How do I Wash and Care for my Cloth Diapers?

Caring for cloth diapers is actually very simple, but most people are afraid it will be hard or that they will do it incorrectly. In fact, cloth diapering can be just as convenient as disposables, with the right preparation and items in your diapering kit.

When you first receive your diapers, run them through the washer before putting them on your baby. Here are some general guidelines about how to wash, which detergents to use and how to handle diaper creams.

First Time Wash for New Cloth Diapers

Here are some general guidelines to help you prepare your diapers for first time use on your baby. Be sure to read the instructions on the diapers and to wash anything you purchase before you put it on  your baby for the first time.

  • Pockets, AIO’s and covers need to be washed and dried 1 time prior to use.
  • Hemp or cotton blend pre-folds and fitted diapers should be washed and dried 4-6 times before first use.
  • Do not wash hemp and cotton blend diapers/inserts/doublers in with your pocket/AIO’s/diaper covers the first time. Hemp and cotton blends contain natural oils that are released during the first few washes, and cause other diapers to repel instead of absorb.
  • Once you are done pre-washing diapers, the individual parts are fine to wash together.
  • Stay away from chlorine bleaches, detergents that contain bleach alternatives, borax, fabric softeners and pure soap products. They greatly reduce the life of your diapers. Fabric softeners cause a waxy buildup on diapers and they will repel moisture instead of absorb.
  • Diaper rash creams can have the same effect as fabric softeners. If you do use a diaper rash cream, use one that is cloth diaper friendly, fleece or a paper liner.

General Washing Instructions

There are a variety of different ways to do this, and most likely you’ll combine a few to create a cleaning regimen that works for your family.

Here is what we suggest if your baby is consuming formula or solid foods:

  • Be sure to put diaper solids in the toilet before throwing the diapers into the wash.
  • Run one cold cycle with all diapers, without detergent.
  • Run one hot cycle/cold rinse with 1/4 cup or recommended amount of cloth diaper friendly detergent.
  • You can run a cold rinse at this point without detergent. Make sure there are no detergent bubbles at the end of the cycle.  Detergent buildup can lead to odors and decreased absorbency.
  • Dry on normal/high heat until dry. Do not use any fabric softener sheets! Line dry when it’s warm outside to prolong the life of the diapers, save energy and remove stains.

Here is a handy chart for how often to wash based on your child’s age. (Not sure what the header should be on the last row)

Wash Daily Every day Every 2days Every 3 days
Up to 6 Mos. 10-12 20-24 30-36
6-12 Mos. 8-10 16-20 24-30
12-24 Mos. 6-8 12-16 18-24
Potty Learning 2-4 4-8 6-12

We also offer a diaper starter package. (link)

You do not need a special washer or dryer to use a cloth diaper system. The HE machines are a little more tricky because they limit the amount of water used per cycle, so you will have to find a way to “trick” the machine to make sure enough water being used to thoroughly clean the diapers.

Strip Diapers to Increase Absorbency

Stripping diapers is a great way to eliminate residue left by detergents, fabric softeners and other substances used to clean diapers. If you notice a decrease in the functionality of your diapers, build-up is the most likely culprit. Use this process any time you feel diapers are losing absorbency.

To strip pocket diapers: Before stripping, be sure to check the washing instructions on your diapers. Wash them as you would normally, but do not dry them. Place dirty diapers in the washing machine and run them through the hottest wash possible with NO detergent. You may even boil hot water on the stove to add to the washer. Then, rinse again in the hottest water in the machine. Continually check to see if there are soap bubbles that rise on the water, and continue running cycles until the wash is soap-free.

You can also strip them by hand…

  • Hand wash your diaper with Dawn dish soap (gets the oils out).
  • Add a bit of dish soap to the fleece and rub the fleece vigorously together, or use a medium bristle dish brush or hard bristle tooth brush to scrub the fleece.
  • Turn inside out and repeat on this side.
  • Rinse well, making sure that the water runs clear.

Caring for Wool Products

Wool requires two washing methods before use – regular washing and lanolizing. We recommend doing a special wool wash because it has the lanolin right in it, and the wash lanolizes the wool for you.

To wash wool, you hand wash it in cold water with a cleaning agent used specifically for wool. You can either roll it in a towel to remove excess water or hang dry. Wash wool covers when they smell like urine or are holding moisture.

Handling Diaper Changes

If your infant is breastfeeding, throw soiled diapers right into the diaper pail. Solid waste from a breastfed baby is completely water soluble. If your baby is eating solid foods, shake the waste into the toilet. If you’re unable to remove it all, ‘swish’ the diaper in the toilet or use diaper sprayer to remove as much as possible.

Can I use something in the washer to get rid of the urine odor?

Sometimes even after a couple of cycles in the wash, diapers still have a urine odor. If an ammonia odor remains, most likely it is due to leftover detergent. Try adding an extra rinse cycle. If there are any suds left in the washing machine after you are done washing diapers, definitely do an extra rinse. Another option is to add about 1/2 cup of baking soda in the wash or soak cycle.

What is the best way to get out stains?

Don’t skip the cold cycle in the beginning of your wash cycles. This prevents the stains from setting (hot water sets them in). Check diapers at the 1st cold cycle too see if they are still stained. If so, run another cold rinse.

Be sure to leave pockets and covers open (with velcros attached) when throwing them in the washer – don’t make the mistake washing diapers when fastened. Diapers need to be washed flat and opened, with the velcro attached to itself or to the pad on the back of the diaper.

Do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals on stains. They are bad for your baby and decrease the life span of cloth diapers.

Laying diapers out in the sun to dry for a few hours will fade even the toughest stains.