Updated on December 13, 2015
Four Fundamentals of Washing Cloth Diapers
You’ve decided you want to cloth diaper. Awesome! Now what?!?! One of the first steps is to establish a great wash routine. You want a routine that is going to keep your diapers smelling fresh and absorbing well, but you also want to avoid irritating that precious little bum. Sound like a tall order? It’s not! Washing cloth diapers is easy, promise.
There are a four fundamentals of washing diapers that are completely universal. Whether you’ve got a high efficiency (HE) front loader, an HE top loader, or an old school top loader with a central agitator, these four “rules” apply.
1. Do two wash cycles: one short cold wash and one long hot wash. Use detergent in both cycles. The first cycle is to wash away a good amount of the pee and poop from the diapers. This means you’ll be washing in much cleaner water for the long hot wash, and that will make it easier for the detergent to do its job where it really counts.
2. Use enough detergent. Soiled diapers are dirty. I mean, poop and pee dirty. They are (hopefully) the dirtiest laundry you will ever have to wash. So why would you ever use less detergent to wash them? You should be using the amount recommended on your box/bottle of detergent for a small load in the short cold wash, and the amount recommended for a heavily soiled load in the long hot wash. If you’re using a “free” or plant based detergent, you’ll use 1.5 – 2 times the recommended amount.
3. Make sure you’re getting great agitation. The key to washing diapers is agitation and that can be achieved a couple of ways. For HE machines, you get enough agitation by filling the drum with enough diapers. There are a few exceptions, but for most HE machines the drum should be 2/3-3/4 full of diapers for the long hot wash cycle (it can be less for the short cold cycle). Don’t have enough diapers to get the drum that full? No problem! Just add other small laundry items you have to wash anyway (baby clothes, toddler clothes, underwear, face or hand towels, etc.). For an old school top loader, you want “diaper stew”. That is achieved by selecting the load size that gives you 2-3” of water above the diapers when you press down gently. Another way to check for stew is to watch the diapers during agitation. You want to see the diapers being pulled in and down by the agitator.
4. Skip the extra rinses. I know what you’re thinking… This goes against everything you thought you knew about washing cloth diapers, am I right? The truth is they aren’t necessary. More importantly, additional rinses just redeposit minerals from the water back into the diapers. Those minerals can build up leading to stink.
There you have it! Focus on those fundamentals, and you’ll have the groundwork for a great wash routine!
Tell me, how do you wash your diapers?