Variety in wash routine experience
Cloth diapering is a shared experience for many families— so much so that we often forget that our wash routines, while similar, can vary greatly.
Let me start this blog by saying that I am not a cloth diaper wash routine expert. But I do have a lot of experience helping families troubleshoot and figure out why their wash routines are failing. If you're looking for experts in this area, I recommend Nerdy Mommas—another cloth diaper brand and friend of mine.
I received a comment on one of my wash routine TikTok videos "You're not using enough washing powder." Why would they think this?
The comment was posted to a 30 second video, quickly explaining how we wash our daughter's diapers. In the comment section, I shared that in our home both our pre-wash and main-wash cyclers are washed with line one of tide powder. And we've been successfully cleaning our diapers with this method for about 1.5 years.
My washing experience wasn't always successful though.
In the beginning of our cloth diapering journey, I joined a facebook group specifically for wash routine advice. There I was told that I should be washing my diapers through one cycle on my machine's longest, hottest cycle—with one full scoop of tide washing powder. And we had issues—a lot of issues.
My diapers were coming out of the dryer smelling and I was using RLR once a month to get them back to baseline. I felt like cloth diapering was becoming too complicated. So I went to google. We started cutting back on our detergent and added a pre-wash cycle with detergent to our routine. And our diapers were finally getting clean.
So why is it that less detergent and more agitation works better than more detergent?
Modern washing machines are High Efficiency (HE), meaning that they use less water over a longer period of time to wash your laundry. And HE laundry detergents are designed to perform well with less amounts of water too. Tide's own website recommends just line one of tide powder for medium size laundry loads.
When too much detergent is added to an HE laundry cycle, the machine doesn't have enough water to cycle all of the detergent out. Which can lead to build up on both your laundry and your washing machine.
When I was washing with 4x the Tide powder that I needed, the detergent wasn't fully rinsing out of my diapers, or our machine. And the build up on my diapers was causing more problems, like absorbency issues and odor.
We made a small change and it solved everything.
To resolve our build up issues, we started with a clean slate. We stripped our diapers and took a step back on our wash routine. The new research I had done told me that my problems were stemming from the excess of detergent, but also that I probably needed a second cycle in order to get my diapers fully clean.
So now our wash routine looks like this:
1. Pre wash on Normal, the same cycle settings we use for all of our other laundry. With line 1 of tide and an extra rinse.
2. Main wash on Sanitize, our machine's longest, hottest cycle. With line 1 of tide and an extra rinse cycle.
3. Tumble dry on low heat.
We keep it simple. Cloth diaper wash routines can and should be easy. Stripping your diapers should not be a frequent and normal step in your cloth diapering experience. And if it is, it might be time for a few minor adjustments.
But what if I have soft or hard water?
A general rule of thumb is that you want more detergent with hard water and less with soft. But this won't be the same experience for everyone. Here are some resources for learning to wash your diapers based on your water hardness.
Cleaning your diapers the hard water with All About Cloth Diapers
Soft Water: A Parent's Experience with Cloth Diaper Podcast