I hope you all are well.
When I was first researching cloth diapers the biggest thing that worried me was would I be able to clean them properly. I am here to tell you it really isn’t as hard as it seems. It all seemed very intimidating when I was a cloth diaper newbie, but it quickly became routine. One of my biggest tips is to find the Fluff Love and Cloth Diaper Science group on FB. It is a great resource if you want to double check your washing routine or have a fancy type of washer. They will ask you a few questions and then will give you a suggested wash routine. They are great.
Now in this post I will essentially be spelling out my wash routine to show you it really isn’t hard at all to properly wash cloth diapers. So with out further a do., here it goes.
How I wash Cloth Diapers
Step 1: Collect all your dirty diapers in one place.
This may seem like a no-brainer but with “mama-brain” sometimes it slips your mind and you will have half a load ready to go in the washer but not all the dirty diapers. This means collect all diapers from your main diaper receptacles and diaper bags. So, make sure you have them all with you in front of your washer.
Step 2: Prepare the diapers to be washed.
This is the part I think many people who are new to cloth are worried about, but it really is no worse than changing the diaper to begin with especially if you are amazing at remembering to prep those diapers in between changing your child and tossing the diapers in the diaper pail or wet bag.
There are a few things you may need to do to Prep your diapers to be washed.
The first is If your child consumes anything other than exclusively breast milk you would need to remove the bowel movement into the toilet. However I was just informed that some sources also state that both exclusively breast fed bowl movements and exclusively formula bowel movements do not need to removed before washing. I only exclusively breastfed but others say it worked fine for their formula fed babies as well to just toss them in the wash without rinsing first. Some people use a method call the dunk and swish which is pretty much exactly like it sounds. You dunk the dirty diaper in the toilet water and swish it around until the solids come off. I personally am not a fan of this method but to each their own. Some people have specific tools like a spatula (or pooptula as I have heard it called) to just scrape the solids into the toilet bowel. You can also use something called a diaper sprayer, which is what I use. My Spray Pal Diaper Sprayer hooks up to the back of your toilet and has an on off switch that turns the water flow on and off, and a nozzle like a garden hose to spray the solids off into the toilet. Now, when doing this you will want to remove the excess water. I have a Spray pal Spray Shield that you can use to squeeze all the excess water into the bowel without toughing the diaper. Spray pal is amazing, and I love their products for my diapers. Some kids end up having ploppable bowel movements which are a breeze to clean as they just plop right off, but until then one of these methods work too.
Now that the solids are gone from the diapers you will need to prep just a bit further. To prepare the hook and loop diapers you just need to make sure the hook and loop(Velcro style) closures are flipped and hooked to the washing tabs. This prevents the hook part to get stuck on everything it can in the washer. With snap closure diapers you don’t need to worry with this.
Another thing you may have to do to prepare your diapers is un-stuff anything with a pocket. Most people I know don’t do this but we have a low water, no agitator washer and while most have the pleasure of their diapers becoming un-stuffed in the wash because of the agitator we don’t an they just won’t come clean like that. For un-stuffing you can purchase some thing called Diaper Dawgs Finger guards. I actually found some silicone finger oven mitts at a dollar store that I use. They are as cute but they do the trick if I need them.
Step 3: Filling the Washing Machine.
It is very important to get the right amount of diapers in a load. I try and make sure my washer drum is filled half of the way full. I normally don’t have to but if I needed I add some socks and underwear to the load to bulk it up to half of the way full. This is important for agitation. To little and the diapers will just swim around and won’t rub against one another in the wash. Too much and they won’t have the room to move around to rub against each other in the wash. I do Cloth wipes as well as diapers so I just toss the wipes in the diapers in the wash when washing.
Step 4: Adding the detergent.
This step can be switched with Filling the Washing Machine if you want to add the detergent first. Now I use mostly Melalueca brand detergent because of my son, M’s, super sensitive skin. You can use most detergent brand but some are better than others. Make sure to get real detergent and not things that say that they are specific for cloth diapers. Most of those don’t have the power to get the diapers really clean. I also add Melalueca’s version of Oxiclean to my first cycle to help brighten the diapers during the cold months when I can’t line dry. Putting the clean wet diapers out in the sun gets rid of most stains. It is amazing. Fluff Love and Cloth Diaper Science has a great list of good and not so good detergents (they do not recommend Melaluca’s detergent do to lack of information but my son’s skin won’t tolerate other detergents and I have had no issues with his diapers in 18 months of using it).
Step 5: Your first wash cycle or “Pre-wash”.
In my first wash cycle I use one full cap of MelaPower detergent and one of the MelaBright packs to my load. I start the load on heavy duty hot wash, heavily soiled. This first cycle is important to get the excess urine and left over solids off the diapers and out of the water. This way on your next cycle you will be cleaning the diapers in clean water.
Step 6: Your second wash cycle or “Main-wash”.
Once it is done on the first cycle I peel the diapers from the sides of the washer drum to aid in agitation for the next cycle. This cycle is where the diapers really get cleaned. I add One and a half caps of MelaPower detergent and wash this on Heavy Duty, Hot wash, heavily soiled.
Step 7: Drying your diapers.
This part is really up to you. You can dry your diapers in the dryer if that is what you would like. This has been known to wear the diapers out a bit faster than hang drying due to the elastics and material and the heat.
I particularly like to hang dry diapers when I can or at least hang dry the outer diapers with PUL fabric. Then I dry the absorbent parts like FSTs, Flats, Prefolds, Fitteds, and inserts in the dryer.
You can also hang dry everything outside on a clothesline. I love doing this. I also have a clothes rack for hanging diapers inside on bad weather days.
I hope this helped you understand a little more about washing cloth diapers and hopefully didn’t overwhelm you any further. It may seem like a lot to take in but once you know what you are going to do it is like second nature.
Thank you for reading,
The Momnipresent Mother