Monday, October 31, 2011

Pros and Cons of Microfiber Cloth Diapers


There are so many materials available for cloth diapers, it's hard to make a decision on what to use. I usually advise cloth diapering newbies to at least try different materials before committing to just one. Something you may have thought you'll love you may end up disliking and vice versa. Microfiber was our first experience with modern cloth diapering, not really by choice. Back then I wasn't even aware of what's out there, it just so happened that Fuzzi Bunz and Thirsties were the most noticeable companies on the market. We've had our battles, but microfiber is a keeper. Here are some reasons we both love and hate microfiber!

Pros

  • Price: The price tag for microfiber cloth diaper inserts is hard to beat, they are the cheapest you'll find. In general the pocket and all-in-one microfiber diapers are also cheaper than natural alternatives such as bamboo or organic cotton. They are however not all equal, I probably have about eight different microfiber inserts, some are more absorbent than others, some are clearly better quality. 
  • Stay Dry: My favorite thing about microfiber is that my baby's bum is always dry. Keeps rashes at bay and there is one less thing to worry about. I have never needed any creams or powders on my baby with microfiber. Some like to mix it up and use a stay dry pocket diaper with a natural fiber insert (bamboo/hemp), the best of both worlds.
  • Absorbent: It is a thirsty material for the amount of space it takes up. I find it the least bulky, great for a trim fit with pants and jeans. Again, not all inserts are the same. I find some brands super absorbent, others not so much. I often mix inserts and put my favorite ones into my favorite pocket diapers. There is not wrong way of doing it, whatever works for you!
  • Fast drying: Hard to beat the dry times of microfiber. Since I air dry them and do not use a dryer though, I have to wring them out well. They are always the first to dry out of all the inserts I have.
  • Soft: Stays soft wash after wash, will never be stiff no matter how you dry it. I don't really like that it is a synthetic kind of soft, but I can't really complain because of all the positive properties.

Cons

  • Stink: This is the biggest turn of with microfiber. The way the fabric is made, it has a ton of little channels that make it super absorbent. The channels are also a great place for bacteria, ammonia, etc. to hide and it can be tough to get it out - especially if you're against using bleach. We have had the stinkies and still have them on and off. But that wouldn't stop me from using microfiber. It's just a matter of finding the right wash/strip routine. 
  • Synthetic: It is after all synthetic and if you're going the green and healthy route, it is certainly not the healthiest material around. It is man made. Something to consider if you really want the most natural things next to your baby's skin. It may even give some sensitive babies a rash considering it isn't natural. 
Perhaps we missed something? Do you use microfiber and what do you love or hate about it?

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Cloth Diaper Accessories Do You Need?


You can start cloth diapering with very few accessories. Actually, you can take the plunge with nothing but a few diapers and detergent. But a lot of them save your sanity, save money in the long run, and will make your cloth diapering journey more enjoyable. We started with nothing three years ago, not even a wet bag, but I believe these things are nice to have: 
  • Wet Bag: We didn't get our first wet bag until about half a year since starting cloth diapers. Once I had one I kind of regretted not getting it sooner. It's just so much better at containing smells and I think it was silly to use plastic grocery bags for dirty diapers when a reusable one makes more sense environmentally. You're already washing the diapers, might as well toss in a wet bag. 
  • Cloth Wipes: When we started cloth diapering my daughter was already six months old. At that point I just found it easier to wash her little bum at each diaper change to keep things clean and fresh. We still used disposable wipes on the go. I don't even know why I never tried cloth wipes, it makes so much sense and just like the wet bag - you toss them in with the diapers anyway, no extra work. It will also save you some money, just like fluff!
  • Diaper Sprayer: I never had a diaper sprayer and never saw a need. Some mamas love them. It's a toss up for me, but something worth a try if you're squeamish about removing stuff from soiled diapers. 
  • Disposable Liners: Great for saving some clean up time. I never used these but will be trying some with our newborn (maybe after he/she starts solids). They also help prevent major stains. But of course they will add on a little to your cloth diapering costs. 
  • Reusable Liners: I think reusable stay-dry liners are a must have if you're using prefolds or other diapers that are prone to giving rashes when wet. These will keep the baby's butt dry and your diapers looking like new. 
  • Diaper Care and Detergents: Of course you can't cloth diaper without a good detergent. Don't fall into the temptation of using a regular, chemical detergent that you may be using for your clothes. I was so impressed by our fluff detergent, actually, that I started using it on our clothing too. I would never go back to chemicals now!
What are your cloth diapering must haves? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

How to Choose a Cloth Diaper Detergent


When we started cloth diapering, I didn't find our preferred detergent over night. It took a lot of trial and error. Truth is, there is no 'best' cloth diaper detergent. If one works in my washer and my water, it may not work for yours. But in my quest I did find a few very helpful tips and resources and I am here to share them with you!

