Laundry Science: Length of the Wash Cycle (Sometimes a Quickie Isn’t Enough)

eggtimerIn our on-going laundry science series here at the N&G blog, we’ve looked at “the swish factor,” water quality, and how important it is to use plenty of water, but does it matter how long your wash cycle is?

Absolutely.

As you’ll remember from our discussion about why using plenty of water is important, part of what makes washing diapers different than washing any other type of laundry is that most of the dirtiness is on the inside, rather than just sitting on the surface. Obviously, it’s going to take extra time to get all that water through the diaper rather than just dealing with the dirt and grime on the surface.

Let’s take a look at the washing routine recommended by many diaper manufacturers and then discuss why they even make these recommendations:
*Rinse on cold
*Long wash on warm or hot
*Double rinse

Why Take the Time?

“Rinse on cold” – You need to have sufficient time to loosen and drain away any lingering nasties – you know, like the uric acid that’s been sitting on the diaper for two days and those little pieces of poo that remain after dumping the solids in the toilet. It’s sort of the same reason as why you scrape your dishes before you put them in the dishwasher – the more gunk the washer has to deal with, the more cycles you’re going to have to do in order to get them truly clean.

“Long wash on warm or hot” – You need time to activate and fully dissolve the detergent and give it time to do its work. Different detergents require different amounts of time to become fully activated. The length of time required for this will depend on the type of detergent, the temperature of your water, the amount of water, as well as the water quality.  Once it’s fully activated and doing its work, it needs sufficient time to fully bond with the grime so the grime can be lifted from the fabric and washed away.

“Double rinse” – You need to allow time for the detergent to be completely washed away too. If you skip this part of the cycle, it’s easy for detergent residue to be left on your lovely fluffy fibres, which can cause leaks, diaper rash, and possibly even extra-stinky diapers because of a chemical reaction that happens when urine hits that detergent residue the next time the diaper is used.

These recommendations certainly apply no matter what type of washing machine you have, but they are even more important if you have an HE machine. Since you have to trick your machine into using enough water and there’s not much swish to have sufficient cleaning action, allowing enough time is absolutely crucial.

And of course, when you’re done washing, you’ve got lots of options for drying your diapershanging them on a line, drying them on a rack, or tossing them in the dryer. Just like the wash needs plenty of time to restore them to their glorious fluffy state, we hope whatever method you use to dry them will give YOU plenty of time to rejuvenate yourself as well!

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