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11 Ways to Get a Fresh Start With Your Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Laundry Basket with Cloth Diapers

Do you have the best cloth diaper wash routine?

Are your cloth diapers not so fresh?

Have you been using “cloth safe” or “homemade detergent”

Or maybe you’re still researching cloth diapers and need more information on how to wash your cloth diapers.

Today we’re going to help you get a fresh start with your cloth diaper wash routine!

We are in spring-cleaning mode after all!

Evaluate Your Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Laundry Basket

For the most part, our basic cloth diaper wash routine will work for everyone!

Seriously, we don’t need to complicate things.

Sure, small tweaks here and there for different machines IF there is an issue that arises, but pretty much everyone will be just fine with a basic cloth diaper wash routine.

Remember, keep it simple.

There are a zillion other resources that will tell you that you need to use a ridiculous amount of detergent, run a ton of washes, and just overly make it difficult.

It sounds complicated- it probably is.

Skip the mistakes that I and so many others have made over the years and listen to the brands and retailers who have years and years of experience.

They want you to be successful on your cloth diaper journey while keeping your cloth diaper warranty intact.

The Basic Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Washing Machine

To reiterate-MOST of you reading this blog will be able to successfully use this cloth diaper wash routine in virtually every washing machine - yes, even HE!

Step 1: Start with a cold water rinse/wash with no detergent. This will rinse out any urine and solid residue.

Step 2: Next perform a hot water wash cycle with detergent. Do NOT use the sanitary cycle and be sure your water heater is not set above 120 degrees as temperatures hotter than that can damage your cloth diapers.

Step 3: Now do a second cold or warm rinse, optionally you can add 3-4 drops of Lavender Essential Oil a natural antiseptic.

Step 4: Toss in the dryer on tumble/low

Pro-Tip: adding a dry towel or wool dryer balls can lessen the dry time.

Covers and pocket diapers outers can be hung dry.

Important Information before washing your cloth diapers:

Each diaper manufacturer has its own guidelines for care and use, including detergent recommendations.

Please check with your manufacturer to avoid problems with warranties!

Generally speaking, we DO NOT recommend using bleach, stain removers, borax, Biz, Bac-Out, Biokleen, or Oxi-Clean as they may damage your diapers.

The SUPER Soft Water Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Washing Machine

If you notice that your diapers are starting to feel slimy or you have a lot of bubbles in your machine with the basic cloth diaper wash routine it’s possible that you have some SUPER soft water.

Unfortunately, super soft water can be a little tricky to work with, but we’ve got you covered.

I recommend the use of Gain Detergent here. It seems to rinse out a bit easier.

You should also try to decrease your detergent in small increments - line by line until your diapers are rinsing clean, smelling clean, and you don’t notice excess bubbles.

Some users find they need to complete an extra rinse.

The SUPER Hard Water Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Laundry mat

If you notice that your diapers still just smell, dirty or you have those hard water spots on your shower or sink you may need to follow this hard water cloth diaper wash routine.

Now, it is true that Tide Powder and most other mainstream powdered detergents will suffice, if you notice any issues it may be worth testing your water hardness or simply make these adjustments to the basic cloth diaper wash routine.

Add a small amount of detergent to your first wash with Calgon (per package instructions), add Calgon to your main wash with Calgon (per package instructions), and skip any additional rinses.

Troubleshooting Your Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Barnyard Stink

This is one of the most common smells that we hear about, but how will you know if you have it?

OH, YOU WILL KNOW!

This is a truly vile smell that will permeate your entire home. It’s like something crawled into your diaper pail and died.

It’s intense.

If you notice that barnyard stink is starting to take over you may have what’s referred to as detergent build-up and no, it’s NOT a myth.

First, do a deep cleaning of your diapers.

Start with clean diapers and run several hot washes with 2x the amount of detergent you'd normally use.

Follow with 2-3 hot wash cycles without detergent.

We also do not suggest using any additives like fabric softeners, OxyClean, vinegar, or dryer sheets.

If you have extremely hard water you will want to add Calgon (per package instructions) to every hot wash.

