Here from Pinterest or Google? I have an UPDATED 2019 Cloth Diapering 101 Post where I share all I’ve learned after 5 and a half years of cloth diapering my kids! You can read it here.
Yes, I totally called today’s post The Scoop on Poop.
We have made it to the point in this Cloth Diapering 101 series that I would take a guess that most of you are probably the most curious about.
Here’s where we’ve been in case you need to catch up:
- November: Cloth Diapering: The Beginning
- January 7th: Different Types of Cloth Diapers and What We Use
- Last Week: Our system: wipes, creams, storage, organization, and whatnot.
- TODAY: The Scoop on Poop – Using & Washing Your Cloth Diapers (I HAD to call it that…)
- Tuesday, January 28th: Out and About – Traveling with Your Diapers
- Tuesday, February 4th: Dealing with… Issues – dealing with the unforeseen stuff that sometimes come up with cloth diapering (mold and stink and ammonia. yuck!)
- Tuesday, February 11th: Cloth Diapering a Newborn
I will honestly tell you that when I set out to cloth diaper, the laundry process was BY FAR the thing I spent the MOST time researching. I spent HOURS… I mean HOURS reading blogs, going to cloth diaper manufacturer websites, cloth diaper forums, Facebook groups, watching YouTube videos… It was pathetic, really. I spent WAY more time researching the best ways to clean and wash cloth diapers in than I did researching what kind(s) I wanted to use.
Now, for our washer, we have an HE (high efficiency) front loader and it can be a little tricky with a front loader washing cloth diapers. And there really isn’t THAT much information out there on how to BEST wash your diapers in a front loader.
I don’t want to say I have it all figured out, because I don’t. BUT, I’ve spent enough time reading AND I’ve now spent five months doing diaper laundry every other day and so I’m pretty sure I have our wash routine down to a science (and I have our wash routine on the best wash routine possible for what we have).
One caveat: there are a million and one different opinions out there on the best way to wash your cloth diapers. Don’t take my wash routine and my advice as the end all be all… because it’s not. It’s just ONE way to do it. I would honestly recommend taking the time to do some research for yourself before you come to a conclusion on how you want to do things with your diapes.
Also, a couple of things to research / consider:
1. What type of “water” do you have? What do I mean? Well, I mean… do you have hard water or soft water? Take a look at the map below… that can help you determine if you have hard or soft water (in the continental U.S., obviously. If you live in Hawaii, Alaska, or internationally, just Google “hard water vs. soft water [INSERT YOUR PLACE HERE]). Hard water is water that has HIGH mineral content, soft water has low mineral content. And yes, this can affect the way you launder your clothes and your diapers. So, just something to consider.
2. Do you have a front loading or a top loading washing machine? Front loaders are typically HE (high efficiency) machines and HE machines use less water. You want LOTS of water to clean diapers. So, if you have a front loader, this post is GREAT for you and will be (hopefully) really helpful. If you have a top loader, this post will be helpful, but you honestly have it a lot easier than us front loader folks – I would do some research from folks who have a top loader to see what their wash cycles are like.
Now, let’s get to it.
How I Wash Our Cloth Diapers with a High-Efficiency (HE) Front Loader
Because I like STEP-BY-STEP directions, I’m going to LITERALLY walk you through, step-by-step how I wash our diapers.
1. Collect the dirty diapers. Remember last week I talked about where to store the dirty diapers? Well, that still holds true. Refer to that post if you want to know what to do with a diaper when it is dirty.
Don’t forget, once solid foods are introduced (or formula) you have to rinse the poo off before it goes in the wet bag or diaper pail. Breastfed-only poo can go right in the wet bag or diaper pail. No rinsing needed.
Also, if you use pocket diapers, I HIGHLY recommend removing the inserts BEFORE you place the diaper in the diaper pail or wet bag. Some people wait until laundry day, and honestly, that grosses me out. Just do it right away when it’s “fresh” – if you know what I mean.
2. Wait until laundry day. When Lilly was a newborn and really until she turned four months old, I was doing diaper laundry every other day… no exception. I now can go about every three days since she’s really only having about 5-7 dirty diapers a day now. I would not recommend waiting any longer than every three days to do your diaper laundry… the longer your diapers sit, the more likely they are to grow mold or ammonia. We’ll talk about how to deal with that stuff with the post coming on February 4th.
3. It’s laundry day… take your diapers (in the wet bag or pail liner) to your laundry room. The greatest thing about a wet bag and / or pail liner is that you can wash it with the diapers.
4 (a). The wash cycle. Remember, the key is LOTS of water. And lots of rinsing. The key is NOT more detergent. This is a common misconception.
4 (b). Choosing your detergent. You HAVE to use a cloth diaper safe detergent when you wash diapers. Most detergents have a ton of extra fragrances and chemicals and additives that can build up on the diapers over time and leave residue. This will affect the diaper’s absorbancy and effectiveness.
Once you decide on what detergent you want to use on your diapers, I HIGHLY suggest you just switch to using that detergent for EVERYTHING. Clothes, towels, diapers, everything. Why? Because other detergents can actually leave those residues on the inside of your washer which will wash off in the cycles and basically your detergents start “competing” with one another and, ultimately, you’re not getting your clothes, diapers, towels, etc. clean.
There are ton of “cloth diaper specific” detergents out there… and I tried them and hated them. I tried Charlie’s Soap (which some people SWEAR by) and I absolutely hated it. It left stains, our diapers still smelled after washing, and it just didn’t get anything clean. Ever. I tried Rockin’ Green detergent and hated it because it turns out I’m EXTREMELY allergic to it. I got horrible hives from it… and apparently that’s a common reaction to it.
