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How To Clean Cloth Diapers

There are a lot of myths that cloth diapering is very difficult and messy. I would like to write this article to help point out some truths about the ease of how to clean cloth diapers.

Warning, some points in this article will be graphic and to the point. I have included a video at the beginning to help explain how simple it is to clean a cloth diaper.

I will admit you will be doing laundry frequently, but that really isn’t a big deal. You will be saving so much money over the cost over disposables.


What Do I Do With The Poop


Let’s get the most uncomfortable topic out-of-the-way first. Yes if they were in disposable diapers you could just wrap it up and throw it away. Instead, all you have to do is flush the poop down the toilet.


I have read a number of different articles and watched many videos but they all say about the same thing. You need to clean the poop immediately. Why, Elaine do you need to do that? Well there are many reasons. I will briefly address them here in this article.

  • The smell in the room
  • The stain it can leave
  • The irritation it can cause the baby
  • The early breakdown of the diapers
  • The over all look of the diapers

Dealing with the poop is a whole article on it’s on but this article is about washing the cloth diapers. So our next process will be letting them soak.



First we will put all the diaper, liners, covers, cloth rags, diaper bag turned inside out, and a small amount of detergent in the washer. Next I will discuss the settings for your machine.
First we will turn the dial of the washer to hot to sanitize the diapers. We don’t want to use any fabric softener because this will cause the diapers to lose their absorbency and that’s not a good idea.


We also want to set the washer on the extra rinse cycle so everything gets nice and coated. What I mean by that, is that all the pee and poop will be covered. You want to get all the poop and pee soaked in detergent during the first wash.



Soap Debate      

As I was reading and watching many hours of videos there was a debate on what kind of detergent to use. The main conclusion I have found is the type of diaper and the material used is what makes the difference. In other words, if you are using microfiber you need to use a special detergent made only for cloth diapers. On the other hand, if you are using cotton or a natural product you can use any detergent that is good for your baby’s sensitive skin. With either product you will need to add a booster to help clean and whiten the whites and brighten the brights.


Like I said before, you soak the diapers in hot and I will further explain why below.



What Temp     

You soak in hot water to sanitize. Well that makes sense. In my research I found mixed reviews about this step. Some found this great while other thought it unnecessary. To me, personally, it makes sense but I also can see where the controversy can lie because this does add an extra step. The end result is to have nice clean diapers that are fresh for your baby. It creates the end result so you have to look at whether that extra step is worth a healthy baby bottom that smell all nice, fresh and clean. As I read, the nose knows! The next step is to do a pre-wash as I will describe below.





During this pre-wash you will NOT add any detergent. This cycle is to mainly get out the pee and poop that remains in your diapers. You do not change the other settings on your washer such as temperature, extra rinse, and normal/heavy-duty. Of course, like I said before you NEVER want to use fabric soften so that setting is always turned off.


The next step will be to do the main wash cycle.




Main Wash  

During this last washing you will want to add more detergent and booster. You don’t change any of the settings except the wash cycle. By this I mean you put the machine on super wash and let it run it’s course. When it is done your diapers will be nice, clean and ready for the dyer/air.


I will explain what goes where in the next few steps.




To Dry    

In the dryer you will put all the cloth rags and white diapers only. For the reason you never use fabric softener, is the is same reason use dryer sheets. A diaper with no absorbency is no beuno. You will want to set your dryer on hot so you get your diaper good and sanitized plus dry. A mildewed diaper is not something you want to have on your baby’s bottom. Neither do you want to smell that when it is mixed with urine or worse.


Now we will talk about what you place out to air dry.




Air Dry  

There are somethings that you washed that need to be air dried. Things like all the diaper covers and the diaper bag. The reason you air dry them is that the dryer can break down the elastics and plastics in the diapers causing them to not last as long. You don’t want to put on a diaper and have a snap melted off because you dried it.


Another option would be to dry the white diapers, cloths, and everything outside in the sun. Any stains that may have been there would definitely be gone. They also would smell great!


The last step is to fold.




Ready For Another Day 


The remaining step is to fold everything and put it all away where it belongs With pre-fold diapers you would simply snap and fold the covers. Then fold the white diapers.


With pocket diapers you will need to stuff the diapers.


The point is get the diapers ready for use again no matter what style they are.


Now I hope you see how simple it is to clean cloth diapers. I had fun researching this article and watching hours of videos.




I have talked about nine steps to get a cloth diaper clean. So let’s review them briefly.

  1. The Poop should be flushed immediately.
  2. Use a small amount of detergent during the soak time.
  3. The detergent type depends on the style of diaper.
  4. Hot water is used to sanitize.
  5. No added detergent during the pre-wash.
  6. Add more detergent but the cycles on the machine don’t change during the main wash.
  7. The dryer is used for whites only.
  8. Air dry cover and pail liner.
  9. Get diapers ready for using again.



If you have any questions or need a hand, feel free to leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out.


All the Best,


Elaine Smith






6 thoughts on “How To Clean Cloth Diapers

  1. Dear Elaine,

    Thanks for the helpful and informative post.

    My Wife and I are expecting a baby soon and your post means a lot to me. We both read your post and got useful insights.

    The video you embedded is very helpful and you explained everything in detail via your posts.

    May I ask…

    Is it better to use a “use and throw” cloth compared to cloth Diaper? Please advice…

    Warm Regards,


    1. Hey Paul,

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my article.

      I’m not exactly sure what you mean by a “use and go” cloth unless you are talking about pocket diapers which are similar to disposables. 

      You might want to check other articles on my website because the final decision should be yours. Of course I would recommend cloth diapering over disposables but the choice is yours.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!! Great question so check out my website and let me know if you need anything else.


  2. Hello,

    Very insightful article. My sister-in-law gave birth to my nephew 3 months ago and she uses cloth diapers. I will definitely turn her on to your site because I am certain she is using cloth diapers to save money, but I think she needs more education on cloth diapers. Like how to wash and sanitize them, types of detergents to use with them and all the educational benefits offered on your site.

    I’m personally not savvy at all about cloth diapers, but I wonder about the absorbency level of cloth diapers.

    Besides sanitizing cloth diapers to protect babies, how or what more can be done to protect the baby using cloth diapers? In terms of absorbency maybe?

    Thanks for the education!


    1. Hey Diane,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Congrats to your sister by the way!!!

      The cool thing about these is that with the pocket diapers for example you can add different inserts for more absorbancy. Now they are coming out with different kinds of inserts which have different levels of absorbency.

      Watch for this because it is going to be in a future article!!

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Please pass this on to your sister!!!


  3. Thanks for the quick reply. Yes I was talking about pocket diapers. And I found helpful information on your another post as well.

    Yes what we planned after reading your posts is to use cloth diapering at home and when we are going out with the baby pocket diapers.

    Thanks again for the great advice!

    1. Hey Paul,
      Thanks for reading and commenting on this post AND taking the time to read other post I have written. I’m glad you have found the my information helpful!!
      If you EVER need further assistance please reach out to me. I’m always here to help!!

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