Water is key!
There are 4 main factors:
Chemical Action, Water Temperature, Mechanical Action, and Time. All 4 factors must be present to wash cloth diapers effectively.
1. Water Temperature: Washing in warm to hot water is always best. For every 10 degrees your water drops in temperature, there is a 50% reduction in the chemical reaction. Also, temperature must reach 140 degrees to kill the bacteria in your diapers. Most detergents work better/faster in warmer temperatures.
2. Chemical Action: The detergent added to your machine. People are so afraid of using too much detergent, that they tend to use too little instead. Using too little detergent, or detergent that is getting diluted by too much water will result in stinky diapers. I have yet to find a detergent that will really work with only 1 TBSP for the long run.
3. Mechanical Action: This is achieved by the diapers rubbing up against each other in your wash cycle. Proper friction is needed for the fibers of your diapers to get clean. Imagine washing your hands: if you just put soap on them an ran them under water - your hands would not get very clean. You need to rub them to together. The same is true for fabric. That is why it is also important to have the right load size. Too many diapers and they move around your washing machine in one clump. Too few diapers and they swim around the water in your machine unaware of each other.
4. Length of Cycle: This is a very important factor in washing cloth diapers. If the diapers are not exposed to the Chemical Action and Mechanical Action (detergent & friction) long enough, the fibers are not penetrated by the water and soils are not released. A 15-20 minute wash cycle is usually not going to be very effective. If that is the longest setting your machine offers, consider two wash cycles in a row.
If you decrease one of the 4 main factors, then you need to increase the other three! So if you are washing in a lower temperature, you need to increase your other factors.
Believe it or not, the type of fabric you are washing does make a difference!
Cotton: If a diaper is made of 100% cotton (like a pre-fold) it is going to be the easiest to clean. Why? Because it is made of layers of cotton twisted around itself and is very absorbent, which means it loves wetness! This makes cotton diapers easy to rinse clean without build-up.
Polyester is derived from oil so it initially will repel water. It takes a little more time to wash and likes to hold on to oily stains. If not properly washed can lead to stink.
Microfiber: In reality, there is no such "fabric". Microfiber is a man-made fiber that is made up of channels. These channels pull moisture deep inside, which makes it very absorbent. This also makes them very difficult to clean. The detergent and water must fully penetrate into these channels to get them clean which is hard to do, because the channels are already filled with urine. That is why people tend to have more stink issues with microfiber.
Okay, now what?
- Ditch the pre-rinse. Instead run a short wash or pre-wash cycle with warm water if possible. If you are battling stink, try adding 1 TBSP of detergent to this cycle.
- Make sure you are using the longest wash cycle your machine allows. If your cycle is under 20 minutes you may want to consider a pre-rinse in cold, followed by two hot water washes with detergent instead.
- If you have a top-loader, before your main wash - pull the knob out and let your diapers soak in the hot water with detergent for 1/2 hour. Push the knob in and let the cycle complete.
Not every diaper works for every child. While you may be in love with Fuzzi Bunz, your sister may think they are terrible and leak. The same thing goes for detergents. Your water, mineral content, washing machine, water level, types of fibers, and cycle length all factor in when finding the detergent is right for you. If a detergent is not working for you, contact the manufacturer & try the suggestions they give you. If it still does not work, switch detergents. But please remember that these family owned companies care about creating the best possible product for you and your babies. I have tried several detergents. Some of them worked okay, and some of them did not. Maybe I didn't give it enough time, maybe my routine was off, maybe the detergent reacted with the minerals in my well water. Now that I have found the right detergent for me, I have not had to strip my diapers, and I no longer struggle with ammonia or rashes.I still play around with my routine, even after 3 years of cloth diapering, and I find that switching up my routine every now and then, washing them a few extra times, doing a mini-soak ect. works wonders! If one detergent worked for everyone there wouldn't be an entire grocery store aisle full of different detergent brands to choose from, there wouldn't be a million types of soaps, toothpaste, jeans and the list goes on!