Sanitize and Disinfect Cloth Diapers: An Easy Beginners Guide

  • Post category:Wash Care

How To Disinfect Cloth Diapers in 2020

2020 has been an interesting and action-packed year so far. This new decade began with political upheaval and transitioned without hesitation into a worldwide health crisis that is currently the deciding factor in much of our daily routine. The emergence of COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, has caused most of us to approach daily life as we once knew it with a whole new perspective and some brand new (or more vigilant) hygiene habits.

Let’s face it. Every handshake, every encounter with a shopping cart, every cough and sneeze from another person within ten feet of us is causing an internal panic that drives most of us straight to the sink to wash our hands. Many of us now carry hand sanitizer around with us as though it were a government-issued ID.

If all of this wasn’t stressful and complicated enough for an individual, it is multiplied for parents of young babies and toddlers. Babies and toddlers have younger, weaker immune systems and so it is essential to know and practice proper hygiene in the home, daycare facilities, and any other place that they may frequent.

One major hygiene concern is diaper changing. Every diaper change requires clean hands, clean surfaces to change the baby on, sanitary hygiene supplies and of course a fresh, clean replacement diaper. For the parents who are practicing the eco-friendly version of diapering by using cloth diapers, there are a few added steps to practice proper hygiene. One of these additional steps is sanitizing soiled cloth diapers properly.
Disinfect Cloth Diapers with bleach

To bleach or not to bleach….that is the question

When it comes to killing bacteria, there is nothing like good old fashioned bleach. Even the CDC gives explicit directions on how to sanitize surfaces with bleach. The CDC recommends that when using bleach we do so in a well-ventilated area, use gloves and avoid mixing bleach with other cleaners such as ammonia.

It is important to understand that there is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning requires soap and clean, warm water to remove dirt and debris. Sanitizing, on the other hand, requires bacteria-killing substances like bleach.

The first thought that may come to mind when one hears “bleach” and “baby” in the same sentence is that using bleach might sound harsh. This is correct. It can be harsh on baby’s skin, and even your own, while using bleach to disinfect cloth diapers. However, there is a proper way to use it and it doesn’t have to be irritating to anyone’s skin during the process.

Using bleach is a personal decision as a parent and you will need to decide what you feel comfortable with. While there are alternatives which will be mentioned herein, bleach always comes out the winner when it comes to testing various products and their bacterial killing properties. Nothing compares. Bleach kills yeast, Norovirus, and a host of other bacteria that prove resistant to other sanitizers and laundry detergents.

Once you decide….how do you disinfect your cloth diapers?

Let’s assume that you are okay with using bleach for sanitizing. The next logical question would be: “how do I use bleach safely to disinfect cloth diapers for my baby?”

There is a safe way to go about the whole process. Sanitizing cloth diapers with bleach is not something that needs to be done with every wash. There are some specific times when it is highly advisable.

First of all, you want to be sure to disinfect cloth diapers if they were purchased second hand. Yes, there are plenty of cloth diapers available for purchase online that have been previously used. With that in mind, even if they look perfectly white and clean it would be highly advisable to sanitize them to be sure that no hidden bacteria are lurking around in them.

Babies can develop yeast infections and rashes. The bacteria from yeast can easily survive a standard wash cycle even when using hot water and detergent. Bleach will completely eradicate the yeast from cloth diapers. Using a cloth diaper that has not been properly sanitized poses a risk of reintroducing the yeast infection to your baby.

Ammonia is another problem that requires bleach to resolve. Concentrated urine can develop an unpleasant ammonia-like odor. The only substance that will break it down and get rid of it is bleach.

So, how do you sanitize cloth diapers properly?


  • Empty and flush the contents of the diaper down the toilet
  • Use a disinfecting bleach (plain and odorless bleach)
  • Fill your washing machine with cold water and add the following amount of bleach: 1/3 for a small capacity tub, 1/2 for a medium capacity tub and 3/4 for a large capacity tub.* Soak the diapers for at least 30 minutes
  • Rinse the diapers with a hot wash cycle
  • Wash the diapers using hot water and regular detergent
  • Repeat the hot wash cycle if any bleach odor remains

The most important step to avoid skin irritation is the last step. Be sure that you cannot smell any bleach on the diaper. The residual odor could indicate that there is still a substantial amount of bleach left in the material and that could be irritating on your baby’s skin.

You can learn more about bleach skin safety here from Healthline.
Borax And Peroxide

Bleach alternatives

If you don’t like the idea of using bleach, that’s okay. There are some alternatives that you can use but none of them can kill bacteria the way that bleach does. Some of the alternatives include Hydrogen Peroxide and Borax.


These recommendations are good reminders during a time like this when we are all worried about the spread of COVID-19. However, the standard for sanitizing your baby’s diapers should be the same at all times. This also extends to the surface areas where you change your baby’s diaper. Bleach is the key to keeping things bacteria-free. Just be sure to follow these simple guidelines to keep your baby healthy and happy.

From All Of Us Here in The O’Hagan Household

We hope you are all staying safe. During these difficult times, we feel it is of the utmost urgency to continue to look after one another and those that are most susceptible to hardship. We encourage each and every one of you to check in with those who may feel isolated or are unable to access much-needed supplies.

Here is what we plan on doing to stay in good spirits:

Cloth Diaper Virus Precaution


If your new to cloth diapering, start with our Cloth Diapering 101 article.


We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn More..