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TEN TIPS for longer-lasting cloth diapers!

Posted by Becca on 7/6/2015 to Cloth Diaper How-To
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TEN TIPS for long-lasting cloth diapers.

I’ve been cloth diapering for almost six years now. Two of those years we were on a diaper break and my diapers sat in storage in our basement, so maybe it only counts as nearly four years. I don’t know. What I do know, however, after all that time, is how to keep my diapers in good condition and which diapers were worth the investment. I know because the bumGenius 3.0 pocket diapers with aplix closures that I used on my week old daughter (now nearly six years old), are still going strong on my son. They look worn and tired, but they are still so functional that I really can’t justify the re-stash I’ve always wanted to do with my third child.

I’ve worked hard to follow all the cloth diaper “rules” most of the time throughout my years of cloth diapering. I allow exceptions for certain things at certain times, but for the most part, I’ve been doing everything that’s recommended for cloth diapers. I should probably add that I’m the first born and thus a rule follower by nature.

So, why have my diapers lasted so long? Here are a couple of my guesses:

1) Good diapers

diapers I just happened to start with bumGenius which has turned out to be a really, reliable brand. I bought 11 bumGenius diapers before trying out anything else and diversifying my stash. I wouldn’t suggest getting all of one type of diaper early on, but it happened to work for us. How can you take steps to keep your diapers lasting as long as possible? Read reviews. Read lots of reviews. Most cloth diaper retailers have a place for reviews on their website—Diaper Junction certainly does. Read everything that you can other consumers as well as on places like Diaper Swappers, Baby Center forums, or online cloth diaper forums. Then, pick the cloth diaper that most parents prefer.

Also, buy just one of a couple of brands of diapers. Try them out for fit, absorbency, leak protection. Look at the construction of the diapers, the feel of the inner fabrics and the PUL or TPU. Wash it once or twice to see how it fares. If you aren’t sure of the quality after this, send it back or sell it while it’s still in pristine condition and you can get all or most of your money back for it.

Finally, talk to friends of yours who cloth diaper and have done so for awhile and go with their suggestions. You trust them and they have experience. They can also show you their diaper stash so you can see for yourself which of their diapers is worse for the wear.

2) Don’t sun all the time

Continuous and extensive sunning might also break down the fabrics and elastics of your diapers. By all means sun them sometimes, but not every day or at every wash. It’s much better to let them line dry inside on a drying rack most of the time.

3) Oxyclean, Bleach and BacOut

I love Oxyclean and BacOut and using them once in awhile is okay for your diapers. I’ve read that using them regularly is not recommended, so I haven’t. Such as the case for machine drying and sunning, using them constantly won’t hurt your diapers in the short run, but over time it may shorten their lifespan because it could break down the PUL and elastics.

With very few exceptions, I avoid bleach, as it might cause PUL to delaminate and break down elastics. I have used it a couple of times over the years when kids are sick or the diapers just need to be freshened up a bit, but I usually avoid it and choose to sun my diapers instead.

Sunning can be done even indoors on a cloudy day. You don’t need bright sun and a clothesline to do it and it’s a very effective way to disinfect. I’ve also used Bac Out on occasion to kill germs in my diapers.

4) Air dry

Your diapers aren’t going to immediately decompose if they go in the dryer every once in awhile. However, continual use of the dryer will shorten their lifespan. I machine dry my diapers once every month or two if we happen to be going on a trip or if I’m in a rush, but my regular washing routine allows for 1 day of drying time.

5) No rash creams or fabric softeners

diapers Rash creams and fabric softeners may leave nasty residues on diapers which could cause their surface to repel moisture rather than absorb it. I believe this can be removed with lots of scrubbing and/or stripping, but it’s difficult. Often, the diapers are just ruined or rendered less effective. If you must use a rash cream that isn’t cloth diaper safe, place a liner between the diaper and your baby’s bottom.

6) Borax

I love making my own detergent. I finally started doing so after my daughter had potty trained and before my son was born so we weren’t washing any cloth diapers at the time.

When he was conceived and I realized I would be dealing with cloth again, I was sure I’d be able to use my homemade detergent on them. I did a little research and discovered, to my dismay, that borax is not good for use on cloth diapers. It may break down the PUL and elastics much like too much machine drying or sunning. Bummer.

