Mistake #1: Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are a no-no, as they can make your diapers less absorbent, and they often have chemicals you want to avoid exposing your child to.
Mistake #2: Washing certain outer shells with liners. Liners or inserts are usually made of cotton or bamboo, which can tolerate higher washing and drying temperatures. Don’t accidentally ruin your expensive shells.
Mistake #3: Don’t forget to snap the snaps or stick the Velcro. The diapers can stick together (so they won’t get as clean) and the snaps could potentially damage your washing machine or dryer.
Mistake #4: Don’t stuff the washing machine like a Christmas goose. The diapers need plenty of room to interact with the water and detergent.
Ways To Treat Stubborn Poop Stains
One easy and free way to get stains out of your diapers (and especially the white liners) is to set them in the direct sun. It’s even OK if you forget about them for a while if it doesn’t rain!
The liners might feel a little stiff when you bring them in, though, but a quick toss in the dryer will soften them up.
Lemon juice is another cheap way to treat stains. Pour lemon juice directly on the stain and then try putting the diaper in the sun for a few hours.
Don’t forget to rewash everything, though. Lemon juice is extremely acidic, and your baby’s skin might be damaged if the diaper hasn’t been rinsed well.
Stain Removal Agents
You can also try a stain removal agent like BunchaFarmers. Dab some on your most stubborn stains and work in the stain remover using hot water.
You can use this type of stain remover on almost anything else, too, including carpets and car seats.
If You Aren’t Ready To Totally Switch To Cloth, Consider This
If you really like the idea of using cloth diapers, at least some of the time, but you’re wary about dealing with poop, consider using disposable liners in your waterproof shells.
Disposable liners are much smaller than regular diapers so there will be less waste in the landfill.
Disposable liners are also easy to use on the go. Drop the solid waste in the commode and roll up the liner like a diaper and toss it.
Using disposable liners can also ease the transition into the world of cloth diapering if/when you decide to do it a 100% later.
Save Some Energy, Save Some Trees, And Fight Those Stains!
Cloth diapers are a worthwhile investment, and once you’ve potty trained your little one you can sell them or pass them to family or friends.
Every cloth diaper keeps many disposable ones out of the garbage!
While maintaining clean diapers may seem daunting, it isn’t that much of a challenging task it’s often made out to be.
Be sure to check the directions for your brand of shells and liners before washing and drying. Using the sun and some lemon juice are a couple of easy tricks to keep your liners fresh and smelling as sweet as your baby.
Anyone can use cloth diapers, so don’t be afraid to pick out some pretty patterns and give them a go!