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Washing Cloth Diapers

How do I wash my cloth diapers?

  • Step 1: Start with a cold water rinse/wash with no detergent. This will rinse out any urine and solid residue.
  • Step 2: Next perform a hot water wash cycle with detergent. Do NOT use the sanitary cycle and be sure your water heater is not set above 120 degrees as temperatures hotter than that can damage your cloth diapers.
  • Step 3: Now do second cold or warm rinse, optionally you can add 3-4 drops of Lavender Essential Oil a natural antiseptic.
  • Step 4: Toss in the dryer on tumble/low - Tip: adding a dry towel or wool dryer balls can lessen the dry time.  Cover and pocket diapers outers should be hung dry. 

Important Information before washing your cloth diapers

Each diaper manufacturer has its own guidelines for care and use, including detergent recommendations. Please check with your manufacturer to avoid problems with warranties! Always use the highest water level setting that your washer allows. Water is your friend when cleaning cloth diapers!

Generally speaking we DO NOT recommend using bleach, stain removers, borax, Biz, Bac-Out, Biokleen, or Oxy-Clean as they may damage your diapers.

A few cloth diaper washing tips...

  • Dump any solids (use flushable liners to make it even easier!) or spray with a diaper sprayer before putting in dry pail, wet bag, or hanging wet bag. Breastfed newborn poop is water-soluble and can be put directly into the washer.
  • Attach hook & loop closures to laundry tabs before washing to prevent snagging.
  • Add a wet towel to your HE washer to "trick" it into adding more water.
  • Line/air drying diaper covers and pocket shells can help extend the life of the hook & loop closures as well as the elastic (bonus- saves energy!).

How many times do I need to wash (prep) my new diapers before using them?

Diapers containing synthetic fabrics only need to be washed once before using them on your baby! Any diapers with natural fibers such as hemp, bamboo, or cotton will need to be washed and dried 5-6 times before use to strip the natural oils and reach full absorbency. Organic fibers such as organic cotton will need to be washed and dried upwards of 6 times.

How often should I wash the diapers?

We recommend washing your diapers every 1-3 day to help prevent any smell issues or staining.

We suggest storing your soiled cloth diapers in an open pail or wetbag slightly open, where there is adequate airflow.

What type of detergent should I use on my cloth diapers?

Every manufacturer has different washing directions and warranties for their diapers, including which detergents are allowed and recommended so always consult that information first.

The general rule of thumb is to use a detergent that is free of any bleach or fabric softener. “Free and Clear” detergents are generally not recommended, as they often have additional cleaning agents in them that can cause buildup. We have had great success using Tide Original detergent.

If you have hard water, we suggest using a liquid water softener (commonly found in the laundry care aisle at most discount chain stores).

How do I strip my cloth diapers?

Stripping your cloth diapers is important when detergent build up starts to reduce the absorbency of your diapers. There are a few methods that can be used, and we always recommend starting with the least severe.

  • First Try: Run several hot washes without any detergent
  • Then Try: Use a couple drops of Dawn blue dish soap to hand wash your diapers in your bathtub (instead of your regular detergent) and run extra rinses to get rid of any suds
  • Lastly Try: Use a soft toothbrush and some dish soap to gently scrub the diaper if you notice that there is build up on your diapers

How do I remove the poop stains from my cloth diapers?

Good news! With proper care, your diapers should have minimal staining. Some people prefer to use a liner to help prevent stains, but washing diapers every 1-3 days and removing solid waste before washing (if baby is not exclusively breastfed) works well to prevent stains.

The sun is also your best friend when it comes to stain fighting! After washing, simply lay or hang your clean, but still wet, diapers in the sun for a great whitening effect - a 100% natural bleach. :)

We DO NOT recommend using bleach, stain removers, borax, Bac-Out, Biokleen, or Oxy-Clean as they may damage your diapers.

I have an HE washer, what do I need to do differently?

With an HE washer the amount of water is limited to the weight of the laundry load. This often means that cloth diapers don't get the amount of water necessary to get clean, since they are so absorbent and soak up water that is meant to wash them! Make sure your washer is always set on the highest water setting as well and that you only use HE specific detergent, but steer clear of the heavy duty setting. Some users may find it more efficient to do two full wash cycles instead of the generally recommended rinse cycle.

My cloth diapers smell...what do I do?