First, if you haven't already, check out Helena's tips on keeping cloth diapers clean. There is a lot of helpful info there. There are so many factors to consider, like the diaper material, hardness of your water, and the type of washer you have. I have no short answers. But if you just don't feel like the diapers are getting clean, don't stop experimenting. Here are my tips:
  • Cloth Diaper Detergent Chart: This very handy chart helped me immensely. Not only will you find detergents that you simply never heard of before, but there is info on price per load, ingredients, and whether other users have experienced problems with it. Don't let the noted problems turn you off from trying a detergent though, my detergent of choice happens to have caused problems for others but works great for us. 
  • Ask the Company: Sometimes all you need to do is ask the manufacturer/seamstress that made your diapers about the best detergent to use. They receive a lot of feedback from customers on what works and what doesn't. 
  • Ask fellow fluff moms: Along the same lines, online forums and communities are great resources to find out what works best without doing all the work yourself and wasting money in the process. Many moms have been there, you can compare cloth diaper brands/materials, water type, and what detergent simply works. I recommend browsing Mothering, Diaper Jungle Forum, Diaper Swappers Forum, Diaper Pin Forums, and CafeMom cloth diaper communities. 
  • Experiment! There is nothing wrong with trying every cloth diaper friendly detergent on planet earth. If it doesn't work for the diapers, you can always use it on your regular laundry which will not be nearly as picky. I've always done that with detergents that simply did nothing for our fluff - no waste! There will always be laundry, right?! Don't forget that experimenting may also involve adjusting water levels, water temperature, soak times, and number of rinses - it may not always be a problem with detergent alone. I found that since I can't dry our diapers outdoors in the sun, a tea tree oil rinse does wonders for stinkies. It kills everything in it's path. For stains there is really nothing better than leaving them out in the sun, it's great if that's something you can do.
Are you confused why your diapers are still still stinky? Just don't feel they are clean? Perhaps we could help you brainstorm what the problem is. Feel free to share your feedback and questions in comments here. If you have found something that works for you, please tell us!



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Sale at Thanks Mama

SALE!!! 3 DAYS ONLY!!! SAVE 15% WITH COUPON CODE "15off"
* STARTS October 20th - 23rd 12:00 A.M. E.S.T. *

Cannot be combined with any other offers,
offer not valid on previous orders and can't be extended. Sorry, no exceptions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keeping cloth diapers clean

Keeping cloth diapers clean is extremely important so we wanted to share this helpful article.

At this year’s Real Diaper Industry Association Annual Meeting, there was a fantastic presentation on laundry science. It was presented by Steven J. Tinker, who is the Vice President of Research & Development at Gurtler Industries, Inc. and has over 35 years of experience in the detergent industry. He is also the president of the American Reusable Textile Association and the Vice-Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council.
For the purpose of this newsletter I have drawn on the points I felt were more relevant to home washing, however he did cover much more in his talk that was specific to diaper services. If you are interested in learning more about all this, it would be a good time to join the RDIA, as they have videotaped his talk and made that and his slides available to members.
Please note that in the following summary, I have added a bit of factual information here and there where I felt it to be relevant or necessary.
Laundry Science
Water
The main point of Mr. Tinker’s presentation was that water is 99+% of what we wash with, therefore the quality of your water is critical for the best results. He strongly encouraged all who have even medium-hard water to invest in a water softening device. Costs are quickly recovered by savings on detergent and reduction of wear and tear on appliances, fabric and plumbing. Water hardness is a measure of the calcium and magnesium carbonate present in your water.
Other factors in water that can affect washing include total dissolved solids, chlorine, iron (yellowing), alkalinity (problems rinsing – harsh fabric), organic matter etc. So in other words, water quality is crucial to washing success.
The Four Main Factors
The other main factors in washing success are chemical action (detergent), mechanical action (swooshing), water temperature, and time (how long the wash cycle lasts). These four components need to fill the pie chart.

