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CLOTH DIAPERING SURVIVAL GUIDE



Cloth diapering can seem very overwhelming at first, but with the right information and tools it couldn’t be easier. I hope with this guide that it will help you transition easily into cloth diapering. If you ever have any questions or need help, clarification, ANYTHING, you can send an e-mail to clothdiaperingsurvivalguide@gmail.com and I will try to respond ASAP to help you out!


TEST YOUR WATER HARDNESS. I cannot stress how important this is. Some people do not test their water and are lucky and have no issues, but if you wash cloth diapers in hard water without properly softening the water it can cause a number of awful issues. Hard water without a softener can cause mineral build up which can then lead to chemical burns, ammonia build up, and barnyard stink. A lot of bad things that can easily be avoided if you test your water.


TO TEST YOUR WATER: You can find water hardness test strips on Amazon, at a pet store, or you can even take in a cup of water to a pet store for them to test it for you and a lot of times it is free.

  • Test directly from your washer on both hot and cold settings. Sometimes the water hardness can differ from your washer as it does your regular faucet. If your washer has auto shut off when the door opens, what I do is quickly open the lid and put a cup under and grab as much water as I can before it stops. Tedious, but a very important step.

  • If your water hardness shows up as 180ppm or lower, you will not need to add any additional water softener as long as you are using tide original or tide free & gentle powder detergent.

  • If your water hardness is 180ppm or higher, you will need to add an additional water softener such as Calgon or Borax. 1 cap of Calgon per load, or ½ cup Borax per load.



While Calgon is pricier than Borax, Calgon is recommended over Borax because Borax is harsher on diapers and isn’t quite as effective on removing minerals from the water.


So, what if I actually have soft water? Soft water will just mean that you will use less detergent, as a little detergent goes a very long way with soft water. If you use too much detergent, it can cause detergent build up. Please look at the TROUBLESHOOTING section for more information on detergent build up.


SANITIZING

SANITIZING USED DIAPERS It is very important to sanitize used diapers/inserts after buying them to kill off any bacteria or hidden ammonia.


HOW TO SANITIZE: Use disinfecting bleach and ONLY disinfecting bleach. No splashless, no color safe bleach. It needs at least 5.25% sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient. If the bleach bottle happens to not have a list of ingredients, I wouldn’t trust it. Find a disinfecting bleach that has a list of ingredients.

  • The ratio is 1 tbsp bleach to 1-gallon COLD water. I use a large bucket, adding however many gallons to tablespoons for the amount of diapers I’m sanitizing. Mix WELL. Do not add the diapers into the bucket until the bleach and water are completely mixed.

Add diapers and soak for 30 minutes and no longer than 45 minutes. Take diapers out and rinse under HOT water.

  • Wash on hot with normal amount of detergent 2-3 times to ensure all of the bleach is removed.

SPRAYING DIAPERS

Poop! What do we do with it?

  • Exclusively breast-fed babies, it actually isn’t required that you spray your diapers because breastmilk is water soluble. However, most modern HE washers actually don’t clean things well enough, so I recommend spraying them regardless.

  • If your baby is formula fed or is beginning to eat solids, you must spray your diapers to remove the poop. Your washer cannot clean solid fecal matter.

  • Liners. You can use fleece or disposable liners which makes cleaning up poop a lot easier. You put a disposable liner in, they poop, then you flush the liner with the poop. If you use a fleece liner, you will have to spray it but it’s faster than doing a diaper in my opinion. Refer to the DIAPER LINERS section for more information on types of liners and how to make your own.

HOW TO SPRAY DIAPERS

You can install a bidet sprayer on your toilet and it makes spraying diapers a breeze! You can buy a pail such as Spray Pal to place the diapers on top of the toilet and spray, or you can buy a few small plastic trash cans from the dollar store and cut a hole in the bottom and use chip bag clips at the top to hold the diapers. A DIY Splatter Shield is a much more cost-effective way to spray your diapers. Hard to explain, but there are pictures below to help!


