How to Wash Cloth Diapers

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When making the decision to cloth diaper, the most popular question is on how to wash cloth diapers.

You start to think about touching the pee filled diapers, and just what the heck do you do with the poo? But don’t worry, I’m going to answer all of your questions about:

  • How often should you wash cloth diapers
  • How to wash cloth diapers for the first time
  • How to wash cloth diapers with poop
  • Detergents for cloth diapers
  • How to wash cloth diapers with a washing machine
  • How to wash cloth diapers by hand

A little cloth diaper story, but scroll past if you are ready for diaper washing knowledge.

My twins are turning 2 next week, and I have a 10 month old. So you might be thinking what the heck am I thinking, why cloth diaper now?

I’m expecting a baby boy the of May, and the only thing I could think of was that I refuse to have 4 babies in disposable diapers. I refuse to buy more than the 2 cases of diapers every 2 weeks that we already were buying.

I started thinking, why pay for 2 cases at all? Why not give cloth diapering a try. I cloth diapered all 3 babies beginning last November, with a minimal stash which meant washing everyday.

Then my journey took another spin as I prepare my twins for potty training, however sticking with cloth, I will be using cloth training pants.

When I first started cloth diapering I didn’t know what the hell I was doing mama’s. There’s so much you have to learn once you decide to take that journey in order to have a great experience with cloth.

And that’s why I’m deciding to share my experience and pass on the things that I learn because cloth diapering isn’t hard, when you understand it.

Not only is cloth diapering better for the environment, they are also money savers, and I’ve found better for babies that have sensitive skin.

I also thought cloth diapering was expensive, but there are options like the cloth option, buying pre-loved cloth diapers, and making your own.

When you sign up for my free cloth diaper template for sewing your own cloth diapers, you also receive weekly information and tips on cloth diapers.

So even if you aren’t interested in making your own, but you want to receive those tips, sign up below.

How to wash cloth diapers

How Often Should you Wash Cloth Diapers

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links, which means I will make a small commission when you visit my links with no additional cost to you.

I kid you not, some people have a stash large enough to wash their diapers once a week. Please don’t do this.

To keep your diapers in good shape it’s advised to not wash as frequently, but truth be told,

The heat from the dryer is what causes the elastic to relax.

Which means, you should wash your diapers at least every 2-3 days. However, air drying your diapers occasionally instead of using a dryer will help preserve your diapers.

Extreme heat damages the PUL overtime and stretches the elastic.

Use a drying rack or clothing line and air dry every few washes or every wash like me.

The sun is also nature’s bleach and can keep your stay dry material bright and flats and inserts spot free.

Newbie glossary:

PUL– The material on the outside of every cloth diaper that makes it waterproof.

Stay dry material- The inside layer of a pocket diaper that touches baby’s skin. (Covers do not have stay dry material.)

How to Wash Cloth Diapers for the First Time

When you receive new cloth diapers, you want to wash them to remove and residue that it’s collected in the factory and during packaging (just like you wash new underwear before wearing them.)

Washing new cloth diapers is known in the cloth diaper world as prepping cloth diapers.

Cloth diapers aren’t that absorbent when you purchase them, especially inserts. Prepping them not only gets them clean, but increases their initial absorbency.

It typically takes 6-7 washes for cloth diapers to reach their maximum absorbency.

How to Prep Cloth Diapers

You prep cloth diapers by Washing them the same way you normally wash them, but without the pre-wash. The pre-wash is to loosen gunk (poop) and help prevent stains, nothing that needs to be worried about with new cloth diapers.

  • Wash your cloth diapers in hot water for a regular or regular/heavy cycle with an extra rinse.
  • Hang them to dry (recommended) or dry them on low heat.

If you only have a few diapers to prep I suggest throwing them in with your regular diaper laundry, adding towels to your load, or hand washing them.

Without enough agitation, you may not remove all of the residue that could be on the diapers.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers with Poop

Common misconception with cloth diapers is that washing the poop requires extra steps in the washing process.

You wash poop diapers just like your other soiled diapers. Except you prep them before hand.

Exclusively breastfed poop is water soluble and you don’t have to rinse them if you don’t want to they’ll come clean in the laundry.

I am not a fan of poop lol so I plan on spraying new baby’s diapers anyway. For babies that eat solids or is formula fed you want to:

  • Dump the poop into the toilet.
  • Spray any that’s left off the diaper.

You can use a shower head sprayer if it reaches your toilet, or a sprayer that connects to your toilet.

Detergents for Cloth Diapers

I am not a cloth diaper detergent expert, but I can tell you what I know and what’s tried and true.

You can not go wrong with Tide Detergent.

I did so much research when beginning and Tide is leading the poles. It’s common to think free and clear, but some free and clear detergents like ALL and Arm and Hammer, causes leaks. Tide, Purex, and Green Mountain can get the job done.

There are also detergents and soap bits specifically made for cloth diapers.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers with a Washing Machine

I know it took literally forever to get to this part, but I wanted to make sure you were well informed.

You are going to take your diapers through 2 cycles. A pre-wash and then the actual washing cycle.

  • Pre-wash your diapers in cold water without detergent. If your washer is like mine and doesn’t have a pre-wash setting, quick wash or hand washables gets the same job done.
  • After you pre-wash, wash your diapers in hot water with detergent on regular/heavy or heavy depending on how soiled your diapers are. Turn on the extra rinse setting to make sure detergent doesn’t get left behind.
  • Air dry your diapers or put them in the dryer on low heat.


  • ALWAYS separate your inserts or flats from your pockets when tossing them into your wet bag.
  • Baking soda and lemon juice are great natural whiteners.
  • Vinegar is great for neutralizing smells.
  • Never use fabric softener or scent beads ( like unstoppables) on your diapers.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers by Hand

There is like 500 videos on this topic on YouTube. Every year cloth diapering guru’s participate in the hand washing challenge.

It’s easier to wash them using the plunger and bucket method.

Plunger and Bucket method

  • Soak your diapers in your bucket in cold water with 1/4 your usual amount of detergent. Give it a few stirs and let them sit for 30 minutes.
  • Drain your diapers and fill them with extremely hot water and your normal amount of detergent.
  • Plunge for 5 minutes and drain.
  • Repeat until the water is clear.
  • Hang to dry.

Solely by Hand

  • Soak your diapers in the tub, sink, or a container with 1/4 your usual amount of detergent. Swish with your hands like kneading dough before letting your diapers sit.
  • Drain and fill with water that’s as hot as you can stand it without any pain or irritation.
  • Using your normal amount of detergent knead for 5 minutes and drain.
  • Repeat until the water runs clear.
  • Air dry.

Hand washing Tips:

  • Wringing your diapers out and rolling them in a towel will help then to dry faster.
  • Smaller loads are easier to hand wash.
  • Flats dry faster than inserts.

How to wash cloth diapers

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