The Cloth Diaper Wash Routine is the process you undergo to get your cloth diapers clean.
It’s infamous; it’s heated; it’s ever changing. Cloth Diaper wash routines are a contested issue but they don’t need to be. A wash routine should be simple and intuitive.
There are many schools of thought when it comes to cloth diaper wash routines. I don’t subscribe to a specific cloth diaper wash routine group theory. I listen, research, and base my support on the peers around me. I subscribe to a peer-based support system for cloth diapering and the idea that there are many different ways to cloth diaper.
Peer based support means listening to other people, asking for their support, and answering questions based on our own experiences. It’s about saying “In my experience that detergent didn’t work for me because ABC.” (whereas some groups say that detergent is not suitable for cloth diapers because some people had a bad reaction). It’s about owning your experience as your own, and sharing in the diversity of cloth diapering.
Because I have met people who use Charlies Soap without issue. I have met people who wash in cold water only. I have met people who follow ABC routine just fine. There is always an exception, and it just depends on which keyboard warriors are loudest.
There are many ways to do things, and finding the way that works for you is trial and error. It’s about trying something and if it doesn’t work, trying something else.
It’s about being open to different cloth diaper wash routines and not being shameful or judgemental of those that fail. I have been that person, that person who judges and shames others for their wash routines — It wasn’t the best version of myself. It wasn’t the best version of the cloth diaper community. This is something we need to leave at the door when we chat with people.
I don’t believe in the intensity of cloth diaper laundry science. Cloth diaper laundry science is largely antetodal claims from kitchen scientists. And yes, that’s fun, but when we consider how a product might work we need to rely on the peer-reviewed science, and the support of customer service teams.
If your wondering how to use ABC detergent in hard water, contact their support line. If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of bleach in hot or cold water, check out Clorox’s website. If you’re a skeptic of XYZ practice, then look into yourself. Mistruths are everywhere. Including, and probably, my website. I pride myself on my research skills, but things are changing, and at the end of the day, I believe in mom’s.
Three Steps to Clean
1. Remove Poop & Pre Rinse
The first step to cleaning diapers is a surface level clean to rid the diaper the bulk of poop and pee.
A. Poop Removal: slide most formula fed poop, and babies who eat solids poop into the toilet. There are numerous strategies for this.
B. Heavy Urine: Overnight diapers and heavy toddler urine may need to be rinsed prior to washing.
C. Pre Rinse Cycle – the pre-rinse cycle is typically done in a machine for about 15-30 minutes. It’s a short cycle using warm or cool water, and a small amount of detergents.
Save money on coin op by rinsing diapers out at home in the sink.
2. Wash ’em Diapers
Now that the diapers are kinda clean, but still dirty, it’s time for a deep clean.
You’re looking for a wash cycle about 45 minutes long with about 15-20 minutes of agitation. This is sometimes the Whites cycle with a rinse. Agitation length is important for shaking out the poop in the fibres and get the clean you need.
Use hot water, ideally, along with the full recommended amount of detergent for your load size.
— This is like washing your partners work clothes, or your gardening clothes, or the dirtiest laundry you’ve ever washed. Don’t overthink it. —
3. Dry, assemble, & use again.
When you pull the diapers out of the machine they shouldn’t smell dirty – if they do, just wash them again until they don’t smell. If they feel slimey, rinse out the detergent and use less next time.
Now you can dry them. Many families toss everything into the dryer on low or medium heat and call it day. Manufacturers may have recommendations for best practices to perserve PUL or textiles.
Hang diapers to dry can reduce wear and tear. There is little evidence to suggest one way is better than the other. General use and laundering is rougher on elastics than hanging directions.
It didn’t work!!!!
This is my least favourite part of cloth diapering. Wash routines are so individual and personal. It’s hard to prescribe one remedy to every problem because sometimes it doesn’t work.
I always recommend seeking out 1:1 wash routine support from your brand or retailer.
Where this isn’t available, start by problem solving.
My diapers smell poopy means there’s still poop in the fibres and the textiles aren’t clean. This might mean you need more detergent, better agitation, warmer water, and if you’re sure they are clean, try some bleach (specifically for synthetics because they like smells, and always per manufacturer).
My diapers smell like ammonia means why is there pee trapped in the fibres? Sometimes it’s actually detergent. Sometimes a change in water temperature helps. Or a lay in the sun.
Stains are a totally normal part of laundry. Stains happen. Unless there is still poop crumbles in the diaper, your diapers are still clean.
You can choose to fight stains using stain fighters or detergents with enzymes/optical brighteners.
The best way to remove stains is with the sun. UV Rays bleach most stains, but some will persist. Use the sun in the window or outside.
Fibres like microfibre or micro fleece can be difficult to clean. These fibres like to hold onto smells well past deep cleaning.
Synthetic fibres are best suited for modern washing machines with hot water and strong detergents.
To kick smells in synthetics consider a bleach wash from time to time.
Is Tide the Best Detergent? No.
Tide is a really efficient detergent because it is loaded with enzymes, opitcal brighteners, softeners and more. It is just one choice of detergents.
I love Tide because it was an easy cleaning solution but I understand it’s not the best choice for the environment, or for the health of some babies.
Wash Routine Videos
Cloth Diaper Podcast is located in Northern BC, Canada on the traditional territories of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nations.
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About the Cloth Diaper Podcast
The Cloth Diaper Podcast is a somewhat regular podcast sharing stories from cloth diaper parents, brands and retailers from around the world.
The Cloth Diaper Podcast is not affiliated with any school of thought of diaper laundry but instead focus on the power of peer-to-peer story telling to empower you to make your own cloth diaper journey.
Cloth Diapering is not this or that, but rather many different experiences.