Spraying diapers

  • The goal is to remove all of the solid matter off of the diaper, I personally spray until the diaper looks clean but it is fine if there are stains on it as those should wash out in the washer. With a sprayer, you'd need something to prop the diaper on such as a Spray Pal or DIY version with clips. Clip the diaper on, spray down and onto the diaper until all the solids are gone. Once done spraying, wring the diaper or leave it on the clips to dry overnight and then place it in your dirty wet bag or hamper.


Bidet/Diaper Sprayer

Spray Pal


DIY Splatter Shield



DIY Splatter Shield instructions provided by www.OfTheHearth.com

SUPPLIES

  • 2 small plastic trashcans (it is best if they are identical or at least similar in shape)

  • 2 bag clips or clothes pins

  • A sharp utility knife (please exercise safety when using knives)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Use the utility knife to carefully cut the bottom off of one of the trash cans.

  • Use the clips to secure a soiled diaper to one side of the bottomless trash can. Place over a toilet and use a diaper sprayer to remove the poop from the diaper.

  • Remove the diaper and place the bottomless trashcan into the intact trashcan for tidy storage. This prevents any water or poop remnants from getting on the floor

DUNK/SWISH METHOD.

  • The dunk and swish method may sound gross, but if you can’t afford to buy a bidet or a spray pal, it is a cheap and effective way of removing poop from your diapers.

  • Buy some dish gloves. You will then take your diaper and swish it in the toilet water. Ensure that your toilet is clean and has been flushed prior. Swish around, flush, swish around, and flush until all fecal matter is gone. Be sure to hold on to your diaper, as it is very possible to accidentally flush it!

WASHING

HOW TO WASH DIAPERS. Washing diapers will depend on your water hardness and your washer. The most important thing however is doing two separate cycles for your diapers, a pre-wash and a main wash. It will be trial and error finding the perfect wash routine but here is an example of my personal wash routine:

  • PRE-WASH: Line 1 Tide Original powder. Line 1 Oxiclean powder. Heavy Soil. Warm Water. Deep water wash. 1 rinse. NO pre-soak.

  • MAIN WASH: Line 2 Tide Original powder. Heavy soil. Hot water. Deep Water wash. 1 rinse. NO pre-soak.

If you have hard water, it is important that you only do one rinse cycle when washing. Extra rinses can cause mineral build up.

*Please keep in mind that what works for me might not work for you, this is just an example of what I do. If you need help coming up with a wash routine, please e-mail clothdiaperingsurvivalguide@gmail.com with your water hardness level, preferred detergent, and a picture of your washer so I know what your settings are*


CLOTH DIAPER SAFE DETERGENTS. There are several detergents to use, but this list is the strongest rated as far as effectively cleaning your diapers.

  • Tide Original or Tide Free & Gentle Powder: This is the best as far as cleaning your diapers because it has all of the necessary enzymes to clean urine/feces from clothing items.

  • All Free & Clear Liquid or Powder

  • Dreft Liquid or Powder

  • Persil ProClean

  • Arm & Hammer Plus Oxiclean Liquid or Powder

  • Gain Liquid or Powder


PLANT BASED CLOTH SAFE DETERGENTS. These will not clean your diapers as effectively as the detergents above, but for a more environmentally friendly option, these are cloth diaper approved.

  • Biocleen Liquid or Powder

  • Seventh Generation Free & Clear or Seventh Generation

  • Kirkland Environmentally Friendly

NEVER use homemade detergents. Homemade detergent does not mix well in water and does not effectively clean clothes, much less cloth diapers.


NEVER use fabric softener on your cloth diapers as it will cause build-up and repelling issues which could then lead to chemical burns, ammonia build up, etc. Fabric softener and water softener are not the same thing, it’s easy to get those confused. Water softener removes minerals from water whereas fabric softener permeates into fibers to “soften” clothes.


