How To Wash Cloth Diapers Properly

Posted by Stephen Steinberg on January 19, 2015

How To Wash Cloth Diapers Properly

Using cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers is a popular and growing trend among parents of young children. At first thought, the idea of reusing a diaper might seem strange, but after taking a close look at the benefits of using cloth diapers, it’s easy to see why they are quickly becoming the diaper of choice among parents. If you’re reading this article, you’re probably already a cloth diaper user, but for those that are still undecided, here is a quick list of the benefits of using cloth diapers--


  • Average babies go through 3500 disposable diapers per year
  • Using cloth diapers saves around $2000 per child over using disposable diapers
  • Cloth diapers are designed to leak less than disposable diapers
  • Cloth diapers are more breathable
  • Cloth diapers are more stylish
  • You will never be “out” of diapers if you use cloth diapers

Obviously the biggest question among parents that are currently using or are considering using cloth diaper is how to wash their cloth diapers to get the truest clean possible? Over time you will come up with your own routine that works best for you, but here are our basic guidelines to washing cloth diapers--


STEP 1: Rinse cloth diaper diaper immediately after use

After the diaper has been used, if heavily soiled, the diaper should be rinsed out at your earliest convenience before tossing it in the laundry or however you store your diapers prior to washing. This will help minimize any chance of lingering odors and will also make it easier to give the diapers a complete and thorough wash.

STEP 2: Choose a detergent that doesn’t contain brighteners, fragrances or softeners

These sorts of chemicals will diminish the absorbing capabilities of your diapers and increase the chance of leaks, not to mention that they pose a risk of irritating your baby’s sensitive skin. They can also lock in bacteria and body oils, eventually causing barnyard burn and ammonia burns. DIY detergents are good in theory, but most recipes lack an actual surfactant or detergent, so if you choose to make your own detergent, make sure that you’re making a true detergent and not just a laundry booster. Vapor Fresh® Laundry Detergent is a great choice.


STEP 3: Run the cloth diapers through the first of two washes

It’s going to take two washes to completely clean your diapers-- this is the first of two washes. Simply put all of your diapers into the washing machine with the diaper bag inside-out if you use one. Try to wash your diapers often enough so that you’re never filling your washing machine more than halfway, as that will hinder the cleaning capabilities of the washing machine. Set the machine to the highest possible water level and run a rinse cycle. Laundry detergent is optional at this stage, as the main point of this first wash is to get rid of as much poop and pee as possible so that during the next wash cycle, the water will not be as dirty and will not re-deposit anything back onto the diapers. Water temperature is also optional at this stage-- the hotter the water, the more expensive each load will be to wash, and hotter water doesn’t necessary clean better. Water needs to be hotter than 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) to disinfect, and since the water will never get that hot in your washer, it might be unnecessary to wash with hot water-- but everyone’s situation is different, so figure out what works best for you!

STEP 4: Run the cloth diapers through the second wash

After your first wash is complete, it’s time to run the second wash. You’re definitely going to want to use laundry detergent in this stage. You can also remove the inserts from your diapers at this time since they will be cleaner and easier to handle, however this is optional. Again, temperature is up to you, depending on how eco-friendly you want to be, how much money you want to save, balanced with how well different water temperatures work for your specific circumstance.


STEP 5: Dry on low/medium heat to not wear down the elastic too much, never use dryer sheets

Cloth diapers can be put in the dryer if necessary, but never use dryer sheets for the same reason that you should never use softeners-- they will diminish the absorbing capabilities of the diapers and can pose a skin irritation risk to your baby. High temperatures will shorten the lifespan of elastic in your diapers, so dry on a low or medium heat, or line dry.

Here are some cloth diaper experts weighing in on their own preferred methods of washing cloth diapers--