Cloth Diapers 101: How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Once you have a dirty cloth diaper on your hands, what do you do? It’s actually pretty simple to deal with a dirty cloth diaper, as long as you’re okay with the smells. Trust me: if you’re not already, after the 100th diaper change, you definitely will be. If you’re clueless about how to clean cloth diapers, you won’t be after reading this segment of our Cloth Diapers 101 crash course.

How To Wash Cloth Diapers

Step 1: Dump The Solids Out & Rinse The Diaper

The first thing to do before washing your cloth diapers is to dump the solids into the toilet. Then, rinse it out with water and ring it out. Keeping diapers wet until washed will help keep stains from setting in. Store the damp diapers in a diaper pail (click here to find out what we recommend is the best diaper pail for cloth diapers) or a wet diaper bag until it’s washing time.

Step 2: Wash Them (The Right Way)

You should follow the directions, if any, that came with the diapers. In general, you should pre-rinse them with cold water: this will help prevent urine stains from setting. Then, you should wash them in hot water, with a mild detergent. Tide is usually good, but make sure not to use something strong.

You can use diluted bleach, but don’t use straight bleach, as this will break down the materials in the diapers quickly.

Step 3: Dry Them

The best way to dry cloth diapers is by air-drying: hang them up outside, or if not possible, a drying rack works well. If you need to use the dryer, be sure to check them every once in a while and remove them when dry.

Mistakes to Avoid When Washing Cloth Diapers

Here are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

  • Using straight bleach is a surefire way to break down the materials of the diaper quickly. It can also irritate your baby’s bottom. Dilute any bleach that you use.
  • Using fabric softener is another no-no. It’s just not necessary, and they reduce the absorbency of the diapers.

Dealing With Smelly Diapers Before It’s Wash Time

If you need to have the dirty diapers around for a bit before you wash them, it’s likely that they’re going to start stinking. I’d personally recommend a steel diaper pail like the Ubbi Steel Diaper Pail, which you can read about here. It should go a long way toward reducing that diaper smell.

You can also try baking soda and vinegar, which helps neutralize the smell. Here’s how to do it.

How to Neutralize Diaper Smells With Baking Soda & Vinegar

  • Step 1: Do a cold rinse in the washer.
  • Step 2: Add the regular amount of detergent you normally use.
  • Step 3: Add to the mix 1/2 cup of baking soda. Use a Downy ball filled with white vinegar, or dump it straight in if you don’t have one.
  • Step 4: Set the washer to a hot wash. Once the diapers are agitated but before the dryer starts draining, turn it off.

If you let them sit like this overnight, you can just start the cycle back up and let it complete, being free of the diaper smell.

Products to Avoid

You shouldn’t use any old detergent with your diapers. Some have chemicals that will break down the material of the diapers over time, or cause your baby to rash.

Don’t use any detergent that contains fragrances, enzymes, and other additives, such as whitening and brightening ingredients. Also avoid fabric softeners.

Do you have any more advice for washing cloth diapers? Let us know in the comments area below!

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