Washing Your Cloth Diapers.

Dos and Don’ts, Wash routine, Detergents, Mom Tips, and Sunning Your Diapers.

Here it is, here it is! My official “How To” on washing your cloth diapers in its entirety. I’ve discussed all of the good, bad, and the smelly in this three part beginners guide entitled the, “All About Cloth” series. I’ve broken down the normal how, why, and where questions about cloth diapering, in Cloth How? Cloth Where? Cloth Why? And I even shared some very useful and very honest tips in my post, Cloth Clean Up. Where Does The Poop Go? I’ve kept it simple, thorough, and to the point so far, and this will be no different.

No need to overwhelm yourself with the notion that washing your cloth diapers will be nothing but a hassle. Every cloth diaper mom will tell you, but doing diaper laundry really shouldn’t be any harder than doing a regular load of laundry. Although, who really likes laundry day anyway? You’ll obviously want to take a few extra steps to keep up the longevity of use with your diapers, but nothing that would make the process too strenuous. I prefer to wash my diapers every 1-3 days. 3 being the longest I would EVER wait to do a wash. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to really get your diapers clean in my opinion. Realistically, I probably do diaper laundry every 2 days. I do have to cover 3 booties, so things pile up a lot quicker than it would for someone with only one child in the home.

Products To Use/ Products to Avoid

Use: Make sure to use a fragrance free detergent that is also free of enzymes and extra additives (whitening and brightening ingredients) just to be on the safe side. If you’re cloth diapering a newborn, it’s even smarter to be cautious of what detergent you’re using to wash your diapers. You always run the risk of irritating your baby. I must admit, I’ve used a regular, scented Tide detergent before, and no, I didn’t kill all of my precious diapers in the process.

Mom Tip! If you find that your diapers have detergent buildup (they’re not getting clean, they’re less absorbent), you may need to experiment to make sure that the detergent you’re using is compatible with your water. Also make sure that you’re not using too much detergent. An excessive amount of detergent will make it harder for your washer to rinse out.

Don’t Use: Fabric Softeners. Long term, it can effect the absorbency of your diapers. Much like detergent, you also run the risk of irritating your baby’s skin.

Use: A good odor eliminator for diaper washing is baking soda (about half a cup per load). Another option is to add white vinegar (about one cup per load) to the rinse water, but this is NOT always recommended by manufacturers. Be sure to read your labels for laundering. In addition to helping with odors, vinegar helps to soften the diapers. I don’t use white vinegar personally, just to avoid having to sort or run the risk of ruining anything. I would prefer to keep my routine simple.

Don’t Use: BLEACH. Although many cloth diaper gurus will tell you to avoid it like the plague, I say bleach goes on both lists. DO use bleach to fight infection (yeast or diaper rashes) but DON’T rely on it in a regular wash routine. Bleach breaks down fibers in cloth diapers that can cause them to deteriorate. It can also ruin your adorable covers if you aren’t super careful. Add bleach to the rinse water sparingly to avoid mishaps.

Washing Your Cloth Diapers

Always be sure to wash your diapers in a separate load from regular laundry. Clearly you wouldn’t want smelly diapers washing around with your new sweater, would you? You can however, toss in your covers, inserts, and cloth wipes all together unless they have special washing instructions.

Try not to overload your machine. You want them to get a really good toss around the washer to ensure that they’re as clean as possible. Diapers that are suffering from those clean, but not so clean washes will be highly ineffective when it’s time to use on your little one, and no mommy wants that.

It will depend on the specific size of your washer, but about 2 dozen diapers is a good cut off point for load size. Having 3 kids in cloth diapers, when I do my cloth diaper laundry sometimes it’s a lot easier for me to just do two separate washes and split up the covers (because we’re a pockets family!) and our various inserts.

Mom Tip! If your family uses diaper systems with more fabric than a normal cover or pocket diaper, I would highly recommend separating your AIO (All in One) cloth diapers from any inserts or cloth wipes to make sure they’re washed thoroughly.

Step 1. Do a pre rinse in cool/warm water to remove any excess urine and stinky stuff. I think it all comes down to preference really. I’ve read that cold water use is better to avoid stains, and why use extra hot water when you don’t need to, and I’ve also read that urine is more easily removed with warmer temperatures. I say go with your gut on this one!
Step 2. Do a heavy duty wash in warm/hot water with your chosen detergent.
Step 2 ½. (Optional) If I’m finding my diapers to be extra smelly this go around, I’ll normally go ahead and do a second regular wash in cold water with less detergent. I just love for my diapers to really feel clean, and this really helps to ease my mind a bit. Lingering odor can mean lingering bacteria and germs. NOT GOOD.
Step 3. Do a short rinse in cold water to remove any missed detergent. I find an extra rinse to be very important. You want to try your best to avoid product build up.
Step 4. Hang dry or tumble dry your diaper laundry.

Drying Tips

Avoid using extreme heat on your cloth diapers. This should apply throughout your entire wash routine, but definitely during drying to avoid damage.

Mom Tip! If your family uses diapers with Velcro fasteners vs snaps, be sure to close them to prevent linking or damage in the dryer.

Line drying is always an option for drying your cloth diapers. For the crunchy moms, it’s environmentally friendly, and for the frugal moms, it’s definitely cost efficient! This always provides a great window of time for sunning if you’re line drying outside. Sunning your diapers is the cheapest, and easiest way to help whiten your diapers just by giving them some tanning time.

Hang drying or line drying your diapers can sometimes cause a bit of stiffness, in which I would just recommend a quick tumble in the dryer to loosen them up.


Be sure to check out What’s In My Diaper Bag. (Cloth Edition!) or some of my cloth diaper reviews, here on my blog.

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