You may not be using enough detergent and you have urine buildup because your diapers are not getting clean.  Add more detergent and make sure your washer's water level is set to the highest setting. You may also find it helpful to start your wash routing with a quick cold wash to ensure all urine and solid matter is flushed out prior to your full wash with detergent.

My cloth diapers smell and they are leaking

You may have some buildup from minerals, creams or laundry additives. First do a deep cleaning of your diapers. Start with clean diapers and run several hot washes with 2x the amount of detergent you'd normally use. Follow with 2-3 hot wash cycles without detergent. We also do not suggest using any additives like fabric softeners, OxyClean, vinegar, or dryer sheets.

Help! My babysitter/grandma/mother-in-law/husband used diaper cream on my diapers!

The best way to remove diaper cream mishaps is to use a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of dish soap to gently scrub it out with warm water. This will remove the majority of the cream, although some staining may occur depending on how much got on the diaper.

My natural fiber diapers are crunchy and scratchy.

Mineral or urine buildup can often cause diapers to become stiff and crunchy. If you have hard water, try adding a water softening agent like Calgon or Raindrops to your wash cycle. Check with your diaper manufacturer first. You may also need to increase the amount of detergent you are using. It is also possible that your diapers are crunchy from line or rack drying. Tumble dry your diapers for 10-15 minutes with a damp towel after removing them from the line or rack to "fluff" them.

How do I sanitize a used cloth diaper?

To sanitize used diapers, run a warm wash cycle with the full suggested amount of detergent for clothing. Add 1/4 cup of regular disinfecting bleach to your bleach dispenser. Color Safe bleach is recommended for colors. Following this wash cycle, run a hot wash with the full amount of detergent for clothing to ensure all bleach is washed out completely. Please note that bleaching cotton prints and colored bamboo may lead to some fading. If you choose not to bleach these items, we suggest a hot wash with detergent and drying in the sun. You only need to sanitize absorbent materials.

What do I do if there is yeast?

The best choice would be to email the manufacturer for their specific guidelines. But some general guidelines are:

All inserts need to be sanitized. Entirely PUL diaper covers do not need to be sanitized. Run a warm wash cycle with the full suggested amount of detergent for clothing. Add 1/4 cup of regular disinfecting bleach to your bleach dispenser. Colorsafe bleach is recommended for colors. Following this wash cycle, run a hot wash with the full amount of detergent for clothing to ensure all bleach is washed our completely. Dry in the sun. Please note that bleaching cotton prints and colored bamboo may lead to some fading. You only need to treat absorbent materials.

What do I do if I have ammonia burn/urine build-up and regular or soft water?

Start with clean diapers, then run a hot wash with a full cap full of mainstream detergent like Tide or Gain. Follow with 2 full hot washes without detergent to ensure all urine and detergent is rinsed out. This should return your diapers to "square-one". Be sure to stay on top of urine build-up by following this wash routine: Warm rinse, hot wash with Tide or Gain up to the 3rd line on the cap, warm or cold rinse, additional rinse. If you are using an HE washer – you’ll want to ensure that your washer is using enough water to fully rinse your diapers.

What do I do if I have ammonia burn/urine build-up and HARD water?

Start with clean diapers, then run a hot wash with a full cap full of mainstream detergent like Tide or Gain and box/bottle's suggested amount of Calgon or Rain Drops. "Pause" your wash machine and allow it to soak for 30 minutes to help break up minerals before the rinse cycle begins. Follow with 1 full hot wash with Calgon or Rain Drops to ensure all urine and detergent is rinsed out. This should return your diapers to "square-one". Be sure to stay on top of urine build-up by following this wash routine: Warm rinse, hot wash with Tide or Gain up to the 3rd line on the cap + Calgon or Rain Drops. No extra rinse is suggested when you have hard water because it can add minerals to your diapers. If you are using an HE washer – you’ll want to ensure that your washer is using enough water to fully rinse your diapers.

What do I do if I have build up/repelling due to creams or oils?

Start with clean diapers. We suggest a soak in blue Dawn. Soak the diapers in just enough water to cover and about one tablespoon blue Dawn. Soak for several hours. Make sure that everything is nice and sudsy. Drain the water. Run the inserts through several wash cycles without detergent. If you can see the build up on the diapers, you may need to scrub the inserts with a little Dawn and a toothbrush as well.