Cloth Diaper Kids Blog

FuzziBunz cloth diapers and other green baby products


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Dish It: The Scoop On Stripping Diapers With Blue Dawn Dish Soap

Stripping cloth diapers has got to be one of the most confusing things for people new to cloth or considering cloth diapers for the first time.  All the stripping ‘rules’ seem so complicated, and so contradictory and everyone seems to have a different opinion on how to do it ‘correctly’.  (For time tested proper stripping guidelines and methods see here).

Amidst all the mis-information out there is the mysterious Blue Dawn recommendation.  This recommendation says that to strip your cloth diapers you should go and find Dawn dish soap (specifically the original blue kind) and use some to ‘strip’ the residues off your diapers and walla your repelling or odor problems will be fixed.  Just put a squirt or two into your washing machine instead of your regular detergent and you’re done.  Blue Dawn can fix all the world’s problems you know.

So first of all why must you use Dawn dish detergent and no other brand?  Apparently someone has decided it is more gentle and/or has fewer harsh chemicals than other dish soaps (yah right).  And second why must it be blue?  Supposedly the original blue version of Dawn has the fewest additives (umm, okay).

Alright, now let’s think about what dish detergent does.  It’s made to remove greasy residues from dishes.  Hint: greasy residues.  Not ammonia, not odors, not mineral or detergent buildup.  9 times out of 10 you are going to be stripping for smell issues or buildup issues, not grease issues.  But, on the small chance there is something on your diapers which is greasy (i.e. you accidentally used lots of petroleum based bum cream and enough of it got on your diapers to cause repelling, or if your baby is on a high fat diet of some sort that causes greasy/oily bowel movements that have coated your diapers which is causing repelling issues, then yes, a SMALL amount of dish soap MAY assist you in getting your diapers clean again.  But you know what?  A couple of hot hot washes with a bit more of your usual (high quality) detergent will usually do the same thing too and if not, then honestly, your diapers were probably too far gone for Dawn to help anyway.

Why then, am I so cheeky about blue Dawn if there is in fact a reason to use it?  Because if used carelessly it can cause you some major headaches.  Of primary concern is this:  Dawn dish soap should NEVER be used in your washing machine EVER.  Not even  a little tiny bit.  A ‘squirt or two’ is a completely ambiguous measurement and dish soap is designed to foam up much more than laundry detergent creating a condition called ‘suds lock’ in your machine.  This is an actual problem that happens to actual washing machines when you have too many bubbles from an overdose of detergent.  The result is a costly repair and a sheepish grin when you have to confess to the repair guy what you were trying to do when you broke your washer.  But I won’t put in too much you say?  That won’t happen to me you say?  Well maybe not, but do keep in mind that even if you successfully choose an amount that doesn’t hurt your machine, it will hurt your warranty.  The warranty on your washer will be null and void if you use dish soap instead of laundry detergent.   No questions asked.

We almost never suggest dish soap as a solution to diaper problems, but if you insist on trying it, what’s the proper way?  In the sink with a toothbrush.  Put a dime-sized, tiny bit of dish soap (any dish soap) onto the problem area of the diaper and gently scrub it around into the fabric of the diaper with an old, soft toothbrush and hot water.  Then RINSE that diaper A LOT.  Dish soap is not meant to be on a baby’s bum so any soap left behind has the potential to cause a skin reaction on a sensitive baby.  So, rinse and rinse and rinse until you’re not getting any more suds and then put it in your washing machine for a hot wash cycle with no detergent and then a hot wash cycle with your usual detergent plus extra rinses until you no longer see bubbles in the rinse water.

Or, better yet, just make sure you have a good wash routine (rise, wash on hot with detergent, rinse) and you’ll never have to worry about stripping anyway!

 


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Can I Use Bleach On My Cloth Diapers?

Yes and no.  You can use bleach on microfiber, PUL or TPU and fleece.  These fabrics will not be affected by the occasional, minimal use of bleach, however, we discourage using bleach if it can at all be avoided. It can weaken fibers and is bad for the environment.

If you run into a smelly insert problem that doesn’t seem to be helped by stripping, you can try sunning them, using oxygenated bleach or as a last resort, chlorine bleach.

To use chlorine bleach, add 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle and then continue rinsing until the diapers no longer smell like a swimming pool.

**Bleach cannot be used on natural fibers such as cotton, bamboo or hemp and will compromise the integrity of the waterproof laminate in pocket diaper shells and covers if used repeatedly or in strong concentrations.


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Can I Use Baking Soda On My Cloth Diapers

Baking soda tends to be used by moms who have odor issues, sometimes in the wash and sometimes sprinkled in the wet bag between wash days.  Depending on the diaper fabrics in your stash, adding a small amount of baking soda to your wash should not hurt anything. It will not likely enhance your washing however if you are already using a good detergent. Baking Soda should not be used as a cleaning agent alone without detergent.

The issues with baking soda come to light when using natural fabrics as it can be slightly abrasive and if your rinse cycle isn’t adequate and any is left on the diaper fabrics, it can be ‘activated’ by the heat in the dryer and eat away at fabrics like cotton and bamboo.

To be on the safe side, help prevent diaper pail odors with the Rockin Green Shake It Up Diaper Pail Freshener instead.


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Can I Use Vinegar On My Cloth Diapers?

Vinegar was originally used on cloth diapers to “soften” them up and possibly as a disinfectant many years ago in the days of cotton and flannel flats and prefolds. However today’s cloth diapers do not need any further softening and with detergents that are effective and hot water settings, no additional disinfecting is needed either. Therefore vinegar in the wash is not needed and could even cause odor problems if any vinegar is left on the diapers. Vinegar’s acidic nature can also weaken the elastic used in diapers or covers when repeatedly used.  It is not recommended by most cloth diaper manufacturers and may void any warranties.


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Can I Use Diaper Rash Ointments or Creams With My Cloth Diapers?

Diaper rash ointments and creams can cause diapers to repel and not function properly, especially creams that are zinc oxide based (you know, that white sticky stuff).

If your baby requires the use of these kind of products, you should use them sparingly and pair it with the use a liner such as Bummis Bio Soft Liners between baby and the diaper to make sure none of the cream touches the diaper.

If you mistakenly get diaper rash ointment on your diaper and experience repelling as a result, wash your diapers normally with the hottest water you can get and then apply some dishwashing liquid, like Original Blue Dawn, to the affected area in the sink. Scrub the affected area with a toothbrush or other soft bristle brush. Rinse the diaper out thoroughly to get rid of most of the suds and then wash it again normally with your regular diaper laundry.  While this is a suggested method, it may not always work (depends on the ingredients that were in the cream). Diapers affected by diaper rash ointments are not covered by warranties. (Note: never put Dawn or any other dishwashing liquid in your washing machine).

The good news is that many cloth diapered babies experience little or no diaper rash 🙂

Some excellent cloth diaper safe ointments are available when needed to help soothe and heal rashes.  Therapeutic Blend Delish Naturals Yum Bum Butter is our personal favorite.  What makes them cloth diaper safe is their low melting point (ie. they easily rinse out completely during a hot wash cycle).

You can also try pure lanolin (the stuff you use for sore nipples while breastfeeding), coconut oil or cornstarch based baby powder if the skin on baby’s diaper area needs some temporary healing assistance.

Creams and powders do not need to be used at every change once the rash has cleared. **Do not use cornstarch if baby has a yeast rash**

Also, if you are using disposable wipes and you find baby has a persistent rash, they may be sensitive to the chemicals and preservatives and switching to cloth wipes will solve the problem.  For info on using cloth wipes look here.