by Parenting By Nature
Let’s face it; we all know cloth diapers are better for the environment. In our disposable society anything that can be reused again and again is a clear winner. We are also a society that strongly appreciates 'value' and 'convenience'. Cloth diapers come out on top for these requirements, but did you know there are many reasons why more and more parents are choosing cloth diapers today (yes, in the year 2009)? Here are some of the top reasons why cloth diapers are being considered by parents worldwide for their babies. Once you actually give cloth diapers a try, you will discover many more.
Extending the life of your investment
Purchasing a layette of cloth diapers can be quite the investment. While the cost benefits of cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers cannot be argued (choose prefold cloth diapers for the most economical system!), we often get asked how long cloth diapers are expected to last, and whether or not an investment in cloth diapers will last through multiple children. While this is absolutely possible, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
Cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers are just like regular clothing which means they will wear out over time. The simple act of using, wearing and washing clothes causes wear and tear. In fact, with the heavy washing and drying that cloth diapers will endure over a very short amount of time, you will likely find them wearing out much faster than you expect.
Consider this - the average article of clothing is washed no more than once a week, therefore they are made to last approximately 90 washings (around 2 years). Think of your favourite t-shirt now. We've all had a t-shirt that we may have worn every single week for a period of 1-2 years. Eventually the t-shirt starts to look worn, perhaps frays around the edges, develops small holes, looses its stretch and it just doesn't fit as "well" over time.
Now consider the amount of washes a cloth diaper layette will undergo. Cloth diapers could be washed 90 times in a much shorter amount of time. If you're washing daily, this is only 3 months! If you are washing every other day, 90 washes is approximately 6 months time. When washing in hot water and drying on high heat, your cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers are being exposed to extreme elements that are much more damaging than the cold or warm wash your favourite t-shirt may have experienced. It is not unusual for cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers to develop issues such as elastic damage, small holes, fabric wearing (tearing) or Velcro coming loose or becoming less sticky after continued use, over an extended period of time.
Extending the Life of your cloth diapers and covers
Many parents are able to use their cloth diapers and diaper covers for multiple children, although this is not generally the expectation from any diaper manufacturer. This does require some extra care when it comes to washing and drying them. To extend the life of your investment, you may wish to consider the following suggestions:
Cloth diapering 101
- Have a sufficient number of cloth diapers and diaper covers in rotation. We generally recommend 24-36 cloth diapers and 6-8 diaper covers per size range of a child. Any less than this can mean excessive wear and tear on the few cloth diapers and covers that are being used on a daily basis. Basically, the less often you have to wash your diapers and covers, the longer they will last.
- If you are using one-size cloth diapers, 36-48 cloth diapers are recommended for maximum longevity. You can always start out with less than these recommended amounts, keeping in mind that you will likely need to replace a handful of your diapers or covers after 6 months use. Don't expect one-size diapers to last 2 years if you only have 12 in rotation.
- Natural fibres (hemp and/or cotton) will generally hold up better than polyester. Cloth diapers without closures (prefolds) will usually last the longest as they have fewer components to wear out over time. Snaps will wear better than Velcro.
- Avoid diaper creams, lotions and potions when using cloth diapers. Many products will have ingredients that can actually break down fibres and/or elastics over time. We strongly suggest avoiding petroleum-based products (Vaseline, etc.) and products that list fish oils as an ingredient. The use of these products will void any warranty as offered by the manufacturers of our cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers.
- Rotate your diaper covers between changes, rather than washing them after every change. Diaper covers can be re-used until soiled or retaining odours. Simply rinse off any urine residue and air dry in between uses. Rotating covers will also ensure an even amount of wear between all products in use.
- Store your diaper covers separate from your diapers (or inserts, for pocket diapers) between washes. Do not leave a diaper cover on or wrapped around a soiled or wet diaper or wet inserts between washes.
- Never soak your covers! This will interfere with their waterproof qualities and break down the fabric/Velcro faster.
- Ensure your covers are not left too long in the diaper pail between washes (urine is acidic and will damage fibres over time). We recommend washing diapers every other day, and diaper covers every 3-4 days or when soiled.
- Always close the Aplix closures before washing. Zip zippers, as well. This will prevent the Velcro and zippers from chewing apart any fabric in the wash and dryer cycles.
- Choose an appropriate detergent. This should be free of phosphates, enzymes and optical brighteners. Learn more about this here - What Type of Detergent to use with Cloth Diapers.
- Don’t use bleach. This will break down the fibres of your diapers and covers and is also very harsh on your baby’s skin and the environment.
- Keep in mind that your water type may have much to do with how quickly your product deteriorates. Hard water is inherently more damaging to fabrics than softer water. Also, water that contains much bleach (chlorine) and/or other minerals may also cause your product to wear faster.
- Do not use the "sanitize" cycle on your new machine with your cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers. This is an extra high heat cycle, generally found on newer machines. The heat is too high and unnecessary for use with cloth diapers.
- You may be able to successfully wash your cloth diapers and/or diaper covers in cold or warm water. This would be desirable over hot water, to extend the life of your product.
- Do not over dry your covers, if using the dryer. Only dry on medium heat and hang to dry for the rest of the time needed.
- Hang your covers to dry (includes pocket diapers) to achieve maximum longevity.
- Avoid stretching any elastic when diapers are removed from the dryer. Stuff pocket diapers only once they have cooled.
- When storing your cloth diapers and covers for another child, store them in your home where the temperature is constant. Avoid storing clothing in your garage, basement or attic. This can lead to mould, problems with moths or other pests, and the elastic on your diapers will wear faster with fluctuations in temperature and/or humidity.
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The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is the opinion of the author.