For over a year now, I've given quite a bit of advice about cloth diapering here on the TGN Blog. You may have heard me say on occasion, "always follow your manufacturer's instructions for care" or "check with your manufacturer to make sure this or that doesn't void your warranty. But, I have a confession...

I'm a Cloth Diapering RULE BREAKER! (photo of diapers with text)

I am a cloth diapering rule breaker!

I break A LOT of rules. I haven't always been this way. When I first started cloth diapering, I followed all of "the rules" to a T. But as time went on, I found I had to bend and eventually break certain rules to make cloth diapering work for me and my particular situation. To be clear, the following is NOT advice. I do believe one should try their best to follow their manufacturer's guidelines for care. I'm not saying you should break the rules. I'm just saying that sometimes you do what you gotta do to make it work for you...

Rule #1: Only use cloth diaper safe detergent

Ah, washing cloth diapers... this is often the source of drama within the cloth diapering community. I usually plead the fifth when it come to what detergent I use on my diapers, but it's time to come clean (did you see what I did there? ;) ) I use... dare I say?... TIDE... and A LOT of it. While some manufacturers say Tide is ok, others say it should be avoided like the plague!

That's not to say I didn't ever try cloth-safe detergent. I started with one, but was using a teeny tiny amount (as was recommended to me at the time). Because of my extremely hard well water, I struggled for months with stinky diapers. After I switched to a mainstream detergent and started using the recommended amount per load size, I finally didn't have to deal with stripping every couple of weeks. (Read more about my struggles with stinky diapers in my post, Less (Detergent) is more... stripping.) 

To be honest, I would LOVE to use an eco-friendly, more natural detergent. There are detergents that I've heard are good with hard water that I'd love to try (like Eco-Sprout, Rockin' Green Hard Rock, and Tiny Bubbles), but I really don't want to take a chance on something when what I'm doing right now works for us.   

Rule #2: NEVER use additives

Most manufacturers say to never use additives, and doing so could void your warrany. Well, go ahead an void my warranty, because without Calgon I wouldn't be able to cloth diaper. Well, I take that back... I could, but it would be a lot stinkier! With my extremely hard water, I have a lot of trouble with mineral build up, especially on my microfiber inserts. I have a water softner and while it helps, it's just not enough to keep the stinkies at bay on its own.

Because my water is so hard, my detergent gets used up softening the water, leaving very little left over for cleaning. Calgon picks up the slack. The Calgon I'm talking about is not the same thing you'll find in the bath and body products section at your local supermarket. This Calgon can be found in the laundry aisle, usually near the bleach. It takes care of the minerals in my water, allowing my detergent to do what it's meant to do... get my son's diapers clean. I use about 1/2 to 1 capful of Calgon with each wash to help prevent mineral build up.

Many cloth diapering manufacturers considers Calgon to be safe to use with their diapers, but you may want to check with first. I've used it on my son's diapers for well over a year now, and from my experience it has only helped, not hurt his diapers. 

Rule # 3: Be sure to wash your diapers every other day

I really don't know how often I wash my son's diapers. The way I can tell when it's time to wash? When I can no longer zip the wet bag! This rule really is a good one! Leaving damp diapers in a dark environment for several days can make for a breeding ground for all sorts of gross stuff. This is why many manufacturers recommend washing diapers every other day. I think I do... It's probably more like every 2-3 days. Maybe 2.5. I don't know. All I know is when when I start struggling to zip my large, Planetwise hanging wet bag, that means it's time. 

Rule #4: Only line dry your diapers

Now this is a rule I follow pretty vigilantly with my diaper covers and pocket shells-- they've never seen the inside of a dryer. BUT... when it comes to my all-in-ones... I usually toss those in the dryer to dry with my inserts and prefolds. Most instructions do say you can tumble dry low, so I guess I'm not technically breaking a rule... but I kind of feel like I am for some reason. You'd think since all-in-ones are typically more expensive I would do whatever it takes to get the most longevity our of them, but for me it really just comes down to time. They take longer to dry than my pockets and covers. Ain't nobody got time for that. I just throw 'em in the dryer. I'm bad, I know.

Rule #5: Always be sure to prep your diapers before use

It's always a good idea to wash diapers at least once before putting them on baby's bottom to remove anything that may still be hangin' around from the manufacturing process. For diapers made from sythetic fibers, that's all you need. One wash and you're good to go. But natural fibers... that's a different story. Because natural fibers contain oils that may keep them from absorbing properly, prepping instructions typically call for at least 5-6 washings before use.

Yeah... I don't do that. When I'm prepping natural fiber diapers, I wash them once or twice. Hot wash with a little detergent. Maybe, after that I'll throw them in with some towels. Maybe not. I just keep in mind that this diaper will not be as absorbent as my son's other fully prepped diapers. Until it has been through more washes, I don't keep it on him in it for an extended period of time. Until it's fully prepped, it's not a naptime, definitely not a night-time diaper. If it ends up leaking, I know that's my bad. I know that as time goes on, it will continue to become more absorbent with each washing. It may even take up to 10+ washings for a diaper made from natural fibers to become completely absorbent.

I do use a little short cut for my prefolds and flats. Since they don't have snaps that can be damaged by high temps, I boil them. This method can save a lot of time and water. It's definitey not the safest way to prep (try at your own risk), but it gets the job done. 

Rule #6: Always remember to use laundry tabs

I would follow this rule, if I could remember to do so! With hook & loop diapers it is recommended to close the Aplix or Velcro tabs, by adhering them to the laundry tabs before washing. Doing so helps to avoid damaging your other diapers and keep the your hook and loop tabs in good condition longer. Problem is, I never remember! I've even done some damage to a couple of diapers when the tabs attached to the outer fabric of another diaper while in the washing machine, causing it to be fuzzy when I removed it. I'll really be hating it if one of my son's limited edition prints gets damaged. Making a mental note... remember to use the laundry tabs!! 

Rule #7: Be sure your diaper rash cream is safe for cloth diapers!

This is actually a very important rule to follow. Conventional diaper rash creams contain ingredients that are NOT safe for cloth diapers. Certain ingredients can clog the fibers of your diapers and cause big time issues with repelling and leaks. Although we don't deal with rashes around here that often, when I have noticed my son's bottom getting red, a little Angel Baby Bottom Balm or GroVia Magic Stick usually does the trick. However, there have been a few times when I've had to break out the big guns and reach for an ointment containing zinc oxide. Did we stop using cloth diapers? Nope! I simply doubled up on disposable liners to protect my son's diapers.

I have had liners shift on me a couple of times and I worried that I had gotten the not-cloth-diaper-safe ointment on his diapers, but luckily I haven't experienced any issues. I've heard some horror stories about diapers being ruined from using not-safe ointment. It's definitely not something I suggest, but I admit I've done it. 

And that's it! Seven cloth diapering rules that I break on the regular. I feel dirty now that I've outed myself... Do me a favor and go read my tips for keeping your diapers in tip top shape. :) Like I said before, this is NOT advice. I'm definitely not recommending you do as I do, however I do recommend you do what works for you. Even if that means bending or breaking some cloth diapering rules in the process. After all, rules are made to be broken! ;) 

*Please keep in mind that not following your manufacturer's guidelines for care can void your diaper's warranty and could damage your diapers. Old habits. :)

*Although I am compensated for my time writing, all opinions are 100% my own.



Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.

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Are you a cloth diapering rule breaker, too? What rules have you broken?