7) Stick to snaps

diaper,snaps Velcro and aplix may wear out much more quickly than their snapping counterparts no matter how gently you care for them. The only reason my BG3.0s are still doing so well is that I spent a couple of weeks replacing the Velcro before my son was born.

8) Some sewing skills

As long as the PUL is still intact, snaps, elastics, Velcro, and inserts can all be replaced.

As I just mentioned, I’ve replaced Velcro on many diapers. I’ve even used my snap pliers to convert hook and loop closures to snaps. However, I prefer not to go to the trouble of replacing elastics. I could replace them, but honestly I’d rather just buy a new diaper if the elastics are dead. However, if you have bumGenius 4.0s, they’re constructed so that replacing the elastics is simple. Google a tutorial and try it for yourself. It only requires some threading an a couple of stitches at the top and bottom of each elastic.

9) Big stash

Having a big stash means that each of the diapers you own will likely each get used less often, thus helping to lengthen their lifespan. Back when I had only six to twelve diapers in my stash, most of my diapers were getting washed and worn every day. Now that I have a whole lot more than that, many diapers only get used and washed once, or twice a week. Some of them get used even less than that based on what type of diaper we currently prefer to use.

10) Diversify

Try out some different types of diapers. If your stash is all pockets, consider adding some prefolds or flat diapers. You can break most of the cloth diaper care suggestions with these diapers and they only get softer and more absorbent. Sunning? All the time. Machine drying? Makes them softer! Bleach? Sure, no problem. And they’re much more inexpensive so you really get your money’s worth. Also, diaper covers dry much more quickly than their pocket counterparts.

You can break all these rules, as long as it’s not often. Sometimes you’re in a rush and you need your diapers more quickly than air drying allows. Sometimes your kid has diarrhea and you know that bleach is the only thing you feel comfortable using to really kill all those germs. Sometimes, a couple of diapers get used and washed more often than their counterparts simply because they’re your favorite. And maybe the longevity of the diapers doesn’t matter to you as much as being able to machine dry or use bleach regularly. If so, then most of these things take time to break down your diapers. You’ll probably get through one child just fine, but you might have to start considerable re-stashing by the time you have your second.

Also, following all this advice won’t make your diapers last forever. Some of mine lasted through two years of use (and four years of age), and some are still going strong nearly six years later! It’s important to remember that no cloth diaper, no matter how fantastic, can last forever. It is an extremely well­ used article of clothing and it will eventually wear out just like the well made outfits you pull from your closet. Still, there’s nothing wrong with putting in a little extra effort to squeeze out as many years as possible from those diapers. After all, you use them because you don’t like throwing your money in the trash, and I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty heart breaking to throw a well­ loved cloth diaper in the trash.

Guest post by Diaper Junction blog contributor Rebecca G.

