• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Monday, November 22, 2010


When my first child was born
I was introduced to disposable diapers.

I then pretty much decided there was no point
 to ever using any other kind.

Especially since I was using a laundromat anyway
 and it actually saved us money.

My third child decided otherwise.
Her skin was very sensitive.
Diaper rash does not a happy baby make!
All diapers were a problem.
I asked my pediatrician what could be done.
We struggled until it was a serious problem.
He prescribed diaper service.

Diaper Service (DS) for the un-initiated is amazing.

Used cloth diapers were placed in a provided bag, in a provided sanitized, deodorized container and exchanged weekly.

If I remember correctly we recieved about 4 or 5 dozen sterile gauze cloth diapers on Thursday each week. I was not expected to rinse them out, or clean them in anyway (except to shake out the worst that would simply fall and flush) - just put them in the bag in the container and they were picked up from the designated delivery/pickup area.

Diapers were also guaranteed free of most other residues like soap, fragrance etc. That solved our skin problems and baby was much happier and healthier.

When we took a lengthy car trip we debated what was best for baby care. Diaper service always was VERY helpful and we assumed they would provide enough diapers but wondered what was best to do for the soiled ones.

The manager came personally to my home.  He explained that they never supply more than a 2 week supply and that they could be kept in the bag/container for that long. YUCKKY - not to mention that we would be traveling for 3 full weeks - IN a car.  He then took pity on me and taught me how to wash the diapers 'properly'. He invited us to tour his facility and see how clean is done commercially.

That was kind of cool.  My curiosity alone would accept that kind of invitation. My clothes have been clean every since. I use variations of the techniques on all our laundry.

BTW:  if you choose to try any of the following be sure to use your common sense.  It is your best friend and will save you many mistakes and larger problems - listen to your own instincts!

First of all the diapers are white.  This allows common bleach to be used to sanitize them.  I used cloth diapers for all my other babies.  I recommend and preferred the gauze type to the flannel.  Thanks Nancy - that was one of my best gifts ever when you blessed our house with those.

I have since begun using white house linens too: sheets, towels, dishtowels etc - mostly white - easily cleaned. Have you ever noticed that large hotel chains use white linens? Another advantage to white is that you can immediately see that it is clean (or not).

So Mr. DS explained their process and walked me through their factory.  Soiled diapers are dumped into large machines, as is, and washed in cold water - no soap, no bleach - only cold water.  He said this is the FIRST and most important secret to clean laundry: a cold pre-wash without product in water only.

When my husband worked as a janitor they were instructed to use plain water first.  Many things clean up with water only.

Secret #2: Mr. DS next told me to be sure to not overcrowd washers.  Lots of water and room to 'swish' is essential. At the laundromat he said most people sacrifice real clean by stuffing the washers too full.  Are you guilty at home?

I am guilty, guilty, guilty when in a hurry.

If you find yourself wondering if a batch is a little full - it is!
Split it up to more loads.

I am also a bit finicky about sorting.  It really does make a difference.  Keep white with only white, light with only light, brights together, darks with darks. I often give lights an extra cold pre-wash or hot post wash and always give heavily soiled loads an extra 'rinse' - an extra complete cycle.

 I also keep different weights and soils separated.  Heavily soiled jeans or other work clothes get a rinse before being washed.  Some fabrics need special care but I wash most things and seldom use the cleaners. I worked at a dry cleaners for a few years.  Many of the things you bring to be cleaned are simply washed properly and pressed.

Mr. DS said that when washing clothing to drop them loosely into the drum until it reaches the top of the center vanes - no more. I wanted to know how many diapers that would be since I would be dumping in soiled wet nasty diapers and not wanting to touch them.  He gave me a random number that I verified by taking a basket of clean diapers to the nearest machine and checking.  I was paranoid about my baby having serious diaper rash again. For the front loaders follow the instructions on the machines - too few is better than too many.

Secret #3 from Mr. Diaper Service was to put the diapers through a hot wash cycle with soap and bleach (after a complete cycle of cold).  He said soap brand did not matter significantly.  He also said to NEVER, ever, under any circumstance,  add fabric softener.  He said it leaves an oily residue on clothing that attracts dirt and pigments (causing eventual grayish discoloration) and irritates sensitive skin.

I protested - but the diapers were so soft!
How did DS get them to be soft?

He explained secret # 4: Money! and then he laughed.
Secret 4 equals an investment for most of us - of time and money. It is simple though. Put them through one more complete wash cycle! Really! And make it hot - except for brights and deep colors.  Ideally it should be boiling for the wash and rinse cycle.  Good luck finding any machine that will do that.  Modern washers make all water somewhat warm and somewhat cool.  The temperatures are regulated to adjust to the middle ranges.  Hot means hotter than lukewarm.  Cold means warmer than straight from a cold well or pipes in the winter.

That makes for 3 complete wash cycles: 1. cold with water only, 2. hot with bleach and soap, 3. hot with water only.  Since this does take extra time (and we pay for our water), even now that we have our own machines and don't use a laundromat, this process is spelled money and time.  He was right.

I have heard that adding 1 Tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water will remove soap residues from laundry.  It helps but an extra rinse is VERY effective.  Part of the problem is getting the correct amount of vinegar for a large load - that is cups full when dealing with gallons of water and  a stack wet clothing and it costs money also.

You may be able to save some of that money by never buying fabric softeners (fs) again. But what about static? It will go away when you stop using the fs and clean your machines thoroughly to remove the residues. Yes it will take time.  You have to endure a bit of static while the fs gets washed out of your laundry.  The only time I have to endure static now is when you visit and have lots of fs in your clothing or if I let you wash your laundry in my machines. Static seems to also happen when some fabrics are washed and dried the first time or two. It goes away - I promise!!

While my babies were small I used diapers to mop up spills and messes of all kinds. Now I use my white towels. I must also thank Helen for teaching me how to keep stains off the rug and furniture.  My toddler spilled grape juice on her off white living room carpet one Thanksgiving. I was a basket case. She calmly handed me some light colored towels and a pitcher of cool tap water and then showed me how to soak and blot the stain until all the color went into the towels.  It took a while but her carpet was stain free - BELIEVE me when I say it was - I took all the time needed to ensure it was clean and mostly dry.

 First blot the majority of the spill - soak it up all you possibly can - paper towel works great to wick it back out.  Take care to not spread it further - blot it from the outside to the middle.  Pour a small amount of cool water onto the spot and immediately soak it back out.  Continue until no color remains. Press firmly to help it wick up from underneath. I have often stood on the diaper/towel to press it enough to get all the moisture possible back out of the rug.  Repeat until clean.  Do not add soap to a carpet/furniture spot - it has an oily residue that will cause dirt to cling to the spot later.

An aside: If a carpet or furniture needs to be cleaned you will notice the spot you are cleaning up is lighter than surrounding areas and that it is time to do some deep house cleaning.  Since I know you weren't planning to do it right then (go ahead if you were going to anyway) this is when you do not follow the 'blot to the middle' rule.  After the stain is removed 'feather' your clean area back into the rest of the rug/furniture by letting some water soak the outer edges and blotting it up 'less'.  Of course remember to only blot -  fiber on most furniture is not manufactured to tolerate excessive rubbing and may be damaged.

I should thank my third child for her sensitive skin.  I like clean clothes.