Washing Reusable Diapers the Easy Way

When it comes to the washing of your cloth diapers the task can seem massive and daunting, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be!

When I started cloth diapering the advice was to us 1/2 quantity of detergent, then when you have a detergent buildup and nappies start leaking you’ll need to “strip” your diapers. Oh, no wonder I was set up for disaster.  When I think about it now I really didn’t have much idea about how to properly care for my cloth diapers.

Busting Washing Myths for Reusables

The truth is when you only use 1/2 of the recommended dose of detergent the results are persistent odors of dirty diapers that stink of ammonia.  Ammonia is that nasty old urine smell.  It also increases the risk of diaper rashes which can get nasty.  All this really makes using cloth diapers just plain difficult!  The solution: Wash with enough detergent for the hardness of your water and according to how soiled your wash load is.  If it’s diapers then you will possibly need more detergent than normal.  It’s common sense and at the end of the day what you want is clean diapers that don’t leak.  Be sure to steer clear of oil based laundry detergents.  Opt for salt based ones instead. Tide Free & Gentle is a popular choice among cloth diapering moms.

Stripping cloth diapers only needs to be done when your they have developed a build up of oils including diaper cream.  This build up could be caused by fabric softeners and diaper balms.  Never use fabric softeners on your diapers for this reason.  If you have to use a diaper balm then using a diaper liner is the solution.  The liner can be either disposable or reusable.  If you care for your diapers properly you shouldn't need to strip them very often if at all.

If you do need to strip your diapers, then hand washing them with blue Dawn dish soap is the best trick – don’t use dish soap in your washing machine!  Then wash as normal – see the simple procedure below for your regular cloth diaper wash routine.  When stripping the inserts you can use hot water, but be careful with the covers (86°F is the max, but can vary by manufacturer).

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

  1. Keep it Simple: Wash every second day. Pre-rinse in warm water, wash in warm water no hotter than 86°F, then add an extra rinse cycle.
  2. Amount of Detergent: Use the recommended amount of detergent, or more if needed to get your diapers clean. If you’re using an eco detergent which is soft on babys skin, use salt based as the ones with coconut or plant oils aren’t the best for diapers due to the build up of the oils.
  3. Wash for Long Enough: Your diapers need to be exposed to the full amount of detergent for at least 45 minutes to be completely clean.  A 20 minute wash cycle is just not enough!
  4. Keep away from Additives: Never use white vinegar, baking soda, boosters, essential oils or fabric softeners. Constant exposure to these can harm your diapers. They can cause rashes and ruin the elastic and laminates.

Please don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be!  Looking after your diapers properly no matter what diaper brand you choose will extend their life considerably.

Make sure you make use of diapering accessories such as wet bags, diaper pails, and diaper bags to their full potential.  When changing bub when you’re out and about, simply put the soiled diaper and used cloth wipes into a zipped up wet bag and transport that in your diaper bag and when you get home, after disposing of solids into the toilet, throw the wet bag and dirty diaper into your diaper pail (with pail liner) where it is ready for wash day.  Changing at home is simpler, just drop solids into the toilet, using your spray pal if necessary, and place baby diaper into your diaper pail ready for wash day. Diaper sprayers are a great way to make the washings and dryings flow much easier.

It’s amazing how your laundry load (diapers plus your regular laundry) is less of a big deal when you have a regular routine of when you do it.  Before I had kids, the laundry was a big deal even though it was just a couple of loads a week.  Now, it’s nothing to do two or 3 loads every couple of days.

Can Washable Diapers go in the Dryer?

If at all possible, line dried or rack dried (in the sun) is the premium choice.  The sunshine actually sanitizes them, it’s loads cheaper, and as a bonus you get some sunshine in your day too.  Air drying vs machine drying will also help extend the lifespan of your cloth diapers.  However this is only possible if you have sunshiny weather which unfortunately is not the case for many moms.

Yes, your cloth diapers can go in the dryer. Machine dry on low or medium heat only as high heat can damage your laminate covers. If you’re using the dryer make sure your diapers are cool before stretching, folding and stuffing to ensure the laminate is not damaged.  The laminate in the diaper covers can separate if the temperature is too hot.  Using wool dryer balls is beneficial as you generally get 25% faster drying time saving on costs, wear and tear, and time.  Don’t use a dryer sheet as this can add fabric softener to your diapers which is very unhelpful.

Wash Diapers in Hard Water

If you have a build up of Mineral deposits on your diaper washing due to extreme water hardness, then a laundry treatment such as RLR is very useful. It isn’t a soap or detergent, but an additive to use with your detergent.  It’s only needed if your diapering laundry loads are getting dingy from your hard water.

For sanitizing your diapers after a yeast infection or for secondhand diapers, it is generally considered safe to add 1/4 cup of oxygen bleach (not chlorine bleach) to your wash cycle. Please refer to the directions of the diaper manufacturer regarding the use of bleach.

Always remember, keep it simple.  Cloth diaper washing doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you do come upon obstacles just come back and research and keep on loving the cloth and most importantly loving the little ones!  It won’t be long and be researching things like potty training programs and training pants!

Have you checked out a favorite baby carrier yet? Also, have you heard about wool covers?