How to Wash Cloth Diapers

When I was pregnant with my first child, the best gift we received was a subscription to a diaper service. I made it known that I wanted to use cloth diapers but we lived in an apartment and the cost of washing them in a Laundromat did not sound appealing.

I loved that service while it lasted. But after we bought a house, I began washing the diapers myself. However, even though we lived in the Florida sunshine at the time, my diapers never came out as nice as those from the service. It took me a long time to figure out how to get them white and fresh smelling again. Now, after six children and probably thousands of diaper washings, I think I can pass on what I’ve learned.

Just Say No!

Say “No” to bleach. Say “No” to detergents with perfumes, dyes, and additives. Say “No” to fabric softener.  Say “No” to your electric dryer.

Besides the fact that bleach is harmful to the environment, will kill the natural bacteria in your septic system, and is a known carcinogenic, it will cause your baby’s delicate skin to break out. In other words, diaper rash. It will also eat away at the fabric your diapers are made of. And, if you purchased expensive, flannel diapers rather than the cheese-cloth type ones from the local super store, you will want to protect that investment.

Detergents with perfumes, dyes, or additives will also cause diaper rash. In fact, in a newborn, most commercial detergents will cause diaper rash so you might want to use a laundry soap specially formulated for diapers, like Dreft, or one formulated for sensitive people, or one you make yourself at home.

Fabric softeners will leave a water repelling residue on your diapers that will keep them from absorbing liquids. And that is what we want them to do, right? The best way to get your diapers soft is to hang them out in a strong breeze. And that leads me to the electric dryer.

If you absolutely must use the electric dryer, by all means do not buy disposable diapers. It is just that the sun is so much better at bleaching stains and killing germs—even in the wintertime. Also, your diapers will last much longer when hung out on the clothes line than tumbled in the dryer.

What Are the Dos?

So, on to the step by step of how to wash baby diapers.

First, you will need a diaper pail. If you don’t get one as a shower gift, or if you don’t want to spend the money on a fancy one at your local super store, a five-gallon bucket works just fine. Keep a soaking solution in this bucket. I’ve used water with a cup of vinegar or baking soda.

After removing the diaper from the baby, simply drop it into your soaking bucket. Of course, if the diaper is soiled, you will want to remove the contents into the toilet before putting it in to soak. However, a breastfed newborn’s diapers do not need to be rinsed as its stool will simply dissolve in the water and wash out in the machine.

When the bucket is full (or every other day to keep odor under control) simply empty the entire contents of the bucket into the washer and spin it out. Then wash the diapers in hot water using an appropriate amount of detergent and borax. The borax will enhance the cleaning power of the detergent and help to fight odors. Use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. This will, again, fight odors and help to soften the fabric.

After the washer is done, smell your diapers. If they do not smell clean and fresh, put them in for another rinse. Never put your diapers into the dryer or on the line until they smell fresh, even if you have to wash them again. When your baby starts eating solid food you may need to do this occasionally; as foods will cause odors in the stool that breast milk does not.

One of my fondest memories of those baby days is of taking the diapers off the clothesline and burying my nose in and inhaling that fresh, clean smell. Follow these tips and you can make the same memories for yourself.

Photo by pierrotsomepeople


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