How To Wash Cloth Diapers?

Last Updated on September 11, 2023 by Marjorie R. Rogers

To wash cloth diapers, start by rinsing off any solid waste and pre-soaking them in a bucket of water. Then, wash them in hot water with a mild detergent and an extra rinse cycle.

How To Wash Cloth Diapers?


The Basics Of Cloth Diaper Washing

Discover the fundamentals of effectively washing cloth diapers with these essential tips. Learn how to properly clean and maintain cloth diapers to ensure optimal hygiene for your little one.

Importance Of Proper Cloth Diaper Washing

Keeping your cloth diapers clean is crucial for the health and comfort of your baby. Proper cloth diaper washing not only removes dirt and bacteria but also helps maintain the absorbency and lifespan of the diapers. By following these washing guidelines, you can ensure that your cloth diapers stay fresh, odor-free, and ready for reuse.

Understanding Cloth Diaper Components

To effectively wash cloth diapers, it is essential to understand their various components and how they contribute to the overall diapering experience. Here are the key components of a cloth diaper and their role in the washing process:

  • Inserts or soakers: These are the absorbent parts of the diaper that soak up urine and moisture. They can be made of microfiber, bamboo, hemp, or a combination of materials. Inserts and soakers should be detached from the diaper shell before washing.
  • Diaper shell or cover: The outer layer of the cloth diaper, often made of waterproof material, prevents leaks and keeps the moisture contained. Some diaper shells have a pocket where inserts can be inserted, while others require the inserts to be laid on top.
  • Fasteners or closures: Cloth diapers can have various closures, such as snaps, hook and loop (velcro), or diaper pins. These allow for a secure and adjustable fit.
  • Liners: Optional liners can be placed on top of the diaper to catch solid waste and make cleanup easier. Liners can be disposable or reusable, depending on your preference.

Washing Cloth Diapers: The Proper Method

Before washing your cloth diapers, it is essential to follow these steps to ensure effective cleaning:

  • Step 1: Pre-rinse or pre-wash: rinse off any excess waste from the diapers by running them under cold water or engaging in a pre-wash cycle on your washing machine. This step helps prevent stains from setting in and prepares the diapers for the main wash.
  • Step 2: Main wash: use a suitable detergent that is free from additives like fabric softeners, optical brighteners, fragrance, and enzymes. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate amount of detergent to use based on the load size and water hardness. Select a heavy-duty cycle with warm or hot water for maximum cleaning.
  • Step 3: Extra rinse: after the main wash, it is advisable to add an extra rinse cycle to ensure that all detergent residues are thoroughly removed from the diapers. This step helps prevent skin irritation and keeps the diapers soft and absorbent.
  • Step 4: Drying: cloth diapers can be air-dried or machine-dried, depending on your preference and the manufacturer’s guidelines. Hanging the diapers under the sun helps eliminate any remaining stains and kills bacteria naturally. If using a dryer, choose a low or medium heat setting to avoid damaging the diaper components.

By following these simple steps and understanding the essential components of cloth diapers, you can effectively wash and maintain your cloth diaper stash, ensuring a hygienic and comfortable experience for both you and your little one.

Step 1: Prepping Cloth Diapers

Learn how to wash cloth diapers with step 1: prepping cloth diapers. This guide provides easy-to-follow instructions for keeping your baby’s diapers clean and fresh.

Before you can start using cloth diapers for your little one, it’s essential to properly prep them. Prepping cloth diapers involves different steps depending on whether you’re dealing with new or used diapers. By following the right methods, you can ensure that your cloth diapers are clean, absorbent, and ready for use.

Washing New Cloth Diapers

Washing new cloth diapers is an important step to remove any residue or chemicals that might be present from the manufacturing process. It’s crucial to prep them correctly to enhance their absorbency and prevent leaks. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Start by giving the new cloth diapers a thorough rinse in warm water. This helps to remove any initial dirt or debris.
  • Once the initial rinse is done, do a pre-wash cycle using a suitable detergent. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions to select the appropriate detergent.
  • After the pre-wash, run a regular wash cycle. Use the recommended amount of detergent based on the load size. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners as they can damage the diapers.
  • Once the wash cycle is complete, perform an extra rinse to ensure all the detergent is removed. Residual detergent can affect the diapers’ absorbency and irritate your baby’s skin.
  • Finally, dry the newly washed cloth diapers either by air drying or using a low heat setting on your dryer. Tumble drying on high heat can cause diapers to wear out faster.

