Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To he or Not To he?

And by he, I mean High efficiency, as in washing machine. I debated for quite a while whether I wanted to get an he washing machine. My husband kept saying we should get one, and I wanted to, for the water and energy saving and convenience of it. I have heard wonderful things about these washers. In online reviews people even say they make doing laundry fun! But I have not heard wonderful things about how these washing machines do on washing cloth diapers. Ironic, eh? Cloth diapers are environmentally friendly and so are he washing machines. But they're not friendly with each other? That just didn't seem right.

So I did some reading online about how to wash cloth diapers in an he washing machine. One problem that was noted is that, because the he washers use so little water and the diapers are so absorbent, the water all gets soaked up in the diapers and they end up just flopping around, wet, but not getting washed. Ew. One site suggested that to use cloth in an he machine you need to do a wet soak of your diapers first. Ew. I don't know about you, but I'm really not interested in putting dirty diapers in a bucket of water and seeing what comes out of that. As it is now, one of the things I love about using the new generation of cloth is that I just put the dirty dipes in a regular diaper pail with a wetbag (washable bag that is waterproof) liner instead of a trash bag, then on laundry day I throw the whole thing in the wash, bag and all. Voila! No nasty soaking needed. I mean, what do you do with that water after you're done?? Yucky. Fortunately, I also read that an easier alternative is to put a wet towel in with the dipes or just dump a bucket of water in there before starting the wash to solve that problem. How hard could it be right? I also confirmed that my favorite cloth diaper laundry detergent is he safe, and then read a lot about the various features of the he machine my hubby wanted to get. All the while he was saying how much we needed a new washer and dryer ASAP. Our dryer was on the fritz and was making the most horrid nails-on-a-chalkboard sound every time I used it, which could not be drowned out by closing the laundry room door or turning up the music or TV. When I looked at this washer he was suggesting, I saw things like "steam" for stain removal, "sanitize" with extra extra hot water, or even using cold water (!), "gets the stink out" (this came from a review and was in reference to sweat stink, but still...), etc. So I decided we should go for it and we did.

The new he washer and matching dryer were delivered to our house a few weeks ago and set up. The friendly people at Lowes even took away our old washer and dryer for free (and the guy wiped up my floor where they tracked dirt in). Unfortunately the new machines, though not wider than the old ones, are much deeper, so we can no longer close the laundry room door and ended up just taking it off the hinges and storing it in the basement. This issue never even occurred to us, but it really isn't a big deal since the washer and dryer are both perfectly silent when running. The dryer might make a little noise if there's something in it that is banging up against the side while it tumbles and the washer makes a slight humming noise when it spins, but really, they are super quiet. And they WORK!!! Oh my, I love the washer. I can put my husband's stinky workout clothes in there (not only does he sweat a lot, but he has a tendency to leave his sweaty clothes in a heap somewhere, just to let the stink fester for a while before I find it and hang it up or throw it in the wash) and use the cold water sanitize cycle (it uses less energy than the hot water sanitize) and they come out smelling perfectly clean!! It was always hard to get the stink out before, in part because we have pretty hard water. But not anymore! I can also put my husband's scrubs, which unfortunately get blood or other yuckiness on them from time to time, in the hot sanitize cycle and feel comfortable that they are coming out completely clean and yuck-free. And for the diapers? Here's what I do with them:

I put them straight in the wash like always. No wet soaking here! Then I run them through a short wash cycle in cold water and have them spin only a medium amount (yes, you can control how much water gets spun out at the end of the cycle!). This way they are still fairly wet when I put them through the wash cycle, but they're nicely rinsed. Sometimes I have added a bucket of water before I start this cycle, but this doesn't really seem necessary. Then I put in my super small amount of detergent and wash the dipes on the hot water sanitize cycle with a second cold rinse. This uses extra hot water and really gets them clean. I take out my wetbag (which can tend to hold suds in it) and then run another rinse. The dipes come out looking and smelling so fresh and clean. They are much cleaner that they were in my other machine I think. Occasionally I use the steam feature to help get stains out, but I don't use this all the time because I think it might be a bit hard on the dipes. The steam does seem to even be able to get out some stains that have been around a while (I'm living in the arctic tundra and we have very little sun for sunning the dipes right now). Then like always, I hang the covers and put the inserts in the dryer and I'm done! It's wonderful. And of course I'm thrilled to be using less water and energy. So, if you're considering going to the front-load he machine, I highly recommend it! Even if you use cloth dipes.

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