The Care and Keeping of Your Cloth Diapers

The Care and Keeping of Your Cloth Diapers

Properly caring for your cloth diapers is a key step in keeping them usable for years to come. There are many common cloth diaper washing mistakes that are made all too often and can quickly destroy your precious stash. Therefore, before you ever even take your diapers out of their original packaging, it is a good idea to do some research on your particular type of diapers and the correct way to care for them.

In this article we will cover some of the most common cloth diaper care mistakes, as well as the proper way to care for your setup so you can move forward with your diapering journey with confidence.

Of course, if you are ever unsure about anything, it is a good idea to refer back to the manufacturers of your diaper. However, this is a good basic guide to begin with.


When you get a brand-new diaper, it is important to run it through the wash on the hot setting—once or twice if it is of synthetic material, and 3–6 times it it’s made of natural fibers—before using it. This removes any residual chemicals that may be left behind, which not only helps it improve absorbency, but is also more sanitary in general.

Spray Them Down

Unless your baby is exclusively breastfed, it is important to remove all solid waste from your diapers before putting them in the wash. To do this, you can choose to use a dedicated diaper scraper and scrape waste into the toilet, or use diaper liners and simply dump the liner and waste into the toilet together.

Whichever way you go, you will also want to use a diaper sprayer. This handy gadget attaches to your toilet and sprays a stream of water on your diaper to help you rid it of any waste left behind after scraping or dumping. Alternatively, you can choose to use the diaper sprayer alone, allowing that strong stream of water to do all the work.

Skip the Bucket

Some people believe dirty diapers should be stored in a "wet pail", i.e. a pail filled with water and sometimes bleach. However, wet pail storage is a bad idea for a few reasons.

For one thing, the constant soaking causes your diapers to wear out more quickly than they would if stored dry. Wet pails are also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and a health and safety hazard to babies, young children, and pets.

Instead of a wet pail, a wet bag or diaper pail should be used to store dirty diapers awaiting wash time. Both wet bags and wet pails keep smells in, while still allowing air to flow into the diapers, avoiding any potential problems with mold. Dirty diapers should be washed every 24–48 hours to avoid problems with stink.

Rinse First

Before running your regular wash cycle, run a quick rinse cycle to remove any urine from your diapers. This will ensure you aren't washing your diapers in a tub full of old urine, which would be pretty pointless and gross.

Use Enough Additive-Free Detergent

Many people recommend using only natural detergents on cloth diapers. While this is unnecessary, it is still important that you use an additive-free detergent in order to avoid irritation and build-up.

While the best cloth diaper detergent for you may be different from the detergent your neighbor prefers, there are a few detergents that are recommended on a regular basis. These include: Country Save, Charlie’s Soap, Tide Free, All Free and Clear, and Rockin’ Green, among others.

Whichever one you choose, be sure to use the full recommended amount. Some cloth users may recommend using only a fraction of the detergent company’s recommended amount. This will almost certainly cause your diapers to accumulate build-up. Therefore, instead of using less cleaning agent, add an extra rinse cycle to get rid of any soap that may remain in the diapers after the regular wash cycle.

Wash on Hot

When washing your diapers, set the dial to warm or hot. After doing this, there is nothing special you need to do. Simply let the cycle run its course, and remember to run that extra rinse cycle at the end.

Line Dry

Hot dryers are not good for PUL (polyurethane laminate) covers, and can quickly cause delamination. They can also wear holes in prefolds, flats, and inserts, causing them to be useless.

Instead of subjecting your diapers to a hot trip through the dryer every time they are washed, hang them outside to dry. This is easier on the fabrics and the sun helps to remove tough stains and sanitize the diapers.

Bleach Sparingly

Back in the day, people bleached their diapers on a regular basis. However, with the dawn of newer styles of diapers, many people took to believing that bleach is a big no-no in anyone's cloth diaper care routine.

While bleach shouldn't be used in every wash, it is actually a great way to sanitize diapers and rid them of the stinky build-up that tends to occur. It is also the only way to truly rid your diapers of yeast, and should be used immediately if your baby is battling a yeast infection.

The trick to using bleach in your diaper wash is to use a very small amount (¼ cup or less) on already cleaned diapers, and rinse two to three times after the wash cycle. This will ensure your diapers stay free of build-up without leaving behind chemicals that can irritate baby's bum.

Strip Occasionally

Diapers may occasionally accumulate a stinky build-up that, over time, will begin to put off an ammonia odor. If you find that your monthly bleach wash isn't enough to keep your diapers free of the stinkies, you might need to begin washing with a bit more detergent, but before that, you might need to strip them.

Stripping involves washing your diapers by hand in Dawn dish soap and hot water, and rinsing them well before running them through a regular wash cycle. This will remove any oil and diaper cream build-up left behind on your diapers.


While all of this information may seem like a lot to take in, caring for cloth diapers is actually quite simple and well worth the trade-off when you consider all the benefits of using cloth.

Take your time, figure out a routine, and enjoy all the many great things you’ll get out of using cloth diapers on your baby!

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  • Kevin Thill