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How to Wash Cloth Diapers

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Having a new baby can be overwhelming, and adding another task to the to-do list can seem unmanageable.  We’re here to tell you that washing cloth diapers is much easier than you’d think, and we’ve put everything for you in one place, in the ultimate guide to how to wash cloth diapers.

After you change a diaper

If you’re using covers and prefolds, you don’t need to wash covers between every use. Air them out between uses and wash daily or if they are soiled. Absorbent materials and pocket diapers or all-in-ones need to be washed every time.

Solid waste

We get it! Often the first question about cloth diapers is “what about the poop?”


The solid waste of breastfed babies is water soluble, so there is no need to rinse. This can be true for babies who are fed formula as well, but it tends to vary from baby to baby.

Older Babies

Once your baby starts consuming solid foods, you will need to remove the waste before washing. Many families find it easiest to do this as they change diapers, while others do it at the end of the day.  Simply shake what you can into the toilet and toss the diaper in your pail. For particularly funky diapers, you can use a designated spatula or a bit of toilet paper to help things along. There are also great gadgets available like diaper sprayers and splatter shields as well as disposable liners. Sprayers can be a great investment since they also serve as hand held bidets and are excellent for many other messes that come along with having children!

Cloth Wipes

If you’re using cloth wipes, treat them the same way as your diapers. Using cloth wipes also means you won’t have to pick disposable wipes out of your diaper laundry!

Tip: Cloth wipes come in handy for so many other things, including wiping hands, faces, and sore runny noses.

Storage options


You can use a laundry basket, diaper pail, or waterproof wet bag to store your diapers until wash day. Using a pillowcase as a liner (there are also waterproof, reusable pail liners on the market!) can keep things clean, and though it sounds counterintuitive, leaving your pail or bag open a crack can make things less stinky!

Tip: If your mother or grandmother used cloth diapers, she may have soaked her diapers in a “wet pail,” which is a diaper pail with water and/or bleach. This is not recommended as it can damage your diapers and poses a hazard for children!

Wash Day

How Often to Wash Cloth Diapers

Washing every 2-3 days works best for many families. If you’re still adding to your cloth diaper stash and don’t have enough diapers to last that long, you can wash more often, and if you’re too busy, you can wash less often.  We don’t recommend going any longer than 5-7 days between washes. You also want to be sure that your washing machine isn’t packed full so the diapers have room to agitate.

What’s the Best Cloth Diaper Detergent?


If you have a detergent that works well on your clothing, it should be fine for your cloth diapers as long as it doesn’t contain fabric softener.  Fabric softener can coat the fibers of your diapers, reducing their absorbency. Use the same amount of detergent you would use on a heavily soiled load of laundry.

Tip: Don’t use fabric softener on cloth diapers.

Wash Cycle


It may seem intimidating, but cloth diapers are just dirty laundry!

The 5 parts of the cleaning process are water, agitation, time, chemical action (detergent), and heat. If one is reduced, one or more of the others must be increased.  If you have an HE washing machine, you may have noticed that your cycles take a long time. That’s the machine making up for lack of water by adding time and agitation. Warm water works best for diapers, but if you use cool or cold water, consider using a more heavy-duty cycle on your machine.

Tip: Don’t try to “trick” your HE machine into using more water. Washers with an impeller rely on clothing agitating against other clothing items and using more water than your machine adds can prevent items from getting clean.


Diapers can be tumble dried on low, laid flat, or hung to dry. Double check with the manufacturer of your waterproof diapers or covers to see the maximum drying temperature they recommend.

Tip: Hanging diapers horizontally can help prevent elastic stretching and extend the life of your diapers.

Handwashing Cloth Diapers

If you are hand washing cloth diapers you might find hemp flat cloth diapers to be a lifesaver. With just one layer, they are much easier to get clean and dry than products with multiple layers.

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