Well, what scent enhancers ARE safe then?

  • Scent booster beads are completely safe for cloth diapers as long as there are no fabric softeners in them. Here are some a few examples of scent beads that are safe for cloth:


NEVER use vinegar. Vinegar can cause your elastic to deteriorate and FAST. Using vinegar to soak diapers will make the elastics turn to gum in no time. Never soak diapers or try to clean diapers with vinegar.


CLOTH DIAPER SAFE STAIN REMOVERS. Here are just a few common stain removers that are cloth diaper safe.

  • Oxiclean powder or spray

  • Shout spray

  • For a more natural stain remover, you can wet the diaper with water, spray the affected area with fresh lemon juice and then set outside under the sun. Check every 30 minutes. Be careful not to leave it under the hot sun too long to keep the PUL safe.


HOW TO DRY DIAPERS. There are several ways that you can dry your diapers after washing. The most common way is hang drying them on a drying rack or line drying outside.

Example of a drying rack:



Can I dry them in the dryer?

Yes! Only dry them on low heat or air only though, as high heat can damage the PUL deeming the diapers useless.

HOW TO STORE DIRTY DIAPERS. There are several ways to store dirty diapers.

Large hanging wet bag



Diaper pail



​Trash can with a reusable pail liner. With or without a lid works great!


TYPES OF DIAPERS

There are many types of cloth diapers and while one type may work well for someone, it might not work well for you. It’s recommended when starting out to buy a few of each kind as a trial to see what works best for your baby.


COVERS: Covers are waterproof but do not absorb by themselves. Covers are mostly used with prefolds, flats and fitteds. Prefolds and flats are essentially large pieces of fabric that you fold and wrap around your baby, fasten with snappis or safety pins, and then put a cover on top. Fitteds are made to fit your baby and come with closure so snappis or safety pins are not needed. Fitteds also need a cover. Examples of these will be listed under “Types of Inserts” later in the guide.

  • What does a cover look like?

What is a snappi? A snappi is a modern diaper fastener which is much easier and less of a hassle to use than safety pins. There’s no risk of accidentally poking yourself or your baby with them either. Below is what a snappi looks like.


POCKETS. Pocket diapers are essentially a cover with a fabric lining on top and a pocket opening in the back of the diaper. This makes it to where you can customize your diaper with whatever type of insert you prefer based off of your absorption needs. Insert types will be listed later in the guide. Pocket diapers can have microfleece, microsuede, athletic wicking jersey, bamboo cotton, and a number of other options as the lining.

  • What does a pocket diaper look like?

​Can I use an insert on top of the pocket?

Absolutely! As long as it is NOT a microfiber insert. Microfiber dries out the skin and can cause irritation. Only natural fiber inserts can be directly against the skin. Insert types will be listed later in the guide.


ALL IN ONE. All in one or AIO diapers are comparable to disposables minus the disposable part. It is similar to a pocket but there is a built-in insert, so one wear one use.

  • What does an AIO look like?


ALL IN 1.5. An AI1.5 is the exact same thing as an AIO but it also has a pocket opening to add additional inserts/boosters as needed for overnights or for just extra absorption.

  • What does an AI1.5 look like?

ALL IN 2/HYBRID. An AI2 or a Hybrid diaper is essentially a cover with a fabric lining called a shell, but it has the option to snap in an insert on top. So, you could re-use the shell several times as long as urine/feces stays on the actual inserts and not the shell.

  • What does an AI2/Hybrid look like?



*Note the snaps on the shell, that is where the insert would snap into.*

SWIM DIAPER. Swim diapers are exactly that, swim diapers! They offer no absorption and are used to block feces from getting out of the diaper. They do not absorb urine.

  • What do swim diapers look like?

Could I just use a pocket diaper or hybrid shell as a swim diaper?

