Cleaning cloth diapers is probably the most pressing reason a parent wouldn’t want to use cloth diapers.
We know and understand that it can be gross, but the environmental and cost benefits outweigh a few icky minutes. Plus, after a while, you get used to it anyway!
So, what are the environmental benefits of cloth diapering? We can't answer “how to clean cloth diapers” before we answer “why we clean cloth diapers.” Well, did you know that disposable diapers are estimated to be the 3rd largest consumable that is found in the landfill?
This is because about 35 TONS of trash is produced each year by disposable diapers. It takes around 500 years for 1 diaper decomposition time—now try naturally decomposing the national average of 6500 diapers per child in the United States!
Just by one person making the switch from disposables to cloth diapers, there would be a lot less less waste in our landfills.
Alright, alright, you’ve already made the switch! Let’s get into how to prep your cloth diapers for washing after they have been used.
Prepping Cloth Diapers for Washing
This is the worst part of cleaning cloth diapers, but the good news is that once it’s over, you’re in the clear!
The first step to properly washing cloth diapers is to remove as much waste as you can from the diapers. Most people will dump this directly into the toilet, but you are free to do whatever is most convenient for you.
You will notice a difference in the solidity of the poop based on whether the baby is breastfed or formula-fed. Formula-fed baby poop is easier to clean, and we will leave it at that!
We suggest investing in a diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer attaches a spraying wand directly to your toilet. This allows you to do an initial cloth cleaning with cold water.
The Spray Pal Diaper Sprayer comes with a convenient “Splatter Shield” that will prevent you from being covered in… um, diaper contents.
After you have removed all solids from your cloth diaper, it’s ready for the wash. One thing to note, if your child is breastfed, their stool is actually water-soluble and technically doesn't need to be removed before going into the washer.
However, many people still use the diaper sprayer for good measure.
If you want to be extra environmentally friendly, try out cloth wipes instead of the traditional flushable wipes. These can be prepped and washed the same way as your cloth diapers!
What Types of Detergent To Use For Cloth Diapers
After you’ve sprayed out your diaper, it’s time for the wash. If you have a diaper sprayer, you can immediately run a hot load, but if you do not, it is recommended that you do two washes, one with cold water and then one with hot (only adding detergent to the hot cycle).
What types of detergent should you use when you wash cloth diapers? We have a whole blog about the best detergents for cloth diapers, but here is a brief recap:
- Use powdered detergent if you can
- No fabric softener
- Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
- Tide and Gain are our top two recommendations
- If you have a baby with extra sensitive skin, try Arm & Hammer Free & Clear
We also sell Eucalan No Rinse Wool Wash for wool diapers. It is non-toxic, biodegradable, and phosphate-free!
The number one rule parents generally follow when cleaning cloth diapers is don’t use diaper fabric softener or scent beads. This can cause build-up on the cloth diapers and irritate the baby.
Tips & Tricks for How to Wash Cloth Diapers:
- NEVER use Borax to clean cloth diapers. This causes premature wear-and-tear on your cloth diapers.
- Does your diaper still smell like a barnyard even after being washed? This is because of detergent/fabric softener buildup. Once your diapers smell this way, you know it's time to strip them (but not with Borax!). The first thing we recommend doing is running several hot loads of laundry with no detergent. Still smell bad? Try handwashing your diapers with just a few drops of Dawn dish soap (not detergent).
- Rockin Green is NOT recommended by us.
- Scents in detergent are OKAY!
How Often Should You Wash Cloth Diapers
Now that you know how to wash cloth diapers, how often should you clean them? Everyone is different with their wash schedules, depending on whether they are home or gone most of the day.
Work, running errands, school activities, nights out, and spontaneous plans means that your wash schedule could be different every time.
If you are a parent who finds yourself home more often, you may be washing every single day.
However, if your family is out of the house more hours than not, you may be looking at a 2-3 day wash schedule.
Your wash schedule will also change with the age of your baby. A newborn can go through 10 newborn cloth diapers a day, so if you only have 20 cloth diapers, you will have to do them either every day or every other day.
As your child gets older, thus using fewer diapers, you can get away with 2 to 3 days between washes.
Waiting any longer than 3 days can cause mildew stains and, again, premature wear-and-tear of your cloth diapers.
How To Dry Cloth Diapers After Washing
The last piece of “how to wash cloth diapers” is drying! We have a whole article on drying cloth diapers, but here’s a summary. Most cloth diapers will say on the packaging how they can be dried.
Some should only be air-dried, while others are able to withstand the dryer. We know the turnaround time needs to be pretty quick when washing and drying cloth diapers, and that’s why we recommend using wool dryer balls. These will act as dryer sheets without all the chemicals!
They also decrease the time your cloth diapers need to be in the laundry.
Some parents like the old-fashioned and natural way of drying by using a clothing line.
This is great, as long as the weather permits and you have the time to do it. This is really only recommended for parents who have an arsenal of cloth diapers and will not be rushing to get their laundry done.
For traditional dryers, always tumble dry on low heat. Using low heat will reduce the amount of wear on your cloth diapers.
This is why it is important to allot your time for laundry, because if you try to use high heat to dry the diapers faster, the elastics could snap and the waterproof linings could be damaged.
Now You’re a Pro!
Now you may be wondering, what are you supposed to do with diapers when you’re out in public or in the house? This is where wet bags come in! A wet bag is perfect for holding all the soiled diapers when there is no proper way to clean them immediately. This is essential for families who are always on the go.
You now know how to wash cloth diapers like a pro! If you are ready to begin your cloth diapering journey, check out Nicki’s Diapers’ full selection of amazing, high-quality cloth diapers. With so many types, so many brands, and so many patterns, you are sure to find a ton that you like, while also doing your part and being more environmentally friendly.