>When my newborn baby was born, yes–I marveled at the tinyness of her hands, the softness of her breaths, and the miniature flutter of her heartbeat; however, I also marveled at the potency of her poop! Though only milk was going in, this seemingly radioactive yellow explosion was excreted, shocking in its fluorescence and ability to permeate diapers, sleepers, and anything else within striking distance.
Every single cotton prefold that I put into the wash dirty came out an alarming, vibrant yellow. Sure, the dipes smelled clean (so thus I deduced the bacteria in them had been killed off), but I found the stains disconcerting time and time again. After all, I knew they were clean, but enter my non-cloth-diapering friends and relatives, and I could feel the sideways glances they cast at me when I cinched up that dirty looking rag around my newborn’s precious bottom.
I bemoaned the stains to my mom, who had been the prefolds’ previous owner, having used them on my brother, sister, and me. “Just put a capful of bleach in a pail of water and give them a soak!” she advised. It had worked for her, so why not? Having never been a bleach user, I was concerned about a few things–what would it do to the environment? to the cotton fibres over time? to my baby’s skin if a residue remained? I decided to give the bleach a whirl in my front-loader. Sure, the diapers came out snowy white every time, but despite rinsing, and rinsing, and rinsing yet again, I could never quite shake that faint bleachy smell that lingered. I didn’t like the idea of that near my tender newborn, so I quickly abandoned the bleach. I tried rinsing, dunking, and soaking my dipes, but nothing else quite did the trick.
One day, however, I read on a message board somewhere that I should simply place my diapers in the sun. Now, I had read this time and time again (in passing), but was such a dramatic skeptic that I had never even considered taking this advice. I mean, I did believe that the sun would be able to fade the potency of a stain–after all, as a teacher, I know just what the sun can do to my construction-papered bulletin board displays in a simple matter of weeks (they become faded and tattered in no time, and the imprints of kids’ homework assignments are left behind in shadow even once the staples have been removed and the project handed back). However, could the sun’s simple rays actually bleach my diapers back to a shocking white? I doubted it, but bored and desperate, I decided to give it a try.
Having moved on to microfibre pocket dipe inserts by this time, some of them were beginning to look yellowed and dingy. It was the dead of winter, minus 30 degrees Celsius, so fashioning a clothesline was not really a viable option. However, I did have plenty of windows in my kitchen, dining room, and living room, so I decided to give this sunning business the absolute minimal amount of effort by draping my stained inserts around on the window ledges. Most days were cloudy and not filled with the sunbeams I was waiting for, but I laid out the tainted items regardless. Then I left them there for a good day and a half and ignored them. I figured that, at any rate, they would simply air dry as I hadn’t run them through the dryer cycle as per usual.
I came back to them a day or two later, and to my shock and awe, every single one of them looked brand new. I nearly thought it was a trick! I picked up those inserts and turned them round and round in my hands, just TRYING to see a faint remnant of a stain, but I couldn’t. I was utterly amazed. I had literally done NOTHING but lay them out on a flat surface on a CLOUDY day, and the sun had taken care of the dinginess.
I was a convert!
Sunning things became my new favorite hobby. Though the newborn poops had turned into more normal, cereal-blended poops, there were still a handful of inserts in each load of wash that would emerge looking pretty hurtin’. Whenever the laundry was done (usually at about midnight), I would sort through the inserts, still damp from the wash, and separate out the stained ones with a subtle little thrill. I would vanquish those stains time and time again! Before bed every night, I would lay the tainted inserts out strategically where I knew the morning sunbeams would come in and attack (the prime spot of real estate for the worst offenders is being clipped to the faux-herb garden that I got from my husband’s grandmother and have left on our kitchen window sill).
Every two days, I would have a handful of new damp inserts from the washer, and I would go by, pluck up all the newly sun-bleached inserts, and lay down the dingy ones. And so, daily, the cycle continues.
I’ve done some more reading up on the matter, and now know the following things to be true:
– The same sunbeams that can disrupt human skin cells, causing sunburn and skin cancer, cause the same type of disruption to viruses, bacteria, and other micro-organisms, killing them dead and thus sanitizing a wide array of surfaces
– In fact, many urban water treatment facilities and microbiology laboratories use special UV lamps to sterilize drinking water, workspaces, lab benches, and tools
– Along these lines, not only will the sun remove stains from your dipes, but it will kill any lingering bacterias and yeasts in them as well
– Women have been using the sun and lemon juice to lighten their hair naturally for ages; in the same way, a stubborn diaper stain can be re-dampened and wet with lemon juice and laid in the sun for extra stain-fighting abilities
– As I discovered, the stain-fighting power of UV radiation is present in daylight regardless of whether or not there is a true sunbeam (or cloud cover); both will work, though the direct sunlight will work a little quicker and more effectively. Similarly, as you can see in my photo, the UV rays also penetrate through a window with no trouble at all.
– The sun has the ability to work effectively on any type of organic stain, and on a variety of surfaces and textiles. Its stain-fighting abilities are not limited to just diapers. Try sunning out some dingy spots on your old cloth tablecloths, napkins, or even t-shirts!
– All in all, the power of the sun for cleaning diapers does no harm to the environment, your baby’s skin, or your pocketbook! It is 100% natural and free!
This week in my neck of the woods, the snow is beginning to melt. The sun is trying to come back for good. I can’t wait to run into my grassy yard in a t-shirt … and, new believer that I am, stake out my very first clothesline.