Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ammonia Problems & HE Washers

Sorry for the lapse in posting folks! I know that all 6 of you have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my latest thoughts, ha! My half-dozen readers :) The end of 2010 brought with it lots of excitement; some good, some interesting challenges & some not so good.

Our first "interesting challenge" was when we developed an ammonia problem with our diapers. I had deduced that it stems from us using dryer sheets with some of our other laundry loads. They create a build-up inside your dryer which transfers onto your clothing. Normally this isn't a problem for regular clothes & blankets, etc. But with cloth diapers, build-up = ammonia stink and can lead to leakage problems down the road. It also causes rashes on those sensitive baby bums (probably part of the rash issue I was having). The easy solution was to clean out the dryer & discontinue the use of dryer sheets altogether but I certainly wasn't ready to do that! We have waaaaayyy too much static in our house during the winter & I am not willing to suffer through it or make anyone else do so. Plus, I'm a smell person. Not only do bad smells greatly upset me, but they have different meanings to me. I LOVE the way our dryer sheets smell and the way the clothes smell right after they come out. It brings me right back to my childhood & wrapping myself up in a nice clean blanket, fresh out of the dryer. It's a comforting constant for me. I have associated that feeling and smell with clean laundry & I want to be able to experience that still and possibly have my children experience the same. So I needed to find another solution.

I tried bleach first. It did get rid of the ammonia smell but it came right back. I did not want to be bleaching the diapers every time I washed them, nor is it recommended to do so. I needed something that I could use with every wash, that was environmentally friendly, that wouldn't destroy the diapers after x amount of uses, and that wouldn't add any time to my already 2 hour wash/dry routine. My research turned up Dawn. Yup, a few drops of regular blue Dawn dish detergent in the initial rinse cycle. This solved the problem right away, kept the ammonia stink from coming back & best of all it was really easy and I didn't have to change anything about my wash routine! Yay! Bliss for about 2 weeks!

Because our second "interesting challenge" came about when our beloved washing machine went kaput the day before Christmas Eve. We had no choice but to replace it, and luckily there were some fantastic sales the day after Christmas. After much debating, we decided to purchase our first HE washer/dryer set. I was a bit apprehensive at first because I remember reading about some people having difficulties with washing cloth diapers in them because they use significantly less water, but I also knew that there were plenty of people who got through it so I was prepared to do some research. It has taken a while, and we did have a lot of problems getting into a routine that worked for us, but I think we have found something.

The first wash I did like I would have done normally in the regular machine. Cold rinse with a few drops of Dawn. Hot wash cycle with Rockin' Green detergent and cold rinse with nothing. Then an extra cold rinse, again with nothing. The new machine has a setting to automatically add an extra rinse to any wash that you do, and there is also a cycle that is just a rinse & spin. You would think that this would make things easier, but really it just made everything more confusing, especially since that first load came out still stinking of ammonia! Then I followed advice to try a full normal cycle with a few drops of Dawn in the liquid soap dispenser & white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser, followed by a "Sanitize" cycle (the washer heats the water up to 150 degrees killing any bacteria that may be in the diapers) with the Rockin' Green, and then a rinse & spin cycle, adding an extra rinse to each load. This did work for the stink, but it took me 6 hours just to get everything into the dryer!! The Sanitize cycle alone is almost 2 hours long! This was not going to work at all. I tried every suggestion I could find. I tried regular Tide for HE machines even though it is usually considered a HUGE no-no for CD-ing. I tried white vinegar. I tried extra rinses, extra detergent, different detergents, low or no spins. I bought a diaper spray (not a diaper sprayer - a microbial spray that you spritz on every diaper before you toss it in the pail), I bleached, I tried an ammonia bouncer.

And then I took the best advice I have found so far: STOP OVER-THINKING!! The CD industry has decided somewhere along the line that caring for diapers has to be a rocket science; a delicate process that can easily be interfered with by the littlest additive or chemical imbalance. Women have been using & washing cloth diapers for years & years without worrying about half of this. They did not buy different detergent. They did not spend hours laboring over the laundry. They did not have the internet to research the million different ways we can make ourselves crazy. They kept it simple. Obviously I have to account for changes during the advent of HE appliances, but I need to chill out.

One normal cold wash with ammonia bouncer & Dawn. No spins, no extra anything. One normal hot wash with detergent (sometimes Rockin Green with a scent because it smells nice, sometimes Tide, sometimes whatever I feel like. But switch it up - don't stick with one thing for too long). No spins. One cold rinse & spin with nothing. That's it. That's my routine & I have everything in the dryer in about 2 hours. It's a little longer than my original routine with a regular washer but I can live with it because once everything is in the dryer I can leave it be & not worry about it until later that night. While I prefer to do it all in one foul swoop & have everything folded & put away in the morning, it's not the end of the world to fold & put away later at night (with the help of my wife if she's willing!) If I have extra time & feel inclined, I will do a Sanitize wash maybe once a month.

The moral of the story? As with many things in life, keep it simple. There are a million things we have made more complicated with "advances", from talking on the phone to making food to washing diapers. Life is supposed to be easy and the best way to reaiz e that is to keep things simple.

What have you simplified in your life?

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