Comments

Date 7/7/2015
Mary Schuh
This is really helpful! I'm going to stop sunning so much. We have enough diapers that it would be okay to let them take longer to dry inside.
Date 7/7/2015
Alix Kalfin
Thanks for the helpful article! I never thought about how the sun could cause additional wear and tear as well. I have let mine sit out in the Florida sun after every wash for the past month since I started. From now on, I'll let my covers dry inside. =)
Date 7/7/2015
Jessica Lodge
I couldn't agree with your list more!! I too really like Bum Genius, but have received some other great ones over the years too. I need to replace the elastic on my bum genius, but I think I'm going to ask my Mom to do it for me as a baby gift to me-lol.
Date 7/7/2015
Stefanie H
Thank you for these tips! The aplix/velcro diaper tip never occurred to me, I'm definitely keeping that in mind for my next buy.
Date 7/8/2015
Marita Ankobiah
Great tips. This helps, especially since I'm new to CD.
Date 7/9/2015
jilliann m
Good tips. Hoping I can get my diapers to last as long as possible!
Date 7/9/2015
jilliann m
Good tips. Hoping I can get my diapers to last as long as possible!
Date 7/9/2015
Carri McGuire
Thank you for the reassurance that I am doing some things right! And for all of the tips of course! I love my snaps on the BG 4.0s but wondered if the aplix would be easier, even if it's not as cute! I'm glad to hear that my snaps are well worth the extra effort with my squirmy wormy!!
Date 7/9/2015
Christie DeMarchi
I only sun when I've got stains and that doesn't happen too often. It's a little more frequent now that he's eating solids, but still, not that often. A solid wash routine is very important. I've trained my whole house lol!
Date 7/10/2015
Caroline
Thanks for the tips. Really help a lot
Date 7/10/2015
Rachael Sensabaugh
Thanks for the tips! I never even thought about how sunning them could be bad for them. I was sunning them every time to avoid putting them in the dryer. Looks like its time to buy a drying rack. Thank you so much!
Date 7/11/2015
Amanda B
As a FTM these tips are super helpful. Some I have definitely heard before, but others I never considered! I look forward to having my stash take me through 2+ babies. :D
Date 7/11/2015
Erica
I liked aplix when my son was newborn but all of our OS stash is snaps. Good point about sunning too... I'll try to wash more often so they can air dry inside and only sun the poop-stained diapers! Don't know about the sewing skills though... I'm so impatient I'd rather buy new diapers than repair them!
Date 7/11/2015
Erica P.
Lots of great advice! I'd also add that, when storing between children, it's prudent to take them out every few months and just give them a quick wash- helps keep elastics from drying out!
Date 7/11/2015
Paige Hancock
I didn't know borax isn't good for diapers! Does that include using it if you have hard water in the main wash?
Date 7/11/2015
Paige Hancock
I didn't know borax isn't good for diapers! Does that include using it if you have hard water in the main wash?
Date 7/12/2015
Courtney Lane
Thanks for the helpful tips! I wish I had sewing skills so I could replace the elastics on my diapers instead of paying a seamstress to do it for me.
Date 7/13/2015
Melissa K
Definitely want to get the most out of your cloth investment!
Date 7/13/2015
Julie
Good tips. Having a large stash this time around (third cloth baby in 11 years) has really helped my stash last a long time. I've even been surprised at which diapers lasted and which gave out quickly. Surprisingly enough, my more mainstream cloth brands have not lasted as long as most of my cheap ones. I'm sure these tips help no matter what though. :)
Date 7/17/2015
Kait W
This is a great list for help! I definitely agree with not bleaching too often. It can and will eat away at the fibers of your diapers. Also having a big stash has helped me keep my diapers nicer for longer!
Date 7/17/2015
Sommer G
Thanks for this! Any extra tips and advise is great. Especially to help extend the lifespan of the diapers. I have a few friends that cloth diaper and I will be passing this along!
Date 7/18/2015
Camille W
Thanks for these great tips! I'm not sure I'll ever replace Velcro, snaps or elastics but I can definitely get behind increasing my stash size. Now I can direct my husband to this post to prove that I'm buying more diapers to protect our investment :-)
Date 7/20/2015
Sara Owen
I need to learn to sew
Date 7/20/2015
Jen M
these are great tips. Learning to sew is definitely a goal of mine.
Date 7/23/2015
Arielle M
Great tips! Thanks! I am new to cloth diapering (and mothering for that matter) and I want to be able to make sure my stash makes it through multiple kids.
Date 7/23/2015
Arielle M
Great tips! Thanks! I am new to cloth diapering (and mothering for that matter) and I want to be able to make sure my stash makes it through multiple kids.
Date 7/25/2015
Geneveigh Sewell
Wow, I had no clue sunning often could be harmful to diapers!! I also didn't know Borax could be a bad thing also - I just recommended it to a friend. Oops. This was very informative.
Date 7/25/2015
Sabrina Throm
This article is super helpful and I learned so many things that are bad for diapers and would have been doing otherwise!
Date 7/27/2015
Maureen
Thanks for the info. As someone new to cloth diapering and a bit phobic of sewing, it makes me nervous when people say that making cloth diapers last is so easy, because you can always "just" replace worn-out leg elastics, etc. But maybe by the time by stash gets to that point, I will be brave enough to face a needle and thread... :)
Date 7/30/2015
Dee Anne Lane
Great information to remember!
Date 8/1/2015
Rebekah
Thanks for the tips. I had heard the opposite about Borax... Now I'll have to do some research!

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