I've been using cloth on my 2 year old for several weeks now and aside from some tight-leg issues on the Kawaiis, he likes them and I like them too! He requests certain patterns- it's super cute. (Note: I bought many different styles within the same brand for the baby and am trying them out on Mac. He is at the top of the weight range for these diapers thus the tight leg holes. For the baby I have plans to use many different styles to see what works/fits best including the Kawaiis I already have. It's good to try out different styles and brands- I wouldn't suggest buying all one brand unless you try them out first and know they're the perfect ones for your baby!)
The washing is no big deal. That was my biggest fear entering this process. I was nervous that the washing routine would be too much. It's SO not. It's about three extra loads of laundry a week. I do have a problem washing my diapers though- HARD WATER! On top of hard water, I have a front loading High Efficiency washer. Don't get me wrong, I love my HE washer, just not for my cloth diapers. See with HE there is a very limited amount of water that goes into the washing/rinsing process. In some cases, the diapers just soak up all the water and flop around in there. Not great for getting out that ammonia smell. Plus the majority of my diapers are synthetic which hold onto to the ammonia smell more than natural fibers. I've done a lot of research on this and found a few things that I thought I'd pass on. Some of this is my own trial and error, some is from online sources, some from friends!
Lesson 1: Rinse, Wash, Rinse Again!
I found a great article (well MANY great articles but this is the one that I use) about hard water/HE washers. This site actually has a lot to say about troubleshooting cloth diaper washing!
Here is what thestorkwearhouse.com had to say about this problem:
Front Loader/HE Washers
• Load diapers into the washer, then run a "rinse and spin" cycle on the delicate setting, or with "no spin" at all if you have that option. Cold water is fine. This will saturate the diapers. When you start with diapers already soaking wet, the water the washer adds when you run the main wash cycle, will be enough to actually wash the diapers!
• Then I add detergent and run a normal hot cycle with an extra rinse (and extra fast spin to minimize drying time).
Many front loaders have a Sanitary cycle with extra hot water. We don't recommend using this every time you wash your diapers, as it will shorted their useful life, but using it once or twitce a month or so will keep your diapers smelling fresh.
Okay, so I've implemented this using my Crunchy Clean detergent. It's helped but not solved the problem. There is still some ammonia smell. So I've started doing the wash cycle twice. Kinda defeats the purpose of using an HE machine, huh? I've also tried washing (twice) with Rockin Green detergent. What happens to your cloth dipes with all this soap and not much water to wash it out? Build up! So I'm currently experimenting with a Pre-Rinse with No Spin, Wash w/ Rinse (Hot Wash/Cold Rinse), EXTRA Rinse with Extra Water and High Spin! Extra water but less build up and hopefully cleaner diapers!
Lesson 2: Stripping
I haven't done this yet but I've heard that stripping your cloth diapers is a must on occasion but if you have hard water, it's needed much more often. The detergent doesn't fully rinse from the fabric and it causes build up, which causes leaks! I'm getting to this point. I'm noticing that after only two weeks the diapers are less absorbent so I need to do this. Here are some methods for stripping I've heard are effective. I'll let you know later which ones I end up doing and how they work!
SensiClean Soap- I've heard that using this instead of your normal detergent when build up occurs can strip those diapes! Seems like an easy fix!
Multiple Washes- You do your wash cycle as normal, then add some extra washes and rinses without detergent. Normally, one hot water wash without suds, then several rinses. If you have hard water or an HE washer, more hot water washes may be necessary. The point of this is to rinse and rinse until there is no evidence of soap in the water. Zany-zebra.com has some good info about this and other methods here.
Other Methods- Vinegar. Dishsoap. Hand scrubbing. Boiling. The dishwasher. Bleach *gasp*. I've heard of many different methods to remove build up and smell. It's a trial and error. However, I've heard that beach is never a good idea and should be used as a last resort. Never tried it myself so I couldn't say but most friends/sites I've referred to warn against this method. Here is a list of links that you might find helpful for other methods:
Scroll over to see the info on this one- lots of product ideas!
Cloth Diapers... Made Easy!
Many methods and info on diaper stripping here.
Lite Green Living
This site talks about Mineral and Rash Cream build up removal in addition to stripping.
Little For Now
I will post updates to this as my cloth diaper washing routine changes, aka newborn diapers! Perhaps cotton prefolds will smell less over time? We'll see!