One of the most common questions I got when I decided to cloth diaper my son was, how do you wash them? The second was, where does the poop go? Yes, cloth diapering can get messy (literally) because you’re not just tossing the diaper in the trash or Diaper Genie. But, if you have all the right tools and a clear plan, then cloth diapering can be just as easy as using disposables. There’s really just one more step when cloth diapering and that is the wash routine. Once you can get on board with that, you can feel good about making the environmentally friendly decision of using cloth diapers.
Related: 10 Reasons to Choose Cloth Diapers
As a new mom navigating my way through using cloth diapers I had a lot of questions. I spent months before the birth of my son doing research trying to figure out what I was going to do and how I was going to do it. Figuring out the best wash routine is important to keep your diapers lasting as ling as possible. Absorbancy is important to sustain the life of any cloth diaper whether it’s a prefold, pocket, fitted, flat, or all in one.
Check out my Mom’s Guide to Washing Cloth Diapers below. I’ve got questions and answers to a simple and effective wash routine. Even your husband can do it!
Where does the poop go?
Exclusively Breastfed (EBF) baby’s poop is water-soluble and easy to clean. As long as your baby has typical EBF poop (green, yellow, brown-ish and generally unscented) then it can go right in the wet bag or dry pail until laundry day. No need to discard EBF poop in the toilet before washing either, it will come out clean in your normal wash. EBF poop does not “typically” stain but if you want to rinse off the poop prior to tossing it the wet bag or dry pail, then invest in a diaper sprayer (read more about sprayers in my 17 Best Cloth Diapering Accessories post). On a budget? Diaper sprayers are not a necessity, you can rinse poop off right in the toilet before making the transfer. This will become a necessary step if your little one is on formula and once they have transitioned to solid food. At this stage, the poop MUST be dumped in the toilet before storage and washing.
Where do I store dirty diapers and covers?
Wet pails are a thing of the past just like safety pins! My mom used to use a pail of bleach water and tossed the dirty diapers in it until laundry day. Wet pails are no longer necessary, in addition, they actually lead to bacteria growth as the diapers sit for days in water.
Dirty diapers should be stored in a dry pail with a lid that is lined with a waterproof bag. They can also be stored in a hanging wet bag which is similar to a waterproof pail liner but it has a zipper and handles. You can also use both. What I did was keep a dry pail in the laundry room and a wet bag hanging near my changing station.
This worked great for me because I just dropped the dirty diaper in the wet bag right after the diaper change. At the end of every day, I emptied the wet bag into my main dry pail, which was located in my laundry room. To avoid odor buildup in my dry pail, I used an air freshening disc or ball inside the pail. My dry pail was a plastic garbage can with a lid attached. I found one at Target with a foot pedal on the bottom for easy access. You can also get one on Amazon.
I preferred to store my dirty diaper covers in a separate small wet bag that hung on the back of my laundry room door. Although it’s not necessary, I found that keeping them separated (just until it’s time to wash them) extended their life.
What do I do with the wipes?
When cloth diapering, you’ll also need to invest in cloth wipes. Once used to clean up, wrap them up in the diaper (just as you would a disposable) and toss them in your wet bag or dry pail until laundry day. Throw them in the machine with all the diapers and wash together.
Related: 17 Best Cloth Diapering Accessories
How do I wash my prefold diapers and covers?
A simple diaper wash routine every 2-3 days will keep your diapers clean and fresh. On laundry day, simply empty your pail liner or wet bag directly into the washing machine. I like to hold the liner or bag from the bottom and gradually work the diapers out into the machine and then turn the liner inside out and toss it in along with the diapers and covers. This method allowed for almost no touching of the dirty diapers!
Start with a cold rinse, no soap. Next, hot wash with soap. Then, an additional 2-3 cold rinses, no soap. Remember to use “cloth diaper safe” soaps to extend the life of your diapers and covers. Once your diaper wash is finished, throw them in the drier. Hang dry covers to extend their life.
What kind of detergent should I use?
Not all laundry detergents are safe to use when washing cloth diapers. Cloth diaper specific detergents and soaps are best to use when washing your diapers (Rockin Green, BumGenius, Grovia, and my favorite Country Save) but if you are unable to get your hands on these brands be sure to find one that is all-natural, dye-free, non-toxic, no SLS or SLES (sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl ether sulfate are ingredients used in soaps, detergents, and shampoos that can cause skin irritations when highly concentrated) fragrance free, and no additives. These soaps will help reduce any buildup or residue on diapers, keeping them as absorbent as possible. After testing a few, my favorite is Country Save. It’s one of the most cost-effective and can be used in HE or top-loading machines. Find it on Amazon. Most importantly—AVOID FABRIC SOFTENERS!
How do a remove stains from my prefold diapers?
The sun! Cheap and easy. For me, yes, because I live in Florida where there’s no shortage of sunshine. You can also try Bac-out, a stain and odor eliminator that is cloth diaper safe. It’s Eco-friendly, non-toxic, plant-based, no artificial fragrances, colors, or dyes. When I was cloth diapering my son, I bought a gallon of it on Amazon and still use it for laundry stains and pet-related accidents.
Do I clean all diapers the same?
I used a variety of reusable diapers with my son. We mostly stuck to the standard prefolds with covers but I also used fitteds, all in ones, all in twos, and pockets. They were all made from different materials—cotton, hemp, bamboo, microfiber, and then PUL covers. I washed them all the same way and mixed them together in the same load. Some people have different opinions and keep them separated but I never had a problem washing them all together.
Cloth diapering can be an overwhelming idea to new parents or even to those just deciding to make the transition from disposable to reusable. It can seem like there are a ton of details to know and accessories to have and, to be honest, it can leave some quite deflated after doing hours of research. I know I felt that way in the beginning. But, if you’ve already decided that cloth diapers are best for your baby and your family then I high-five you for getting over the hump and making the commitment! If you’re still on the fence, then check out my post 10 Reasons to Choose Cloth Diapers and maybe I can sway you.
Do you use cloth diapers? Are you considering the transition from disposables to cloth diapers? Share your thoughts and concerns in the comments below.
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Meagan is in her mid-thirties and has been married for almost 10 years. She is a proud boy mom, happily navigating her way through the toddler years. She met her husband 20 years ago in high school; they got married 10 years later after graduating from the University of South Florida. Meagan currently helps run a family business with her parents and sister, while blogging about her life and taking care of her three-year-old son full time (at work)!
When she isn’t chasing her son around and constantly picking up Matchbox cars, she enjoys spending time with her family on a beach anywhere. She also loves decorating and organizing her home, delving into fun DIY projects, bargain shopping, and eating at unique restaurants. She also loves Barbecue anything and a good show or movie on Netflix.