I have had a lot of questions on how to wash cloth diapers lately. So let’s discuss it! Details on why diapers should be washed with care are very thoroughly explained in this article on diaper care by Wazoodle. Here I’ll focus on what a basic wash routine should look like, though you will probably find that each cloth diapering mama has her own unique wash routine! Since what works depends on the water in your home, the types of diapers you use, your detergent, and even the growing stage of your baby, it makes sense that everyone fine tunes a washing routine to fit their situation.
Diaper pail, next to changing table/dresser, and to the right of that (pictured below) is the diaper bin for clean fluff.
As the Wazoodle article says, washing frequently is important to keep diapers in top form and to reduce buildup. I wash every other day almost without exception. I keep used diapers in a dry pail. My pail is a lidded trash bin, no bag of any kind. After dumping the diapers in the washer, I swish a squirt of soap or bleach in the pail with water, and rinse well.
And now my not-so-secret recipe for fresh, clean diapers! This exact routine may or may not work for you in your home. The good news is that if it doesn’t, you can find your own perfect wash routine with just a bit of tweaking. The general idea that I use seems to be relatively universal, even if details vary by household.
- Cold rinse with nothing added. I set my machine to the “extra rinse” setting. A cold rinse first helps remove anything with staining potential. Also helps get rid of the stink that comes from urine. A lot of it is drained out during this initial rinse. Some find it helpful to rinse each wet diaper as it is changed, before putting it in the pail. Experiment, see what works for you.
- Hot wash with manufacturer’s recommended amount of detergent. If the diapers have seemed less fresh lately, I also add either 1/2 cup of baking soda or a packet of RLR. My detergent of choice is Tide Free & Gentle. I have used several brands with varying degrees of success. Tide is my current favorite. My washing machine follows the hot wash with a cold rinse.
- Cold rinse with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Again, I use my machine’s “extra rinse” setting. Sometimes I skip this last rinse. But if I skip the extra rinse consistently, the diapers begin to take on an odor the moment they are peed in.
- Weather permitting, I line dry everything. Otherwise I use the dryer on medium heat.
Pictured is our diaper bin. All of these are Monster Pants AIP diapers. My favorite are side-snapping.
The important points in any diaper wash routine is to have an initial cold rinse to keep staining to a minimum. If you’re not concerned with staining, this rinse is less vital. A hot wash helps clear your diapers of any living things. After that, rinses can be any temperature but cold rinses use less energy. Keep in mind that you are always trying to eliminate buildup of ammonia, minerals left by hard water, and detergent. Diapers that are super-stinky are not normal and often indicate an issue with the regular wash routine.
I wash Addy’s clothes with the diapers. Everything gets tossed in the same pail. Towels often get washed with the diapers too. I used to segregate diaper laundry like it was a contagion harboring the plague. Then I realized the diaper laundry received the best, most thoughtful care of all my laundry. And either everything was coming out clean, in which case it doesn’t matter that non-diapers are being wash with diapers. Or nothing was coming out clean, in which case I ought to be careful of underwear and face towels being washed together too. I am confident everything is coming out of the washer clean.
Our prefolds have mostly been retired for now, except for occasionally stuffing a nighttime pocket if bamboo and hemp inserts aren’t clean. With a PUL or wool cover, they are my favorite for newborn to 4 (or so) months.
If you’ve been using cloth for some time, you have likely tested and tweaked a variety of wash routines. New cloth diapering families can use this as a starting point of sorts. If you are having trouble with The Stinkies or feel like your wash routine needs some help, feel free to ask questions.
My question for you: How do you wash your fluff?