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How to wash cloth diapers February 1, 2007

Posted by guinever in babies, cloth diapers.

I’ve used cloth diapers on all my children so I’ve been washing cloth diapers continually since 1999. My method of washing diapers is below:

Use only one diaper pail, and do not put water in it. There is no need to rinse dirty diapers as long as baby is solely breast-fed. Once baby starts eating solids (or formula), the dirty diapers need to be rinsed in the toilet. Flushable, biodegradable diaper liners also available in a roll can minimize mess on the diaper. You just lay the liner in the center of the diaper and then dump the liner in the toilet when soiled. The liners can be washed with the diapers until you need to flush them away. Using the liners are optional. Sometimes, if the waste is solid enough, it just easily drops in the toilet with no problem without the use of liners.

Wash diapers once the pail gets full which is every 2-3 days with only one baby in diapers. First, set the washer to run a medium sized load and do a cold/cold wash on the shortest possible cycle. If the diapers seem extra dirty or stinky, or if baby is sick, add either washing soda or baking soda to disinfect the diapers.

Next, run a hot/ cold wash with the longest possible time. The hot water is necessary to get them really clean. A good detergent to use is ALL. (I’ve tried castille soap and a variety of other detergents, but they don’t seem to work as well.) Don’t use “free and clear” detergents because they have added ingredients which leave residues.

Finish with a 2nd rinse with a big splash of white distilled vinegar. The vinegar helps get all the soap out, balances the Ph level, and softens the diapers. Using vinegar is optional.

Hang them outside on the line when it’s not raining or snowing because the sun bleaches out stains and it’s also nice to dry them naturally.

Don’t use bleach because it shortens the life of diapers. Bleach is harsh and corrosive and can make holes in your diapers, so it shouldn’t be used. Using a small amount of a product like oxy-clean when baby is sick kills the germs and bacteria. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets because they leave a coating that is water resistant, thus making the diapers less absorbent. When baby wets, the wetness will bead up on the diapers, causing leaks.

Don’t wash covers with your diapers because they can’t take the hot temperature. (A few covers can tolerate higher temperatures; just follow the manufacturer’s instructions.) You can just wash them with your light colored clothes and then hang them to dry. Most wool diaper covers require hand washing. For best results, use a rinse made especially for wool. Most diaper covers should not be put in the dryer because of the high temperature. If put in the dryer, they won’t be waterproof anymore which is not what you want! The high temperature in the dryer can also destroy Velcro if you have it on your diapers or covers.

Read why I use Mother-ease diapers.



1. elizabeth - February 11, 2009

I breast feed my 3 week old and was wondering if you can wash clothes or baby clothes with the clothe diapers? Or maybe on the second wash?
Also, do you use regular detergent on the babies clothes as well? We have been using the free and clear.

Thank you-

I personally don’t wash anything else with the diapers but you could always try it and see if it works for you family. Free and clear detergents have other ingredients in them that some people find undesirable. Check out this great information about detergents and cloth diapers.
~blessings, Guinever

2. anastasia - May 11, 2008

Nothing but Toilet paper is truly flushable according to our plumber (& the snake had the evidence to back him up, gross) so we stopped using the liners, but they were GREAT for figuring out where the rashes were coming from. (severe hard water, fyi)

I WISH they had hanging pails with my older 2 like I have now! WOW! Just slip the bag over the door knob (GREAT for multi-story houses like ours) & when it’s time to wash either unzip or pull the toggle all the way out & put the WHOLE thing into the washer! We are stationed in Germany now, so front loaders only, no wet pails here, yuck, so this works great! No touching it! I do the cold FIRST with the soap then take out the covers & bags & THEN do the hot for rinsing (also helps get rid of the extra soap)

For stains, spray a mix of lemon juice & water on them & hang them in the sun. (Notice I did NOT say outside, just in the sun, outside in winter here would lead to frozen diapers, ewe, not to mention it takes 3 days for a shirt to dry) Some may note that this is the same thing for blonding naturally in the summer, & they would be right! & for the TRUELY obsessive, don’t bother buying bleached white, try the natural or unbleached colors instead! The stains are less evident & of COURSE are better for babies & the environment!

GREAT BLOG! Lady Guinever, keep it up!

3. Stephanie - January 18, 2008

Also, I have this AWESOME sprayer hooked onto my toilet for rinsing out diapers. It turns off at the valve, so as long as your toddlers don’t see you turn it on, they can’t figure spray the bathroom down. I got it here: http://www.pottypail.com

4. Stephanie - January 18, 2008

Great article. I have referred to it several times. I was so excited to find out there are flushable liners.

But, really, you don’t have to rinse after poops or keep water in the pail? And it will still wash out white?

Hi Stephanie! winking to you across counties! Anyway, I personally don’t care for the wet pail method because of the extra weight of the water and the extra work of filling and dumping the pail. If all the poop is on the liner, then you wouldn’t have to rinse the diapers, but if something got on the edge, you might want to swoosh it in the toilet. (FYI, I don’t currently use the liners.) Also, please note, Gerber liners aren’t flushable, so don’t get those. When you say wash out white, what exactly do you mean? They’re diapers afterall! The diapers aren’t stain free, but they don’t look too bad either for being diapers. ~blessings, Guinever

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