What is RLR?
I get this question often usually in response to my recommendation to use it.
RLR is a laundry additive, not a detergent. It is phosphate and perfume free and helps to bind to the buildup in your diapers (minerals, detergent or ammonia gunk) and strip them. After using RLR you will notice your cloth diapers are remarkably different, mostly in the odor department.
Well, call me sheltered or naive, but I had NO IDEA that RLR is mostly washing soda. Shocking, I know.
RLR is not just washing soda though. There are also other additives that cause it to suds heavily.
What is washing soda? Washing soda is sodium carbonate. What is sodium carbonate?
Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda or soda ash), Na2CO3 is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate. Sodium carbonate is domestically well known for its everyday use as a water softener. It can be extracted from the ashes of many plants. It is synthetically produced in large quantities from salt (sodium chloride) and limestone in a process known as the Solvay process.
How does this help you? RLR is anywhere from $0.49-2.50 a packet. If you have hard water and need a detergent booster often, this can add up fast.
Washing soda is cheap. But, before you get too excited I need to tell you more.
RLR contains a highly concentrated form of sodium carbonate, more so than regular washing soda. Where you might use 1/8 cup (packet size) of RLR to strip your diapers you would need up to 1 cup of washing soda to almost do as good a job.
You’re still saving money.
However, there is a way to get sodium carbonate in a higher concentration. In the pool section of stores or on Amazon, you will find concentrated sodium carbonate. I have read of many moms safely using this form on parenting boards like Mothering.com and Diaperswappers.com.
Having said that, I personally would not use it with every wash and I would rinse to overkill levels.
Washing soda I would use regularly. I get a little scared of using something used for pools with a pH level of 13.
Using washing soda to strip your cloth diapers will not produce the exact same results as RLR but for the vast majority of situations you will be successful at fixing your problem.
But, what if you don’t have any washing soda? It’s not always easy to find.
Did you know you can make your own washing soda?
True. Everyone has baking soda in their kitchen. Costco sells the huge bag for really cheap.
Penniless Parenting tells us
The difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. Seriously. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). When baking soda is heated up to high temperatures, it breaks down to become washing soda, water steam, and carbon dioxide.
By cooking your baking soda, you can easily and safely get washing soda without needing to travel to far flung places to buy it, and you can make as much as you need at a time and don’t need to lay out a lot of money on buying washing soda. (If you buy baking soda in bulk as I do, you can make washing soda especially cheaply.)
To turn your baking soda into washing soda fill a shallow baking dish with baking soda and place in a 400 degree oven. Stir periodically. You will know it is washing soda by the consistency.
Baking soda is powdery, washing soda grainy. I just used baking soda last night when making deodorant and was annoyed with the clumps. Washing soda loses the clumps.
All of this information blew my mind. Many parents who cloth diaper are on a tight budget and this is a perfect DIY tip!
When would you need to use RLR or washing soda on your cloth diapers?
- You have hard water. Washing soda is a water softener.
- Cloth diapers smell nasty and unclean.
- Cloth diapers smell of ammonia.
- Leaking or repelling. There are many causes of leaking, buildup can be one.
- You purchased used cloth diapers and want a “fresh” start.
- You recently used heavy amounts of rash cream and are worried about side effects.
- Child recently had diarrhea and smell is trapped.
Here are instructions on how to use RLR to strip your cloth diapers.
A little advice first, washing soda is a precipitating water softener. That means it settles out the minerals that make water hard. The sodium binds with calcium and magnesium in the water, but it creates an insoluble substance. If you don’t rinse your diapers thoroughly enough to remove all of the soda, it will re-deposit back onto the fabric and cause build-up. This can actually create worse problems!
If you plan to use washing soda to clean cloth diapers I highly recommend you add a bit of your detergent when soaking. The surfactants will help the yuckies that just came out of the diapers rinse away instead of attaching back to the fabrics.
With hard water, adding washing soda to every load during just the wash cycle will help the detergent do it’s job better.
Use 1/2 cup to 1 cup per large wash load.
Do you use washing soda as a water softener? What is your experience?