How to Wash Cloth Diapers

First, I would like to say thank you to those of you reading this who are already using cloth diapers and even to those who are seriously considering going the cloth diaper route, for doing your part in saving landfills from thousands of diapers. It takes an estimated 450 years for disposable diapers to decompose in a landfill - that's disgusting!

Secondly, the cloth diapers of today have changed a lot since my days of changing diapers! Way back in the day I used plain white cloth diapers, secured by safety-pins and a separate, waterproof pull-on style pant on top. Those nylon covers were bulky, ugly, and very inconvenient if you had a messy change on your hands! Then there was the fragrant, wet diaper pail for pre-soaking, ugh.

Today's cloth diapers with their all-in-one design styles and snap close covers in fun colors/patterns, it is an attractive, money saving alternative, even if you do it part-time. There are unavoidable occasions (like daycare) where you have no choice but to use disposables, but every little bit helps.


Whichever brand of diapers you choose, follow their prep-instructions to insure maximum absorption before using the first time. Some require washing/drying a few times. You can test by pouring a small amount of warm water on the diaper - if it beads, it's not ready, if it is absorbed right away, then you (or should I say baby) are good to go.

All you need to do after changing a diaper is shake solids into the toilet, and drop the diaper into the lined pail after a change, until ready to wash. Of course, there's nothing to do for just pee, but as for the other, the more you remove, the better/easier cleaning will be, so if you need to dunk, or spray then go for it. Depending on the style of diaper you choose, you may have the option of separating an insert from the cover - check your instructions.

When it comes to laundering, it's pretty simple. Carry the filled diaper pail liner to the washer and turn it inside out as you dump the load in - no touching involved! If it is a machine washable liner, then toss it in too.

Back when I did this, all we had were top-loading washers, which were (and still are) great for washing diapers. Front-loading washers have an issue with not using enough water to rinse diapers properly. You need to manually set the machine to use the maximum water possible. Try doing smaller loads, and possibly multiple rinses until you are sure all of the detergent is out of the diapers.

You will want to do a pre-wash one time without detergent, then run a second wash with hot water and detergent. Do an extra rinse to be sure all the detergent is out of the diapers. Adding a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to that first rinse can help get the soap out better, but it may not be recommended for the waterproof cover - check your instructions. 

Keep it simple with detergent - dye and fragrance free. Recommended brands include Tide Free & Gentle, All Free and Clear, Arm & Hammer Sensitive, Seventh Generation Free and Clear, you get the idea. 

Dry in the dryer, or clothesline. I always liked to hang outside in the sun, a natural brightener and freshener.

If the diapers have a lingering odor of detergent or ammonia from urine, they may not be rinsed thoroughly enough. There are also products available such as Biokleen Bac-Out and Ecos which are enzyme products you may want to try in the initial wash cycle.

Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets, as it decreases the absorbency of the diapers, and do not use bleach since it may break down the waterproof cover. A bleach-alternative may be able to be used on occasion, but it is best to follow the diaper manufacturer's instructions.