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How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Washing cloth diapers doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Here’s a rundown of how we wash cloth diapers.

How often do we wash diapers?

Right now I am washing every 4-5 days. My diaper stash includes 12 pocket diapers, 2 hybrids, and a dozen or so diaper covers with pre-fold inserts. Our baby girl goes through around six diapers per day, meaning we wash around 24 diapers roughly twice per week.

How often you wash diapers is entirely up to you. It will be determined on two factors: How many diapers you have and how much laundry you want to do. I don’t think it would be wise to go any longer than one week before washing. This is simply because that pee and poop residue will start to get pretty darn stinky and make cleaning them that much more complicated.

What kind of detergent should I use to wash cloth diapers?

You might not want to use your regular laundry detergent on your cloth diapers for multiple reasons. Detergents can affect your diaper fabric and hinder its ability to absorb moisture. Detergents might cause irritation to your baby’s little bottom. Fluff Love University has broken down detergent options very thoroughly. They look at price, whether you can use it in a HE washer, if it breaks down enzymes, etc. Fluff Love is a great resource for all things cloth diaper.

I use a homemade detergent made from two parts borax, two parts washing soda, and one part Dr. Bronner’s almond bar soap all grated up. If you grate up your bar of soap and you have one cup of soap bits, mix that up with two cups of borax and two cups of washing soda.

Easy peasy!

Diaper Washing Process

Prepping the Diapers

  1. Remove solid waste from the diapers a.k.a. POOP. How you do this is your call. If your baby is exclusively breastfed you can skip this step if you want.
  2. Toss your diapers in your wet bag. Again, I don’t use a pail of any kind, just a wet bag buttoned to the end of my changing table.
  3. Remove the insert from your diapers. If you have all-in-ones you can skip this step. If you have pocket diapers you will need to pull the insert out. I don’t pull them out until I wash them.

Washing the Diapers

  1. Wash your diapers and covers. All your covers and inserts can be tossed in together and washed. I turn my wet bag inside out and throw that in, too. The first wash should be COLD with no detergent.
  2. Wash your diapers AGAIN. Second cycle I add in two Tablespoons of our homemade laundry detergent. I wash them on the second highest heat setting.
  3. Dry. I take all the inserts and reusable wipes and throw them in the dryer. I only air dry my covers because I want to preserve the elastic in them for as long as possible. Dryers are one of the quickest ways to wear out elastic. When the weather is wet or it is winter I hang all my covers on a simple drying rack. When the weather is warm and breezy, I dry them out on the line. Sunshine makes a great natural bleach.

Finishing Up

  1. Fold. I typically wash diapers after our baby girl has gone to bed, then hang them to dry or run them through the dryer over night. By the time we are up at 6:00 a.m. the covers are usually dry. After the baby is fed and before farm chores I’ll stuff my pocket diapers with their inserts, fold up the pre-folds, and toss the other covers in the changing table.
  2. Optional: Clean out wipe jar/sprayer and make a new solution. We typically mix up a fresh wipe solution when we wash diapers. The solution seems to hold up better if I wash out the jar with soap and let it dry before I mix up a new solution. The recipe is super simple: Two cups of filtered water, add in 1/2 – 1 Tablespoon of Dr. Bronner’s liquid unscented soap and 1/2-1 Tablespoon fractionated coconut oil.

What can make washing cloth diapers less gross?

One of the main reasons people don’t want to cloth diaper is they don’t want to deal with handling and washing dirty diapers. I can understand that, and there are some ways you can reduce the amount of diaper handling you have to do.

We have a sprayer hose and a contraption called a Spray Pal. This allows you to spray off diapers and keep splashing to a minimum.

spray pal and sprayer hose

I don’t use gloves to wash diapers. A simple pair of rubber gloves might help if you are squeamish.

One thing to keep in mind: some diapers require more handling than others. With all-in one cloth diapers, the whole thing gets washed. You don’t have to wash inserts or handle it much at all. If you have pocket diapers you’ll have to pull the insert out to wash it.

At the end of the day you are going to have to handle a certain amount of pee and poop. It’s not fun, but it is what it is. After a few rounds of washing you’ll get used to it.

What is “stripping diapers” and how do I do it?

After a lot of use, your diapers might get a build-up on them from detergents and such. This build-up can affect your diaper’s ability to absorb moisture.

The recipe I use for stripping cloth diapers uses dawn dish soap and bleach.

  • Add 1 tsp Dawn dish soap to your washer (I have HE, if you have a regular washer you’ll want to add another teaspoon or two).
  • Add 1/2 cup of bleach to your diapers, then run them through on HOT.
  • Rinse, again on HOT, with no detergent.
  • Do one more rinse with no detergent on HOT.
  • Check your diapers. They shouldn’t have a smell, soap suds, or feel as if there is any residue on them.
  • Dry them out in the warm sunshine if possible.

Watch and Learn

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Interested in learning more about cloth diapering? Check out my blog post and YouTube video, Cloth Diapering 101.

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