Then, I read a bunch about just plain old Original TIDE Powder. Cloth diaper users fall into two categories: those that LOVE and only use TIDE and those that refuse to use TIDE but will eventually end up using TIDE for cloth diapers. Just kidding on that second group. There are some people that swear original TIDE is the enemy, but on almost EVERY SINGLE post and forum and website I read… TIDE for cloth diapers was the answer to every user’s problems.
So, I decided to switch to using plain, old, TIDE original powder in the box (for HE machines)… and I haven’t switched since. It leaves our diapers smelling good, we hardly ever have stains, and we never have stink issues. Therefore, I’m in the GO TIDE camp. It’s also cheap.
Back to the wash cycle…
Since front loading washers use less water, the key is to “trick” your washer into thinking there’s more in there than there actually is. Also, it may seem like washing less diapers at a time will get them more clean, that is not the case. You don’t want to OVER STUFF your washer, BUT, the more diapers you wash together, the more they rub together and clean each other more. Think of when you wash your hands. You rub your hands together with soap to get them clean… it’s the same concept with the diapers. They rub together in the wash to help get them clean.
4 (c). Now, here is the EXACT, step-by-step process my diapers go through when I wash my diapers in our HE front loader:
- Rinse and spin (NO SPIN) 6 minutes – on my washer I select the “RINSE AND SPIN” button, and then choose the option “NO SPIN” – this gets the diapers WET and heavy. This helps to “trick” the washer into putting more water in because it thinks there’s more in there. Make sure to select “NO SPIN”.
- Regular, cold wash NO detergent 51 minutes – I run the wash like I would with a normal load of laundry, I just don’t put detergent in there.
- Rinse and spin (NO SPIN) (REPEATING STEP ONE) – again, this gets the diapers soaked again so the washer will put more water in at the next cycle. Make sure to select “NO SPIN”.
- Boil a pot of water on the stove – while the second rinse and spin (no spin) is happening, I fill up a pot of water and boil it on the stove.
- Heavy, hot wash, stain cycle WITH TIDE detergent filled up to the 1 line 1 hour and 51 minutes – when the second rinse and spin (no spin) is done, this is the ONLY part of the wash cycle where you use detergent. I fill up the blue TIDE cup to the 1 line with powder, put it in, and then run a HEAVY wash on HOT water. I also select the “stain” cycle which adds more hot water and an extra rinse at the end.
- Add boiling water to the hot cycle a few minutes in – once the water on the stove has come to a boil, I put it in a pitcher and I pour it directly into the washer (via the drawer where I put the detergent) while it is running. What this does is 1) adds more water to the cycle and 2) makes sure that the water that’s washing the diapers is extra hot to help kill germs, etc.
- One last cold rinse and spin, extra rinse 33 minutes – Once the hot cycle is done, I select “RINSE AND SPIN” again, but this time I allow the spin, and I also select “extra rinse.” You really want to rinse your diapers well to avoid detergent build up.
So yeah, I know it seems like a really lengthy process to wash the diapers, and I guess it kind of is, but it HONESTLY is not hard and at this point I’m on autopilot with it. It’s SO easy. It’s WAY easier than clothing laundry… it just takes longer. I just have it all kind of running / happening in the background as I go about my day.
I also realize I probably do way more steps than most people, but I really want to ensure that my diapers are CLEAN. SO, this is what works for me… you just have to figure out what works for you.
Also, BumGenius (the brand of the majority of the diapers that I use) also recommends using 1/4 cup of bleach in the hot cycle once a month to combat stink, etc. I will talk more about this in a couple weeks. This is separate from your normal wash routine.
5. Drying your diapers. If you are crunched for time and need your diapers dried quickly, you can put them in the dryer, just make sure it is on the LOWEST heat setting you have. The hotter the heat setting, the more likely you’ll melt the PUL or snaps on your diapers. Also, be aware that some diaper manufacturers will say that the warranty on your diapers is invalid if you use a dryer… just be sure to check.
Also, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT use ANY kind of fabric softeners or dryer sheets in the dryer. We use WOOL dryer balls that I bought off of Etsy… but any wool dryer ball will do. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets create the same build up that regular detergents do.
For most diapers, you can tumble dry the inserts and line dry the covers. For the all-in-ones, they recommend only line drying.
Personally, I recommend line drying your diapers. Whether it’s on a good old-fashioned clothes line or on a drying rack, the air is really best for drying diapers. Also, the SUN is, BY FAR, the best natural bleach.
No, seriously. You got stain issues on your diapers? Lay (or hang) those diapers out in the sun for a day and you will be AMAZED. The sun gets rid of them almost instantly.
I try to line dry our diapers on a clothes line (pictured) as often as I can. Yes, I feel kinda like a 1950s housewife when I’m hanging them, but I secretly love it. The feeling (and smell) of clean diapers and clothes just coming off a clothes line is awesome.
It has been harder during the winter because it’s been so cold out, so I haven’t been able to line dry my diapers as much… instead, I will just put them on a drying rack inside when it’s too cold to hang them outside.
Okay. Phew. I think that’s it. I realize this is A LOT of information. And I really… REALLY hope that this didn’t come off as too overwhelming. It may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. It is SO easy and you get into such a routine with it.
I really hope this was helpful!
So, what do you think? Do you use TIDE for cloth diapers? What other diaper laundry questions do you have? Do you have a front loader? I’d love to know your wash routine if you CD and have a front loader. What detergent is your favorite? Etc. etc. etc. Let’s talk washing diapers!