So I began with Our Cloth Diaper Journey, but the hard part for most people is how on earth do you wash them? The first thing is to get over the ick factor. All babies dirty their diapers, and at some point, as a parent, you are going to get some on your person no matter what kind of diapers you use. I found that dealing with dirty cloth diapers wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.
Goose never had formula, so I can't speak to how cloth diapering works with formula fed babies. Dirty diapers from exclusively bre@stfed babies (nope, can't bring myself to put that word on here, I don't want the wrong kind of searchers finding these posts by accident) can go straight in the wash. Older babies' "stinky bottom" that is reasonably solid can just be shaken into the toilet and anything remaining (usually not much) can go in the wash.
There is a certain no-man's-land when babies start eating some solid foods that results in diapers that are yucky and not solid. I found these to be the worst, but still not terrible. I kept a diaper-only rubber spatula in the bathroom (in the toilet brush container) and used it to scrape as necessary. I swished the spatula, and wiped it off with toilet paper then returned it to its home with the brush. I then tossed the diaper in the pail as usual.
When we were just starting out with cloth, I used two pails - one for the inserts/liners, and one for the diapers. This is true of all fleece - if you wash it with cotton, it will pick up the lint and pill the fleece. In the case of the diapers, it doesn't affect their absorbency, but they aren't quite as soft. Both pails were lined with a nylon bag that I purchased in the camping/sporting goods section of Wal-Mart. I tossed the diapers in as-is, though I tried to make sure they weren't balled up - I found the stink problem in the nursery came about only if things didn't have a chance to dry out. As Goose got older, I tended to lay the liners over the edge of the pail so they'd dry out better. I was lucky, though - Goose never really got into her diaper pails.
When it was time to wash, I dumped everything (including the nylon bags) in the washing machine, turning the bag inside out to make sure nothing was trapped inside. This was back when I had a top load washing machine, and it took a long time to get a wash routine figured out. As I remember, I ended up running them on a short cold wash cycle, then a hot heavy wash long cycle, then an extra rinse. I used as little detergent as possible.
When we got our front-load washing machine, I was a bit nervous because I've heard a lot of complaints about them not getting diapers clean. It took a bit of messing around, but I ended up very pleased with the following routine:
Cold soak cycle with one tablespoon of borax/washing soda and a very small drizzle of Tide. Then I ran a sanitary wash cycle (light soil) with just a few drops of Tide and a teaspoon or so of povodone iodine in the bleach compartment. Why the povodone? Because it's what my friend Patty does. (In the initial post, I noted that I purchased my Happy Heinys from her. And she has a LOT of kids, so she knows diapers.) I didn't use it for a long time, but it does very well at killing germs. I followed the sniff test - if they came out smelling like hot poop, they weren't clean.
For quite a while, I didn't put anything in with the diapers for the soak cycle. Then I realized that it made sense to use detergent when they were at their dirtiest. I then used just a touch more in the sanitary wash cycle because most of the gunk was gone at that point.
I know some people (including Patty) who dunk and swish their babies' diapers in the toilet. I preferred to rewash them if they didn't come clean rather than do that. A mom somewhere wrote that she preferred picking an occasional stray piece of corn or a raisin out of the washer rather than dunk and swish. Yeah, me too.
By the time Goose potty trained, I quit using the pails and just used my washing machine as a dry pail. Occasionally I had to pull out dirty diapers if I needed to run a load of regular laundry, but I thought it was more convenient than the pails. After I changed Goose, I just took the diaper to the machine, pulled out the insert, and tossed it all in. Like the pails, I didn't have much trouble with Goose getting into them. Please note that with a front-load washer, I highly recommend you leave the door open because I would fear the diapers would get NASTY if they didn't dry out.
I certainly preferred to hang Goose's diapers to dry on the clothesline, though we went through a spell of several weeks this summer where it either rained or was cool/cloudy/humid on the days that I wanted to wash diapers, or I wasn't able to get them washed until night. Our dew point here is high enough that clothes are *soaked* by morning if left on the line overnight.
The waterproof PUL fabric is such that it does well to have an occasional turn in the dryer to help keep it sealed. Overall, to help keep down the ickies, I preferred to dry Goose's diapers as quickly as possible. So if sunshine wasn't available, I tossed them in the dryer. Katie at Kitchen Stewardship notes that she can tell a difference in her dryer-dried microfiber versus line-dried, but she notes that her dish cloth microfiber needs a round in the dryer to keep stink at bay.
If you have any questions on washing cloth diapers, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. This is one of my favorite things to talk about! :>) Next up (someday), a brief post on potty training...