Cloth Diapering: Wash Routine

Obviously, the wash routine for cloth diapering is the most important and often times what those new to cloth diapering find the most intimidating.  Fear not!  It is actually quite simple to figure out and once you have it down you are golden.

First of all, you need to know your washing machine.  Top loader or front? Does it have an agitator?  And a few more specifics.  For me, I simply took pictures of the inside of my washing drum (I have an agitator-less washer) and took pictures of the washer’s knobs.  Go to Fluff, Love, and Cloth Diaper Science group page on Facebook.  They literally give a step-by-step how to, tailored specifically to the kind of washer you have.  It can’t get any easier than that!  Yes, they have instructions on how to wash in laundry mats as well, truly anyone can cloth diaper no matter the situation.

You will also have to know if you have hard water or not.  If you have city water, this can usually be as easy as calling the city and getting a water report.  Otherwise you can buy simple testing strips to test your washer’s water.  The test strips can be found at pet shops (fish section), hardware stores, or online.  My water is quite hard, even with a water softener system, and it is also pretty iron rich.  Usually, you shouldn’t use fabric softeners or boosters on cloth diapers- but obviously with how hard the water is I have to use something otherwise the hard water will crystallize the bacteria and cause all kind of issues.  Calgon or Borax are good solutions for hard water issues, we opt for borax.

Now, detergent.  I know if you walk into any natural parenting store you will see “Cloth Diaper Detergent/ Soap”.  It is expensive and pretty useless, so avoid those detergents altogether and head to your grocery store.

Also I know, crunchy moms, it’s fun to make your own stuff.  You know every ingredient in it, it’s cheaper, and you feel accomplished.  Please, for the love of God, resist temptation to make your own “detergent”.  Nothing you make at home will have the proper enzymes of an actual detergent, no, what you are making is laundry soap and that will not properly clean your diapers.

There is a list on Fluff, Love’s website (found here) on diaper safe and approved detergents.  We personally opt for Tide as that is the top ranked and worth the price for us.

Okay so we know our washer inside and out, the water hardness, and have our detergent.  Now it’s just laundry!

We rinsed all the poop off the diapers when we finish a change, so we simply just throw all the diapers, inserts, cloth wipes, and wetbag into the washer.  The whole kit and caboodle.  Now wash!

Keep in mind that this is the wash routine that works for our washer and our hard water.

Turn off the water efficiency knob (don’t worry, it’s still conserving more water than what goes into producing disposable diapers) and turn other knob to “no fabric softener”.

  • Step 1: Line 2 of tide in prewash on cold
  • Step 2: Fluff up the diapers and peel any stuck on the side of the drum off
  • Step 3: Line 4 of tide and approx 2 tablespoons of borax on cold

That’s it!  Now simply hang dry or put in your dryer on low with no dryer sheets.  (Never use dryer sheets on anything you want absorbent like diapers or towels, a thin film will start building up from the dryer sheets and affect absorption.) However, if you have wool dryer balls those can be used.

See?!  Not difficult or scary at all.  Make sure to wash every three days to avoid issues with stain or smell.  It’s a pretty clean process by and large, none of the craziness that some think it is.

When we first decided to go to cloth diapers, we received a lot of horrified looks and comments; they usually related back to the wash routine.  People tried to say it would smell- it doesn’t, disposable diapers that actually keep the yuck in the diaper pail smell a whole lot worse, they tried to say it would be difficult- it’s not, as you can see above it’s a pretty quick and painless process to do while taking care of other things around the house, or my favorite is that it would ruin our washer.  “You’re going to have poop in your washer?!” was the horrified response.  Well, we rinse the poop out with our handy diaper sprayer (you can find that post here) before it even gets to our washer.  Believe me, I feel like we had more poop going into our washer when we used disposables and had blow outs constantly.  Do people usually throw those onesies and outfits away instead of washing them after the ever common disposable diaper blow out?  Or what about when your child is sick and vomits on the bedding?  Having kids, a lot of gross things end up getting washed; rinsed out cloth diapers are not the grossest things to go in my washer.  Plus, that handy little sprayer has been pretty nice to use when there have been accidents or yuck on clothes to prevent it from going in the wash.  Win!


Previous post from our Cloth 101 series:


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