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 diapersI 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 timeContinuous 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 BacOutI 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 dryYour 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 softenersRash 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) BoraxI 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 snapsVelcro 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 skillsAs 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 stashHaving 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) DiversifyTry 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.