Cloth diapers obviously need to be washed. You could go the route of using a cloth diaper service, where they will pick up your dirty diapers at the end of each week and leave you with a bag of fresh ones. But if you’re doing cloth to save money, you’ll want to be washing your diapers yourself.
Washing your cloth diapers is a little different than regular laundry, but that’s only because they are so much more soiled than your jeans (hopefully!). Especially if you’ve been lurking in different cloth diapering communities online, wash routine can seem like such a complicated, time consuming thing! And if you don’t do it right then your diapers will be ruined. What a way to scare people off of trying cloth diapers!
Just keep your routine basic and easy. Even if you mess up a couple of times, an extra wash can go a long way! Here is my basic washing routine, try it out with your diapers and if there’s still smell afterward, just adjust the routine a bit. Your washer is probably different from mine, your water may be harder or softer, etc. I wash every 2-3 days, depending on how busy I am. I have enough to go up to a week, but they start to really stink at that point and tend to take an extra wash cycle to get them really clean. Anywhere between 2-5 days between washing is pretty normal, and just depends on your lifestyle and how many diapers you have.
If your baby is only breastfed and doesn’t take any solids yet, poop diapers can just go right into the washer! Yay! Breastfed poop is water soluble, so it won’t get nasty in your machine.
Since Gideon is fully eating solids now, we have to rinse the poop off of his diapers. No big deal! Sometimes we can just kind of plop them into the toilet. Other times, we use our bidet that I talked about in my postpartum essentials post. If we’re out and he poops, I just close up the diaper and take care of it at home.
If your baby is just about to start solids, you may be wondering when you need to start spraying the diapers. You’ll know. And if you’re in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to spray them anyway.
Some people call this the “prewash”. This wash is basically just to get the pee and poo out of the diapers. I do a “normal” wash on my machine with cold water. I use the regular amount of detergent recommended for a load on the bottle (which isn’t a full cap btw! If you’ve been using a full cap for each load of laundry you’ve been wasting a lot of money!). I use Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Unscented. Regular SG detergent wasn’t strong enough for us, but you can always try it out and see! You just want to make sure the detergent you use is free of optical brighteners, and probably free of scents that could irritate your baby’s privates.
This is the big one. The one that is really getting your diapers clean. First I reach into the drum and unstick the diapers from the edges of the washer. I don’t know if this matters actually but that’s what I do. Then I run the longest cycle on my machine, which for me is “Heavy”. If you have the option to add an extra rinse, do that. Oh and this cycle should be with hot hot hot water. Kill anything nasty that’s in there!
If I’m feeling like I want to do everything right that day, I will take anything with PUL (covers, pockets, wet bags) and hang them up to dry on my indoor clothesline. Then everything else goes into the dryer on high heat with my 8 dryer balls (maybe that’s excessive, but it works!). It doesn’t hurt to throw everything into the dryer either. Keeping the PUL and elastics out of the high heat will help their longevity, but I can’t really say how much since we’ve only been cloth diapering for 10 months.
A note on stripping
Some cloth diapering communities talk about needing to strip your diapers about once a month. Don’t do this! It’s very very hard on your diapers, and THIS is something than can make your diapers not last as long as you were hoping. Plus it’s very very tiring and time consuming. Only strip your diapers if there is some weird stink that you can’t get out of them with a regular wash or two.
A note on stains
Firstly, these are diapers. Their sole purpose is to catch pee and poop so that it doesn’t get all over you and your baby and your car and your home. Sure they can be cute and pretty on the outside, but do they need to be beautiful on the inside? If the answer is yes, I understand. I try to keep stains to a minimum in my diapers since I usually have people that are interested and want to see them. If I pull out a nasty looking stained diaper, they might get turned off from the idea of cloth. But don’t bleach your diapers to get those stains out! Just dry them in the sun, or at least let them set in the sun for an hour or more.
Don’t overthink your cloth diapering laundry routine! Just get those diapers clean! If you have any questions about your wash routine or about cloth diapering in general, make sure to Ask a Bestie! How often do you wash your cloth diapers, and does your routine look similar to mine? Let me know in the comments below!