There is a lot of advice out there on how to wash cloth diapers. I’ve read and read and read and applied what works for me. The best place I have gone to for advice is Fluff Love University. It can be a bit overwhelming but they offer great advice for different washing machines, detergents and water types.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers: Water Type
The first step in cloth diaper washing is figure out the hardness of your water. If you have a softener system then this will be easy.
You can get your water tested for an official reading. We’ve only been in this house 2 years so we had to have our water tested then. Or I just look at my sinks and see I have hard water build up on the faucets.
If you have orange staining in your tub or sink then there are more issues you have to deal with.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers: Machine Type
After figuring out your water hardness, then you have to understand how to wash in your type of machine.
Front loaders use a different procedure than top loaders. And hopefully you aren’t having to use a wringer washer yet! Kudos to our mothers and grandmothers who had to cloth diaper and wash in a wringer or with a washboard.
You also have to understand how to use powder vs. liquid detergents in your machine.
Read your machine’s owner’s manual to learn where you are to put any additives like Borax or water softeners. Make sure your detergent compartment is set up properly for either liquid or powder.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers: Detergent
When choosing a detergent for cloth diapers I again recommend checking out Fluff Love University. They have an in-depth chart comparing hundreds of detergent options.
A few basics you want in a detergent:
- No cold water options
- No softeners
- Must be a detergent
- Must contain surfactants [Surfactants reduce water tension and help lift soil out of fibers.]
I got overwhelmed with their chart so I went back to reading personal reviews. Tide came up again and again. After looking up Tide on Fluff Love’s chart I decided it was a good pick! Especially because Tide works so well in hard water.
I do use Tide Free & Gentle and not the scented options. Because Free & Gentle isn’t as great in hard water as the scented Tide options, I add Borax as a water softener.
However, I do not use as much detergent as the Fluff Love chart recommends. Watching the wash cycles there was waaaay too much sudsing in my machine for my comfort. I cut way back on my amounts and have had great success!
How I Wash My Cloth Diapers
I have a GE front loading machine. I found the cycle recommendations on the Fluff & Love University website.
When I change my baby’s diaper I pull the insert out of the dirty one and throw everything in my wet bag. Poopy diapers I spray off right away and throw in the wet bag. I don’t use a splatter shield because it’s just one more thing to keep clean. By adjusting the water pressure and the angle of my sprayer and diaper I am able to contain the mess in the toilet.[I had a very clean bathroom during my learning curve because I was having to clean up my splash messes so often!]
I wash my diapers every other day. Once in a while I will let them go two days, but not very often.
1.I first wash the diapers on speed wash with heavy soil, warm water and high spin. I turn on the hot water in my laundry sink to get hot water to my machine quicker. I put the diapers and bag in the washer and add about 1/2 a cup of Borax into the drum. In my dispenser I have pulled out the divider so it is set up for powder but can also do liquid detergent. I have used liquid Tide Free & Gentle liquid before but have recently tried powder. So far Tide Free & Gentle.
It’s so easy to load the washer without touching dirty diapers because I just turn the wet bag inside out back on my hand.
2. For the second wash I use the stain wash, heavy soil, hot water and high spin. I remove the pre-wash option. After the first cycle ends I open the door and pull the diapers off the wall of the drum. I add more Borax and detergent. This is when I throw in my baby’s clothes that need washing. I only add small items to this load because front loaders are most effective with clothing items all similar in size.
[As an aside for front loaders: make sure to clean your washer frequently! Before cloth diapering I just did the recommended bleach basket clean and called it good. Once I started washing diapers I got a bad stank! Now I know that I have to weekly clean the boot (the rubber door seal area) of my washer because the buildup is n.a.s.t.y. My next washer will definitely be a top loader…]
3. I usually line dry my diapers. Most of the time I hang them on the line outside. If it’s raining or the snow is too deep I hang them on my drying rack in the bas
ement. I love hanging the diapers on the line. I make all the linings face south for the best sun exposure. It’s amazing how well the sun’s UV rays remove any lingering poo stains!
If I’m lazy or in a rush I will throw the inserts in the dryer. Do not use dryer sheets! Dryer sheets reduce the absorbency of the inserts. I never put the shells in the dryer because I don’t want the waterproof laminate to break down in the heat. They dry fairly quickly on my drying rack in the basement if it’s raining outside.
Some people put hangers on the shower rod and clothespin several diapers to each hanger for drying without a clothes rack.
4. Putting away. After the diapers are dry I stack the inserts and fold the shells once and stack them. I store them in the top drawer of my baby’s dresser that has his changing pad on. A lot of people stuff their diapers before they put them away. I can see how this would be nice to just grab and go but I don’t usually do this. I lay my baby down, remove the dirty diaper and clean him up. While I’m stuffing his next diaper I can interact with him while his bum is airing out a bit.
When he was still cloth diapered at night, I prepared three diapers in the evening so that I wasn’t fumbling at 2am with an insert.
Now that you know how affordable cloth diapering can be and why I love my cloth diapers, you can begin your own cloth diapering adventure! Cloth diapering doesn’t have to be complicated especially when you learn the ease of how to wash cloth diapers.