Washing Cloth: A Starting Point


Get Ready for Cloth

Things to have to start your diaper journey
· A 1/8 measuring cup (1 oz), A 1/4 measuring cup (2 oz)
· Detergent
· Borax or similar precipitating water softener (if you have hard water over 140ppm)
· Calgon or similar non-precipitating (if you have hard water over 180ppm)
· OxiClean or similar Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate


Washing Cloth Diapers

Wash vs. Prewash
· Only bulk up the main wash with small items.
· Large items like bath towels will trap diapers
· Do not add extra rinse cycles at the end if you have hard water. It will cause mineral build up.
· Fluff between the Prewash and Main wash



· Never ring diapers out.
· A wet pail poses a drowning risk!
· Never add bleach to a wet pail
· Never let synthetics sit in a wet pail mor than 8-12 hours
· When soaking natural fibers add 1/4 cup vinegar to 4 gallons of water

· There are as many ‘correct’ ways to clean diapers as there are disposables in landfills. What works for one person may not work for you.
· Start Simple. Washing your cloth diapers should not take a ton of effort.
· Know your water hardness. If you have hard water do not add extra rinse cycles, you are just redepositing the minerals on your clean diapers.
· Use bleach, vinegar, baking soda and other harsh chemical sparingly and always follow directions.
· Read the care labels on your diapers.
· Do not place diapers in a boiling pot of water.
· Never wash your diapers with soap.

Detergent Notes

· There are a lot of detergents available
· Soft water requires LESS detergent
· Hard water requires a water softener like Borax, Raindrops or Calgon
· Using a detergent with fabric softener will cause issues in the long term
Do Not Add Fabric Softener
· Using a plant based soap or detergent may not get your diapers clean.
· You may need to try different kinds of detergents.
Persil, Tide & Gain come highly recommended in the diaper
community but you should do your own research.



Sample Detergent Mix for a Front Load HE Washer - 180ppm Water Hardness 


"Pre" Wash the Dirty-Dirty

Prewash (all powder into drum)
· 1/4 cup Water Softener (Calgon, Borax, or A&H Raindrops)
· 1/4 cup Detergent 
Set washer to Cold or Eco-Warm "Short Cycle" Do not use hot as it can set stains.



Once the Preswash is done pull the items away from the drum.  Check to make sure all inserts are open (not folded) and all pockets are empty. 



Add small items to bulk up load. HE Washers clean by the clothing rubbing against each other. Make sure drum is 60-75% full. Too full and clothes will be too tight to move, too empty and there will not be enough agitation.


Clean it Up

· 1/8 OxiClean or similar Sodium carbonate peroxyhydrate
· 1/4 cup Precipitating water softener (if you have hard water over 140ppm)
· 1/4 cup Non-precipitating (if you have hard water over 180ppm)
· 1/2 cup Detergent
It may sound like a lot of detergent but your drum should be over 60% full for the main wash
Set washer to Eco-Warm or Warm "Normal Cycle" if you have the option for Heavy Soil use it. Do not use hot or sanitize regularly as over time it can cause delamination. 

FAQ About Cloth Care


Your new diapers and inserts will need to be prepped before using. Wash all new diapers using detergent. All 100% polyester fabrics will only need to be washed once, a short or quick wash will be sufficient.
Cotton, Hemp and Bamboo (Natural fibers) will need to be washed 5-6 times to reach maximum absorbency. (But you can use them sooner, just wanted to warn you) You can wash them with any other laundry to prep.

If you buy USED diapers.
You will need to add bleach to your wash to sanitize your diapers. There are a lot of different ways to bleach soak your diapers.
Our recommended way: Grab a 5 gallon bucket from the hardware store. Put 3-4 gallons of water in the bucket. Add 4 tablespoons of bleach. Mix and add diapers. Soak for 30-45 minutes. Wash using Hot Water.
Option 2: 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide + 1/4 cup of borax in a 5 gallon bucket.
Option 3: Lysol Original Concentrate 1/4 cup in a 5 gallon bucket.

If your diapers need to be stripped because the last owner did not have a solid wash routine it is advised that you check the Real Diaper Association for guidance.
Hang clean stained diapers in the sun BEFORE moving to more aggressive cleaning methods.

