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I’m standing here in my laundry room and started thinking, “Why are there so many confusing cloth diaper wash instructions online? and what’s the simplest routine for washing cloth diapers in any washing machine?” I personally have tried all sorts of cloth diaper wash routines that other well-meaning folks have recommended. However, they all seemed more like “work” and “learning a whole new thing!” I wanted a wash routine that would fit my busy schedule! I wanted a wash routine that wouldn’t require me to have post-it notes pasted all over my laundry room wall!
Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions that work in (nearly ) any machine!
- Pre-wash: COLDWATER, NO DETERGENT
Empty diaper pail into the washer and use the pre-wash (also called rinse & spin or quick wash) cycle to rinse out the urine and any remaining fecal matter.
- Main wash: REGULAR CYCLE WITH EXTRA RINSE, HOT WASH, AND MEDIUM WATER LEVEL
- Add ½ of a cup baking soda, 1/3 detergent, and one tablespoon of Oxyclean (this can be purchased in bulk at Sam’s or at your local discount store).
- Add 1 cup vinegar to balance the pH level
- I let my diapers sit overnight to allow the pH to balance than the first thing I put the lid down on the washer and my diapers are done!
- Dry: Dry diapers in the dryer. DO NOT USE ANY SOFTNER (it will coat the diapers and make them less absorbent). Or you can hang them in the sun to dry, put them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up. The sun makes an excellent stain remover! Air-dry your covers. They will last much longer
In the rest of the article, I’ll give you some extra tips that have helped me through the years such as; how often to wash, what to do with poopy cloth diapers, my thoughts on cloth diaper sprayers and the dunk and swish, what to do about formula-fed poop stained cloth diapers and finally how to clean poopy cloth diapers without sprayer.
How To Clean Cloth Diapers With Poop
Remove your child’s diaper and dump any solid waste into the toilet. I prefer to rinse my diapers as the bacteria doesn’t smell as bad in the pail after 2 -3 days. I also use a dry pail, which means the diapers are placed in a pail that contains a diaper bag or liner in it. Some people prefer a wet pail, meaning the keep water with some baking soda in the pail. I have used both, and a dry pail works best for me.
How Often To Wash Cloth Diapers
How often to wash is different for every cloth diaper household! How often you wash your cloth diapers is going to depend on how many you have in your stash and how often your little one is urinating or soiling them. Newborns tend to soil diapers frequently while older babies tend to urine in larger quantity.
Getting Rid of The Poop Using The Dunk & Swish
The dunk and swish method of cleaning poop off of cloth diapers is exactly what it sounds like. You Dunk the diaper into the toilet, Swish it around, Dunk again, Swish..repeat until the solids are no longer stuck to the diaper. For those who can not afford a diaper sprayer, this method works to an extent, but the poop residue is never as clean as compared to spraying with a diaper sprayer. However, anything left on the diaper will come out in Step ONE of my wash instructions, from above (Pre-wash: COLDWATER, NO DETERGENT). That’s the sole purpose of this step, to rinse away any leftover urine or poop residue!
My Thoughts On Cloth Diaper Sprayers
I absolutely LOVE my cloth diaper sprayer. Anyone who has been reading my blog for any length of time may remember the article I wrote comparing it to slice bread! (How Does A Diaper Sprayer Work) A diaper sprayer is one of those things that you don’t realize how much they make your life easier until you finally get one! You simply hold the diaper at an angle (as to not get backspray in your face!) and the spray! It’s like a garden hose sprayer or dish sprayer attached to your toilet water supply!
What To Do About Formula-Fed Poop-Stained Diapers?
If you have introduced formula or solid foods, then you need to start spraying the poop off or dumping it into your toilet. All you need is a diaper sprayer, which you’re going to need eventually anyway once your baby begins solid foods to spray that poop off into the toilet. A diaper sprayer just looks like the sprayer attachment that’s on your kitchen sink. You don’t have to use one of those, you can just dump the poop, or you can take the diaper and drop it into the toilet and sort of swish it around to get the poop off.
What To Do With Breast-Fed Poop-Stained Diapers?
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, then you can take that diaper with the poop on it directly from your baby to your washing machine. That’s right; you can stick the diaper with the poop on it right in the wash. The reason why is because it is water soluble so that poop will completely dissolve in the wash with the water. It will come out clean it. However, if you have introduced formula or solid foods, then you need to start spraying the poop off or dumping it into your toilet.
What Is The Best Diaper Sprayer For Cloth Diapers?
The highest rated diaper sprayer for cloth diapers is the “SmarterFresh Cloth Diaper Sprayer.” This unit gets rave reviews on Amazon! The kit comes with everything you need to complete their famous “10-minute install) – Thier words, not mine. I’m technically challenged and have to admit; it took me about 18-20 minutes to install mine. Then again, I did it without any help from hubby. Two-Points for Mom!
What Is The Cheapest Diaper Sprayer For Cloth Diapers?
