How to Wash Cloth Diapers
Does the thought of washing dirty diapers make you a little nervous? Believe us when we say it’s nothing you can’t handle.
The truth is, cleaning cloth diapers is easier and less messy than you might think. It just takes a few tips and tricks.
Here’s our favorite method on how to clean cloth diapers. At first, remove any solid waste and rinse the diaper before storing it with the other dirties in a diaper pail . We recommend storing used cloth diapers for no longer than 2-3 days before washing. Wash on warm (up to 104°F/40°C) with a full dose of cloth diaper safe detergent (no fabric softener). Use the longest washing cycle available. If you have pre-rinsed your diapers, you don’t need to run a pre-wash cycle. We don’t recommend doing an extra rinse, especially if you have hard water, as it could reintroduce the minerals in the water that can cause buildup and decrease the absorbency of cloth diapers. To dry, hang your diapers outside, or tumble dry on low.
Are you ready to start cloth diapering? Follow the advice and tips outlined below.
Before you wash cloth diapers
Each reusable cloth diaper manufacturer has its own guidelines for care and use. Many companies provide precise instructions, so check the company’s website to avoid problems with warranties.
Before you start planning your laundry schedule, remember to prepare for storing a lot of wet cloth diapers. You can use specially designed containers or wet bags to store dirty diapers between the washes.
Getting into a cloth diaper wash routine
Washing cloth diapers only adds a few more loads of laundry per week. Once you get into a cloth diaper routine, you’ll figure out what works best for you. To start, here are the most common steps to cleaning cloth diapers. Remember to always consult the diaper’s care instructions first.
STEP 1: Remove solids from cloth diaper
If you breastfeed your baby exclusively, you don’t have to remove the waste from the diaper. Breast milk poop is water-soluble, so washing newborn cloth diapers is super easy. No special pretreatment is necessary at this stage. As your baby gets older and start eating solid foods, things get a bit more interesting.
How do you remove poop from the diaper?
First, toss the solids from the diaper directly into the toilet bowl. Removing the poop will be easier if you use disposable diaper liners. (Just pick up the liner with the waste, shake off the solids into the toilet, and throw the liner in the trash. Do not flush.) Then use a spray bottle full of water or a diaper sprayer (a small showerhead that attaches to your toilet) to rinse away as much residue as you can. Rinsing the diaper with water is key to helping stains come out in the wash. Note: Diapers that are only wet from urine don’t need any pre-rinsing, but it doesn’t hurt to rinse them anyway.
STEP 2: Dirty cloth diapers storage
To save time, water and energy, it makes sense to collect enough dirty cloth diapers until you have at least a small load for your washer. Storing soiled diapers correctly is an important part of cloth diaper care.
The first choice for dirty cloth diaper storage is a wet bag or a
diaper pail. After rinsing, toss the dirty diaper into a diaper pail or waterproof bag until you’re ready to run a load. We suggest keeping the pail or wet bag slightly open with the adequate
airflow, which can help slow the growth of bacteria and prevent mildew.
Did you know that Charlie Banana waterproof tote bags and diaper pails feature a special sewn-in patch to help keep odors away? Simply locate the patch inside the bag, then put a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
Soaking cloth diapers in a bucket of full water is also a great option. Keeping cloth diapers wet before washing will help erase all poopy messes in the wash.
STEP 3: Washing cloth diapers
Most parents wash their diapers every other day. When you are ready to wash, fill the washing machine to about 70% full (12-18 diapers), so that the diapers can move freely around the drum. If there are too many diapers in one load, they won’t get cleaned. On the other hand, having too few diapers in one load may not provide enough agitation for proper cleaning (also, it’s less energy-efficient).
Start by separating the diaper covers from the inserts (if you are using Charlie Banana pocket diapers, you can easily remove the inserts from the pocket by pulling on the blue insert label). Next, wash your diapers, inserts, reusable wipes and wet bags on warm (up to 104°F/40°C) with a full dose of cloth diaper safe detergent (no fabric softener). Use the longest washing cycle available. If you have pre-rinsed or pre-soaked your diapers, you don’t need to run a pre-wash cycle. Extra rinse is not recommended either, as it could reintroduce the minerals from the hard water, which might eventually cause mineral buildup on the fabrics.
You can choose any detergent you feel comfortable with, as long as it’s safe for cloth diapers. Avoid using fabric softeners and washing liquids or powders containing fabric softeners, as they can build up on fabric fibers, reducing diapers’ absorbency.
You should also avoid using chlorine bleach. For some cloth diapers, using chlorine bleach can void the warranty and may damage the fabrics and the colors. For Charlie Banana cloth diapers, you can use non-chlorine bleach as needed.
STEP 4: Drying cloth diapers
If you are wondering how to dry cloth diapers, the best method for drying cloth diapers is hanging them outside on a clothesline. Not only does this help extend the life of the diapers and save energy, but it also exposes the to the sun, a natural bacteria-buster that gives diapers an airy, fresh scent. Moreover, UV exposure will help lighten the stains, whether you are drying the diapers in bright sun or under the cloud cover. Fifteen to twenty minutes will make a big difference and can significantly lighten stains or get rid of them. Can’t dry cloth diapers outside? No problem, just hang or line-dry diapers inside. Some cloth diapers, including Charlie Banana, can be dried in a tumble dryer on a low setting. Note that drying on high temperatures can damage the diaper’s waterproof layer, which may cause leaks. As always, check the diaper’s care instructions to be on the safe side.