Prepping Used Cloth Diapers

If you’re using preloved cloth diapers, it’s essential to properly prep them to remove any stains, lingering odors, or diaper cream residue. Follow these steps to prep used cloth diapers:

  • Start by removing any solid waste from the diapers. You can use a diaper sprayer or simply shake off any solids into the toilet.
  • Give the used diapers a rinse in cold water to remove any remaining residue.
  • Once the initial rinse is done, you can opt to do a pre-soak. Fill a large container or your washing machine with water and add a designated cloth diaper detergent. Soak the diapers for a few hours or overnight.
  • After the pre-soak, run a regular wash cycle using the recommended amount of detergent. Ensure the water temperature is appropriate for the diaper type and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Once the wash cycle is complete, perform an extra rinse to ensure all the detergent is removed.
  • To remove any stubborn stains, consider drying the prepped cloth diapers under natural sunlight. Sunlight has natural bleaching properties and can help fade stains.
  • Finally, dry the prepped cloth diapers as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions. Always check the diaper’s specific drying instructions to prevent any damage.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your cloth diapers are properly prepped and ready to be used on your baby. Taking the time to prep your cloth diapers correctly will help extend their lifespan, maintain their effectiveness, and provide your little one with a comfortable and gentle diapering experience.

Step 2: Removing Waste

Step 2 of washing cloth diapers involves removing the waste from the diapers using a sprayer or a liner. This essential step ensures that the diapers are clean and ready for the next use.


Dealing with waste may not be the most glamorous part of cloth diapering, but it’s an essential step in maintaining hygiene and ensuring the longevity of your diapers. Here are some tips for proper waste removal:

  • Using liners for easy cleanup: Liners act as a barrier between your baby’s waste and the diaper, making cleanup a breeze. Consider the following options:
  • Disposable liners: These thin, biodegradable liners can be placed on top of the diaper, catching any solid waste. Once soiled, you can simply discard them in the toilet or dispose of them responsibly.
  • Cloth liners: Made of soft and absorbent material like microfleece or cotton, these liners can be placed inside the diaper. After use, toss them in the washing machine along with your diapers.
  • Spray or dunk and swish method: If using liners isn’t your preference, you can opt for the spray or dunk and swish method.
  • Spray method: Invest in a diaper sprayer that attaches to your toilet. Use it to spray off any solid waste directly into the toilet bowl, ensuring a thorough cleanup.
  • Dunk and swish method: Fill a sink or bucket with water and swish the diaper gently to loosen and remove the waste. Once the waste is eliminated, squeeze out any excess water before washing the diaper.
  • Stain removal: Sometimes, the aftermath of a messy diaper can leave stains on the fabric. To combat this, consider the following options:
  • Sunning: Nature’s ultimate stain remover, sunlight can work wonders on cloth diapers. Hang the clean, wet diaper in direct sunlight to naturally bleach away any remaining stains.
  • Stain remover paste: Homemade or store-bought stain remover pastes can also be used. Apply a small amount to the stained area, let it sit for a while, and then rinse off before washing the diaper.

Remember, proper waste removal is crucial for maintaining the cleanliness and durability of your cloth diapers. By following these tips, you’ll make the process more manageable and keep your baby’s diapers in prime condition.

Step 3: Choosing The Right Detergent

When it comes to washing cloth diapers, step 3 involves choosing the right detergent for optimal cleaning. Selecting a detergent specifically designed for cloth diapers is essential to keep them fresh, free from stains, and gentle on your baby’s skin.

Understanding Detergent Selection

Choosing the right detergent is crucial for effectively washing cloth diapers. Not all detergents are suitable for this task, as some may leave residue or contain ingredients that can cause irritation. To ensure your baby’s diapers are clean and safe, consider the following points when selecting a detergent:

  • Type of detergent: Opt for a mainstream detergent that contains enzymes and surfactants. Avoid using natural or homemade detergents, as they may not be as effective at removing stains and odors.
  • Fragrance-free: Look for a fragrance-free detergent to minimize the risk of irritation or allergic reactions. Fragrances can be harsh on your baby’s sensitive skin, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  • No fabric softeners: Fabric softeners can leave a residue on cloth diapers, which can reduce absorbency and cause leaks. Ensure that the detergent you choose does not contain any fabric softeners.
  • No optical brighteners: Optical brighteners are chemicals used in some detergents to make whites appear brighter. However, they can also build up on cloth diapers and cause them to look dingy over time. Opt for a detergent without optical brighteners.
  • Hard water considerations: If you have hard water, choose a detergent that is specifically designed for hard water conditions. Hard water can hinder the effectiveness of regular detergents, leading to issues with cleanliness.
  • Recommended dosage: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the recommended amount of detergent to use. Using too little detergent may result in dirty diapers, while using too much can leave behind residue and cause irritation.

