Ok, we can all agree using cloth diapers with your baby will save you money and you will be doing something good for the environment. But aren’t they a pain to clean?! No, they are not!! As long as you follow the tips below on how to wash cloth diapers, you will realize that they are not that hard to clean at all 🙂
And note that many of these tips also apply to reusable swim diapers, if you are using those when going to the beach with baby, or to the pool.
Top 10 Tips on How to Wash Cloth Diapers
#1 Hang them in the sun
This might not be the first tip in chronological order for when you wash the diapers, but it’s definitely the best tip I have ever received. So it deserves first place for Top Tip!
Did you know that if you are breastfeeding and you just hang a cloth diaper with a poo stain in the sun, the stain will go away completely? No worry about extra soaking, baking soda, special detergents, nothing!
Just wash the baby poop off the cloth diaper, stick the diaper in the washing machine with the rest of your washing and then hang it in the sun. Be amazed as the stain magically disappears 🙂 Perfect when having to deal with a diaper blowout!
Apparently it only works if you are breastfeeding. If you are using formula, this tip is not that effective. Don’t ask me the science behind this tip, as I honestly don’t know! But trust me when I say it works! I have to thank my midwife for this one, as this advice was worth gold.
Note that when the baby starts solid, this tip is also not that effective anymore. So take advantage of it during the first 4-6 months of your baby’s life 🙂
Take a look at our article on the color of your baby’s poop to guide you if you’re concerned.
#2 Rinse them in the toilet
Easiest way to get poo off a cloth diaper? Turn them inside out in the toilet and flush. Most of the poop will come off this way. Then give them a good shake in the water of the toilet to get the extra bits off, and flush again.
This will get rid of the majority of the poop. However, they are still going to be quite yucky to handle, so I reccommend using tip #2 together with tip #3.
#3 Use a Diaper Sprayer
Diaper sprayers attach to the toilet and look like a small shower head. You can use them to spray the remaining of the poo off the diaper, as they are more effective than just a toilet flush.
If you do not want to buy a diaper sprayer and have a laundry tub with a pull out sprayer spout, then that will also do the trick. That’s what I do anyway 🙂 I just use some Dettol anti-bacterial spray to clean up the sink afterwards.
#4 Use Diaper Liners
Liners become particularly useful when baby starts solids as poos become less liquid and the liner becomes effective in catching most of the waste. All you have to do is place the liner on the inside of the diaper. When changing the diaper, just lift the liner with the solid waste and throw it in the toilet. Make sure to buy flushable ones, otherwise you need to throw the poo in the toilet and the liners in the bin. Another option is to buy biodegradable ones and throw them in your compost.
These liners will also help protect the diaper from diaper creams. Using a diaper cream a lot without a liner will coat the fibers in your diaper reducing their absorbency and will cause them to leak.
If you continuously use diaper creams, I also suggest that you wash your diapers in a hot wash. The fats and oils in the creams will build up over time and you need a warmer wash to get this out of the fabrics.
#5 Wash them every day
Or every other day maximum. You don’t really want to leave dirty pee or poo diapers lying around for more than 48 hours, or they’ll start to really stink. And it may become harder to take the stain / odor away.
I personally wash them with the rest of the clothes. I don’t do separate washes! And I do cold washes, I hardly do hot washes. Some people frown when I say this, but I find that a good cold wash is enough! The diapers come out clean and never stink. As long as you have cleaned them properly from any solid waste before throwing them in the washing machine.
#6 Soak them before washing
I throw diapers with pee straight in the washing machine with the rest of the clothes and do a washing every day (2 days max). But with poo diapers I like to soak them in a bucket with warm water after I have cleaned them from any residue. This will help with removing any stain and also contain any bad smell 🙂
Don’t soak your diapers in harsh stain removers. This will shorten the lifespan of the diapers, particularly the elastics and Velcro, and void any warranty.
A few websites mention bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. However, be careful if using bamboo diapers as these ingredients can dissolve the bamboo fibers. Double check with the diaper manufacturer that using them will not void any warranty.