Absolutely! Pocket diapers or shells work perfectly as a swim diaper. Excessive use of them with chlorine however can have a negative effect on the waterproof lining of the diapers, so it is recommended to use that diaper specifically for swim use if coming in contact with chlorine regularly.


TYPES OF INSERTS

There are SEVERAL types of inserts, so here are a few common types along with an absorbency rating chart


Microfiber inserts

  • This is going to be the most affordable type of insert available. It is synthetic, absorbs very fast, but doesn’t hold a lot. It cannot go directly against the skin as it will dry and irritate it. Microfiber is similar to a sponge so when it is squeezed, it leaks easily. Microfiber is more prone to compression leaks, meaning if the insert is completely saturated and your baby is playing/squeezing on the diaper, the diaper will leak. Microfiber is also prone to hold on to smells easier.

Bamboo charcoal inserts

  • Most bamboo charcoal inserts are basically microfiber inserts covered in a layer of bamboo charcoal. While they do hold more, they are also prone to compression leaks. Since the microfiber is covered by bamboo charcoal, this insert is safe to use directly against the skin. Bamboo charcoal inserts are prone to hold on to smells easier due to the core being microfiber.

Cotton inserts

  • Cotton inserts are a lot more absorbent compared to microfiber and are a natural fiber, meaning that it is safe against the skin. Cotton would work great as a double for overnights or by itself.

Bamboo inserts

  • Bamboo inserts are considered synthetic as the process to make them into inserts is by breaking them down into a pulp, aged, and then made into a fiber. Although it is considered synthetic, it is still safe to place directly on the skin. Bamboo is very absorbent, easy to clean, and doesn’t hold onto smells as easily.

Hemp inserts

  • Hemp inserts are going to be the most absorbent insert available. Along with being the most absorbent, it also absorbs slowly. Sometimes hemp isn’t ideal for those who are quick soakers

So what if I have a quick soaker, what do I do?

  • There are many types of blended inserts that you can get. You could add a thin bamboo doubler, get hemp/cotton blend inserts, etc. Like I said at the beginning, cloth diapering is trial and error while you find the perfect combo for your baby.

Flats

  • Flats are a large piece of fabric that can be folded to suit your baby and then a cover goes over it., or it can be folded to fit inside of a pocket diaper too.

Prefolds

  • Prefolds are a piece of fabric where the middle has more layers. It can be folded to suit your baby with a diaper cover, or folded to fit inside of a pocket diaper too.

INSERT ABSORBENCY RATING


HOW TO PREP NEW DIAPERS/INSERTS

If you are prepping NEW diapers and inserts, it’s quite simple! If you are prepping used diapers, please refer to the sanitizing section.


Diaper cover, pockets, shells, bamboo charcoal inserts and microfiber inserts only need to be washed once with your normal amount of detergent to prep them.


Natural fiber inserts (bamboo, cotton, hemp) need to be prepped quite a few times to reach maximum absorbency. The reason being because the natural fibers have natural oils, and as you wash them those oils are removed making the diapers more absorbent.

  • How many times do I need to wash to prep them? 6-8 times to prep, it is not necessary to dry the diapers in between each wash.


HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS

RLR METHOD- Please use proper safety precautions when handling chemicals such as gloves.

  • Add your diapers to your clean tub.

  • Fill your tub half-way with hot water until it covers your diapers. Pour one package of RLR in the tub and mix.

  • Mix diapers around in the solution.

  • Let soak for 5-6 hours, stirring around every so often.

  • After 5-6 hours, wring them out and then wash 2x in your washer with no detergent on the first wash, and your regular amount on the second wash.

  • After stripping, you will need to follow with sanitizing your diapers. Please refer to the SANITIZING section for more information on how to sanitize your diapers.

If you are doing a strip due to detergent build-up, use less detergent than you normally do from now on.


GROVIA MIGHTY BUBBLES METHOD

  • Place one pac in the washer with clean diapers. No other detergent is needed. Run a regular hot wash with one extra rinse. Maximum 24 diapers and inserts per pac.