Poop is gross. Yes, we need to look at our little’s poopy diaper every time we change her diaper. We have to look at it again when we rinse it. Someone may even need to touch it when it is going into the laundry, but not usually. Most of our little’s diapers are wet, not poop. So we are talking about a few a day tops. Your little may poop every 5 minutes. We don’t mind the laundry or the poop. This is a personal thing, one that you need to decide if you can handle.

No one wants to be doing laundry constantly, but washing your cloth diapers at home does have some advantages.
Things to consider: You need to do laundry even if you don’t use cloth diapers.
We have had to add 2 “Quick Wash” cycles to our normal number of loads per week because of our cloth diapers.
Our wash routine starts with a 30 minute cycle to remove the urine and fecal matter from the diapers. We then add in other small items: children’s clothes, undies, tank tops, socks, wash cloths. These items bulk up the load to make sure that our HE front load washer has enough in it to properly agitate the clothing for the best results. We don’t add items like sheets and towels to try to “trick” the machine. Large items wrap around the diapers and do not allow for proper agitation. HE Washers work because items rub against other items.

I don’t want to spend all of my money on water & electricity!
Using my town as an example. We pay 5.18 cents per kWh for all kw-hrs per month for electricity.
For water we pay: Summer $12.02 per 100 cubic feet & Winter $3.45 per 100 cubic feet.
Sewer Rate: $7.06 per 100 cubic feet of metered water usage.
Did you know 748 gallons in one hundred (100) cubic feet? (Washers scoring poor in water efficiency used about 26 gallons or more. )
So the water cost for a load of laundry costs about the same as 2 disposable diapers (but you are washing 15-20).

There are a range of different schools of thought on how to care for cloth diapers. Everyone will have a different routine that is best.
You need should consult someone in your area who has successfully used cloth at different stages to help you create a wash routine.

Different towns and areas have different water hardness and minerals that impact washing. Well water, town water and spring water will all impact effective detergents and wash routines. Making your own detergent is never suggested.
Find a mainstream detergent that you are comfortable with.
Diapers are very dirty laundry and should be treated as such.  

Keep Diapers Wet

When diapers are soiled try not to let them dry out. Keep them in a wetbag or sealed pail.

Wash Often

Washing every other day will keep stains from setting in and ammonia from building up on the diapers

Stip & Bleach Soak

Many families will strip diapers or do a bleach soak when they have problems. Make sure to follow directions carefully and rinse diapers well. These processes take place in a bathtub or bucket.

No Bleach for Daily Washes

Make sure that you have a great wash routine. Avoid using bleach or vinegar as part of your routine unless you have been directed to do so due to an issue. Bleach and Vinegar will break down the diaper if used too often.

Breast Fed Baby

Exlusively Breast Fed Baby Poop can go into the washer without rinsing.

Solid waste needs to be shaken into the toilet.

Wet vs Dry Diaper Pail

Store soiled diapers in a pail lined with a lined bag, Some people perfer to use a covered wet pail. Do not leave PUL/TPU or other lined covers in a wet pail. Soaking for extended periods can cause delamination.

Washing Cloth- Prewash

Prewash soiled diapers. Run a complete cycle, let washer drain. Front Load Washing Machines use the aggitation from clothing rubbing together to wash the clothing. Make sure that you can fill at least half the drum with soiled diapers.

Prewash Top Loader

Prewash soiled diapers. Run a complete cycle, let washer drain. Top Load Washing Machines use an aggitator to circulate the clothing. Make sure that there is enough water that the diapers can move freely.

Front Load Washer

Main wash should be bulked up to 3/4 full. Items should be small. Using adult clothing, towles or other large items can wrap around soiled diapers.

Washing Cloth in a Top Loader

Main wash should be bulked up to 3/4 full. Items should be small. Using adult clothing, towles or other large items can wrap around soiled diapers. Make sure that there is enough water that the diapers can move freely.

How to Dry Cloth Diapers

When drying cloth diapers in a traditional dryer avoid using the highest setting for heat.  I prefer setting my drier to "delicate" and "more dry" for lower heat and a nice dry. 

Sun for Cloth Diapers

Sun is the best stain remover for clothing.  Line drying cloth diaper will increase their lifespan.  

Learn More

Visit us at our Ipswich, Massachusetts office to learn more about cloth.  Can't get to us? Let us come to you via Facebook!


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