How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Washing 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. Remember, by choosing cloth diapers you’re doing a good thing. You’re making a difference by reducing the amount of disposables in landfills, and helping to ensure your baby grows up cleaner world.

The truth is, cleaning cloth diapers is easier and less messy than you think. It just takes a few tips and tricks. To get started, let’s go over the basics.

Getting into a cloth diaper wash routine.

Washing cloth diapers really 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: always consult the diaper’s care instructions first.

STEP 1: Remove solids

First, toss poop from the diaper directly into the toilet bowl. 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: Store.

After rinsing, toss the dirty diaper into a diaper pail or waterproof bag until you’re ready to run a load. Soaking cloth diapers in a bucket of full water is also a great option. Keeping cloth diapers as wet as possible before washing is the secret to erasing all poopy messes in the wash.

STEP 3: Wash.

You’ll want to wash diapers at least every other day, keeping your load size to no more than 12-18 diapers at a time. Start by prewashing cloth diapers in a prewash cycle with cold water and no detergent, followed by a regular warm to hot water cycle with a safe detergent for cloth diapers. If you have an extra rinse cycle, go ahead and give it a whirl. Like we mentioned before, the more water you can rinse through the diapers the cleaner they will come out.

STEP 4: Dry.

The best method for drying cloth diapers is outside on a clothesline. Not only does this help extend the life of the diapers, but the sun is a natural bacteria-buster that gives diapers an airy, fresh scent. Can’t dry outside? No problem, just hang or line-dry diapers inside. Some cloth diapers can be dried in the dryer on a low setting. Just check the diaper’s care instructions to be sure.

More questions on how to clean reusable diapers? We got answers.

Great! Now, that you know the cloth diaper care basics. Let’s dive into other things you might be wondering, including common troubleshooting tips for cleaning cloth diapers.

Should I be pre-washing cloth diapers before throwing them into the washing machine?

Again, rinsing, rinsing and rinsing again 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 immensely. You can also try diaper liners. Diaper liners are disposable sheets that go inside your baby’s diaper to help make cleanup easier and to protect fabric from getting completely poop-stained.

Is there special way to clean cloth diapers with poop if my baby is breastfed?

No, 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 soiled diapers into the pail until you’re ready to clean.

What’s a safe detergent for cloth diapers?

When it comes to the best way to wash cloth diapers, there are many opinions on what type of detergent to use. Regular detergents contain a lot of additives that can build up in the fabric if diapers are not rinsed well enough. Eco-friendly detergents are a safe choice, since they have fewer additives. If you have hard water, you might find your detergent isn’t cleaning as well. Adding a scoop of baking soda can help give your detergent a little more cleaning power.

Can I use fabric softener?

Fabric softeners can do more harm than good. They often contain fragrances and chemicals, which can irritate your baby’s skin. Plus, fabric softeners can coat the diaper’s fabric and prevent optimal absorbency. To help soften diapers, try wool dryer balls in the dryer or air-dry outside instead.

What if diapers sit too long unwashed?

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 diapers. Stripping is a method that can help remove detergent build up and residue from the fabric, so diapers smell fresher and absorb better.

Should I be sanitizing cloth diapers and my washing machine?

Avoid using bleach as much as possible as it’s a harsh chemical that can easily damage cloth diapers. To disinfect diapers, add 4 tbsp. of vinegar in the rinse cycle instead. Sunning diapers outside also works great as a disinfectant. As far as your washing machine, there’s no need to sanitize it after every load of diapers. However, a good thorough cleaning every month will help remove any residue buildup and keep your washer running like a champ.

Are there special washing instructions for Charlie Banana cloth diapers?

The Charlie Banana 2-in-1 system was designed to make cloth diapering easier for parents. This includes, giving you several options like diaper inserts and disposable liners to help make cleaning cloth diapers easier. Many of the same tips above apply for caring for your baby’s Charlie Banana diapers. For specific laundry care, 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.