Stop the Insanity! Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions
People are passionate about cloth diapers… maybe even more so about wash routines.
I am about to go through our recommended wash routine…
But to qualify, there are MANY factors that can result in small tweaks (top or front loader, baby is EBF or eating solids, how hard is the water, what detergent is being used…). If you are unsure, we are here to help! Trust that we nearly exclusively cloth diapered 2 little girls…. Even in the hospital, even when we traveled. Yes, you can! We’ll do our best to make it simple!
First things First: Prepping vs. Sanitizing Diapers
Sanitizing Secondhand: Did you buy cloth diapers second-hand? Great! Not only do you have first-hand knowledge about the secondary market of cloth diapers… but your diapers are likely already prepped! It is VERY highly recommended that you SANITIZE your diapers prior use. This IS your baby’s bum, after all! Simply add ½ cup of Hydrogen Peroxide (brown bottle from the drugstore) to your wash cycle to kill any lingering germs. If you personally use bleach on occasion, that is fine, too! Note: Many of our clients choose to avoid bleach for sensitivity or chemical-free reasons.
Prepping NEW Diapers: All diapers, covers/shells, inners should be laundered AT LEAST once to remove any residual from storage, shipping or store shelves. Shells/Covers/Pockets and Microfiber need only be washed once to ensure that fabric and materials are clean. Natural fiber materials (inserts, prefolds, flats) like hemp, cotton or bamboo… will get ‘better’ and more absorbent the MORE you wash and dry them. Many manufactures recommend up to 7 times – but usually 5 times is typically sufficient to start. Of course, with prepping natural fibers – the more – the marvelous!
Dirty Diaper Storage/Out Around Town Travel Tips
We recommend a ‘dry pail’ for storing dirties until wash time. This should be a flip-top style household trash container (with a pail liner, if you choose). You want the pail to be able to “breathe” – so avoid placing in a closet or small closed space… as you will quickly notice odor. Ours was always near the door of the baby room. J
You might use a zippered wet bag for out and about and in the diaper bag. Ultimately, you’ll want 2 – so one can be dirty, and you have a spare… just in case!
On to the Nitty Gritty: Suggested & Recommended Wash Routine
Preparation: Before you toss the diapers in – remove any fecal matter into the toilet. You can skip this step if baby is Exclusively Breast Fed (EBF) – which is personally why I think many cloth-diaper-ers all tend to participate in super EXTENDED breast feeding! Diaper Sprayers and Flushable Diaper Liners are an easy solution for this stinky chore.
Also, any pockets need to be un-stuffed. Most brands will claim to agitate out – I rarely enjoyed that experience, and I have an old-school top loader! (Just keeping it real, here!)
Washing Considerations: Toss the diapers, wet bags, pail liners, cloth wipes (Did we mention how AWESOME cloth wipes are?!) into the washer. You need to have enough for a ‘full load’ considering how your water level is determined. You ultimately want diaper ‘stew’ – not ‘soup’ – as your diapers will be cleaner if they can agitate against each other considerably. If you have an HE washer that automatically determines water level for you – try adding diapers in WET, or try adding a wet towel or two to fill the load and increase the ‘weight’. Add more water if you’re able. Adjust settings to “heavily soiled” if that is an option.
First Wash/Pre Wash in WARM (same temperature as the ‘mess’ was created). This can be a true pre-wash if that is an option…. Or more often, we personally used a short ‘wash’ cycle to initially knock off the muck. No detergent… just WARM water and agitation.
Wash Cycle: This is where a LOT of washers vary. Choose a LONG/HEAVY hot wash with the recommended amount of residue-free detergent or no more than ¼ – ½ the recommended amount of other detergents. Residue will build up over time – causing odor and require deep cleaning (stripping) of your diapers.
We PERSONALLY have used and recommend several natural laundry detergents that we stock in shop. Many are quite affordable (.15-.18 per load). They are also great for sensitive skin and are gentle on the environment… Many clients find they use them for ALL their laundry.
Side note on Hard Water: In Kansas, we have pretty hard water – water drops on the shower and faucets…. Or if you’re a sports fan – the chant “Rock Chalk” is in reference to the minerals in our soil (and by default – groundwater). I have found in my personal washing – and trouble-shooting HUNDREDS (and maybe thousands) of families routines – that a simple addition of 1 TBSP of Washing Soda helps to counter balance the hard water so your detergents work better.
Warm Rinse…. But NEVER more than ONE extra! Remember that hard water? You’ll just be adding more minerals to your clean diapers! If you are noticing bubbles in your final rinse – you need to tweak your detergent down a notch – or try a different brand with less residue.
FABRIC SOFTENER IS THE CLOTH DIAPER DEVIL. (Just kidding… But not really.)
Time for Me to Dry…
Next step is drying your diapers. For longevity sake (and better resale value), it is best to hang dry shells and covers (anything with waterproofing or elastic) as often as possible. Inserts, prefolds and flats are fine for the dryer.
Staining? Anything that lingers on your diapers will usually be quickly remedied with a little sunshine. Place wet diapers out to dry in the sun… a good 6-8 hours does the trick, plus the sun helps them sanitize a bit. If you aren’t fond of the crispy feel of the diapers (a natural result of natural fiber + hard water + hang dry), just toss them in the dryer with a wooly ball or three and they will soften and fluff up nicely.
That’s about it! Fold them up… Stuff them… And know that whenever you need more – just stop on by!
Happy Laundry Day!