Wednesday, February 18, 2009

FAQ - "HE Washer Woes!"

Submitted by briannalc.

"Hello! I was a customer of Keen Bambino and I am very glad that you decided to start this blog. Anyway, I used prefolds with my 3rd child. My older 2 were potty trained, so no need to start them, too. We will be trying for a 4th baby sometime late spring/early summer, and I really want to
cloth diaper again. The problem has to do with why I stopped cloth diapering. When I bought cloth diapers, I had a top loading old washing machine. After about 4-5 months of cloth diapering, I had to get a new washer and dryer because mine died. I bought an HE front loading set. Soon after using the new set, my son started getting horrible rashes. I know that my machine was just not getting them as clean as he needed them. I think it is because of how little water my machine used. I just used baking soda, vinegar, and a squirt of dawn. I ended up going back to regular diapers because I was so frustrated with those diaper rashes. After that long explanation... what is the best way to get diapers clean in an HE machine? I have an LG model, if that makes any difference! I have friends with different models and they never had a problem."

Let me start out by saying that I have a top-loading washer which is at least 10 years old. The stupid thing runs like a champ and I have never had to have a single repair on it. It just won't die. I wish it would so I could have an excuse to buy a fancy-shmansy new washer. But I guess if appliances NOT breaking is the biggest problem around my house then I should count my blessings, huh?

HE machines are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you can cut your family's water usage which is nice for your checking account and nice for our planet. But HE machines and diapers are just fundamentally opposed, it seems. Diapers need to be thoroughly rinsed to avoid detergent residue buildup, so a machine that's designed to use a fraction of the water of a traditional model can be an issue.

As much as it seems to defeat the purpose of an HE machine, when washing diapers many parents find that they need to do 2 or 3 extra rinses (instead of the usual 1 extra rinse recommended when washing diapers in a top-loading model). Rinsing is so important, I really can't stress it enough. Yes, it's lame to have to do several rinses in a machine that's designed to save water. But the alternative is stinky diapers and rashy bums... and that's even more lame, isn't it?

My other suggestion would be to NEVER use Dawn in any washing machine... especially an HE machine. Dawn is not designed for washing machines. I know it is widely recommended on diapering forums, but remember that these ladies are not washing machine technicians. Think of how incredibly sudsy dish soap is. Now pair that with an HE machine which we know doesn't really rinse clean. It is very likely that there was a ton of Dawn residue in your diapers, which was what was causing the rash. Over-sudsing can also be damaging to your washing machine, so I really wish people would stop recommending it.

I would recommend using a detergent specifically designed for HE machines, and then using 1/2 of the recommended HE amount when you do diaper laundry. When choosing a detergent, be sure to avoid those with softeners and/or brighteners like the plague. Fragrances should be avoided if your baby's skin is sensitive to them. There is some debate about enzymes, as well. Some parents find that detergents with enzymes cause a rash on their baby, while others find that detergents without enzymes aren't sufficient when tackling something as nasty as human waste. My boys had recurring rashes until I switched to a detergent with enzymes (we use plain, basic Tide with great success). However, I still won't recommend enzymes across the board. It's really a matter of what works best for your baby and what you are comfortable with trying.

So in your situation, I'd say give it another try next time around! Just be sure to do extra rinses, avoid the Dawn, and use an HE-specific detergent.


  1. Thank you for answering my question.

    Remembering back, I think I skipped the Dawn because of what I read about using other soap in an HE machine... but I know I was using it before we got a new machine. I was doing 1 extra rinse, but maybe I wasn't doing enough rinses, and maybe that just built up way too long.

    I really hope that it works the next time around. I LOVED cloth diapering. :)

  2. Quick question... If you don't recommend dawn (and your explination makes a lot of sense) then how do you strip your diapers when needed?

  3. Great question, Mama Kalila! I'll answer that as a separate FAQ. =-)