Laundry Science: Diving in Deep – The Role of Water in Washing Cloth Diapers

babylaundryWhether you have a top-loading, agitator machine or a front-loading, high-efficiency machine, how much water you use is critical is cleaning your diapers thoroughly.

Partially because diapers are thicker than many other types of wash, partially because you’re specifically trying to get the “dirty” out of the middle rather than just the surface, and partially because the ammonia from urine is particularly good at clinging to fabric fibres, water is the only way to thoroughly and efficiently clean your diapers through and through.

In a standard agitator machine, the level of water is easy to determine, as the machine is designed to fill with water to your predetermined level. It’s important to have enough water to cover the diapers fully without filling so much that the diapers float about like objects in space – the diapers need to be able to rub against each other in the wash action and if there’s too much water, they sort of just float past each other. This is referred to as The Swish Factor.

In a high-efficiency washer, the amount of water is equally important, but more difficult to gauge merely because HE washers are designed to reduce the amount of water to just enough to saturate the fabrics. To make up for the lack of swish, the engineers extended the wash time (which is why loads in HE washers take f-o-r-e-v-e-r), which works well for most loads where the soil is on the surface of the fabrics, but not so great for diapers.

For diapers, an extended wash time alone just isn’t enough to get diapers squeaky clean – you still need as much water as possible in the drum. So, you basically just have to trick your washer into adding as much water as possible. Depending on your model, you can do a “rinse and spin” cycle with the spin cycle off or select the “prewash” setting. You can also add a wet towel or a pair of jeans to the load, as this will make the load heavier (the amount of water added to the drum is calculated by weight).

You can also find a handy listing of specific HE models and wash recommendations at the Rockin’ Green website – they are known as the Laundry Gurus for good reason!

What has worked especially well for you in making sure you’ve got enough water in your load?

Photo credit Ilya Haykinson

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