ASK CHILDBEARING: How do I wash cloth diapers at home?

Q: We’re considering purchasing cloth diapers for our baby. How exactly do you wash cloth diapers at home?

A:Washing cloth diapers at home is super easy. There are many methods, but I will explain the very simple, very popular, dry-pail approach.PastedGraphic-1

  1. Simply toss used diapers into a dry diaper pail (“dry” meaning its not full of water), with a pail liner inside. (A “liner” is a large bag that you can wash along with your diapers, so the pail stays clean)
  2. On laundry day, empty the diapers and liner into your machine.
  3. RINSE: Rinse the diapers in a cold pre-rinse. Or you can soak them in your machine, if your machine has that function. If you want, you can add vinegar to the rinse. (Some machines already include a pre-rinse in their cycle, in which case you can skip this step)
  4. WASH: Follow with a regular wash in either hot or cold water (your choice!). Use only ¼ to ½ the amount of detergent, as diapers require very little. You can use a mild detergent, or borax. Just don’t use too much. You can add some baking soda to the wash if you like.
  5. RINSE: Rinse in cold afterwards. You can add vinegar if you want. You can rinse a few times if they still feel soapy, but once is usually enough. There should be no soap residue on them, or else they will be less absorbent. (Again, some machines rinse so well during their wash cycle that you can skip this step)
  6. DRY: Dry either in a machine, or by hanging. Whatever you prefer. The covers often do better air-dried, whereas the diapers themselves are fine in a dryer.
  7. Stains respond well to sunlight. Or you can scrub in some baking soda before the wash.
  8. DON’T use bleach. DON’T use fabric softener. DON’T use any scented or heavy soaps. Just use a very mild or natural detergent, or even just borax or washing soda. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, there’s no need to shake poops into the toilet. Just drop the used diapers in your pail, poops and all.

Very soon, you will adapt these steps to your own preferences. Everyone develops their own unique diaper-washing routine. But once you get into the swing of it, its very easy.

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