Saturday, March 28, 2009

What is repelling?

Repelling, like wicking, is another term that I felt like I was seeing lots of places when I first began doing my diaper research. I didn't really quite understand what it meant, and I never found what I thought to be an adequate and comprehensive explanation of it. So I'll give it the ol' college try!

Repelling is when a diaper - usually a fleece lining of a pocket, in my experience - develops a build-up, residue, or coating that causes urine to just run off instead of absorb or pass through the way it's intended. Think about how tents or camping jackets are sometimes described as having repelling or repellant properties. Good for tents, bad for diapers!

Let me give you a specific example. I've had several pockets (all the same brand) develop a repelling issue. What would happen is that I would notice that my daughter's onesie or pants were wet at the leg or top of the stomach of her diaper. I would be bewildered and think, "How on earth did she already pee out that insert?" and go to change her. I would take the diaper off, and the insert in the pocket was entirely or nearly bone dry. The fleece had some kind of build up or defect that caused the urine to run off, either out her thigh (if she was playing) or her tummy (if sleeping), rather than soak through the fleece to the absorbant insert.

So what causes repelling? Well, repelling can be traced back to several different things.

The first is easy to determine if it's your particular problem: Using commercial diaper rash creams (desitin, aquaphor, triple paste, etc) on cloth diapers without using a barrier (disposable rice paper liner, silk or fleece liners that you must wash separately from your other diaper laundry) will cause a build up on your diapers. Here's why: most diaper rash creams contain petroleum or petrolatum. The function of this is to create a waterproof barrier between your child's skin and the urine to prevent further irritation to a rash. So, of course it stands to reason that it will leave the same waterproofing barrier on your diapers! Check out this post I wrote a long time ago about using rash creams with cloth nappies, and alternative ways to heal a diaper rash.

The other main thing that can cause repelling is a build-up on the diapers caused by using (usually) a mainstream laundry detergent.

Something else that can cause build-up is using - gasp! - not enough of the right kind of detergent. I'm sure that if you've done any amount of research you've probably read to use detergent sparingly. And that's true! I use 2 tablespoons of liquid Charlie's Soap per large load of diapers; 2 Tbsp is not much! But I've read about people recommending using a little as one teaspoon of an appropriate kind of detergent per extra-large wash load. Diapers simply will not get clean that way!! And you're left with incompletely clean diapers, with urine and fecal residue, as well as dead skin cells and natural skin oils, not to mention any residue of baby lotions or oils.

Fortunately, if you have a repelling issue with your diapers, the solution is pretty simple: strip those suckers! And do it quickly, because the residue can affect "healthy" diapers if you continue to wash all diapers together. Check out the "Special Occasion Cleaning" section of this post for stripping instructions if you have a top-loading washing machine. Check out this post for stripping advice if you have a front-loader, and the corresponding comments.

If you still have problems, you can try hand-stripping clean diapers in the bathroom sink. Get a bristle brush (like the kind you use to clean a bathtub or dishes, but I don't recommend just grabbing one out of the kitchen! At least, if you do that, don't put it back), and some rubber gloves. The gloves are so that you can use hot, hot, hot water! Heat it on the stove if you need to. Scrub vigorously the top and inside of the fleece lining on the offending pocket diapers*, using the brush and a grease-cutting dish soap (Dawn). Rinse in cold water until all bubble are gone, and water poured on the fleece passes through rather than pooling on top. Repeat the scrub and rinse if necessary. Then launder as usual.

** Remember, if you begin noticing a problem with a diaper - or several - but are having a hard time remembering which diapers, make a very small but distinguishable mark with a permanent marker on the tag, or put a safety pin through the tag of the offending diapers as soon as you take the diaper off the child. That way, you can keep track over the next few days to see if it's just 1 or 2 diapers of the same color, or many diapers in your stash!