  • Once the cycle is done, do a regular wash cycle with your normal detergent amount.

  • If you are stripping due to detergent build-up, use less detergent from now on.

  • Depending on how extensive the build-up is, you may need to do a few cycles of GMB.

  • After stripping, you will need to follow with sanitizing your diapers. Please refer to the SANITIZING section for more information on how to sanitize your diapers.

If you are doing a strip due to detergent build-up, use less detergent than you normally do from now on.


CLOTH APPROVED DIAPER CREAMS & POWDERS

*Avoid any diaper creams/ointments that have petroleum, petrolatum, or mineral oil. These ingredients will cause terrible build-up on your diapers. Zinc oxide is safe, but it can cause temporary staining in your diapers but will come out after a few washes*

*You could technically use any diaper cream/ointment as long as you use a diaper liner, but here are some cloth diaper approved creams. Please refer to the DIAPER LINERS section for more information on diaper liners and even how to make your own*

CREAMS/OINTMENTS

  • Pure aloe vera.

  • Pure coconut oil. Some say it is not safe, but with a proper wash routine coconut oil will wash away from diapers with no issues.

  • French diapering creme. It is organic and acts as an all-in-one cleanser and protective lotion which replaces the need for baby wipes (if using cloth wipes), baby powder, diaper ointment/balm, and diaper cream. NashGlo and La Petite Crème are some recommended brands of French diapering creme.


Boudreaux's Butt Paste diaper Rash Ointment | With Natural Aloe

BALM! Baby Diaper Balm Natural Diaper Rash Balm & All-Purpose Skin Aid

Burt's Bees Baby Diaper Rash Ointment


POWDERS. Avoid powders that have Talc in them.


Bee All Natural Organic Baby Powder


CLOTH WIPES & WIPE SOLUTION RECIPES

There are several types of wipes that you can either buy or make for yourself.

  • Flannel wipes

  • Baby wash rags

  • Organic cotton

  • You can make your own by buying however much fabric you’d like, cutting them into squares, and sewing around the edges to keep from fraying. This is a more cost-effective option.

WIPE SOLUTION IDEAS

  • Organic oil (olive, avocado, coconut, grapeseed, sunflower oil) mixed with water and baby soap

  • 2tbsp your oil of choice (melted)

  • 1.5 cups of distilled water

  • 2tbsp baby soap of your choice

  • 1/8 cup aloe vera gel (optional)

  • Mix well and put into a spray, squirt, or peri-bottle.

  • You can also add a few drops of essential oils as well, but please be safe when adding essential oils and add the proper amount. An idea would be to add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil or lavender


  • French diapering crème. See CLOTH APPROVED DIAPER CREAMS & POWDERS for more information on French diapering crème

  • Pre-Made Wipe Bits

HOW TO WASH CLOTH WIPES​. When cleaning poop with the wipes, you will need to spray them just as you do the diapers. Proceed to place them in the dirty wet bag and wash with your dirty diapers on wash day.


DIAPER LINERS

Diaper liners are wonderful for those who don’t want much to do with poop. You can purchase them already made, but it is much more cost-effective and super easy to make them yourself.

Buy a fleece blanket from Wal-Mart, they are usually really cheap. You can check out the fabric remnant section and see if they have any fleece scraps discounted as well.

Cut them into rectangles that will fit length wise for the diapers and as wide as the middle of the diapers. There is no need to sew fleece as it will not fray.

You will spray poop off the liners just as you would diapers, place in the dirty wet bag, and clean on washing days with your diapers.

Biodegradable disposable liners aren’t cost-effective, but are still an environmentally friendly liner choice for your diapers. Once pooped on, you simply plop the liner in the toilet and flush.



DIAPER FIT

If you are experiencing leg gaps, try to go up a rise. If it’s too tight and there is still a gap, go back to your original setting but go in one snap on the tummy/hip section. If your baby is between sizes, it is normal to stagger snaps to get a good fit.




