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Discussion Starter #1
I've done a search and saw plenty of threads with helpful info, but I have a few specific questions. Sorry if this is a redundant thread!

We're pregnant with our first, so up to now we've never used our washing machine for anything but big people clothes. We have ridiculously hard water and a softener is not in our future. We use natural detergent and usually do cold washes, occasionally warm, and only use hot when someone has been sick or something. Mostly, we do that to save electricity, but also because our hot water gets so limey that it tends to damage appliances. Plus it seems like we get less buildup on the clothes that way. Hot (and even warm) washes make socks and armpits yellow and crusty. At least with this water. Not that they're brilliant white when they come out of a cold or warm wash either. Handwashing is really the only way we can achieve that here.

We have a front-loading HE machine.

Our routine is acceptable for normal clothes, but I'm concerned about diapers. Because if our clothes only come out "acceptable," what will happen with our diapers? We're currently deciding what system to use or if we just have to go with disposables.

So. Here are my questions.

1. Front loading HE machines. I've heard that to get enough water to really rinse, it's wise to put wet towels in the load so the sensors think the washer is full. Is it really worth it in terms of resource consumption to add wet towels to EVERY wash? That's a lot of towels to put in the dryer every day, and it seems wasteful. Or are the people who do that just crazy and it's not necessary?

Also, with all the extra dirtiness we'd be adding to the washer (rinsing the inserts can't possibly get all the poo residue out), I wonder if we'd have problems with the door getting smelly. So far we've been able to avoid that. Anybody have experience there?

2. Detergent. I'm not interested in using Calgon in my wash, which has all kinds of creepy stuff in it. We've used baking soda and vinegar as additives in our clothes wash with some success, but it seems like you're not supposed to use those with diapers. How do you get your diapers clean without Calgon or a water softener? Can you do it with natural detergent?

3. All those hot water washes. I'm afraid I'm going to ruin my washing machine with lime buildup. Which would also not be environmentally/economically friendly. Anybody with super hard water have any trouble with all the hot water washes ruining elements? And how about on the diapers? Any buildup?

That's all of my questions for now, but I know I'll have more. This is all really confusing!
 

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I wash my diapers in cold and rely on the sun to bleach them out either outside or in a window. Seems the cheapest, most enviro friendly way, bonus if your machine likes it.
 

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Looks like you're in Indiana, too! What do you do on rainy days or really humid days or cold days (I'm along the Ohio river, where it seems like every day is at least one of those)? Just use the window? My understanding is that UV light doesn't actually make it through window glass, and I thought that's what actually did the disinfecting. But you haven't had problems with stink this way? Huh.
 

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We have hard water also, though perhaps not quite as hard as yours! We use about a half cup of Borax along with the regular amount of detergent. We use original tide or an arm and hammer no fragrance detergent for the record. I've found that I also need to use a half cup of bleach or so with each half full load of diapers. I do it each time because I don't use all of the diapers each time so there are always some that need stripping.

Also, we have a top-loader but I think most front loaders also have space for bleach and extras like borax although if you have enough space you could mix a powder detergent with the borax in the machine's dispensing cups.

The borax seems to help a great deal and apparently it is what my grandmother used with their hard water in michigan. Hope that helps!
 

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Don't worry about the washing machine -- it will work fine and it won't get smelly.

Worry about your detergent and the diaper materials used.

You're going to have a tough time getting cloth diapers clean with botique or home made detergents. Diapers get washed alot, and hard water leaves behind magnesium and calcium on the fabric fibers. To combat this, the big-brand detergents are formulated to tie up these minerals in the water -- that way they don't stick to your fabrics. Botique brands don't do this, and there are there are no simple additives that will help.

Borax creates hydrogen-peroxide in the wash which helps with sanitizing and bleaching, but it won't help with the mineral buildup that comes with hard water.

Synthetic and nonwoven absorbents (microfiber, SorbTech and Zorb types) are less likely to degrade in hard water when compared to cotton, and bamboo which accumulate mineral buildup on the surface of the fabric fibers. Hemp will be the toughest as it accumulates buildup on the surface and inside the fibers - I would avoid hemp all together in very hard water situations.

Another thing that is important when you have really hard water is drying. Line or air drying will complicate the matter further because all the dissolved minerals stay in the fabric fibers. Tumble drying helps alot - the mechanical tumbling softens, the constant air circulation takes water droplets out of the diaper leaving less mineral content behind.
 
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