Washing Cloth Diapers

The good news is it’s not as hard to wash cloth diapers as you may assume from an outsider’s perspective. There is no need for dunking or sloshing in the toilet. No reason to get your hands dirty at all!

Washing New Diapers:

All diapers should be washed at least once before used on baby. Prefolds and hemp inserts it’s recommended 8-10 times to reach their full absorbency potential. My theory is to wash and dry them 2-3 times with my normal clothes, use them on baby, and eventually they will have been washed 8-10 times. Hemp inserts have natural oils and need to be washed separately from the rest of your diapers 2-3 times.

With a newborn washing is super easy! Throw your dirty diapers into the wash for a pre-rinse then a wash with a scoop of your favorite all natural, water soluble detergent. Follow with another rinse if you think it’s needed. Put diapers in the dryer on low/no heat and you’re done!

Washing diapers with a newborn or breastfeeding infant:

1) Pre-rinse on cold

2) Hot wash with 1-3 tablespoons of natural detergent

3) Final rinse on cold (optional)

4) Dry on low heat


Once your baby starts eating solids things change a bit. The stomach bacteria that helps babies digest their food comes out in their waste. Water soluble, non-residue building detergents do not have anything in their formulas to kill bacteria. So we need to add an extra step here. You have 6 options to fight bacteria: bleach, hydrogen peroxide, sunlight, Thirsties Prewash, Biokleen Bac-Out, and Funk Rock.

    a) Bleach is a carcinogen(causes cancer) and we do not recommend it. Bleach is not only unsafe for baby but it will also diminish the life and quality of your diapers. 

    b) Hydrogen peroxide is a safe alternative and I do a 50/50 ratio with water in my bathroom sink. I let a handful of diapers soak in the mix for 20-40 minutes, then wring out and do another handful of diapers to soak. Then I wash like normal. 1/2 cup in your wash for upkeep.

    c) Sunlight is a powerful combatant for naturally killing bacteria. Just lay your wet diapers in the sunlight to dry.

    d) Thirsties Pre-Wash is a newer option for killing bacteria and treating stains. Include in your prewash, then wash like normal.

    e) Biokleen Bac-out is a natural culture enzyme- basically it’s good bacteria that eats the bad bacteria and washes out of your diapers. You must spray this on your diapers and let it sit in the pail OR let it soak in your washer for a time(1/2-1 cup overnight). This works really well and we have a lot of parents use this method.

    d) Funk Rock is a new product recently released by Rockin Green in November 2010. Soak your diapers to get the funk out.

Washing diapers when baby is eating solid food:

1) Pre-rinse on cold (option a is to add bleach, option d is to add Thirsties Pre-Wash)

2) Soak overnight (option b is with hydrogen peroxide, option e is with Biokleen Bac-out)

3) Hot wash with 1-3 tablespoons of natural detergent

4) Final rinse on cold

5) Dry on low heat (or option c is to line dry to kill bacteria and whiten stains)

Now there are also several ways that you can prevent stink build up in the first place. Disposing of the waste before you put it in your pail is a big help. You can do this with a diaper sprayer(think of a kitchen sink sprayer that attaches to the back of your toilet), or you can use a rice paper liner(they look like a dryer sheet) and put the waste easily into the toilet. Spray your poopy diapers with Biokleen Bac-Out so it kills bacteria while it’s in the pail. Also don’t let your diapers sit in the pail between washes for more than 2 days, 3 days tops. The longer they sit the bigger your bacteria issues.


Charlie’s Soap is our personal detergent of choice. It’s got a bad rap in the cloth diaper world because it can react with hard water. You can add a water softener if that is an issue for you. Most people do not have hard water. Charlie’s gets my diapers and clothes super clean and I have not found any alternative that can hold up to it yet.

Rockin Green is another great detergent. Beloved in the cloth diaper world and formulated especially for cloth diapers. This detergent is water soluble and does not cause build up in the diapers. #1 seller in cloth diaper detergent!

Thirsties Super Wash is also formulated for cloth diapers and the reviews by parents have been great for this system. The bottle even has a built in measuring cup!

bumGenius Detergent is a trusted brand in cloth diapering (a close sibling with Country Save detergent ;)). We have many customers who are repeat users.

Soap Nuts is an all natural soap that gets raves from customers. It’s something that I plan to restock soon in it’s liquid tea form.

Fighting Stains:

The yellow breast milk poop stains will wash out after a couple of washes. If you don’t want to wait you can do a couple of things. Put lemon juice into your wash to whiten diapers, or lay out in the sunlight to naturally bleach them. I haven’t tested this but other online resources state that laying in the sunlight from your window works as well. Biokleen Bac-out is also suppose to help fight stains.

Helpful Hints:

Use as much water as your machine will allow.

12-18 diapers at a time. Don’t overload the machine or the diapers won’t get clean.

If you are using conventional detergent, only use a fourth of the recommended amount.

Every once in awhile it’s useful to dry diapers with PUL on high heat to reseal any tiny holes.

Tea Tree or Lavender oil can help defuse the smell from your diaper pail.

A dryer ball in the dryer will help with static and dry your diapers and clothes faster!

A water softener gets diapers cleaner.

Don’t Do List:

Do not use fabric softener.

Do not use dryer sheets.

Do not use bleach.

Do not use conventional diaper rash creams.

Do not dry diapers with PUL and elastic on high heat every time. This dramatically shortens the life of your diapers.

Do not mess with vinegar and baking soda. It can throw off the PH in your diapers and is not worth dabbling in. Some people have success with it but I have heard too many unhappy stories that involve the use of these. It’s better to prevent and fix the problem than to try to treat the symptom.


Been using conventional detergent and have major build up? A sign of build up is when your diapers are not absorbing, you have a stink problem, or baby is getting rashes. To strip your diapers do the normal wash cycle with detergent, then follow with another wash cycle using Dawn dish soap(yes it needs to be Dawn). Depending on your machine it will determine the amount you use. In my top loader I use about a quarter size amount of Dawn. It may be 1/4 of that for a front loader. Once the cycle is done you are going to rinse, and rinse, and rinse until the suds are gone. Fresh diapers again!

Washing wool will be in a separate post in the near future.

Please post replies below. My story may help some but your story may help others. Please share your washing routine! Have great details? Share and you could win a free bottle of Bac-out or Thirsties Pre-Wash!

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