HOW MANY DIAPERS DO I NEED?


TROUBLESHOOTING

Here are some common problems that people encounter while cloth diapering and some remedies.


My baby keeps getting a rash, but when I put him/her in a disposable it goes right away!

  • Did you test your water? If not, mineral build-up is a possibility

If no mineral build-up, check for detergent build up

  • To test for detergent build-up, fill a bowl with warm water. Take a clean diaper/insert and swish around in the bowl. If suds form or the water becomes cloudy, it is detergent build up.

  • To remove detergent build up, there are a few different things you can try.

  1. DO NOT DO THIS METHOD IF YOU HAVE HARD WATER. Keep running the washer with no soap until the suds disappear from the rinse cycle.

  2. Do an RLR strip. Please refer to the HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS for more information on how to do an RLR strip.

  3. Do a Grovia Mighty Bubbles strip. Please refer to the HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS section for more information on how to do a GMB strip.

If no detergent build-up, your baby might be sensitive to the detergent that you are using. Try switching to a fragrance/dye-free detergent.


If switching detergents doesn’t seem to help, your baby might have a sensitivity to the lining in their diaper. You might try using a fleece liner or a biodegradable liner and see if that helps with the sensitivity. Please refer to the DIAPER LINERS section for more information on liners.


I keep getting leaks! What’s going on?

Leaks could happen from a number of things.

  • The fit of the diaper might not be right, you might have detergent build-up leading to repelling, diaper cream build-up, your baby may be a super soaker and require more diaper changes or more inserts for extra absorption, the list can go on.

Please refer to the DIAPER FIT section for more information and to check your fit. Refer to the HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS section for more information on removing detergent build-up. Refer to the CLOTH APPROVED DIAPER CREAMS & POWDERS section for more information on safe creams to use. If caused by diaper cream build-up, stripping can remedy this.

  • Got a super soaker? Try a few new insert types, maybe a booster. Remember, trial and error!

My diapers REEK of ammonia! Help!

Did you test your water hardness? Mineral build-up can lead to ammonia build-up. A RLR strip or Grovia Mighty Bubbles strip can remedy this as well as a bleach soak. Please refer to the HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS section for more information on how to strip for ammonia build-up.


No mineral build-up? Detergent build-up can lead to ammonia build-up. Please refer to the HOW TO STRIP DIAPERS section for more information on how to get rid of detergent build-up.


If there is no mineral or detergent build-up, what’s your wash routine? Are you using a strong detergent, enough detergent, not enough detergent? Please refer to the cloth diaper safe detergents and wash routine section. Do not hesitate to e-mail me if you need help coming up with a good routine. Clothdiaperingsurvivalguide@gmail.com


If you aren’t using enough detergent, you aren’t properly cleaning your diapers which can lead to ammonia build-up. If you don’t have detergent build-up or ammonia build-up, then simply sanitizing your diapers and adding a little more detergent to your main wash should solve your issue.


My baby is having leaks out of the top of the diaper!

  • Are you tucking all of the inner fabric inside of the diaper? Please refer to the DIAPER FIT section for more information on how the diaper should look on your baby.

  • You may need a better absorbing insert. Please refer to the TYPES OF INSERTS section for more information on inserts.

  • Try a diaper brand that comes with a tummy panel of PUL.

What’s a tummy panel of PUL? It’s an extra strip of waterproof fabric at the very top of the diaper that keeps the tummy from leaking!

  • There are several brands that have them, but a few that have a tummy panel of PUL are Little Alaskans, BumBum Babies, BumGenius, and Happy BeeHinds.


My baby has plumber crack, help!

  • While it is quite hilarious, it means that your diaper fit is wrong. Please refer to the DIAPER FIT section for more information.


Please remember if you have any questions or need help coming up with a wash routine or problem solving and it wasn’t answered here, e-mail me at clothdiaperingsurvivalguide@gmail.com

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