Ammonia Smell and Burns

This smell, like barnyard, is very discernible.

Ammonia will singe your nose hairs. Ammonia smells and burns are linked to not using enough detergent.

If you have ammonia burn/urine build-up and regular or soft water: Start with clean diapers, then run a hot wash with a full cap full of mainstream detergents like Tide or Gain.

Follow with 2 full hot washes without detergent to ensure all urine and detergent is rinsed out.

This should return your diapers to "square-one".

Be sure to stay on top of urine build-up by following this wash routine:

Warm rinse, hot wash with Tide or Gain up to the 3rd line on the cap, warm or cold rinse, additional rinse.

If you are using an HE washer – you’ll want to ensure that your washer is using enough water to fully rinse your diapers.

If you have ammonia burn/urine buildup and HARD water:

Start with clean diapers, then run a hot wash with a full cap full of mainstream detergent like Tide or Gain and box/bottle's suggested amount of Calgon or Rain Drops.

"Pause" your wash machine and allow it to soak for 30 minutes to help break up minerals before the rinse cycle begins.

Follow with 1 full hot wash with Calgon or Rain Drops to ensure all urine and detergent is rinsed out.

This should return your diapers to "square-one".

Be sure to stay on top of urine build-up by following this wash routine: Warm rinse, hot wash with Tide or Gain up to the 3rd line on the cap + Calgon or Rain Drops.

No extra rinse is suggested when you have hard water because it can add minerals to your diapers.

If you are using an HE washer – you’ll want to ensure that your washer is using enough water to fully rinse your diapers.

Still, have ammonia stink?

You may need to perform a bleach wash to kill ammonia-causing bacteria. All inserts need to be sanitized.

Entirely PUL diaper covers do not need to be sanitized.

Run a warm wash cycle with the full suggested amount of detergent for clothing.

Add 1/4 cup of regular disinfecting bleach to your bleach dispenser. Color-safe bleach is recommended for colors.

Following this wash cycle, run a hot wash with the full amount of detergent for clothing to ensure all bleach is washed out completely.

Please note that bleaching cotton prints and colored bamboo may lead to some fading.

You only need to treat absorbent materials.

Why Aren’t My Cloth Diapers Absorbent?

Outer Space training pants and three animal print inserts

If your cloth diapers are new

AND are made of natural fibers you will need to prep them.

The preparation or “prep” of new cloth diapers helps to remove the natural oils from the fibers which can cause your diapers to repel.

I know it sounds daunting and difficult, but prepping just means that you’re going to wash and dry your cloth diapers a few times before you use them.

Any diapers with natural fibers such as hemp, bamboo, or cotton will need to be washed and dried 5-6 times before use to strip the natural oils and reach full absorbency.

Organic fibers such as organic cotton will need to be washed and dried upwards of 6 times.

See, Easy, right? You can even throw them in with your regular laundry- just be sure that you’re not using any fabric softeners.

Okay, but my cloth diapers aren’t new…

You may have some buildup from minerals, creams, or laundry additives.

First, do a deep cleaning of your diapers.

Start with clean diapers and run several hot washes with 2x the amount of detergent you'd normally use.

Follow with 2-3 hot wash cycles without detergent.

We also do not suggest using any additives like fabric softeners, OxyClean, vinegar, or dryer sheets.

Be sure to evaluate your cloth diaper wash routine if this is a common occurrence for you!

I NEED to Start Over - My Cloth Diaper Wash Routine is a Mess

Laundry Bags

Sometimes, it’s just easier to start all over.

Maybe you’re not quite sure what’s going, but something is definitely very, very wrong.

Or maybe you’ve been using a homemade “detergent” and are making the switch.

You’ll want to strip your cloth diapers.

Stripping your cloth diapers is important when detergent build-up starts to reduce the absorbency of your diapers.

There are a few methods that can be used, and we always recommend starting with the least severe.

