Today we’re tackling the cloth diaper wash routine!
First of all, I’d like to point out that, in case you haven’t realized it by now, everything cloth diaper related is subjective, meaning there are really no absolutes when it comes to cloth diapering advice. What works for one person may not work for everyone.
With that said, here is my personal cloth diapering wash routine, which I also discuss in my cloth diapering book.
1. Cold Rinse/Hot Wash/Cold Rinse
This is the most basic foundation of a good wash routine.
The cold rinse is to knock off any solids that may have stuck to the diaper when you were shaking or spraying (or flushing a liner) down the toilet. Rinsing in hot instead of cold might risk setting in stains.
The hot wash with detergent cleans the diapers.
The cold rinse gets out detergent residue.
*Many people add a second cold rinse to guarantee that all detergent rinses out. I personally do this.*
2. Full load of diapers=no more than 15-17 diapers
I count each diaper shell and inserts as one diaper. Yes, we know your machine looks like it can fit more, but in my experience, if you shove more diapers than this in, they won’t get clean.
3. Cloth diapers like LOTS of WATER.
Use the maximum amount of water possible with your diapers! If you have a HE machine, you might have to trick the machine to add more water by adding a towel to the load. I have a top-loader washing machine, so I just set it on the “super” setting each time.
4. Use a good, cloth-safe detergent.
I personally use Country Save, although I have tried and liked Crunchy Clean, and I have used Sun Free on occasion. There are a LOT of good detergents on the market.
It’s important to remember here that what works for one person may not work for another. Diaper type, water type and even your individual washing machine will make a difference as to whether or not a certain detergent will work for you. You may have to try different ones before you settle on the best detergent that will work for your family.
If you have any questions about a particular detergent, check out the Real Diaper Association’s online Detergent Determiner. I LOVE this little tool! It helps you determine if the detergent you want to try is cloth safe!
5. Use a cloth-safe detergent for your regular laundry.
Using detergents with dyes, perfumes and optical brighteners on your regular laundry can leave residue in the drum of your washing machine, which will, in turn, leave residue on your diapers. I personally use Sun Free (SUPER cheap at Big Lots!) on our regular laundry and Country Save on the diapers.
6. Realize it might take time to figure out the amount of detergent that you need.
The amount of detergent you’ll need is not only dependent upon your type of washing machine (HE machines take less) but also upon the water type (hard water takes more and soft water takes less). Follow your detergent maker’s recommendations and realize you may need to experiment a little before finding what works for you.
7. A weekly soak does wonders for stains.
I highly recommend soaking with pure oxygen once per week for extra whitening and brightening and extra disinfecting. You can soak from 1 hour to all night, depending on how clean you want your diapers! Always do a pre-rinse on cold and soak on hot.
8. The sun is a natural stain-fighter.
If all else fails, sunning (sometimes for more than one day) should get rid of your stains (and disinfect naturally as well!). Sun your diapers and inserts while they are still wet. Spraying a little lemon water on the stains may also help.
9. You should be able to machine or line dry most of your diapers.
Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, but line drying your covers and pocket shells keep them nicer for longer.
Do NOT use dryer sheets, as these contain perfumes, etc. that can leave residue on your diapers and cause them to leak! I personally use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. They help speed up the drying process and don’t leave any chemicals on my diapers–or other laundry! If I want to leave a pretty smell, I’ll dab a few drops of essential oils onto the balls. I got mine from Re-Diaper.com and have been using the same 6 balls for more than two years!
10. Give yourself time to get a good routine down.
Learning the routine that works for your family takes time in the beginning, but once you have it, you’re good to go!
What’s your cloth diaper wash routine?
My eBook, Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, is a 200+-page handbook that will tell you all you need to know to have a successful cloth diapering journey!