I actually found two diaper sprayers that are considerably cheap! The “2 in 1 Cloth Diaper Sprayer and Handheld Bidet Sprayer” which says that it “includes wall mount to keep sprayer up high from toddlers when not in use” and “styles vary and may not include T-valve.” So if you’re looking for super cheap, this is proabably what you’re looking for. Keep in mind though that you may need to purchase as T-valve.
The next cheapest diaper sprayer I could find was the “AWESON Quality ABS Cloth Diaper Sprayer“. This sprayer is actually a kit, so no need to purchase anything extra. I personally am NOT impressed with this unit! The reviews are horrible!
Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions To Clean Poopy Diapers Without A Diaper Sprayer
Disposable Liners: You can also purchase diaper liners. Disposable diaper liners can be taken off the diaper after your baby has soiled it and be thrown directly into the trash. For those on public sewage and not a septic tank, the best place is to put all the poop into our toilet regardless of whether we’re using disposable diapers, cloth diapers or disposable liners. You really want that poop to be going down the toilet and not into our landfills! Disposable liners can range from $5 and up. You can see the $5 range here or the $15 range here.
Make Your Own: You can also just use strips of fabric in your diaper, and then you can remove those strips of fabric after they soil their diaper. Old T-Shirts, any old fabric really… cut them into strips and instant cloth diaper liners. I wouldn’t want to do this full time while cloth diapering, but the do-it-yourself method of cutting worn-out clothing will do in a pinch when you are in between paydays and out of purchased liners.
Reusable Liners: There are also Reusable cloth diaper liners, which to me defeats the whole “just throw away the poop” thing, but then again reusable liners are more cost-effective, will put less waste in the landfills and is more cost-effective. So I guess if you’re looking at diaper liners the question is Do I want super easy throwaway, or do I want to make my dollar stretch as far as it can. See them here and here.
Caring for your cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers
Should you use soap or detergent to wash your diapers? Soap is made from natural ingredients, while detergent is a cleaning product without natural soap, which means that detergents contain at least some synthetics. If your goal is to be as gentle as possible on the environment, choose soap.
Some will recommend that you not use soap to wash cloth diapers because of the reaction with hard water that can leave a residue. The natural solution is simple: a vinegar rinse will break down the residue, so your diapers maintain absorbency.
If you do choose a detergent, be sure to look for detergent made from renewable resources rather than petrochemicals. You can also find many detergents made with natural fragrances and no dyes.
Washing Diaper Covers
Most diaper covers do not need to be washed after every use, but be sure to wash Haute Pockets or Pocket Cloth Diapers every time they are used since the cover is next to baby’s skin. Soiled polyester covers can be placed in a laundry pail until wash time then washed with the diapers. Do not place wool covers in the pail.
Wash wool covers separately in lukewarm water with a wool wash. Do not use regular soaps or detergents for wool, which is a protein fiber and needs different care. If you do not have wool wash on hand, use a small amount of gentle shampoo and 100% liquid lanolin.
Our Washing Method
- Use a dry pail. No soaking! Shake the excess feces into the toilet before putting diaper into a pail. Add a drop or two of lemon essential oil to a cotton ball and wipe the inside of the diaper pail to control odor and for its nice citrus scent. Better yet, use the recipe below to make your own spray!
- Never use fabric softeners. These degrade the fibers and affect absorbency.
- A single load should have no more than 24 diapers.
- Hang Bummis, Wonderoos, and Fuzzi Bunz to dry to increase their lifespan.
- Dry fleece covers with diapers, wipes, and inserts on high heat.
- High heat or direct sunlight will sterilize cloth diapers.
If you care for cloth diapers by cleaning and rinsing well then drying with high heat, you will not only give them a long absorbent life, but you will avoid bacteria and irritants that can cause diaper rash. With a little experience, you will soon be the expert on how to wash cloth diapers.
DIY Deodorizing Diaper Pail Spray
- In a 4 oz. spray bottle, combine tea tree essential oil and lemon essential oil.
- Measure in 1 oz. of witch hazel.
- Add 2 oz. Distilled Water
- Cap and shake.
- Spray down Diaper Pail and Inside of Lid, Allow To dry completely before using.
- DO NOT USE REGULAR BLEACH.** USE BORAX SPARINGLY – Harsh products will wear out the cotton fibers very quickly.
- DO NOT ADD FABRIC SOFTENER – It will decrease the absorbency of the diapers by coating the cotton fibers.
- SUN GETS STAINS OUT AND STERILIZES DIAPERS! You can also sprinkle some lemon juice on a stain to remove it.
- A SECOND RINSE is recommended to get rid of any leftover detergent, especially for babies with sensitive skin or that are prone to diaper rash.
- A HOT MAIN WASH WILL GET RID OF BACTERIA and will not contaminate your washing machine.
** Using bleach will wear out your cloth diaper fibers, however, I have used a capful or two on occasion when I have had a really nasty diaper rash and again when the flu was running rampant through the home. It can be used… but not as a rule of thumb!