First Try: Run several hot washes without any detergent

Then Try: Use a couple of drops of Dawn blue dish soap to hand wash your diapers in your bathtub (instead of your regular detergent) and run extra rinses to get rid of any suds

Lastly Try: Use a soft toothbrush and some dish soap to gently scrub the diaper if you notice that there is build up on your diapers

There are Maggots in My Pail!

As it gets warmer out sometimes you may notice something that shouldn’t be in your diaper pail, maggots.

Try to remain calm.

It will be okay.

It happens to many cloth diapering families and it has nothing to do with your cleaning habits.

You don’t need to feel ashamed!

Maggots happen when a fly lays eggs in your diaper pail.

While it is gross to deal with, spray out your diapers and wash them normally.

You can prevent this phenomenon by dealing with poopy diapers right away or using a closed system, like a Planet Wise hanging pail, and keep that baby zipped shut.

My Child has Yeast

Child eating yogurt in pineapple bib

All of my kids seem to be yeasty. It’s unreal.

If you find your child is dealing with yeast often, consider talking to your pediatrician.

No, really! We added some yogurt with active live cultures to our older baby's diet and it’s helped quite a bit!

Okay, but you need to know to treat that. Here you go!

The best choice would be to email the manufacturer for their specific guidelines.

But some general guidelines are:

All inserts need to be sanitized.

Entirely PUL diaper covers do not need to be sanitized.

Run a warm wash cycle with the full suggested amount of detergent for clothing.

Add 1/4 cup of regular disinfecting bleach to your bleach dispenser.

Color-safe bleach is recommended for colors.

Following this wash cycle, run a hot wash with the full amount of detergent for clothing to ensure all bleach is washed out completely.

Please note that bleaching cotton prints and colored bamboo may lead to some fading.

You only need to treat absorbent materials.

Soften Up Your Natural Fibers

Stack of Wool Dryer Balls

Is that hemp cloth diaper no longer feeling soft?

Mineral or urine buildup can often cause diapers to become stiff and crunchy. If you have hard water, try adding a water softening agent like Calgon or Raindrops to your wash cycle.

Check with your diaper manufacturer first. You may also need to increase the amount of detergent you are using.

It is also possible that your diapers are crunchy from line or rack drying. Tumble dry your diapers for 10-15 minutes with a damp towel after removing them from the line or rack to "fluff" them.

I love using wool dryer balls to not only decrease dry times but to soften up all of my cloth diapers!

I’m STILL Overwhelmed! HELP!

Baby in Sink bath with rubber ducks

Your washing machine does all the work - now is the time to thank your wonderful washing machine for saving you tons of money!

After doing this cloth diaper wash routine several times it will become second nature!

Dump solids into the toilet and put used diaper into dry diaper pail (if baby is solely breastfed skip this step or use a biodegradable liner and either flush or discard).

After 2-3 days dump soiled diapers into the washing machine (this is the most work you will do when washing your diapers and it lasts only about 10 seconds!)

Coldwater light wash/pre-rinse cycle with no detergent (rinsing all the "stuff" down the drain where it belongs and leaving diapers ready to wash).

Hot water wash (highest water level, longer cycle) with 3/4 the amount of detergent you would normally use (the Nicki's Diapers brand likes Tide Original).

Extra rinse cycle at any temp.

Tumble or line dry.

DONE! Now was that so bad?

*No bleach, softeners, homemade detergents or diaper creams without a barrier as these will "coat" your cloth diapers and make them not absorb.

Conclusion - 11 Ways to Get a Fresh Start With Your Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Pain liner in can

My dear reader, if there is a cloth diaper problem I have most likely experienced it, because well I didn’t listen to Nicki’s.

I wanted to believe the “science” and the “university” who all claimed to know better.

I wish I would have reached out to Nicki’s sooner when I had issues.

You should do the same!

There are ways to help you keep on your cloth diaper wash routine game!

We like to keep three Planet Wise Pail Liners in our rotation.

How does this help?

Well, it just helps keep me in line with keeping up with the laundry!

One Pail liner in use, one in the wash, and one to spare, because let's be honest I will be at least one load behind!

Click HERE to add a pail liner to your diaper pail today!

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