Cloth Diaper Laundry Care

How Do I Wash My Cloth Diapers?

Cloth diaper laundry care does not have to be nearly as disgusting or as difficult as people think. Images of baby poo all over your hands and/or laundry machine are likely to scare most newbies away from starting their own cloth diapering journey. As a mother who cloth diapers two children under two, I promise it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle everyday. Below are my step-by-step instructions for successful laundering using the dry pail method (I did not buy a special diaper pail, I recommend a stainless steel trash can with a tight lid and a reusable diaper pail liner that can be tossed in the wash with your diapers):

1. Disassemble cloth diapers when changing your baby and remove any solid waste. If you are breastfeeding, just place the diaper and its inserts into the pail and you’re finished. If you have a child eating solid foods, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using flushable diaper liners like Bummis. All you have to do is lift out the liner and throw it in the toilet. Many people use a diaper sprayer to rinse the insert off; however, I never liked them because you have to carry a soaking wet dirty insert back to the diaper pail and also if the sprayer has a lot of water pressure, than little drops of water will bounce off the diaper and get everywhere. Once the waste is dealt with, place the diaper and inserts into your diaper pail.

2. Wash your cloth diapers every other day or at least every 3 days. The longer they sit, the smellier they get.

3. Make sure you have a full load of diapers to wash (12-15). If you do not and you have an energy efficient washing machine, add a wet towel to create more weight so that the machine will add more water to your cycle.

4. Do an initial rinse of your diapers in the cold cycle. I use a tiny bit of detergent on this cycle because I have very hard water. It is not necessary to add detergent at this point unless you are continually getting stinky diapers. If your diapers are always smelly, they might have to be stripped (SEE BELOW).

5. The second wash should be a nice long cycle with detergent and hot water. I use heavy duty cycle on my HE washing machine. I also make sure the water/soil level is on high/heavy.

6. Rinse on cold at least once after a hot cycle. I usually rinse twice.

7. Put your inserts in the dryer and line dry your covers.

8. Wash natural fibers (cotton, hemp, wool) together and synthetic fibers together if possible. All new natural inserts must be washed and dried (with no detergent) 5+ times to increase their absorbency and rid the of their oils. The more times they are washed, the more absorbent they will be. Wool must be washed with special wool detergent.

What If My Diapers Are Still Smelly?

If you have washed and washed your diapers and they still smell stinky or like ammonia the minute your child begins to soil them, they’ll need to be stripped. Diapers need to be stripped when there is too much residue on the inserts. This residue comes from detergent and hard water buildup. A list of the best cloth diaper detergents can be found here.


Stripping Your Diapers:

1. Always start with CLEAN diapers (they do not have to be dry, just clean. Out of the washer is fine.)

2. Fill your top-loader, bathtub, or container ½ full with HOT water (as hot as you can get it from the tap.)

3. Add in your mineral removal solution and dissolve well.

There are several mineral removing solutions:

A. Grovia Mighty Bubbles: At $15 for 10 pods it may seem pricy. However, it equals out to $1.50 PER pod 3 pods are needed for ONE strip = $4.50 per strip. These pods also make excellent boosters to your washes afterwards!

B. DIY mix*: This homemade mixture has awesome success. Washing Soda, Borax, and Calgon create this concoction at around $16.28 for it all at Wal-Mart (in the laundry aisle.) 3 Tablespoons of each for one strip = $0.49 per strip. Also, all components can be used for cleaning and laundry boosters post strip.

(Note: If you are unable to get ALL 3 ingredients, you can mix ¼ cup of two of the three ingredients, OR ½ cup of a single ingredient. HOWEVER, the more ingredients you have, the larger the broad spectrum of minerals being targeted will be.)

C.) RLR*: $2.99 per pack x 3 for one strip = $9 a strip (search for RLR)

**We also suggest that you ADD ½ cup of good strong detergent, preferably with enzymes, to options b AND c. This will improve the effectiveness and reduce any risk of temporary absorbency issues.**

4. Soak all your items in the water until it cools (at least 2 hours,) or overnight (but no more than 8 hours). Ideally, you will soak between 4 and 6 hours.

5. Stir the items occasionally to help release more minerals from the fabrics.

The water MAY change colors or get murky. It’s also normal for it to smell slightly unpleasant. However, if your water doesn’t change colors that is okay too! There are plenty of gross things that we can’t see! Don’t worry!

6. After the water is cool drain the tub, and squeeze all water from the items.

7. Complete with a WATER ONLY wash cycle. This will make sure all the detergent and mineral solution is out of your fabrics in preparation for the bleach soak to follow.

After the rinse is complete, it is necessary to follow with a 30 minute COLD bleach soak. This will make sure any bacteria (attached to the trapped minerals) that have been brought to the surface are killed. When this step is bypassed, rashes and burns can happen.

Keep in mind that properly cleaned diapers should never need to be stripped. If you find yourself needing to strip your diapers, it’s time to adjust something in your wash routine (detergent amount or type, water level, etc.)

I have referenced this amazing website called Fluff Love University for my stripping routine. Happy washing!