How to Wash Cloth Diapers
As always, check with the manufacturer of the diapers you've purchased for proper cleaning instructions. Most diapers will even come with the information on an insert or hang tag, but all manufacturers welcome questions on caring for their products properly to extend their useful life.
Here are some quick tips on how to wash cloth diapers. The first step involved to wash cloth diapers is preparation:
"Prepping" - How to Prep your new cloth:
Quick Wash for Pocket Diapers, Covers, Inserts, and Items Made From Micro-Terry or Microfiber:
Warm or hot water works best to wash cloth diapers (detergent is optional but recommended).
Organic/Unbleached Cotton, Hemp, or Bamboo products:
Generally, 5-6 hot washes (or more - again, check with your manufacturer) are required for the natural oils of cotton and hemp to be removed and for the materials to become fully absorbent. Make sure you wash cloth diapers separately from the rest of your stash until they are properly prepped. Failure to properly prep cotton and hemp products may lead to leaking.
To Wash Cloth Diapers Regularly:
Keep It Simple! Keep it Simple! Keep it Simple!
Did I say, Keep it Simple!? ;-)
This routine has proven to work well for most people, regardless of what type of machine or diapers you use.
1 short cycle warm (or cool) water wash
1 long/heavy duty hot water wash with detergent
1 additional rinse cycle
Bleach, as needed:
(1/4 cup for most standard size loads/machines) A periodic bleaching of micro-terry and microfiber inserts is recommended; especially since micro-terry is more prone to build-up and stink issues. Bleach can deteriorate natural fibers; such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo.
**Please follow the manufacturer's recommendations when using bleach by checking the care labels inside your diapers.
What Laundry Detergent Should I Use When I Wash Cloth Diapers?
Chances are that one of the reasons you decided to use this kind of diapers are for the environmental benefits and to avoid exposing your baby to toxic chemicals. As parents, we begin to research everything and realize that many mainstream products (including detergents) contain questionable ingredients that you may not want to use. For parents who are looking for greener detergent options, you may want to avoid optical brighteners, fragrances and scents, fabric softeners, dyes, and preservatives. Then you start posting in Facebook groups and notice that fabric diapering parents are using Tide, Foca, and Gain.
We realize this may cause you some hesitation and concerns, but we're here to give you a neutral look at both sides of the detergent recommendations for fabric diapering.
Mainstream Detergents Which are Currently Considered as the Best Performing Detergents to Wash Cloth Diapers Include:
- Arm & Hammer
- All Free & Clear (Powder)
- Country Save
Plant-based detergents (generally speaking in the diaper industry) do not clean as well as mainstream detergents. To ensure that your diapers are getting clean enough you may need to use more detergent than the recommended amount (when using plant-based detergents).
Better Performing Plant-Based Detergents Include:
- Seventh Generation (powder)
- Planet Ultra (liquid)
- Purex Naturals
- Biokleen (powder)
These lists are not all-inclusive and there are many other detergents that families use successfully when washing these diapers. Trust your parenting instincts and try a detergent that you feel comfortable with. If you find that it's not cleaning your diapers well enough; try adding a little extra detergent. You may need 2x the amount of some plant-based detergents versus the recommended amount on the container. If you notice your diapers aren't smelling fresh out of the machine, then you may need to adjust your washing cycle or detergent. You won't ruin your diapers by using the wrong detergent, but you may need to strip them more frequently or adjust your routine.
Hard water has a lot of minerals in it, namely calcium and magnesium. These minerals, if not properly rinsed away, can lead to a mineral build-up in your diapers which may cause offensive odors! Hard water makes it difficult for many detergents to work properly. Using a separate water softener, such as Calgon Water Softener is often recommended and is considered safe for use on all types of fabric diapers. Calgon can also be used for stripping diapers, especially for areas with, especially hard water. Just wash clean diapers 3-4 times with hot water and Calgon (no detergent). As always, be sure to rinse thoroughly!
If your diapers are leaking/repelling frequently or if they smell horrible the moment they become wet or soiled then it *MIGHT* be time for a good stripping! Stripping diapers will remove mineral buildup, correct improper wash methods, and remove any additives or residues that have been used while diapering your baby.
Note: There are many different ways and reasons for stripping diapers; we've provided a few of the most effective methods for you.
For Properly Stripping Diapers:
Option 1: Do several (4-6) hot water washes (no detergent) to get rid of most residues. (This method works best in areas with softer water and may not be effective to remove hard water minerals) Option 2: For extreme hard water build up or when stripping older diapers, you may need to use RLR Laundry Treatment or GroVia Mighty Bubbles - my FAVORITE! Follow the directions on the package. Option 3: For sanitizing your diapers after a yeast infection or for secondhand diapers, it is generally considered safe to add 1/4 cup of bleach to your wash cycle. Please refer to manufacturer's directions regarding the use of bleach. Option 4: For removing diaper creams, fabric softeners, or other stubborn stains/oils you can gently rub the problem areas with a dish soap (like Blue Dawn) and rinse prior to washing. Please do not add dish soap to your washing machine.