When it comes to choosing the right detergent for washing cloth diapers, there are several options available. The following detergents are highly recommended by experienced cloth diaper users:

  • Tide: Tide is a popular brand known for its effective cleaning power. Many cloth diapering parents have had great success using tide original powder or liquid detergent. Be sure to choose the fragrance-free version.
  • Rockin’ green: Rockin’ green offers a range of detergent formulas specifically designed for cleaning cloth diapers. Their detergents are free of harsh chemicals and are available in different scents and variations for various water types.
  • Charlie’s soap: Charlie’s soap is a gentle yet powerful detergent that is safe for cloth diapers. It is biodegradable and does not leave behind any residue, ensuring clean and fresh diapers for your baby.
  • Persil: Persil is known for its exceptional stain-fighting abilities. Many cloth diapering parents recommend persil proclean original or persil proclean sensitive skin for washing their diapers.
  • Nellie’s: Nellie’s all-natural laundry soda is a popular choice among eco-conscious parents. It is free of harsh chemicals, fragrance-free, and effective at removing stains and odors from cloth diapers.

Remember, it’s essential to choose a detergent that works well for your specific cloth diapering routine and water conditions. Test a small batch of diapers before committing to a particular detergent to ensure it meets your expectations.

Step 4: Washing And Drying Cloth Diapers

To properly wash cloth diapers, follow these steps: step 4 involves washing and drying the diapers. Use a gentle detergent and avoid fabric softeners. Dry them in the sun whenever possible to remove stains naturally. Regular washing ensures clean and fresh diapers for your little one.

Effective Washing Techniques

Using the right washing techniques is essential for maintaining clean and odor-free cloth diapers. Here are some effective methods to ensure your diapers are thoroughly cleaned:

  • Pre-rinse: Before washing, give your cloth diapers a quick rinse to remove any solids. This step prevents stains from setting in.
  • Water temperature: Use hot water for the main wash cycle, as it helps to sanitize and remove bacteria effectively. However, always check the care instructions for your specific cloth diaper brand, as some may require colder water.
  • Detergent selection: Choose a cloth diaper detergent that is specifically designed for this purpose. Avoid using regular laundry detergents, as they can leave residue or contain additives that may irritate your baby’s skin.
  • Proper agitation: Sufficient water and agitation are necessary to ensure thorough cleaning. Make sure not to overload your washing machine, as this can hinder proper agitation.
  • Extra rinse: To eliminate any detergent residue, it is recommended to do an extra rinse cycle at the end. This will leave your cloth diapers fresh and residue-free.

Optimal Drying Methods

Proper drying methods are crucial to maintain the quality and longevity of your cloth diapers. Here are some optimal ways to dry them:

  • Line drying: The most eco-friendly option is to hang your cloth diapers outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Sunlight acts as a natural disinfectant and helps remove stains.
  • Drying rack: If you don’t have outdoor space, use a drying rack indoors near a sunny window or in a well-ventilated room. This method ensures good airflow and quick drying.
  • Dryer machine: If you prefer using a dryer, select a low or medium heat setting to prevent damage to the fabrics. Adding dryer balls or clean tennis balls can help fluff the diapers and decrease drying time.
  • Avoid high heat: Excessive heat can lead to shrinkage and damage the waterproof layer of the diapers. Avoid using high heat settings or exposing the diapers to direct heat sources like radiators or heaters.
  • Check for dampness: Before storing your cloth diapers, make sure they are completely dry. Damp diapers can develop mold or mildew over time, leading to unpleasant odors and potential health risks.

Remember, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying your specific brand of cloth diapers. With proper washing and drying techniques, your cloth diapers will stay clean, fresh, and ready to use for many diaper changes to come.

Frequently Asked Questions Of How To Wash Cloth Diapers?

How Often Should You Wash Cloth Diapers?

You should wash cloth diapers every 2-3 days to prevent odor and bacterial growth.

What Temperature Is Best For Washing Cloth Diapers?

Wash cloth diapers in hot water above 130°f to effectively kill bacteria and remove stains.

Can You Use Regular Detergent On Cloth Diapers?

Yes, you can use regular detergent without fragrance, softeners, or additives on cloth diapers.

How Do You Prevent Cloth Diapers From Leaking?

Ensure a proper fit by adjusting the snaps or velcro, and double-check that the leg and waist areas are snug.

How Should You Dry Cloth Diapers?

Hang cloth diapers to dry in direct sunlight as it helps remove stains and kill bacteria naturally.



Washing cloth diapers may seem like a daunting task, but with the right strategies in place, it can be easily integrated into your daily routine. Remember to start with a thorough pre-rinse, followed by a proper washing cycle using a mild detergent.

Be mindful of the water temperature and avoid using fabric softeners or bleaching agents that may damage the diapers’ absorbency. Lastly, drying the diapers in the sun not only helps eliminate stains but also adds a natural disinfecting effect. By following these steps consistently, you can ensure that your cloth diapers remain clean, fresh, and free from harmful bacteria.

So embrace the journey of cloth diapering, knowing that you are not only making an environmentally-friendly choice but also providing your little one with a safer and more comfortable diapering experience.

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