Sometimes, moms can figure out some pretty amazing ways to resolve issues with their cloth diapers. After all, that’s why there are so many different methods for cloth diaper stripping. Other times? I see something come up that I just can’t get on board with using. The first time that I’d heard of CLR for cloth diaper stripping was over the weekend.
The story came to me as this: a mom new to cloth diapering was advised to use RLR. She thought it was a typo since she’d never heard of that stuff. She thought that it had to have meant CLR. So she used CLR on her stash. It was disastrous. My local cloth diaper community was talking about it and just couldn’t believe it. And then it got even worse when we’d Googled and found that this was actually a thing.
It turns out that Kate Shabanov had actually advocated for the use of this on BabyCenter.
If you don’t want to get RLR, OP, you can always wash all your fibers with a half cup of CLR (yes, the same stuff you use on your shower heads), rinse and wash with nothing, and then wash again with a half cup of bleach. However, do not put your PUL or TPU covers/pocket shells into the CLR wash, as it will damage them.
Make sure you do the CLR and bleach wash seperate, (sic) and make double-sure you rinse all the bleach out; the acids in CLR could interact with the bleach and create chlorine gas, which has the potential to be toxic. Rinse rinse rinse!
Okay, the good news is that she said not to put PUL or TPU in. And that she pointed out potential toxicity of chlorine gas. But I maintain that if something is potentially damaging to your diaper shells, it’s not something that I want used on things that touch my baby’s skin, either. I thought it was another crackpot theory up there with using Cascade until I looked around and thought about it more.
As much as I was willing to blame Kate for this awful advice, upon further research, I found that I could not in good conscience lay the blame at her feet. Not when this is being recommended by cloth diaper related companies that we should be able to trust.
CLR is for Mineral Deposit Build Up
When you think about what CLR is for, it kind of makes sense that people would consider using it on their diapers. After all, it stands for “calcium, lime, and rust.” Those are some of the things that are in hard water that can reduce efficacy of your diapers. After all, Charlie’s Soap even says that it’s okay.
…we are glad to assist individuals in those areas with special needs to get the most satisfaction out of using our products by providing information on special procedures that may be necessary in those most difficult hard water areas. For instance, adding a small bit of CLR® (the soap scum and rust cleaner) to your wash on occasion will dissolve these built up residues.
Mother-Ease also says it’s okay to use.
Stage 2: Removing Minerals: There are a few options for removing minerals. You can use off the shelf demineralizers like CLR, or simpler solutions like vinegar (acetic acid) or lemon juice (citric acid) . In either case you’re adding a slight acid to dissolve minerals. 1 cup of CLR mixed with a 1/2 load wash OR laundry sink will work. If using vinegar or citric acid, you’ll need 4-8 cups per load. Let your diaper soak in this solution for an hour, then send them for another detergent free wash cycle, again doubling the rinse at the end.
Even with all that, though… there are better reasons not to use it.
CLR is NOT for Use on Textiles
CLR’s FAQ page actually says explicitly not to use CLR on clothing. When the company that makes it typically markets their product is being good for cleaning all kinds of caked up grossness says “do not do this,” it’s probably a good idea not to.
Then, of course, there’s the MSDS. Whenever you want to know more about a product’s ingredients and safety, the Material Safety Data Sheet is pretty much the holy grail.
Under “potential health effects,” the sheet lists skin irritation with “prolonged contact” potentially causing dermatitis and itching. I’d say that wearing a CLR treated fabric against one’s genitals for a couple of hours at a time would classify as “prolonged contact.”
Then there is this simple picture:
Call me crazy, but I really don’t feel good about soaking my child’s diapers in something with the corrosive WHMIS warning on it.
If the WHMIS warnings, the MSDS, and the manufacturer’s warnings are not enough, maybe this bit of anecdotal feedback will help.
CLR, Cloth Diaper Stripping, and Bad Results
There is so much ridiculous misinformation about cloth diaper laundering right now. I strip a lot of diapers, and I mean thousands, and in almost every case its because of something they were told to use that should be no where near a cloth diaper, let alone a babes delicate skin. This CLR situation was far and away the worst case I have seen. When I put the diapers in my machine to flush them, the second the water hit them the vapours gassed out and I almost choked. I have had ammonia vapours before, but this was something much worse. I am on rinse and hot wash 10 and the smell is still there. Never mind the fact that her entire stash is likely a write off, but her baby was terribly injured, and mom is so horribly embarrassed she didn’t even want to come to me for fear of reproach. And before you make comments about her using common sense etc. remember that this was the advice given by one of the oldest and most reputable manufacturers in the Industry. She is new to cloth and assumed they were giving responsible advice. – Rachel, Niagara Diaper Service
I also do a ton of cloth diaper stripping for local ladies and for Cloth for a Cause. Sometimes, diapers can be salvaged. When something that toxic is used, sometimes there’s absolutely nothing that can be done to save those diapers. Consider what’s in the products that you are advised to use, regardless of who suggests it. (Yes, that even goes for what I suggest. I encourage people to question the answers and do their own research.)
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: it’s your child, it’s your diapers, it’s your decision. It’s entirely up to you to determine the best course of action. However, keep in mind that this is a product designed to work on metals and hard, non-porous surfaces. Your diapers are none of those things and this is not a method that is considered safe or approved by most cloth diaper manufacturers.
Have you ever treated your diapers with CLR? How did it work for you?
1.) Shabanov, Kate. “How to Deep Clean Diapers for New Baby.” BabyCenter. N.p., 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://community.babycenter.com/post/a39797842/how_to_deep_clean_diapers_for_new_baby>. Katie Havoc is a Kate Shabanov screen name.
2.) “Charlie’s Soap FAQs.” Charlie’s Soap FAQs. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.refreshinglyfree.com/Charlies-Soap-FAQs>.
3.) Froese, Erika. ” Cloth Diaper Washing 101.” Cloth Diaper Washing 101. Mother-Ease, 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.mother-ease.com/MEZForum/Cloth-diaper-washing-101-m1550.aspx>.
4.) “Frequently Asked Questions.” Jelmar | We Clean More than You Think. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jelmar.com/cgi-bin/htmlos.cgi/002631.2.3011547226490138457>.
5.) “JELMAR MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEET CLR CALCIUM LIME & RUST REMOVER ENHANCED FORMULA.” The Micro / Nano Fabrication Center at the University of Arizona. University of Arizona, n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2014. <http://mfc.engr.arizona.edu/safety/MSDS%20FOLDER/CLR_Cleaner.pdf>.
6.) Niagara Diaper Service, Rachel. “Personal Correspondence.” Message to the author. 3 Mar. 2014. Facebook.