How to Wash Cloth Diapers

October 6, 2022

If you have already made the decision to use cloth diapers, good for you. If you’re still trying to understand it all, try reading Cloth Diapering Basics: A Guide to Getting Started.

Cloth Diaper Detergents

If you are trying to decide which detergent to use with your cloth diapers, I highly recommend looking at this Detergent Chart. It gives ratings for all kinds of detergents and tells you which ones have chemicals you may not want on your precious baby’s booty.

If you don’t want to buy detergent specifically designed for cloth diapers, stick with something that is free of dyes, chemicals, or fragrances. I personally use All Free & Clear, since it is safe and better priced than all the other made-for-cloth diapers.

How to wash cloth diapers

Washing Cloth Diapers for the First Time

This applies to washing for the first time and every time after that, make sure to attach any Velcro pieces to the appropriate spots. This will keep them from all getting stuck together and causing those rough-looking patches when you pull them apart. Check all washing instructions in case your specific diapers need additional care, and follow those instructions.

If you are using natural diapers like hemp, bamboo, and others, be sure to wash them separately. These contain natural oils that take a few washes to get rid of. They also cause build-up and less absorbancy in your diapers.

Ironically, the more a cloth diaper is washed, the more absorbent it becomes. So, shoot for 3-5 washes and dries with both on the hot setting before using them on your little one. Pre-washing also makes the fabric softer on your baby’s tiny tush.

Hand Washing Cloth Diapers

Hand washing cloth diapers really isn’t as cumbersome as it may seem at first. I promise your electric bill will thank you if you decide to hand wash.

Steps to hand washing cloth diapers:

    1. I’d suggest getting some of those reusable yellow gloves that go up to your elbows. Cloth diaper cleaning isn’t always pretty. [It never is]
    2. Fill a 5-gallon bucket or your bathtub with enough warm water to fully submerge your diapers.
    3. Add less detergent than you would when washing clothes in a machine. You can easily use too much when hand washing because there is less water than when you use a machine. This takes FOREVER to fully rinse out.
    4. Before putting your diapers in your “homemade washing machine”, dunk them in the toilet or spray with a diaper sprayer or removable shower head to get rid of any excess icky stuff.
    5. You can use anything to agitate the diapers where the stains are. You can use your hands and rub the diapers together. I have always used a plunger. It does a great job at forcing the soapy water through the fabric.
    6. Once all diapers have been thoroughly cleaned, it’s time to rinse. Rinsing is very important because the detergent can easily build up when you wash cloth diapers by hand. This can irritate a baby’s skin or even make them less absorbent.
    7. Empty the bucket and get fresh water. Rub them together or “plunge” just like you did to wash them. Most of the time, it will take two rinsing cycles when hand washing. Just make sure there is no sudsy water left when you ring them out.
    8. Take the diapers out of the water, and squeeze them until they do not have any more water coming out of them.
    9. Dry your cloth diapers

Drying Cloth Diapers

You can use a dryer to get your diapers dry in a hurry but there is definitely a benefit to line-drying your cloth diapers. The sun is an amazing and safe bleaching agent. Line drying your cloth diapers in the sun to get rid of any gross-looking stains. However, line drying can make diapers a little stiff. If it bothers your little one, you can always through them in the dryer for a minute to “fluff” them up a little.

Drying cloth diapers is pretty standard. You wash or line dry just like you would with clothes. The only exception is to make sure your diapers or covers don’t specifically say not to dry them in a machine. My covers specifically told me to line-dry them.

Cloth Diaper Cleaning Services

If you want to be more Eco-friendly but just don’t have the time to hassle with the extra laundry requirements of cloth diapering, there are cloth diaper cleaning services available.

You can use to help you locate a cloth diaper service in your area. They have a list of companies by state and city with links to each of their websites.

Most services offer different plans to fit your budget and your lifestyle. Some even offer diapers, covers, and snaps with your package. For example, the cloth diaper service closest to me has a new mommy package if you just want to try it out for 3 months. The cost is about $343. They pick up and deliver once per week and provide you with diapers, 3 diaper covers, a diaper pail, and fasteners.

This may seem expensive, but you don’t even have to buy the diapers yourself. This can be a great option. The bigger the package, the more you end up saving as well. Their 6-month package costs around $624.

If you already have the diapers bought and ready, they have more basic services as well that don’t include all of the extras.

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