A Complete Guide On How To Wash Cloth Diapers

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
March 15, 2024
Clothed Diaper

Choosing cloth over disposable diapers is less a small step and more a giant leap in the right direction. But now that you have them, you may be wondering how to wash cloth diapers properly. Because while your gag reflexes at the smell of your precious one's excrement are long gone, washing instead of tossing seems....alien.

When I was an infant, using cloth diapers was a no-brainer for my mother. For her, it was all about the cost-saving advantages. Today, parents usually opt for cloth diapers for environmental purposes. But maintaining cloth diapers in pristine condition is often a job in and of itself. Here's how to it the right way.

Washing 101: How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Baby Clothed Diaper
Image source: pixabay

If you're trying to figure out how to wash cloth diapers quickly, you won't find the answers anywhere on the web. While it isn't difficult, the process is a bit lengthy. But using them is much more eco-friendly and cost-effective than disposable diapers.

From smeared with poo to good as new, here's how to wash cloth diapers the right way.

Shake out and spray down

Let's get one thing straight: you are going to see a lot more poop with cloth diapers. Poop and the surrounding disposable diaper usually gets tossed in the diaper bin, along with any used wipes.

Stainless Steel Cloth Diaper Sprayer Kit By Easy Giggles

That isn't the case here. If you can, shake out any waste into the toilet. The rest comes out with a quick spray-down using a diaper hose. If you don't have one, we seriously consider purchasing one. It doubles as a handheld bidet and as a hose for household chores.

Wash every two days

The average baby poops around six to ten times per day, if you didn't know that you may need our ultimate buyer's guide! You are going to want to have at least 24 to 36 diapers on hand. This gives you plenty of time to wash the stained ones without worrying your baby is walking around with a full diaper.

Once you have sprayed your diaper or insert down, toss it (still mostly damp) into a pail or diaper bin. Expect a load of diapers ready for washing every two to three days. If you don't want to wash as often, purchase more diapers.


Although your machine isn't full with merely 24 diapers, wash with as much water as possible. This reduces the likelihood of residue problems. If your washing machine is manual, this shouldn't be a problem.

Should your washing machine be digital or high efficiency, throw a few towels in as well to "trick" the machine into adding more water. Plus, the increased load increases friction between all the diapers, resulting in cleaner laundry.

First off, fill your machine with your soiled diapers and just water (warm or cold). This makes them absorbent, so the next step works without a hitch. Be wary of the effects of using too much hard water around your cloth diapers.

Hot wash

Once you've pre-washed your cloth diapers, run a full, regular cycle with hot water and baby-friendly detergent. If you don't know, certain detergents are a big no-no when it comes to any baby clothes, let alone cloth diapers.

One of the biggest red flags is any detergent that uses fabric softener. Do not use fabric softener (or dryer sheets) in any of your diapers, as it leaves a water-resistant residue. If you have a residue problem, you'll find your baby's diapers won't hold waste and will most definitely leak.

Ensure you're using a softener-free detergent.


Once you've memorized how to wash cloth diapers properly, now comes the drying part. Living situation and weather-permitting, hang your washed cloth diapers outside.

Sunlight is a natural brightener and stain remover, making it the perfect natural dryer. If your diapers have elastics, hang them in such a way that that they aren't stressed under the weight of the damp diaper.

Otherwise, toss them in the dryer on low heat to prevent wear on elastics and snaps. Again, don't use dryer sheets!

My Diapers Don't Absorb! What Happened and How Do I Fix It?

Baby Clothed Diaper
Image source: pixabay

If you find yourself ripping your hair out because your baby's diaper leaks, there may be several reasons why. The most common culprits are fabric softener, dryer sheets, or a detergent with fabric softener. The softener left a water-resistant residue, therefore compromising your diaper's absorbency properties.

Firstly, figure out what caused the problem and stop using the product. Then, strip your cloth diapers. Stripping cloth diapers involves using a mineral solution or a DIY strip mix (usually washing soda, borax, etc.). Soak for several hours, rinse, bleach, wash two to four times, and dry. It's a lengthy process, but it means your cloth diapers will be good as new!

My Diapers Smell Even After washes... What Do I Do?

Even after diligently following our guide on how to wash cloth diapers, they may develop a funky smell. Worst of all, it could smell and give your baby nasty rashes or even burns. Don't worry — it's completely fixable! Usually, this is due to bacteria buildup in the diaper.

The easiest fix is by stripping your diapers to their "new" state. It isn't a gentle process, so be wary of stripping too often. If you've stripped and the smell comes back, something in your washing process is causing the bacteria buildup. Find the culprit (usually a detergent with softener in it) and correct your washing routine.

Washing Your Cloth Diapers: Stick to a Routine

bab diaper
Image source: pixabay

Now that you've nailed down how to wash cloth diapers, stick to it! You must use the same products every time to ensure consistent results. Like the old saying goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

If, for whatever reason switching something is inevitable, educate yourself. Ensure you read the ingredient list on detergents and the care instructions on any new cloth diapers.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to wash cloth diapers? Share with us in the comments below!

Featured image source: pixabay

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