How to Wash Cloth Diapers- The Most Effective Way

Washing cloth diapers may seem quite daunting, but there is a simple way to get clean cloth diapers every single time. Here I will go into how to wash cloth diapers- the most effective way!!

The best way to keep cloth diapers clean is to have a consistent routine. I wish that’s all there was to it but I would say that being consistent is probably the most important part. This means finding a schedule that works for you and your family and washing the diapers the same way every time with the same detergent. This can vary depending on the stage of cloth diapering you are in! Each stage has a slight difference in the way you go about cleaning the diapers or the routine you will follow. Below I go into each stage and how they differ from each other and the best way clean the diapers during this time.

Baby wearing forest green diaper laying on the floor

Cloth Diapering Stages

The Newborn (breastfeeding) Stage

This stage is roughly 0-6 months of baby’s life outside of the womb or until you begin to wean your baby. During this stage, baby’s poo if breastfed will be stringy and seedy. It will be a almost a bright yellow / orange color. This kind of bowel movement is water soluble. This means it breaks down in water when it is being washed. This means this stage is much easier to clean cloth diapers because you can just throw the diapers into the washer! Yes, its that easy and they do certainly get clean!!

For urination, babies tend to urinate much more often in these first months than they do in the next stage. This means you will need to change the diaper more frequently. So, you will need a lot of diapers for your cloth diaper routine. But this can vary depending on what kind of routine you are wanting to have. You will need many more diapers if you want to wait a couple days before you wash your diapers, but if you don’t mind washing more frequently, then you won’t need as much.

The Solids Stage (formula fed)

This is where things get more complicated for poo. Once your baby starts eating real food other than breast milk or is formula fed (which this can start from the very beginning if you choose not to breastfeed your baby). When your baby poo’s, their bowel movements will be much more dense and thick, very similar to our bowel movements. This can stick to the diaper and is NOT water soluble. So you will have to find a way to remove solids before it goes into the wash. Below I share the most common methods of removing solids from the diaper!! So don’t fret, there are manageable options.

Babies in this stage will start to form more routines when they poo and pee. This means you don’t need to change them as often if you use more inserts to absorb larger amounts urine (because they urine more at one time).

The Potty Training Stage

The potty training stage is very unique!! Here you will try to encourage dry diapers and they have typically formed relatively strict routines. This means that there will be a lot less diapers to clean in in a period of a couple of days. Here I suggest cleaning your diapers with similarly soiled fabrics. This makes sure that your diapers will have proper agitation in the washing machine. Agitation is super important for a proper clean.

Now that you know about each of the stages, its time to talk about removing solids (poo) before washing!! There are many ways people go about doing this. I’m going to share the different methods and talk about the benefits and downsides of each technique.

Removing Solids

The Spray Method

The spray method is using a toilet bidet to spray the poo into the toilet so you can flush them away without having to touch the poo. This method begins by you pinning or clamping the soiled diaper into a spray bucket and then spraying the poo downward with a 45 degree angle through the bucket hole into the toilet. I use this method regularly and I don’t mind it. I like it that I don’t have to touch the poo! The only gripe I have is I then have to clean the spray bucket after every spraying and it isn’t travel friendly because you can’t move a bidet around once its been installed.

The Dunk Method

This method entails you taking the diaper and folding it outwardly (poo side out) and plunging it into the toilet water and swish it around in the toilet to loosen the poo into the water. Some have a whole method of swishing and flushing that “guarantees” a good clean. I don’t use this method and I don’t like the aspect because poo can come all the way up to the very back of the diaper and so you would have to dunk your hand in to completely submerge the diaper. This just grosses me out. But there are many many people swear by this method and love how its readily accessible. Now matter where you are, if there’s a toilet around then you can have a poo free diaper!

The Liner Method

Here you can purchase thin fibrous liners to place into the diaper before you put the diaper on. This liner then when the baby poos is then removed, with poo caught by the liner, and you can take it and toss it into toilet. This method requires you to put in a liner every single time even though your baby doesn’t poo every single time because you sometimes can’t pinpoint exactly when your baby will poo again. So there is quite a bit of waste because they are not reusable, even if the baby just pees. I also use this method, but I find that poo can still slide under the liner and get on the diaper. Other than that I really like this method for removing solids from the diaper

The Scrape Method

This method means using some sort of plastic or hard and blunt object to scrape the poo into the toilet. I have never used this method and it just seems so unsanitary and (pardon my pun) wishy-washy. You can’t guarentee that the poo you just scraped off will fall directly into the toilet. If you made one wrong movement you could end up with a poo on your toilet seat or the floor… For this reason I don’t see if a good option but I do know there are some who find it completely functional and love how simple it is to do and the little waste it produces.

Obviously there are two that work best for us but you have to decide what would work best for you and your family.

Baby sitting on white table wearing a green cloth diaper and gray and white striped shirt with rubber paci clipped to shirt.

Tips for Clean Cloth Diapers

  • Use the right washer: I you are planning on cloth diapering then you need to have a good washer to clean your diapers. This means you need an older top loading washing machine with an in basin agitator. The agitator needs to be the full height of the wash basin. Its also best to use a non HE machine. Though its very difficult to find a washer that isn’t HE there are many wash routines that function well with HE machines. (I use a HE machine so it totally works).
  • Smell ’em: I love this tip because its such a good indicator of completely clean diapers. When your diapers have been completely cleaned and dried in the dryer you should take out your diaper inserts and smell them, like not just a sniff, you need to press the liner up to you nose and take a need nasal inhale! If in doing this your diapers smell off or bad.. then you have something wrong with your wash routine and you might need to strip your diaper to get them back to square one.
  • Be well read: There are so many different articles that can help you in troubleshooting cloth diaper problems. My favorite resource is here, they have so many helpful articles that go in depth into the science behind cloth diapers!

I hope you enjoyed this cloth diaper post!! I will be working on pumping out more post in the future, so stay tuned to get more cloth diapering tips and tricks


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