How to Prep Cloth Diapers

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There are two basic things you need to look at when prepping diapers.
Is it a natural fiber? (hemp, bamboo, cotton, etc)
Is it a synthetic fiber? (PUL, microfiber, etc)

If it’s a synthetic fiber:
Simply wash the product once with a bit of diaper safe detergent. I like to use hot water. Dry on medium heat or line if you prefer.

That’s it! Enjoy your new diapers!

If it’s a natural fiber:
Some diapers/inserts made from natural fibers come pre-prepped. If so, wash once (like above) if you like and enjoy.

Most don’t come prepped, so you will need to do it yourself to rid the fabric of it’s natural oils.

To get started using these types of diapers, 3 hot wash/dry cycles will typically work. I like to use a bit of diaper safe detergent with each wash to help strip the oils. The diapers will get more absorbent with use.

Some diapers will require more prepping (another hot wash or two). I suggest testing after 3 washes. You can do this by taking a dry diaper and running it under some warm water (slow stream). If it absorbs easily, you’re good to go. If it beads up, you need another hot wash.

Can you prep different diapers together?
Yes and no. You can prep natural fibers with natural fibers, and you can prep synthetic with synthetic.

What type of detergent can you use?
You can make your own. (DIY Cloth Diaper Detergent) or purchase a detergent.

There are several brands. I’m sure I will miss some, and just because a detergent is listed here does not mean that I personally support it. I have not had the chance to try all of these, as I have primarily 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 🙂

Allens Naturally Laundry Detergent
BumGenius Diaper Detergent
Charlie’s Soap
Country Save
Crunchy Clean
Eco Nuts
Eco Sprout
Rockin’ Green

Amanda Hearn
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  • Thanks … question … if using your diaper detergent recipe … how much do you use to prep cloth diapers … I know you use a tablespoon of your detergent for soiled diapers … would I use half of this for a new diaper … a teaspoon maybe?

  • I would use a tablespoon on natural fibers. Reason being is that you are trying to strip the diapers of their natural oils. So you want enough detergent to help accomplish that.

    If it was microfiber, I'd probably just use half a tablespoon.

  • So, I know you aren't supposed to prep different types of diapers (natural, synthetic fibers) together, but is it okay to wash them together on a regular basis once they have been sufficiently prepped?

  • It's absolutely okay 🙂 The prepping phase is done separately because of the oils in natural fibers. Once they have been stripped out in the prepping process, you're good to go.

  • You can dry them after each wash, but I would only do it after every other wash, at most. I wouldn't be too concerned about getting them totally dry either.

    I have seen many people say that they only dried them at the end.

  • Should I go through the prep process of diapers that I purchased gently used or just wash once? They are all clean and none have any kind of funky smell to them. Thanks for your help! 🙂

    • So long as they smell and look clean I would just wash once, but it’s all up to your comfort level.

  • What about inserts that have both natural and synthetic fibers? For example, I have some that are cotton/hemp inner with a polyester outer.

    • I would prep those with other natural fibers. The concern is getting the oils onto the microfiber ones, which could cause them to repel.

  • I never realized that you should prep them differently. I know that I always try to prep natural fibers separately from other diapers, but I didn’t realize they should be prepped different. Thanks for the tips

  • I’ve got a hemp insert in the mail, so this was good to know how to prep it! Thanks. 🙂

  • I am brand new to cloth diapering. I have ordered some diapers and plan to start cloth as soon as they get here! Your article has been super informative on how to prep new diapers but I have a question about used ones. I am weird about sanitizing used clothes after I buy them. I usually add vinegar to my washer when I am washing clothes that I bought used. I am wondering if vinegar is safe for diapers and if not, is there an alternative? I know that bleach is a no no. Thanks in advance!

    • Different cloth diaper companies will tell you different things about pretty much any additive out there. Some say bleach is okay, others say no – personally I say no! As for vinegar, I say yes. I wouldn’t put it into every single wash just because it’s not necessary, but if it helps you get any used diapers clean to your satisfaction I would absolutely do it. I have used vinegar in my diaper wash on more than one occasion.

  • I’ve heard good things about Tide powder detergent, actually – do you have any experience using it? I’m worried it might ruin my microfiber inserts, but the convenience of being able to pick some up at Walmart anytime is SO appealing!

    • The concern with tide is that it usually has added perfumes/ dyes and other things in it that are not safe for cloth diapers. You can defiantly use a store bought detergent but just make sure it has wording like free and clear. I prefer All Free and Clear. It’s totally up to you on what you use. There is a list of “safe” store bought detergents online it tells you on a ranking level for things like perfumes and such. Hope that helps!

  • When it comes to detergent for the diapers does it have to be specifically made for baby? Or can I just use the detergent I use for the rest of our clothes?

    • No it does not have to be baby specific detergent. Just make sure it’s something your baby dosn’t have any reactions to. Also something that is cloth diaper safe. Which many store bought detergents are just make sure they don’t have added perfumes/ dyes/fabric softener, that kind of thing. There is a list online of the ranking of store bought detergents and how safe they are for cloth.

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