#7 Use a Diaper Pail
Don’t know where to store diapers before washing them? A pail is a good solution. Like I mentioned before, I personally throw pee diapers straight in the washing machine ready to go with the next load of washing. Whereas I soak poo diapers in some warm water in a bucket in the garage.
If you want to consider a diaper pail, you can either have:
- A dry pail: diapers are stored in a waterproof bag, which can be placed within a bin, hung on the wall, or wherever suits you really. You can even bring it with you to the beach with baby and use it to store reusable swim diapers.
- A wet pail: diapers are soaked in water.
Be mindful that with a wet pail there’s the extra effort of having to get rid of the water afterwards, and of squeezing the diapers before putting them into the washing. I don’t mind doing it and that’s what I found works best for me. However, lots of people do opt for a dry pail instead. If that’s the case, I recommend using at least 2 waterproof bags that you can throw in the wash together with the diapers.
#8 Do not use fabric softener
Fabric softeners coat fabric and reduce absorbency, so avoid using them when washing cloth diapers.
#9 Do not tumble dry on a hot setting
This is particularly true for the PUL part of the diaper, as it can get damaged with a tumble dry on a hot setting. So, if you have a pocket diaper like me, I still tumble dry the inserts, but not the outer part of the diaper.
Reusable swim diapers are also mostly made of PUL or other materials that don’t like hot temperature, so avoid tumble drying those too.
Remember to take advantage of the sun as much as you can, and only tumble dry (on a cool setting) if it’s raining and in the middle of winter 🙂
#10 Use the right amount of detergent
Don’t use too little detergent, nor too much. If you add too much detergent, the wash cycle will not have a chance to get it all out. So it builds up in the diaper and can make it stink. If you don’t use enough, you risk not getting the diapers clean enough.
If your diapers are smelly or if you have been using a lot of diaper creams and notice that they are not as absorbent as what they used to be, you may need to strip wash your diapers.
Extra Tip: catch the poo in the potty or toilet!
Ha! I can see you frowning already! I left this tip for last on purpose (so you wouldn’t stop reading the article) and it’s a bonus one if you feel like reading it 🙂
Babies are actually pretty smart creatures already and don’t particularly like pooing in their diapers. Have you ever noticed that your baby gets quite fussy when they have just made a poo? So you can easily put them on a potty or on the toilet as soon as you see that they are pushing for a poo, and be amazed as they push it out there instead of in the diaper. If you try put them on a potty every time you change their diaper, you will also notice that they’ll start making a poo when you do that, as it’s so much more comfortable for them.
Now, this is something that you probably want to start doing when your baby is well established on solids, around 6 months. Before then, they poo so many times a day it’s hard to keep up. Also, they don’t give you much notice. When they reach 6 months, on the other hand, they start pooing about once a day, and you can clearly see when they are about to push one out! I have hardly had to clean a poo diaper for my daughters since they were 6 months old.
Now, this is not a fantasy and not something that I came up with by myself. There’s actually something called Elimination Communication (EC). EC is a practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an baby’s need to eliminate waste.
It is based on the belief that babies instinctively resist soiling themselves, their sleep space, and their caregivers, and they clearly communicate about it from birth.
You can find more information about EC here.
How to Wash Cloth Diapers: Final Thoughts
Washing cloth diapers can be really daunting, but I really hope going through these tips has made you realize that it doesn’t have to be that hard!
I used to be so worried about the whole cleaning routine when I was expecting my first daughter: the idea of cleaning poo diapers terrified me. And it wasn’t always easy – it took me a little while to figure out all these tips. But once I did, I never looked back!
If you are looking for more information on cloth diapers, also check out these articles:
- Reusable Diapers: a guide to Cloth and Swim Diapers
- The different types of Cloth Diapers: How do I choose the right one?
- 17 Genius Cloth Diapers Storage Ideas
- How to Strip Cloth Diapers (+ When & Why you should do it)
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