Washing Cloth Diapers

by Amanda Hearn · 17 comments

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This is for typical washing.

If you need to strip your diapers, try this.
If you need to prep your diapers, try this.
If you have ammonia issues with your diapers, try this.

Storing Dirty Diapers

Most people use a plain old trash can with lid. It’s cheap and very effective. Some people use a pail liner or pillow case as a ‘bag’.

This is a dry pail. Don’t fill with water, there is no need.

What to do with Solids

Read all about it here, but these are the basics:

Exclusively breastfed poop needs nothing. Just toss it in the wash. It will simply wash away.

Everything else should be sprayed, plopped or scraped into the toilet and flushed away. The diaper can then be put into the pail or wash.
You may choose to use a flushable liner for easier removal.

Methods of Washing

Here are the top methods. They are not the only way, but simply the most tried and used (as I have found).

Method #1
Cold Wash/Cold Rinse Cycle with Detergent
Hot Wash/Cold Rinse Cycle with Detergent
Dry (machine medium heat or clothes line/rack)

Method #2
Cold Soak/Rinse
Hot Wash/Cold Rinse Cycle with Detergent
Dry (machine medium heat or clothes line/rack)

With any of these methods an extra wash cycle or rinse can be thrown in for an extra dirty load of diapers.
Vinegar can also be added to any cycle, or (most commonly) the last wash/rinse in a downy ball or the softener reservoir.


You can use the dryer if you like. Use a medium heat at the most. You don’t want to damage the PUL (covers, pockets, all-in-ones)

You may also line dry your diapers. This has the added benefit of the sun’s stain removal powers πŸ™‚ Seriously. It’s amazing what stains the sun can get out.

What type of detergent can you use?

You can make your own. (We have a recipe on this blog.) or purchase a detergent.

There are several brands. I’m sure I will miss some. Just because a detergent is listed here does not mean that I personally support it! I have not had the chance to try these, as I have always made my own. Detergent can be different from one household to the next. Baby’s skin sensitivity, water hardness, wash routine and other things can play a factor in effectiveness.

Okay, onto brands you can buy (just to name a few) πŸ™‚

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Amanda Hearn

Amanda Hearn

Founder of The Eco-Friendly Family, design geek, serial tanktopist, content creator, mother, coffee addict, & lover of fun. I am also a partner at Green Child Magazine & Put A Cup In It!
Amanda Hearn
Leslie June 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm

What are your opinions on manufacturers (Bumgenius) saying not to use vinegar when washing CDs? I just had an elastic failure and would hate to think my washing caused it.

Amanda Hearn June 9, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I have only had two diapers ever lose their elastic, and both were used – I don't know how they were washed before they got to me.

Bleach would be much harder on the elastic and manufacturers recommend it (Bumgenius specifically).

Leslie June 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Thanks! It is still under warranty, so hopefully they will replace it.

hollyg78 July 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm

I have a question. We only have coin op washers so I was wondering if I soak them in the laundry sink for the cold wash that is recommended and not do an actual machine cold wash before the hot wash? Do you think that would be okay? I just don't want to have to pay for 2 washes!

Amanda Hearn July 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Some people just do a rinse cycle and then a wash cycle. It can't hurt to try πŸ™‚ I'd just be sure to use the longest wash cycle when you do wash them for the agitation.

Racheal March 6, 2012 at 9:16 am

I used the Seventh Generation detergent on the first cold water wash on my Bum Genious diapers to help remove some of the solids (I had been using you recipe but couldn’t quite get the right amount for my HE washer). I used this method two times and they are repelling liquids and leaking every time. I’m not sure that the Seventh Generation is CD friendly…… What do I need to do to get them to absorb again??

Maria January 22, 2013 at 1:15 am

In your method #1 when you mention “Cold Wash/Cold Rinse Cycle with Detergent
Hot Wash/Cold Rinse Cycle with Detergent” , are you saying either or? Or two cycles with detergent?

Beth Rees February 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I have heard more and more people are using tide to wash their cloth diapers and having great results. Do you think this will impact the diapers over time?

Mande Cauley March 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Very Helpful!

Whitney September 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Love these tips. I always can use helpful tips to take care of these diapers I spend so much on!

bakeware September 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm

I am now not positive the place you’re getting your information, however great topic.

I needs to spend some time finding out more or working out more.
Thanks for magnificent information I was searching for this
information for my mission.

Irina Johnson November 18, 2014 at 2:26 am

Your Blog is very helpful for a parent who is using cloth diapers for the first time.

Liz Watson July 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

I have been using all free and clear bc I, once again, didn’t realize it might have negative effects on cloth diapers. I have just started using cloth and not I will switch detergents, hoping I didn’t affect their absorbency yet, but I have seen ppl use other detergent, like tide, on you tube videos and such. It seems to work for them. what are the ingredients you want to avoid in ?detergent?

Amanda Hearn July 21, 2015 at 10:55 am

Hi Liz,

Personally, I choose to use detergents that are free from harsh additives and tend to be more “green” brands, if not using homemade. That said, I think it’s important to do what works for you. I actually used All F&C a couple of times on my diapers, but it caused problems for us. If it works for you, and you’re happy with it, then that’s all that matters.

Arielle July 25, 2015 at 10:11 am

Thanks for the info. We are just developing our wash routine as we are new to cloth diapering.

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