January 19, 2017   |   Comments (0)

How To Wash Cloth Diapers – 5 Easy Steps to Hassle Free Effective Washes

How to wash cloth diapers

Washing cloth diapers is going to be part of your life as a cloth diapering parent and knowing the easiest and effective ways how to wash cloth diapers, is going to make your life much simpler. Right? It also helps if the advice comes from experienced cloth diaper moms who certainly know the right ways to it.

Fortunately, it really is easy and in this post, I tell you exactly how to do it.

If you’re new to cloth diapering, you may be a bit worried about how you’re going to have to wash the diapers. I know I was. No – I take that back – I was a little freaked out because some well meaning moms made it sound really awful. “Cloth diapering is great but you’ve got your work cut out for you because washing cloth diapers is not fun”.  Thankfully, they were wrong.

Yes, I can see how it might be hard when you don’t know the cloth diapering basics but once you master the basics and you get into a routine, it’s simple.

In comparison to washing other laundry there is a little more effort needed to wash cloth diapers. For one thing – unlike regular laundry, you cannot use fabric softeners. However, knowing how to wash cloth diapers is not hard at all so don’t let your concerns about cloth diapers deter you from starting your journey. Washing cloth diapers is easy to do and once you have the hang of it and you’ve developed a routine, it’s as easy as pie.

Learning the techniques and methods is a simple and hassle free process.How to wash cloth diapers

How To Wash Cloth Diapers – The Easy Way

    1. Remove poop from your cloth diapers by dumping it into the toilet or use a diaper sprayer to get the solids into the toilet. Throw your soiled diapers into a cloth diaper pail or wet bag until you are ready to wash. It is recommended that you develop a washing routine, and wash every 1-2 days.
    2. On wash day, throw your soiled diapers in the washing machine – wash 12-18 diapers at a time. Any less or more and you won’t get a thorough wash.
    3. Pre-rinse without detergent, using your washer’s highest water setting.
    4. Next, add the recommended amount of detergent (like Tide). Never add fabric softeners to your cloth diaper loads because this causes a build-up on your diapers. Wash in a regular hot water cycle with an extra rinse cycle.
    5. Cloth Diapers can be dried in your tumble drier, or hung to dry in the sun—which will help remove stains.

Washing Tips you will want to keep in mind to ensure hassle free cloth diaper laundry

Follow care instructions to preserve warranties

Buying a cloth diaper from a branded or a well know company would always come with a care guide. It would tell you exactly how it should be washed, and whether the fabric is safe enough to be put into a washer. Be sure to read the care instructions before you wash or even store your diapers. Some fancy diaper covers (like crochet diaper covers), are very fragile and could be damaged easily. They may require hand-washing.

Also, if you are concerned about warranties, you will need to follow the care instructions. Not following them, will likely void your warranty.

Develop a cloth diaper wash routine

Developing a cloth diaper wash routine, is probably the most important thing you will want to do because if cloth diapers sit in a cloth diaper pail or wet bag for more than 3 days, they will start to grow bacteria and develop that dreaded ammonia smell. Your best bet is to simply get into a routine of washing them every 1-3 days. This will also depend on your baby’s age and how many cloth diapers you actually have.


Before using any detergent or any soap, make sure you have prewashed every soiled diaper before soaking it in detergent. Prewashing your diapers ensures that they are 100% germ free.

Detergent is a sensitive subject in cloth diaper circles. Many moms believe you should use half the recommended detergent to wash your cloth diapers, because they believe “detergent build up” will result if too much detergent is used.  Yes, detergent build up is valid but if you don’t use enough detergent/ the recommended amount of detergent, your cloth diapers are not likely to get cleaned. There are human feces in the diapers so you really do want to make sure you use enough detergent to get them cleaned. If you’re concerned about detergent build-up, always give your diapers an extra rinse.

The choice of which diaper detergent to use, is another sensitive matter. Many moms swear by Tide, while others spend the extra money and go with expensive cloth diaper detergents. Either way, be aware that Tide is a favorite amongst many because it’s mainstream, it’s cost effective and it works.

Hot water or cold water?

Most cloth diaper moms recommend a short cold prewash without detergent, then in hot water for a prolonged, thorough wash. Using hot water eliminates any bacteria that exists after all the washing, so make sure to use hot water instead of cool water.

