Cleaning Cloth Diapers Guide – Keep It Simple

First off, relax! Cleaning cloth diapers are so easy!! Just try to keep it simple, find a good routine and stick with it.

What To Do With the Dirty Diapers

You will need to decide on a place to store your dirty diapers until wash day. There are a few different options.

One is to use a diaper pail. You don’t need one of those fancy pails designed for disposable diapers. In fact, they don’t work too great for cloth. A plastic trash can or a large bucket works just fine. Something big enough to hold up to 24 dirty diapers, with or without a lid. A lid will help contain smells, so will a sprinkle of baking soda in the bottom.

Some people like to fill their diaper pail with water so the dirty diapers can soak a bit before washing them. We don’t recommend doing this. Your diapers will get plenty clean if you just put them in a dry pail until laundry day. Not only that, but soaking stinky diapers for a long time will drive the smells deeper into the fabric, and soaking diapers made with PUL fabric will ruin the fabric very quickly. Plus, a bucket of water sitting around is a drowning hazard for your baby!

We live in a small enough house that we take my daughter’s dirty diapers straight to the laundry room after a change. I just toss them directly into the washing machine or lay them on top if I am in the middle of another load.

Some folks like to use a cloth pail liner, either on its own or inside the diaper pail. These are great because they go right into the wash with the dirty diapers, they are waterproof, and they are made from the same material as many diaper covers, which helps to prevent leaks and smells. If you do use a cloth pail liner, I recommend getting a few of them so you always have a clean one on hand.

When cleaning cloth diapers, there is no need to dunk your diapers in the toilet. This is what people used to do, but it is a gross step that is totally unnecessary!

You may, however, want to invest in a diaper sprayer. This handy gadget hooks onto your toilet and helps you spray off the stuck-on poop before tossing the dirty diaper into your bag or pail. We don’t use one, but the people who do swear by them. What we do with our poopy diapers is shake the poop out into the toilet and whatever doesn’t come off goes into the wash. Occasionally, if we get a really goopy diaper (you know the kind!) I will rinse it off in our utility sink before throwing it into the washer.

You do not need to rinse breastfed baby poop off your dipes, it is water-soluble and washes out really easy.

If you use pocket diapers, be sure to pull the stuffing out before putting the diaper into your diaper pail/bag. It is so not fun doing this after your dipes have been sitting in a bag of wet, stinky diapers for a few days!


Your Washing Routine

When you start talking to people about cleaning cloth diapers, you will discover that there is no “one way” of doing things. You will need to experiment and figure out what works best for you and your family.

Here is a basic routine that many people use to get you started:

  • Wash your diapers every 2-3 days, longer than that and they will start to get really stinky!
  • Before washing, make sure to fold velcro tabs in so they don’t cause your diapers to get all tangled up in the wash.
  • Set your washing machine on the highest water level to make sure you get enough water in there to rinse your diapers really well.
  • Do a cold prewash, or soak your diapers anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight, whatever you have time for. This helps “loosen” everything up before you actually wash them. (Don’t soak diapers made from PUL overnight, this can ruin your diapers faster than normal wear and tear.)
  • Add your detergent. Use only 1/4 – 1/2 of the recommended amount of detergent. Too much and you will get detergent buildup, which is one of the leading causes of diaper stink! Also, choosing the right detergent is really important! You want a detergent free of perfumes, dyes, and other additives like brighteners. There are some great detergents that work really well for cleaning cloth diapers, like Allen’s Naturally.
  • Wash your diapers on hot with a cold rinse.
  • Do an additional cold rinse, to make sure all the detergent washes out.
  • Dry outside in the sunshine or in the dryer for 60-80 minutes.
  • When your diapers are done, smell them. If they stink or smell like detergent, you should rinse them again until they smell like, well.. nothing!

See, piece of cake!! Cleaning cloth diapers is not difficult, it just takes a few extra laundry loads each week and paying attention to what is working and what isn’t.

A Few Extra Tips for Cleaning Cloth Diapers

A few things that may help with cleaning your cloth diapers:

  • Add baking soda to your pre-wash and vinegar to your first rinse. Some people find this really helps to get their diapers much cleaner. And for those of you with hard water, the vinegar rinse really helps!
  • You can also experiment with essential oils in the rinse cycle. Tea tree oil is the most common one used because of it’s disinfecting properties. But, be careful. Sometimes using essential oils can cause build up on your diapers depending on your water quality.
  • Most diapers will come with washing instructions. Be sure to read and follow the diaper maker’s instructions since some fabrics require a little special handling.
  • Wool is a fabric that needs special care. Don’t wash wool diaper covers in your washing machine.

Now, after all that, most people will run into issues from time to time. Things like diaper stink, stains, stripping your diapers, treating diaper rash, washing with a front loader, etc. For help with the most common cloth diaper issues, go to our Stripping Cloth Diapers – How To Deep Clean Your Cloth Diapers page.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers – “No No’s”

There are definitely some things that should not be used when cleaning cloth diapers and will likely mess with their effectiveness.

  • Bleach – Will break down the fibers and could irritate babies sensitive skin.
  • Fabric Softener – leaves a residue on diapers that can irritate baby and will affect the diapers ability to absorb urine.
  • Diaper Cream with zinc oxide, fish oils, and waxes – very hard to wash off of cloth diapers.
  • “Baby” Detergents – these have too many added softeners and heavy scents added which will leave too much build up on your diapers.
  • Natural Laundry Detergents – I know, seems weird, but often they will use ingredients that are good for the earth but will leave a residue on the diaper, effecting absorbency.
  • Fragrance and Brighteners – can irritate the baby’s bum and leave a film on your diapers.

I hope this information helps you with cleaning your cloth diapers. Remember to keep it simple!

As always, I am here for you. Still need some help? Private message me on Facebook !

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