Washing Cloth Diapers – Why So Complicated?

Washing Cloth Diapers - Why So Complicated? (Cloth for a Cause)

Why so complicated? (Image from stockxchg, used with permission.)

One of the toughest parts of using cloth diapers is coming up with a good routine for washing cloth diapers.  This is made even more confusing by the wide range of advice you’ll get from different cloth diapering moms.

The basics are cold rinse, hot wash, double rinse.  Use a cloth diaper safe detergent.  After that?  Washing cloth diapers is full of variables that will depend on a variety of things.

Type of Water

Do you have hard water?  Soft water?  In between water?  Or even a water softener?  The type of water that you have will make a huge difference in your cloth diaper laundry routine.  If you have hard water, you’ll need to use more detergent.  You’ll probably have to strip more frequently because of the mineral build up.  If you have extreme hard water, you may even have to use something like Calgon (not the “take me away” type, but stuff in the laundry aisle) to soften it, or maybe invest in a water softener.  If you have soft water, then you’ll have to use less detergent… or strip to remove excess detergent build up.

Type of Machine

Do you have a front loader?  Those use less water than top loading machines, so that will impact your wash routine.  You’ll also find that different machines will impact your cloth diaper laundry routine.

Type of Diapers

Are you washing cloth diapers with microfiber inserts?  Are they all natural fibers?  Different brands?  Different diapers will have different results.

Type of… uh, leftovers?

When you’re washing cloth diapers, you’ll find that what you’re washing out of them will have some impact, too.  I thought for sure and for certain that I had an ammonia build up issue at one point because my diapers stunk after a particularly vicious toddler pee.  Overnight cloth diapers could make eyes water.  I discovered after using disposables overnight that it wasn’t that my wash routine was insufficient, but that he had stinky pee.  Likewise, diet can impact what’s in those diapers that you’re trying to launder.  That can make a difference in how effective your method for washing cloth diapers is, too.

What About the All-Knowing Folks Telling You About Washing Cloth Diapers?

I’m one of those all-knowing folks who is convinced that I’ve got the best system in the world for washing cloth diapers.  And I do.  For me.  Whenever someone asks for advice, I can tell her how I do it and what works.  I can also tell her what hasn’t.  However, someone else will respond with the exact opposite information about detergents, et cetera.  Whenever someone has the answer for you on washing cloth diapers, just remember that it’s not necessarily going to be the final solution for you.  It’ll just be a jumping off point to figure out how to tweak it into your own cloth diaper laundry routine.

How do you wash cloth diapers?


6 thoughts on “Washing Cloth Diapers – Why So Complicated?

  1. I mostly have my routine down pat. I figured out that my wash cycle was simply too short to really permeate the diapers. First a pre-rinse for the yuckies. Then the wash. Once the drum fills up and agitates for a minute I stop the machine and let everything soak in the soapy water for about 30 minutes. This lets the detergent actually get into the inner layers of my inserts. Then just two rinses.


  2. Back in the 70’s & ’80’s cloth diapers were the norm.I always hand rinsed and hand wrung the diapers after every change then hung to dry until wash day.Then I got that boiling water and filled my washer pre soaked 30 mins. washed in hot water the diapers double rinsed cold water then hung them on a line or even a rack in the sunlight.Even in the winter .Then put them in the dryer to soften them up.Sunlight and fresh air is the best for whitening and to get rid of bad orders.


  3. Pingback: Cloth Diaper Laundry – Roll Tide! - Cloth Diaper Addicts Cloth Diaper Addicts

  4. Pingback: Cloth Diaper Laundry Routine #clothdiaperhop « Cloth Diaper Addicts Cloth Diaper Addicts

  5. Thanks for posting this! I have a pretty good routine, although I have had to tweak it a bit since we moved and now have a high efficiency washing machine. I went to the local hardware store to purchase a washing machine hose and sink attachment. I have attached that to my utility sink and use it to add extra water to my diaper loads to make sure that there is no soap residue.


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