Cloth diapering is becoming more and more popular with many people making the switch either out of a desire to save money on diapers or because of the environmental benefits to using cloth rather than disposable diapers. That said, for many people, the thought of actually washing cloth diapers is a turn off. But what does washing cloth diapers ACTUALLY entail? The good news is, washing cloth diapers doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. In fact, it’s really quite simple once you get the hang of it.

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FAQs for Washing Cloth Diapers

washing cloth diapers

Before we get started, here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get when it comes to washing cloth diapers.

Do I need a special washing machine to wash cloth diapers?

No. You can wash cloth diapers in any washing machine – standard or high efficiency. You can adjust your wash cycles based on your own machine to ensure there is enough water to get your diapers cleaned.

Is there a specific laundry detergent that I need to buy?

It is true that often times, specific cloth diaper brands will have recommended laundry detergent brands, but for the most part, you do not need to buy a special or expensive detergent for your cloth diapers. You do, however, need to make sure the detergent that you use is free of additives such as enzymes, softeners, and perfumes, which can interfere with the fibers of your diapers and cause build-up, making them less absorbent over time. Additionally, you can make your own baby laundry detergent that is safe for your child.

Where do I keep the dirty diapers?

Similar to disposable diapers, you’ll want to keep your dirty cloth diapers in an airtight diaper pail with a liner. Many parents who cloth diaper recommend using a reusable, antimicrobial liner for storing soiled diapers. These liners can then be tossed right in the wash with your diapers for cleaning.

How often should I wash cloth diapers?

It is recommended that cloth diapers be washed regularly, every 2-3 days.

What about the poop?

Fair question. There are a few ways to handle solid waste. If it’s truly solid, you can just dump it into the toilet and flush. For softer stools, you can opt to use a diaper sprayer, which attaches to your toilet to spray the diaper off into the toilet. If you don’t have a sprayer available, you can simply “swish” the dirty diaper in the toilet and get off what you can. Don’t stress about this. It all comes out in the wash.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

washing cloth diapers

Here is the basic wash routine for getting your cloth diapers clean.

1Pre-soak and rinse with cold water

Before you put the diapers through a wash cycle, you want to give them a good rinse in cold water. This loosens up any built up acids and any remaining solid waste on the diapers. Make sure you use cold water for the rinse to reduce setting any stains.

2Wash with hot water on longest wash cycle

If you are using a standard washing machine, you’ll want to set the temperature to hot for this cycle. Many high efficiency machines have a sanitize cycle that is hot. You will want to be sure to use the longest cycle to give those diapers plenty of time to get truly clean.

3Second rinse

Once they’ve gone through the hot wash cycle, you will want to give your cloth diapers a second rinse. Often, you can set this when you load the diapers in and your machine will sequence automatically to the second rinse. The purpose of this second rinse is to make sure that there is no detergent residue at all left on your diapers. Such residue build up can lessen the absorbency of your diapers over time, which could cause diaper rash, and leaking diapers – so make sure not to skip this part!

4Line or machine dry your diapers.

Be sure to check with your specific brand of diapers, but most cloth diapers are dryer safe and can be dried on low heat.  If you are concerned about the heat from the dryer wearing the elastic of your diapers, hanging them to dry is always a safe option.

5Fold and Repeat

And that’s it. Once your diapers are thoroughly dry, you can fold them and put them back in your stash!

Making the decision to cloth diaper will certainly add laundry to your routine, but washing cloth diapers doesn’t have to be daunting. These 5 steps will help you get into a good wash routine with your cloth diapers that will become just as second nature to you as your regular laundry. Once you have a handle on it, it really is as simple as wash, dry, repeat.   

Check out this article on Beyond 6 Months – Benefits of Nursing to One Year.


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Mary Leigh is a Carolina girl born & bred.  She is the proud wife of her college sweetheart and best friend and a stay-at-home mom to two boys.  She is the blogger behind Live Well Play Together, where she works to celebrate everyday motherhood and provide fun and simple ideas to encourage learning through play.  Mary Leigh is passionate about her faith, family, and friends – and she’ll never turn down a latte or baked treat. Or ice cream. Connect with Mary Leigh at Live Well Play Together.