Ammonia Stink

Ah, the dreaded Ammonia. If this occurs – do not worry. Nothing is wrong with your baby. The mere fact that I’m mentioning it here, is evidence that it is common. However, it needs to be treated. Your diapers will stink of ammonia, most commonly, if it is left unwashed for too long. Not to get too technical – bacteria converts baby’s urine into ammonia if it’s allowed to sit too long, and that’s when you get that smell. This can easily be treated and should be treated because it can result in chemical burns or rashes on baby’s bottom.How to clean cloth diapers if they sink of ammonia? A few hot water and detergent washes and extra rinses may do the trick. If you find that you still have an issue with the ammonia smell, you may want to strip the diapers.stinky cloth diapers

How many diapers to wash at a time?

Wash between 12-18 diapers at a time. If your washer is too full, the diapers will not clean sufficiently. If the load is too small, add a towel because this will trick the washing machine into adding more water, which is important because water is necessary for a clean wash.

The more washes, the more wear

If you have a small stash of cloth diapers, you will likely wash daily or every second day. This means your diapers will go through a lot more washes than someone with a larger stash. This is fine but be aware that because you wash them much more, they may not last as long as a cloth diaper that has seen less washes. For example, the elastic or the Velcro may not work as well as a diaper cover that has seen much less of the washing machine. If you are planning to cloth diaper only one child, this is probably no big deal but if you are hoping to use the same stash for more children, you might want to consider increasing your stash just a little bit to reduce the wear and tear on them.

Cloth Diaper Pail

 These are GREAT. You can buy a cloth diaper pail online or offline, or you can make your own cloth diaper pail. Either way – it is necessary because the diapers will need a place to live until wash day. Having a diaper pail prevents diaper odors from spreading throughout the house.

Some moms recommend a laundry hamper with holes in the side to keep it ventilated. What I personally don’t like about this, is that if I wash every other day – that day in between is a stinky day if you have a small house. Yes, the cloth diaper pail liner or wet bag is stinky when you open it but I usually just hold my breath for the 10-20 seconds it takes me to dump the load into the washing machine, turn the pail liner or wetbag inside out and dump that in as well.

Wet bag

Using a wet bag is especially convenient when you are out and about and you need to change cloth diapers, but they can be used in the house too. They are waterproof bags that come in different sizes, and has a zipper. They will happily hold your soiled diapers and contain bad smells until wash day. They are available in different sizes and designs.


Bleach is a bad word for some, especially when it comes to cloth diapers. There are manufacturers who advise against using bleach and your warranty will be void if you use bleach. You are best advised to check the care label before you grab the bleach. However, many inserts/ prefolds/ flat diapers are okay to be bleached and parents want the ability to bleach when there are stains they are trying to get rid of. If you do decide to bleach, bleach only the inserts/ prefolds/ flat diapers. There is no need to bleach your diaper covers because bleach will likely ruin them. Having said that, also be aware that bleach will likely increase the wear and lessen the durability of our diapers.

If you bleach, be sure to run your inserts/ prefold/ flat diapers through an extra rinse after you have bleached them to ensure that no bleach is left in your diapers. Bleach left in diapers can cause rashes on baby’s bottom.


How do you clean cloth diapers that have stains?

Despite using cloth diaper liners and washing baby’s poop off your diapers as soon as they are soiled, chances are really good that they will get stained, unless you are using bamboo charcoal inserts like our Baby Tooshy Bamboo Diapers that do not show stains.

There are a few things you can do to get rid of stains:

  • Sunning. The sun is probably the best stain treatment. You can leave the “affected” diaper to dry in the sun for a few hours after washing it. This tip works well IF the stain is not set into the diaper yet. If the stain persists, you may want to try one more time but this time, add a few squirts of lemon juice before returning it to the sun. Wash again and hopefully the stain is gone. This option may not be open to you if you live in a place where you don’t get much sun.
  • Some moms swear by a soak in oxiclean. This method is easy – just soak in hot water and oxiclean overnight.
  • If all else fails and you’re willing to try it – bleach. Of course, do check your care labels before you use bleach.

Separate your inserts from your pocket diapers

If you’re using inserts/ prefolds/ flats, remove those from the cover or pocket diaper. Some people leave them inside the pockets and remove them after the prewash, but I always worry that they won’t come out during the prewash and that wash wouldn’t be effective. So, removing them is a small but important step for me.

