How to Clean Cloth Diapers in the Best Way Possible

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
March 2, 2024
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You might be gearing up for your first child or choosing to cloth diaper on your fourth. Either way, learning how to clean cloth diapers is essential to saving time, money, and taking advantage of this new, but very old, craze. We know you want the best for your little one, and we do too.

Hopefully, with a few tips and tricks, your cloth diapering journey will not be the gross, grungy mess that many people expect. Once you know how to clean cloth diapers, it can actually be an enjoyable part of your routine with your kids. So, buckle up and get excited to clean those cloth diapers right.

How To Clean Cloth Diapers

There is no way to get around the fact that your child's diapers are quite often filled with poop. This means there is a prewashing stage before you even wash cloth diapers. Of course, most of the time it is just a pee-soaked diaper.

Different cloth diapers will be washed differently, and the most important thing to do is to follow the manufacturer's directions. If you are still figuring out which will be best for you and your little one, check out our ultimate cloth diaper buyer's guide. This will help you choose between partially reusable, compostable, insert, or fully lined cloth diapers.

Once you know the main facts of how to wash your cloth diapers, you will need to choose the right soap, wash setting, and storage methods. But, don't fret. This is all par for the course as you learn how to clean cloth diapers.

Why cloth diapers are worth the work

Choosing to use cloth diapers means you are signing up for more loads of laundry, evenings of stuffing a few diapers, and occasionally having to carry a dirty diaper around town. While these are not the most appealing moments of motherhood, there are so many benefits to cloth diapering.

Aside from the adorable, and quite large, fluffy butt your child will have while wearing a cloth diaper, they have fun patterns as well. From dinosaurs and trucks to flowers and woodsy scenes, you get to pick the spunky pattern that your child wears every few hours.

Cloth diapers also save so much trash from going into landfills. Think of how many diapers a child goes through a day. It could be anywhere from 8 to 20 depending on their age.

By cloth diapering, you are saving thousands of diapers from sitting in a landfill forever. While you are using more water to wash the cloth diapers, the manufacturing of disposable diapers does take water as well. So, cloth diapering is still an environmentally friendly thing to do.

How to Clean Cloth Diapers: The Different Needs

As your baby grows and changes their eating and drinking habits, you will have to relearn how to clean cloth diapers. Their poops will be easy and water-soluble at first, but they will require a little bit more work once your child has started solids.

In addition to this change, there will be variables based on your water. Many people have hard water, which means there are a lot of additional minerals in the water. This makes washing with normal detergent more difficult and is often a reason for diaper not seeming fully clean.

So, as we learn how to clean cloth diapers, there are a few important steps.

First, take note of what materials the diaper is made of. Part of the cloth diaper, whether you have a pocket diaper or an all in one diaper, will be a waterproof, plastic layer. It will often also have elastic that helps cinch in around the baby's legs.

These two things, plastic and elastic, wash very well according to their manufacturer's directions. However, they do not hold up well under prolonged heat exposure that you would find in a dryer. Most people will wash the plastic and elastic parts of the diaper with the inserts but hang them to dry.

If you do decide to dry them in the drier for simplicity's sake, make sure to use low heat and take them out immediately when they are dry.

The early months

If you are breastfeeding your baby, their poop and pee will be delightfully easy to clean. At this stage, it is water-soluble and not too smelly. So, feel free to toss everything directly into the washer from your diaper pail.

Now, your washer should have a heavy wash setting on it. With this, select an extra rinse and extra soiled option. This will make sure to thoroughly clean your diaper.

Before the load, measure out the correct amount of diaper friendly detergent that we will discuss a little bit later on. It is important to use what is called for and not skimp on this.

If you run out of soapy power, then you are leaving stuff behind in the cloth diaper. This can irritate your baby's skin and leaves residual smells behind.

How to clean cloth diapers once your child eats food

So, you hopefully have some confidence about cloth diapering your newborn. It does get a bit trickier once they have started real food. Those mashed peas and carrots turn in to a real treat when it comes to learning how to clean cloth diapers.

Now, their poop is no longer easily water-soluble. It must be rinsed off beforehand in a manner of your choosing. We will discuss some of our favorite gadgets in the next section.

This stage is also when everything gets smellier. So, you may find yourself changing your child more often as you can smell the pee. That is okay, and it actually keeps your child happier as they tend to get a clean diaper relatively quickly after they start to smell.

So, once your child's poop has been prewashed off into the toilet, go ahead and stick the diaper into your diaper pail and proceed as usual.

Handy Gadgets to Have for Cloth Diapering

There are some absolute essentials when it comes to knowing how to clean cloth diapers with ease.

First and foremost, this diaper sprayer will get all of the sticky poop off of the diaper and into the toilet without getting any on you. It is a lifesaver when it comes to real food poops.

Of course, you will need somewhere to put all of these dirty, wet diapers. We love using our diaper pail with a reusable wet bag that we can just toss in the wash with the diapers. When we are on the go, bring along a small wet bag to keep the stink in out there as well.

Lastly, hanging the plastic and elastic diapers or diaper covers out to dry will extend the life of your cloth diapers. So, investing in a simple drying rack will make that step much more simple.

Soaps, detergents, and more

Next up, we love a cruelty-free detergent with no dyes or smells to irritate our child's bum. This Rockin' Green detergent will do just that. They have formulated an amazing detergent that cleans well, gets rid of that ammonia smell, and doesn't break the bank.

We had mentioned earlier that many people have hard water which makes it difficult to clean things, especially diapers, thoroughly. Rockin' Green also makes a Hard Rock detergent which is specially formulated to push through the mineral-rich water to clean your diapers well.

The Drying Cycle: How to Clean Cloth Diapers

So, you've pre-sprayed your diapers and had them run through the washer on a heavy-duty cycle. Now, we need to get them dry again.

For some diapers, they will be made of a material that wicks liquid so well, they will barely even feel wet. This will happen on your plastic covers and also on charcoal inserts. For these, feel free to set them on the drying rack, they will be dry in just a few minutes.

For the parts of the diaper that you have decided to dry, go ahead and toss them straight into the dryer. Do not to use dryer sheets, as they use chemicals to make your clothes feel soft. These chemicals will actually clog the pores of the cloth diaper, making them less able to soak up what they need to.

You may have to run your dryer cycle twice on high heat, as diapers are highly absorbent and often quite thick.

Now You're Ready to Clean all the Cloth Diapers with Confidence

We have gone over all of the basics of how to clean cloth diapers. From detergents and gadgets to the drying cycle and heart behind it all, you are now ready to embark on your cloth diapering journey.

We would love to hear why you chose to use cloth diapers, or what questions you still have if you are trying to decide. Let us know in the comments below what your favorite styles and brands are as well so we can share the love!

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