It is crucial that if you decrease one of these four factors you will need to increase the others. For example, if you decrease the temperature of the wash you would need to increase the three other factors:

Chemical action is achieved by the detergent you add to the water.
Mechanical action is achieved by the movement of the fabrics against one another inside the washing machine. You can slightly under-load your machine, but not by much or there will not be enough fabric to rub against itself. Think of washboards in the river and how pioneers rubbed the fabric against the boards to create the mechanical action that drew the soil out of the fabric. It is also important to note that if you over-load your washing machine, you will not get enough rubbing action either, as there is no room for the diapers to move!
Temperature: For every 10 degree drop in temperature below 110F, there is a 50% reduction in the chemical reaction - so washing in warm to hot water is best.
Time is crucial! If fabric is not exposed to detergent and mechanical action long enough, water will not penetrate fabric and soils will not be released.
Steps in the Wash Cycle
First step: pre-rinse
At this point you can either use water alone or you can add a bit of detergent to start the initial release of soil. Never use hot water in a pre-rinse as it will set stains, but warm water is better than cold, as body fluids are most soluble at body temperature (warm).
Second step: wash cycle
Here you will need significant chemical action to have a good release of soil. Mr. Tinker recommended detergents with an alkali (to dig out soil) and a nonionic surfactant (to take away soil).
What is a surfactant? This is the active cleaning agent in most detergent formulations. Surfactants change the chemical and physical relationship between water and the surface to be cleaned. Some surfactants are naturally occurring and some are synthetic. Surfactants loosen and suspend soil and enhance the wetting property of water. Soaps are a type of surfactant and natural soaps such as soap nuts, castile soap, Ivory Soap, etc. can work well under ideal water conditions. Unfortunately many of us have less than ideal water conditions and in this case the minerals in our water can bind to the soap and create a scum on the surface of the water. This scum can cause repellency and leaking issues as well as causing diapers to look dingy.
What about Enzymes? A detergent may also contain enzymes. There are three basic enzymes: protease (which works on proteins), amylase (which works on starches), and lipase (which works on fats). Mr. Tinker did not feel that protease or amylase pose any problems for skin or fabric. Because fat is stored in the skin, lipase can potentially cause a skin reaction in those who are particularly sensitive. In actual fact however, most people can use enzymes with no problems at all, and he did note that they are effective at removing odours!
Third step (optional): bleaching
This step is important if you need to achieve ‘hygienically clean’ diapers or when you need to disinfect your diapers. Time and temperature play a crucial role here as well, especially if using oxygenated bleach. Thus when using oxygenated bleach, you will need to have both mechanical action and adequate temperature in order to activate the bleaching action; very hot water must be used along with at least 10 minutes of agitation. There does exist a type of “activated” oxygen bleach called Peracetic Acid, which can be used at lower temperatures than those required with regular oxygenated bleach.
We encourage the use of oxygenated bleach instead of chlorine bleach for environmental and health reasons, and also because chlorine bleach is extremely destructive to fabrics and laminations, etc. If chlorine bleach is ever used in a home wash – for example to deal with a particularly tough yeast infection – it is important to make sure that all urine is completely rinsed out before using it, because urine + chlorine = ammonia smell from chloramines!
Final step: rinsing
Rinsing removes any residual soil and chemicals. It can take more than one rinse to achieve great results. Mr. Tinker recommends rinsing in warm water because it releases residues more effectively. But even more importantly, a warm rinse allows water to be released more efficiently in the spin cycle so that clothes dry more quickly! Fascinating!
Fabrics: do different fabrics wash differently?
Absolutely! This is why laundry services wash cottons and polyesters separately. The fibers that make up the fabrics are very different.
Polyester is a perfectly smooth round fiber. Its base ingredients are derived from oil so it does not like to get wet (repels water initially). It also likes to hang on to oily stains and the trapped oil could possibly lead to stink if not properly washed.

Polyester fiber (above)
Cotton twists and folds over itself, which is why it has such a great capacity for absorption. It is also very “wettable,” meaning it loves water and thus washing and rinsing are easy.

In reality there is no such fabric called microfiber! What people in our industry refer to as microfiber is typically a blend of polyester and polyamides that have been treated caustically in order to create “channels” in the fiber. There are many different microfibers on the market with various appearances but the most common type has a pizza appearance (see below). Moisture is pulled in by capillary action and trapped between the inner core (star) and the “pizza” slices. This causes microfiber to be very absorbent, but also means that it is more prone to “stink” - as urine or bacteria can get trapped in these pockets. It is hard for clean water to penetrate microfiber since the polyester does not like water to begin with and the channels are already full of urine.


Microfiber “pizza” slices (above)

What helps to achieve hygienically clean diapers at home?
1) Dilution. Each time you change out the water (pre-rinse, wash, rinse…) you dilute the amount of bio-burden in the wash and flush it away.
2) Heat. Temperatures of +140F (60C) (hot water wash) deactivate common bio-organisms.
3) pH. This is applicable mainly in commercial laundries.
4) Oxidation. Chlorine or oxygen bleaches.
5) Heat from drying in the dryer on a heat setting.

Notes compiled by Shirley Murdock, Bummis Inc.

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