No Fabric Softeners

Adding fabric softener to cloth diapers is not recommended because it results in a layer on your cloth diapers, which may make them absorb less.  You definitely do not want to include fabric softener in your wash but if you did, accidentally, it’s not the end of the world. If you find that your diapers are not absorbing as well as they did before, you can strip them. Stripping cloth diapers is easy to do, with simple steps to follow but kindly note that if you did use fabric softeners, the need to strip your diapers is not inevitable. A few extra hot washes without detergent may be enough to get them to their previous absorbency levels.Do not use fabric softener with your cloth diapers

If you’re grossed out by the poop, use accessories like these:

Cloth diaper Liners

Some cloth diaper liners come in a roll like the Baby Tooshy Cloth Diaper Liners. You simply pull off a piece, and lay it on top of your cloth diaper. It’s purpose is not to add absorbency, but rather to catch baby’s poop. Baby’s urine will run through it. At diaper cleaning time, you pick up the liner from its edges, and drop the poop into the toilet. It’s very simple. There are a few things to consider though – you will want to make sure you use a cloth diaper liner that is flushable AND strong. There are a few brands that I’ve tested that are very flimsy and moves around the diaper. This defeats the purpose of the liner because by the time baby poops, it’s no longer well positioned to catch the poop.

Also make sure they are flushable because you don’t want to throw things down your toilet, that would clog up your system.

Cloth Diaper Sprayer

Many baby poops you will be able to simply drop into the toilet but if it’s the pasty kind and it’s stuck to the diaper, the diaper sprayer will be your best friend. It attaches to your toilet. You can buy one from Amazon or other retailers, and adding them to your toilet is easy. All you need to do is hold the soiled diaper low into the toilet bowl, and spray off the poop with a downward stream so that it goes into the toilet.

Splatter Shield

 If you’re using a cloth diaper sprayer, you could simply hold your diaper in one hand, and the diaper sprayer in the other. However, using a diaper splatter shield makes the whole process easier because there is little risk of water or poop splattering far.

Your Faucet

Run it under a tap. If you don’t have a diaper sprayer—running it under a bathroom tap may be sufficient after you plop the excess poop into the toilet. You really don’t have to use your hands or a scrubber if you don’t want to—just holding it under an open tap (with hopefully a strong water stream) would be helpful.

Drying Your Cloth Diapers – the Do’s

Do always make sure the diapers are completely dry before you use them on your baby.

Do read the instructions on your diapers clearly because this could affect the elasticity and absorbing power of the diaper. In some products it is safer to machine dry only the inner absorbent layer, like the insert/ prefold or flat diaper, and and air dry the cloth diaper cover.

Do use low heat settings if you are going to machine dry your baby’s whole diaper. Higher temperatures could destroy the texture of the material, melt the PUL (absorbing layer of cloth diaper covers) and reduce its quality and elasticity immensely.

Do add woolen balls to your dryer to help dry your diapers faster in the drier. This is optional but helpful.

Do use the sun to dry whenever you can. This is called “air drying”. You could hang your diapers outside on a clothes line – the best time to put the diapers out to dry is early morning or when it’s windy as it would dry your diapers but still keep it soft.  If this option is not available to you because of bad weather, you can dry them on a drying rack.

Air drying clothes

If you are in a difficult position, financially, you might want to check locally to see if there are laundromats that will help with your diaper laundry. This is done in some areas, and if you are struggling – taking the time to find out if they can help, might be worth it.

Knowing how to wash cloth diapers, is not hard once you get the hang of it. Yes, there are a few extra things to consider when you wash cloth diapers, as compared with regular laundry. But, knowing how to wash cloth diapers – properly, will reduce a lot of hassles and frustration in the long run. This article is comprehensive but if you could take only one thing from here, I’d strongly recommend that you get into a routine. This will make a huge difference for you and will truly make your life easier. Also, there is a lot of advice out there – including this very post you are reading now, but if you are in doubt – do what seems best. (Here of course I’m referring to the myth that you should use half the recommended detergent to wash dirty, fecal covered cloth diapers). You have a motherly (or fatherly) instinct – follow it when you are in doubt.

How To Wash Cloth Diapers - 5 Easy Steps to Hassle Free, Effective Washes
Article Name
How To Wash Cloth Diapers - 5 Easy Steps to Hassle Free, Effective Washes
Washing cloth diapers is easy, but it's a little different from washing regular laundry. In this article, we show you step by step how to do it, and answer all cloth diaper washing related questions.
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Baby Tooshy
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Gioula Chelten

Gioula Chelten

Hi, I’m Gioula – hands on mother of 5, author, entrepreneur and owner of BabyTooshy.com. I write from personal experience first, learning from moms like me, and a ton of research. I trust you will find value in my writing. I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comment section. :) Connect with us too on these sites...

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