Caring for Cloth Diapers

Pregnancy & Baby | February 25, 2015

Cloth diapering is one of the most environmentally-responsible choices you can make with your newborn. Disposable diapers can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, and they can be bleached and chemically-treated, exposing your baby’s sensitive skin to unnatural irritants. Plus, they’re downright expensive.

While cloth diapering is just as easy as using disposable diapers, cleaning the diapers is often where parents new to using cloth diapers stumble. Cleaning can be tricky, and sometimes, general washing sometimes isn’t enough for tougher stains and odors. I know that early on, my wife and I were dismayed with cloth diapering, as we just weren’t sure our daughter’s diapers were getting clean enough.

Now, we’ve become cloth diaper pros. After a few years of experience with my daughter, and now moving on to our newborn son, we’ve developed a cleaning routine that keeps our cloth diapers in great shape.


If you haven’t cloth diapered before, you may be wondering where, exactly, you put dirty diapers before you wash them. People often use a special diaper pail or bag to hold used diapers. In our case, we use a handy zip-up bag that easily hangs in our laundry room. We throw all our diapers in here and clean them every other day.

When it’s time to wash them, we first unzip the bag and place it, with the diapers inside, into the washing machine. We run a rinse cycle with warm water, which will pull the diapers out of the bag and wash away the diapers’ contents. This makes them much more pleasant to handle when it comes time to pull-out the inserts and prepare for a real washing.


Now that we’ve rinsed the diapers, we open the washer and make sure all the diapers came out of the bag. We also remove any inserts that didn’t come out of the diapers and put them back in the washer. You’ll want to check your care instructions to see what heat the inserts and the covers can be washed on. Depending on your brand, you may want to wash them separately. In our case, it’s perfectly safe to wash them at the same temperature, so now we prepare our washer.

For cleaning, we use Biokleen Liquid Laundry Detergent. This all-natural detergent is free of any skin-irritating chemicals, which is a must for your baby’s sensitive skin. It uses a blend of grapefruit seed extract, orange peel extract, and coconut surfactants to give the diapers a powerful yet gentle clean. Best of all, you can use it in HE and standard washers.

Add the correct measurement of detergent to your washer and then run the diapers. We do an hour-long load that washes warm and rinses cold but, again, check your care instructions first. If your diapers don’t have care instructions, you can always try a small load first with just one or two diapers to make sure the temperature is safe.


Once the washing is done, it’s time to dry the diapers. The ideal way to dry your cloth diapers is in the sun. Not only will the sunlight help lighten any stains, it’s also the most natural way to dry. During the summer and spring months, we simply lay the covers, inserts, and bag across our deck for a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an option during the cold, Midwestern winters, so we place everything in our dryer and run them on low heat for about half an hour instead. After that, we hang them over the shower rod for a few hours until they are dry. Then it’s just a matter of placing the inserts back in the covers and putting the diapers away until they are needed.

Stain and Odor Treating

I leave this fourth step separate because, even with chemical-free products, frequent stain-treating can begin to wear down your cloth diapers. Typically, we’ll do stain and odor treating only once every week or just when it is absolutely necessary.

For individual diapers, treat stains with a natural stain remover and let sit for five minutes before blotting. If you want to treat a whole load of diapers, simply add during your usual wash cycle. The result will be clean, odorless diapers!

Do you use cloth diapers? If so, do you have any tips of your own? Share in the comments below!


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