As with most things, their is no "right" way to launder diapers. It may depend on the facilities available to you, as well as personal preference. For example, some families pre-soak, some don't, some use extra washing cycles, while others will pre-rinse before getting to the washing machine. Try several methods and clensing products to find your preference.
For a more complete example, here is our family's routine for obtaining soft, clean diapers: (used for three years and counting)
*We use a large plastic bucket (I estimate it to hold about 5 gallons) to soak used diapers in until we accumulate a load to wash. The bucket is filled about 3/4 of the way to the top, and I add about 1/2 cup of borax to the water as it fills. (the bucket is filled by a hand-held shower head)
*Wet diapers go straight into the bucket, while solids are first dumped into the toilet and/or spayed off with our hand-held shower attachment. (whichever is appropiate)
*When it is time to do a load, the water in the bucket is drained off into the toilet (taking care to see that diapers don't go with the water)
*The diapers are put in the washing machine on a prewash cycle, with hot water, and with the largest capacity of water selected. About 1/2 cup of borax is added while washer is filling.
*After the prewash, the diapers run through a wash cycle with detergent and either hot (diapers alone) or warm water. (if I add covers to the wash.)
*The diapers then go into the dryer for a normal full load drying time. (The covers are usually air dried- per Nikky"s recomendations)
*We do a load of diapers about every other day. (you could go longer...but I have a long trip down the hall to the washer and want to make my load as light as possible. Your nose will give you a clue as to the longest time you can wait :)
*Diaper covers are added to our regular wash, or after the prewash cycle with the diapers.
*Be careful with borax! Although it is biodegradable, it's fine particles can billow into the air like dust, and is irritating to your eyes and nose. Add it carefully to water to keep "the dust" down.
*Use only non- chlorine bleach on diapers! (Chlorine bleach tends to weaken the cotton fibers and reduce durability) Occasionally, I use bleach to whiten in the wash cycle, or in place of borax in the prewash cycle.
*Adding vinegar to the rinse cycle helps to remove yeast during periods of diaper rash. (although there is much lower incidence of diaper rash with the use of cloth diapers)
*Some families prefer to rinse diaper solids off in the toilet instead of using a sprayer. There are products to rinse and wring diapers without using your hands directly. (see diapering products)
*Some families prefer not to presoak diapers, but instead put them in an empty pail until a load accumulates. (The bucket is much lighter this way.) I would recommend doing smaller, more frequent loads if done this way, to prevent bacteria buildup. (The only time my son got diaper rash was when we did not presoak, and kept our usual every-other-day wash schedule.)
*Experiment with different soaps/detergents if your baby is sensitive to dyes and perfumes. Omit fabric softener, too.
*Diapers that are line dried in the sunlight benefit from
further reduction in bacteria from ultraviolet light.
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