Saturday, December 3, 2011

How NOT to Wash Cloth Diapers

Ask 20 people how to wash cloth diapers, you will most likely receive 20 different answers. Have you ever seen Wash Routine questions on cloth diaper forums? EVERYONE has a different answer. One cloth diaper manufacturer will recommend a certain detergent and another one will tell you not to use that detergent. The thing is, it doesn't have to be that hard.

Since our family started using cloth diapers, I have used almost everything on our diapers. Sometimes it was for research, other times it was out of desperation. I've soaked, bleached, sunned, used borax, vinegar, baking soda, washing soda, oxiclean, mainstream detergents, cloth diaper detergents, and everything in between.

What I've found is pretty simple - find a good detergent and stick with it. Use lots of water. Don't use additives unless you ABSOLUTELY have to, like if you're dealing with yeast.
GroVia AIO affected by soaking & additives

Before you start adding anything to your wash, talk to your local cloth diaper store or, if you use a cloth diaper detergent, email the maker. Kim from Rockin Green and Lulu from Lulu's in the Fluff have both been extremely helpful at troubleshooting laundry problems.

Do your diapers still smell dirty after you wash them? Try adding more detergent. Also, make sure you're washer isn't stuffed full. You need room and enough water to really agitate the crud out. I wash diapers every 3 days and I have to split it into two loads.

PUL cracking after using a mainstream detergent & bleach

Ammonia smell? Try rinsing your diapers before you put them in the dry pail. Yes, it's an extra step but it helps and, really, it only takes an extra minute.

Repelling issues - have you used diaper cream lately? If it wasn't CD safe, scrub a little bit of dawn soap on the diaper lining with a toothbrush, rinse really well and wash as usual. Are you using too much detergent or too little water? If you have hard water, it might help to add a little bit of Calgon in your wash.

If you think you have to use bleach, only use it on microfiber inserts. It's terrible on PUL and will eat away your diapers' natural fibers.

If you have a good wash routine down, you shouldn't have to strip your diapers. And, don't soak your diapers too much that can be hard on them too.

If you can, try to line dry your diapers as much as possible. Especially if they are velcro/aplix diapers. If the diapers are stiff after line drying them, just put them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up. Plus, line drying will get some sun to your diapers and I've found, that's the best way to get those stubborn stains out.
Thinning Organic Bamboo Velour

There are so many factors that can affect your diapers - water type, minerals, water temperature, diet, etc. So, what works for your friend may not work for you.

Here is our wash routine with really hard well water:
-One full cold wash cycle with no detergent to rinse the diapers well
-One Hot wash cycle with detergent
-Extra warm rinse

We normally switch between Lulu's Extra Hard Water Formula and Rockin Green Hard Rock.

GroVia AIO that has only been washed with Lulu's & Rockin Green and line dried.
This diaper has been used & washed as many times as the AIO in the first pic.

Now, there are some diapers that seem to stand up to more abuse than others. Pretty much anything with microfiber, microfleece will hold up better than natural fibers like hemp, cotton and bamboo.

BumGenius, Charlie Banana, GroVia Snap Shells, Knickernappies, and Tiny Tush are a few of the diaper brands we have that have held up over all the abuse. Some of them may not look like new, but they have no issues with PUL leaking and the inserts still work great.

Do you use additives in your laundry? Have you found a wash routine that works for you?


  1. Great article! My CD wash routine was identical to yours and my son's GroVia's were in great condition by the time he was potty trained. I will post this on my blog for other cloth diaperins mommas!

  2. Great info! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I've fallen in love with country save. The only thing I add is bleach once in awhile.

  4. this was an AWESOME post! thanks so much for the pictures. we had a great wash routine until we moved and now i'm trying to tweak it, but hopefully soap nuts or eco sprout can help us!

  5. finally got my wash routine in order man was that nuts poor baby got a bad rash. we love our soft water rockin green detergent works awesome! water must be enough to swirl the diapers but not so much the diapers dont rub together happy medium we use a haier portable washer and it only needs 1 tsp of detergent! so awesome! oh dampen your stains with hydrogen peroxide (the brown bottle stuff for owies) it gets rid of the proteins and such that are causing the stain then wash them out really well. idk how much wear it causes the diaps so use it sparingly for those ultra bad stains that dont come out with all other attempts! also works on mattress stains get it wet let it sit for a little bit then dab it up with a towel voila no stain!!

  6. Good article! It takes a little bit of trial and error to figure out the right routine and sometimes you do need to switch it up a bit. I use Eco Sprout and LOVE it. I tried Rockin Green but it did not work well at all for us. Once I switched (about a year ago) I have no issues with rash or stink and never have to strip my diapers anymore.

  7. Also don't dry in the microwave, Velcro melts and will start a fire LOL

  8. LOL... My younger B & S' were raised on cloth diapers and I SO remember sewing them, and then the terrible job of washing them. They were just made of good old cotton flannel and folded into a triangle. Remember the huge diaper pins too. We took the nasty diaper pail and soaked them in a cup of bleach & water before putting them in the washer. Again, more bleach. Yuck, I remember having to shake them open as I put them in the wash. Nasty job for a teenager. They lasted forever and came out smelling fresh! Of course we used the icky plastic pants over them. Do they still sell those?

  9. What kind of washer do you use? I feel like my HE washer doesn't get enough water in it, and am wondering if a wash with nothing but water first might help.