How to Wash Cloth Diapers

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

January 1, 2016

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

How to Wash Cloth Diapers
Interested in cloth diapers but worried about how to wash them? Here are the 3 easy steps for washing cloth diapers. We break down the process for you so you can figure out a routine that's right for your family.How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Probably the number one thing that freaks people out when they think about cloth diapering is washing them. Icky, right? Here’s a question to determine if you can handle cleaning cloth diapers: Have you ever laundered sheets, towels, socks, underwear, jeans, sweaters or any other type of clothing? If the answer is yes, then you can totally handle washing cloth diapers. Promise. After you’ve checked out our guide to Cloth Diapering Basics, here are the three easy steps to cleaning cloth diapers.

1. Taking Off the Dirty Diaper

Breastfed baby poop is water soluble, so you don’t have to do anything when you remove the dirty diaper- directly deposit it in whatever pail or bag you’re using to store diapers (more on that in a bit). If baby is on formula or solids and their number twos are a bit more (ahem) solid, you can dump the contents into the toilet and flush ’em! Technically speaking, you’re supposed to do the same with disposables, but most people don’t do that. Here are some useful accessories:


These attach to your toilet and look like a small shower head; you can use them to directly spray the waste off the diaper and into the toilet. Check out the BumGenius diaper sprayer.


These look like dryer sheets and just sit on top of your diaper to catch the mess. This is an advantage where hybrid cloth diapers shine- disposable liners allow you to trash or flush the business and then just slap another liner onto the same cover. The Bumkins Liners work in all cloth diapers.

2. Washing

Just dump all the diapers in the washer, put a little detergent in, and turn it on. Easy peasy! Most recommend a cold cycle first. This basically loosens up all the junk and gets it out of the diapers. Once that first cycle is done, just turn the washer back on (with a little bit of detergent) to get them good and clean now that all the gunk is gone. Run this second cycle on warm or hot, and if your machine has the option to select extra rinse you can do that too with this cycle.

You can’t really just use any old detergent though- you want to take care of these bad boys and prevent buildup that could cause rashes or impact absorbency. Rockin’ Green (shown here) is an awesome and highly recommended detergent for keeping cloth pristine.

3. Drying

Hybrid or pocket style shells will dry quickly even hung up inside but can totally be thrown in the dryer with inserts. All in one diapers usually take longer to dry. And if weather permits, hanging diapers outside in the sun is an eco friendly way to save energy and sun bleach stubborn stains.

It’s not recommended to use fabric softener or laundry additives as they could cause buildup on the diapers. The specific brand you choose should have info about their recommended wash routine on their website; certain practices can void your warranty (yikes!), so definitely check out what they recommend for their specific diapers.

How Often to Wash?

Babies can go through 8 to 10 diapers a day (or more!), so you’ll want to have at least enough clean ones on hand to get you through a day or two without having to do laundry. Any longer than that and the dirty diapers will really stink and stains could set in. So how often you wash will depend on the number of diapers you have. The magic number for most families seems to be 24 cloth diapers total, but you could get away with as few as 14 if you absolutely needed to (you’d probably just be washing every day).

It’s a little different for hybrids. For a system like GroVia, where you just change the liner/insert each time and outer diaper shell every few times, you’ll need 6-12 outer diaper shells and enough inserts or liners to get you through between washes- again, 24 seems to be the magic number.

Having a large stash of diapers isn’t necessary if you’re on a tight budget but it is pretty convenient. If something comes up and you can’t wash right away, it’s nice to have enough to get you through. Additionally, the more diapers you have, the less often each individual piece is used and washed; this cuts down on wear and tear and increases the longevity of each diaper.



A diaper wet bag is a handy way to store used diapers before you wash them (and to keep away the smell!). Planet Wise Wet Bags (shown here) are extremely popular and come in a variety of cool prints; they can also be hung by your changing station or on a bathroom doorknob. We recommend getting 2 wet bags, so you can dump the dirty one in the wash with the diapers and rotate the other, clean one out.


Planet Wises’s Pail Liners: Reusable, elastic liners that can fit most traditional diaper pails.


If all that just seems like too much work but you still want go cloth, diaper services are a great option. Most largish cities and metro areas have companies offering to drop clean diapers at your door and pick up dirties, allowing you to leave all the mess to the pros. Here’s a handy place to start looking for a company in your area.

Choosing What’s Right for You

There it is–the whole dirty truth about washing cloth diapers. Caring for cloth really isn’t as hard as it might seem at first. The number and type of cloth diapers you should depends on your own lifestyles, preferences, and budget. Before your baby arrives, you might decide to buy most of your diapers and walk through your cleaning routine, to help yourself get used to the steps. With a bit of practice and planning, you’ll be able to clean cloth diapers in your sleep!

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