How to wash cloth diapers for the first time?
Just like with any other baby clothes, it is a good idea to wash cloth diapers before the first use. Washing cloth diapers also prepares the absorbent fabrics and helps maximize the absorbency.
Wondering how to wash cloth diapers for the first time? Just put them in the washing machine (you can even throw them in with your regular clothes) and wash on warm (104°F/40°C), using cloth diaper friendly detergent with no fabric softeners. Next, dry the diapers on low in a tumble drier, or on a drying line.
How often should I wash cloth diapers?
Most parents who use cloth diapers wash every two to three days, as recommended by many manufacturers. Going longer than 2-3 days between the washes might not be a good idea, because mildew and stains may set in, and you’ll need to strip the diapers. Make sure you’re on top of your laundry schedule to keep them in good condition for as long as possible.
More questions on how to clean reusable diapers? We got answers.
Now, that you know the cloth diaper care basics, let’s dive into other things you might have questions about, including common troubleshooting tips for cleaning cloth diapers.
Should I be pre-washing cloth diapers before throwing them into the washing machine?
Pre-rinsing is key for prepping cloth diapers so they come out of the washer completely clean. If you’re dealing with a heavy-wetter or a super-pooper, soaking diapers in a water pail helps. You can also try diaper liners, thin disposable sheets of bamboo rayon that go inside your baby’s diaper to help make cleanup easier and protect the fabric from getting poop-stained.
Is there a special way to clean cloth diapers with poop if my baby is breastfed?
Babies that are solely breastfed tend to have less solid, more water-soluble poop, which means you don’t need to rinse as much—or at all—before laundering the diaper. Simply toss the soiled diapers into the pail until you’re ready to clean.
What’s a safe detergent for cloth diapers?
You can choose whatever detergent you like, as long as you stay away from detergents with fabric softeners. Many cloth diaper parents prefer powder detergents. like Tide Original powder or Tide Ultra Oxi, but liquid detergents like Tide Free & Gentle are also well-suited for cloth diapers, as they are hypoallergenic and don’t leave residue.
There is a popular myth that liquid detergents leave more residue on fabrics than powder, but in reality, the build-up is caused by the fatty acids in dirty cloth diapers combined with minerals in hard water. So it is important to clean diapers well by using a detergent with plenty of surfactants.
Whichever detergent you choose, remember to use a full dose recommended by the manufacturer and to ensure plenty of agitation during the wash cycle.
Can I use fabric softener?
Fabric softeners can coat the diaper’s materials and decrease the optimal absorbency. Luckily, Charlie Banana cloth diapers are made with ultra-soft materials that will stay gentle on your baby’s skin even after multiple washes, so you won’t need to worry about softening them.
What if diapers sit unwashed for too long?
Wet diapers can begin to retain mildew if you wait too long. If this happens, you can use a scoop of baking soda with detergent when washing diapers, plus a few tablespoons of vinegar when rinsing to help remove odors. If the diapers are still smelly after the wash, you may need to strip your cloth diapers. Stripping is a method that can help remove the mineral build up and residue from the fabric, so that the diapers smell fresher and absorb better.
Should I be sanitizing cloth diapers and my washing machine?
No matter how thoroughly you wash, your diapers will never be sterile. So long story short, you cannot sanitize the diapers. The good news is, you don’t have to! As long as you follow the recommended washing instructions, use good detergent without fabric softener, and ensure plenty of agitation. the diapers will come out clean and safe to use on your baby.
If you experience any staining, you can use some non-chlorine bleach (if you diaper manufacturer allows it). If you are experiencing issues like a persistent smell, or you got your diapers pre-loved and want to get them extra-clean, we recommend stripping the diapers. You can find detailed instructions on how to strip cloth diapers here.
Sanitizing your washing machine, on the other hand, is a very good idea, even if you don’t cloth diaper. We recommend sanitizing it monthly, to remove any build-up of odor-caussing residues left behind from dirty laundry, detergent, and hard water minerals.
To sanitize, place washing machine cleaner (we recommend Tide) into your empty machine and run it on a hot cycle. You can also use 2 cups of white vinegar and run the empty washer on hot, followed by another hot cycle with 1 1/2 cups of baking soda.
Can I hand-wash cloth diapers?
There are no contraindications for hand-washing cloth diapers, so if for any reason you need to wash your diapers by hand, you can certainly do so. All you need is a bathtub/bucket, warm water, and some- cloth diaper safe detergent
Are there any special washing instructions for Charlie Banana cloth diapers?
Many of the tips above apply for caring for your baby’s Charlie Banana diapers. We recommend washing in warm water, with the maximum temperature up to 104°F/40°C, and line-drying or tumble-drying on low. As always, avoid fabric softeners, use only non-chlorine bleach if needed, and do not skimp on the detergent.
If you are looking to simplify your cleanup, disposable liners are always a great option to help make removing solids easier. If you are trying to make your diapering routine even easier, especially for traveling and on-the-go, you could try our disposable diaper inserts.
For more laundry care tips for Charlie Banana diapers specifically, check out our Charlie Banana cloth diaper care section. We’re here to help make sure your cloth diapering experience is as easy as can be for you and your baby.