How to Wash Cloth Diapers
How to Wash Cloth Diapers
July 18, 2019

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

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How to Wash Cloth Diapers.
Photo by @xicana_mama
How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Probably the number one thing that freaks people out when they think about using cloth diapers is washing them. But it’s really not as bad as it might seem at first. For those too squeamish, you can leave the mess to the pros—diaper-cleaning services pick up dirty cloth diapers and deliver clean ones to your door—but it’s definitely more cost effective to do it yourself.

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.

The cloth diaper brand you choose should have information about their recommended wash routine on their website. You definitely want to check that out first because not following their directions could void your warranty. But in general, you can wash cloth diapers in three simple steps:

Step #1: Remove the Dirty Cloth Diaper

Breastfed baby poop is water soluble, so you can deposit a messy diaper directly in whatever pail or bag you’re using to store dirty diapers. If your baby is on formula or solid foods and their number twos are a bit more (ahem) solid, dump the contents into the toilet before tossing the diaper in with the other used ones.

Step #2: Wash a Load of Cloth Diapers

First, dump all the dirty diapers in the washing machine and run a cold cycle to loosen up and get all the gunk out of the diapers. Once that first cycle is done, just turn the washer back on and add detergent. Run a second cycle on warm or hot, and if your machine has the option to select extra rinse, you can do that too. Easy peasy!

Note: Skip fabric softener or laundry additives. They can cause buildup on diapers.

Step #3: Dry Cloth Diapers

Every line of cloth diapers has specific directions for drying. Many must be air-dried while others can go into the dryer on medium or low settings. All-in-one types of cloth diapers take longer to air-dry, but hybrid and pocket styles air-dry quickly. Check your brand’s website for more information on drying instructions, especially before you put them in the dryer.

How Often Should You Wash Cloth Diapers?

Most parents who use cloth diapers wash a load of them every day or two. Any longer than that and they’ll start to stink and stains could set in. So make sure you have enough clean diapers on hand to last you at least a couple days.

Babies can go through 8 to 10 diapers a day (or more!), especially during the newborn months. Stocking up on about 24 cloth diapers seems to be the magic number for many families, but you could get away with as few as 14 if you absolutely needed to—just be prepared to wash diapers every day.

Learn more about cloth diapers, including the various types to choose from, in our Cloth Diapering 101 guide.

Helpful Products for Washing Cloth Diapers

Like any chore, having the right tools and supplies can make washing cloth diapers easier. Here are some of the best ones to get the job done.

Diaper Sprayer

Diaper sprayers attach to the toilet and look like a small showerhead. You can use them to spray waste off a diaper and into the toilet before throwing the diaper into the wash.


Liners look like dryer sheets and are placed on the inside of clean diapers to make cloth diaper changes easier. When your baby goes number two, simply lift the liner to catch the solids and flush the liner and waste down the toilet or put it in the trash. These are perfect for dealing with cloth diaper changes on the go.

Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergent

Some regular laundry detergents can cause buildup on cloth diapers that could impact absorbency or even lead to diaper rash. Take care of your cloth diapers with a gentle and effective detergent designed just for them. Diaper detergents are tough on stains without being irritating to your baby’s skin.

Diaper Wet Bag

A diaper wet bag is a handy way to store dirty diapers before you wash them (and to trap the smell!). We recommend getting two wet bags—you can dump the dirty one in the wash with the diapers and have a clean one to use for changes in the meantime. You can hang the bags by your changing station or on a bathroom doorknob.

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