Washing Cloth Diapers

When I tell people that we cloth diaper, the thing most people want to know is how do I get them clean and if they’re a lot of work. I wrote in this post that I’ve found I only have to do an extra load of laundry a week since I wash Charlotte’s clothes with one of the diaper loads. In the summer, I have enough diapers to stench washes out to every 8 to 10 days even. Regardless, washing cloth diapers is a pretty quick and painless operation once I got my routine down.

Washing cloth diapers stirs as many opinion as today’s current political environment. From what detergents to use and the amount to how many days to go between washing, everyone has an opinion. I found the information from Fluff Love and CD Science to be very thorough and, better yet, based on their own experiments and users’ feedback.  Over the past year, however, I’ve come up with my own little modifications as well.

We wash diapers on Saturday nights. By doing it after bed time, we have time to spray poop diapers in peace. In addition, Charlotte won’t need a diaper change for 12 hours, so it seems like we’re tackling the never-ending diaper monster…if only for a few hours. Lastly, by washing at night it minimizes the number of diapers we have to have “in reserve” so we can use the entire stash and wash everything since they’ll all be clean by the time she needs a diaper change again.

My diaper routine

  1. Keep up on the poop diapers. Nothing seems so insurmountable as a pile of poopy diapers. Ideally, I flush and spray after each “occurrence”. In the real world, I spray them at the end of the day…or every other day…or all on Saturday night. I keep a separate wet bag next to the diaper pail, and number 2 diapers go in there if they aren’t sprayed immediately.  I’ve found Vera Bradley wet bags are great for this because they’re stiff, stand up and stay open, allowing air flow to prevent the diapers from becoming too funky. Fresh diapers will usually release easily from the liner to be emptied right into the toilet. If they’ve sat for a day or two, I’ll usually have to use the diaper spray to get dried on bits. This is the most time consuming part of the operation, but even a weeks worth of diapers can be done in 10 – 15 minutes. When I’m done I wipe down everything with Clorox wipes, so I have a clean bathroom to boot.
  2. All the diapers, wipes, and liners go in the washing machine. The washer is full because I only wash once a week, so they get a full line of detergent. Detergent is one of those points of disagreement. I use either Tide Free and Gentle or Persil Sensitive – just my personal choice. Also, don’t skimp. In case you missed it, your diapers get pooped and peed in. You need a strong detergent that will scrub everything away. I then set the washer for Heavy Duty and Stain Boost, but no extra rinses. You need a lot of detergent to scrub the bio matter away, but extra rinses won’t do anything except deposit minerals on the fibers and lead to build up. We have a water softener, but when it wasn’t working for a few months I needed Borax to soften my water. Check out Fluff Love for hardness levels and when you need a softener.
  3. When the first load is done, I fluff. I turn the drum as I pull any diapers or wipes away from the bottom or sides and give everything a good shake as I go. Diapers or any soiled laundry need agitation to scrub the poos away, which it can’t do if everything is plastered to the sides of the washer.
  4. When I’m done fluffing, I top the semi-clean diapers with a full cup of detergent and a cap-full of Clorox 2 Stain Remover, but any laundry booster could be used. I top everything with Charlotte’s dirty laundry from the week. Changing pad sheets and liners go in, clothes, and burp clothes when she used to use them. (Technically, Fluff Love advises not adding in big items like sheets and towels. I have, on occasion, done towels, but usually I just save up them up for a few weeks and do a separate load of them.) I add a second full cup of detergent to the dispenser and set the washer the same as the first time: Heavy Duty and Stain Boost.
  5. When the second wash is done, diapers go in the dryer and I go to bed. Because I use a lot of cotton and hemp fiber diapers (which absorb a lot of water), I set the dryer to extra dry. The elastics on the diaper are usually the first part to fail, so I avoid stretching them until they’re cooled down. The next morning, I wake up to clean and dry diapers. The whole process the night before took about 15 – 20 total minutes of hands-on time. The most time consuming part is diaper spraying, which spreading it out during the week would cut this time down considerably.
  6. Sunday morning, we sit down and sort and fold diapers: wipes go in a stack, diapers are sorted into overnights, nap diapers, and her two types of day diapers, and then everything gets a liner laid on top. The clothes and changing pad are folded and everything gets loaded onto Charlotte’s diaper cart and rolled off to her room.


Charlotte’s clean and sorted diapers. Overnight diapers on the bottom; nap time diapers in the middle; daily diapers on the top (with liners, inserts, and wipes stacked on top for transit).

That’s it! That’s the wash routine. Not too hard. A baby means increased laundry, so one extra load don’t feel like any additional burden. What’s more, I never have to worry about running out of diapers or if my delivery is going to arrive in time. Still on the fence about cloth diapering? Read my reasons to cloth diaper here.