“There is more than one way to skin a cat.” This statement is quite appropriate for the cloth diaper washing debate. Everyone does things a little different and there is no one way that works for everyone. We can only make the best choices for our families and base decisions on experience, whether ours or someone else’s.
Our Diaper Washing Experience & Research
That being said, we have experimented quite a bit with our diaper washing routine at home and have found a regimen that works for us! It is important to talk to people in your area because they use the same water you do. Hard and soft water can make a big impact on your laundry. So can water sources.
So, here is what works for us:
Prepping also known simply as washing your cloth diapers for the first time before using them. You need to make sure all of the natural oils are out of the fabric. Oils will make your diapers repel liquids and we want them to hold a lot!
So, in order to make sure your diapers are absorbing at maximum capacity, run them through 3-5 hot wash cycles, drying them in between each wash. You only need to use detergent in the first wash, but it won’t hurt if you use it in all of them.
It may be time-consuming, but you will be thanking yourself when you don’t have any leaks!
Remember that the less processing in your fabric (organic, unbleached), the more prep-washes they need.
Before Diaper Washing
After your baby makes a mess in the diaper, dispose of solid waste in the toilet using a diaper sprayer or the spatula method. Use a pre-treatment on the diaper. We recommend half of a Buncha Farmers Stain Stick grated up and mixed with water in a standard spray bottle. You can then toss the diaper in your pail for laundry day.
Diaper Washing Day
To remove any solid waste left in the diapers and prevent stains, we soak our diapers in a warm soak cycle with cloth-diaper-safe detergent (we like Foca Powder, Tide, Seventh Generation, and Molly’s Suds) for a couple of hours, depending on how much mess you’ve got. (If we don’t have any poopy diapers in our pail, sometimes we skip the soak and just prewash.) Then let your washer finish the pre-wash cycle. PREWASHING IS IMPORTANT! Prewashing removes waste and makes sure that your main wash is in clean water.
Next, run a hot wash cycle with cloth-diaper-safe detergent and a double rinse. You may need to use more detergent when using a natural, plant-based cleaner. NO FABRIC SOFTENER!
If you use an enzymatic cleaner, like vinegar, make sure you rinse them well after. If any is left in the diaper, it can cause a burn when baby soils the diaper as the enzymes will immediately start to break down the waste.
There are two schools of thought on diaper drying. Low heat in the dryer or hang dry only. An electric dryer will break down anything faster than hang drying, but hang drying will take longer. You can toss everything in the dryer and remove shells as soon as they dry to prevent any excess heat on them. Prefolds and inserts can take much more abuse than outer shells. Make sure you toss some wool dryer balls in your dryer to help agitate, soften, and speed up drying.
If you have any staining, laying your diapers out in the sun for a couple of hours while still damp will help!
*Remember, this is what works for us! It is not the ONLY way to wash diapers.
Our Thoughts on Cloth Diaper Specific Detergent
We have tried many different soaps and detergents on our diapers. The reason we recommend Foca Powder, Tide, Seventh Generation, and Molly’s Suds is because we KNOW they work. We do not have smell issues or repelling/absorbency problems. Many people use conventional detergents on their diapers for years and never have any problems. Those people, in our experience, are in the minority.
Many diaper manufacturers recommend only using cloth-diaper-specific detergents. Most companies, but not all, are very transparent with their ingredients. We want to know what is going to be used on something that is against baby’s most sensitive skin, so be sure to read labels or check out our detergent articles on YourClothDiaper’s website!
Happy cloth diaper washing!