Cloth Diaper Newbie: How to Wash Cloth Diapers

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Having a good wash routine with your cloth diapers is one of the most important steps to success. There are so many factors to determine the best way to wash your diapers. Here are some commonly asked questions. If you’re new to cloth, then use this as a starting point. If you’re having troubles and stinky diapers, then use this to troubleshoot.

Here’s what I will cover:

  1. Newbie Routine
  2. How do I prep my diapers?
  3. How do I store my dirty diapers?
  4. How often should I wash my cloth diapers?
  5. What do I do with the poo?
  6. How do I strip diapers?
  7. How do I wash wool?
  8. Can I use bleach?
  9. How can I get stains out?
  10. I still have more questions?

1. Newbie Routine

Since there is no one size fits all routine, try this and see how it goes. Start with a rinse by washing all your diapers on cold with no detergent. This will help get all the ickys out and minimize staining. Then do a regular wash and rinse. Use warm or hot water to wash with a cloth diaper safe detergent. Some detergent you will only need half the recommended amount. Make sure there are no suds left.

Most diapers can go right in the dryer on medium/low. If you can line dry them, then more power to you! Synthetic fabrics (fleece and microfiber) air dry very nicely. Natural fabrics will get a bit stiff, so you may still want to fluff them in the dryer a bit. Most of the time I line dry my diaper shells and dry the rest in the dryer, including all-in-ones and fitteds.

2. How do I prep my diapers?

Different materials will require different care when preparing your diapers for use. It’s a good idea to read the suggestions of the manufacturer. Generally, synthetic polyester material, like fleece and microfiber, are pretty straightforward. Just wash, dry and they’re ready to use. Natural material, like cotton, hemp and bamboo, will require many washes. They all have natural oils on them and it will take at least 5-6 washes before they reach maximum absorbency. Most wool comes ready to use unless it is upcycled. Wool needs to be hand washed and re-lanolized. Go here to find out how to wash wool. Learn more about the different types of cloth diaper material.
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3. How do I store my dirty diapers?

A wet bag or pail are your two options. Usually if you use a pail you will want a pail liner. The wet bag hangs and the pail liner lines the pail, of course. Both the wet bag and pail liner are waterproof and washable, so you can throw them right in with the diapers. You will need at least two.

4. How often should I wash my cloth diapers?

This could depend on how many diapers you have. You don’t want to let your diapers sit out dirty for too long either. I wouldn’t go more than three days. Remember the longer you wait, the more you will have to wash and the hard it will be to fit them all in one load. I find that it works best for me to wash every other day. I don’t know if I could handle washing them every day. I do enough laundry as it is. Every other day insures all my dirty diapers will fit in the wash and I won’t run out of any by the time I get them clean.

5. What do I do with the poo?

Exclusively breastfed newborn poo is water soluble, so you can throw it right in the bag or pail without rinsing. For formula fed babies and babies that are eating solids, the poo needs to be removed from the diaper first. You can either use a liner to get the poo off easier, scrap it off or spray it off with a diaper sprayer. I use a diaper sprayer and scraper to get it into the toilet. This is actually better for the environment because human feces do not belong in landfills. You won’t find disposable users dumping their child’s poo before tossing the diaper… Plus one for cloth!

6. How do I strip diapers?

Periodically, diapers need a good deep cleaning. Detergent buildup can cause leaking or really stinky diapers. There are many ways to strip your diapers. The key is to get out whatever it is that’s inhibiting absorption and/or causing bad odor. You can do a hot rinse without detergent to check if the water gets sudsy. Sometimes just a hot rinse could help. You can also wash your diapers with dish soap. I hear everyone talk about needing to use blue Dawn dish soap. It doesn’t have to be that brand. I prefer to avoid P&G so I just use my Seventh Generation. It will work as long as it has a surfactant that removes oils and it doesn’t have added skin softeners. Add 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. at the most. Some brands suds up more. I use 1 tsp. with 7thGen. Then you need to rinse, rinse, rinse, until all the bubbles are gone. Lastly, if your diapers are really repelling liquid, you can boil the inserts. Just make sure you don’t boil any parts with PUL and/or snaps.

7. How do I wash wool?

Wool needs very different care compared to other cloth diaper materials. It’s used as a breathable yet waterproof cover. Wool covers only need to be washed every couple of months or if they get soiled (aka poo on them). They don’t need to be washed after each use. When washing you will re-lanolize them. To wash a wool cover, you simple swish it in a bucket with a squirt of liquid castile soap and a squirt of liquid lanolin. Start by filling the bucket with hot water and mixing in the soap and lanolin until it is dissolved. You then swish the wool. Make sure to clean any soiled areas beforehand. You can do that with just castile soap. Allow the wool to sit in the soap/lanolin mixture until the water is cool. Then gently wring it out. Place it between two towels and press as much of the water out as you can. Then air dry it. Remember the more you agitate wool the more it will felt.

8. Can I use bleach?

Most diapers you can use bleach, but you should always check with your warranty. I am not a big fan of bleach but I’ve used it a few times. I use a 1/4 cup in the first rinse cycle and then continue with my regular wash. If you are worried about damaging the PUL, then you can just bleach the inserts. You can also use a bleach alternative, sodium percarbonate. I use natural oxiclean on all my cotton prefolds and flats from time to time. I like to soak them after I’ve done a rinse. It helps with stains and any built up stink. If you are trying to remove stains you can also try “sun bleaching.” More info on the next question.washing-cloth-diapers

9. How can I get stains out?

Hands down, the best way to remove stains is by “sun bleaching.” You do this by placing a clean wet diaper into direct sun. It can be in a window or on a clothesline. It can even work on cloudy days. Enhance the power of the sun by adding lemon juice to the stain. On a sunny day I can remove a stain with lemon juice within an hour. It’s pretty amazing. This works for any organic stain!

10. I still have more questions?

Come visit me on facebook! I’m happy to help you with any questions you may have.
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About Angela Vullo

I am a mother to three wonderful children. I love to read and write. I created this blog to share my experience and tips on trying to live a green lifestyle.

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