a simple start to washing cloth diapers

for years, cloth diaper advocates have called for complex routines with strict set of rules. I want to challenge this narrative and encourage the simplicity of cloth diapering. Every day we learn new things about cloth diapering, let’s start simple. 

Cloth diaper laundry is as simple or as complex as you make it. Start simple, add steps if, and only if needed. 

My Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

This is my cloth diaper wash routine in Prince George, BC. I have moderately hard water and used a top loader.

Fighting Over Wash Routines

It’s not nice and creates unnecessary divides in the cloth diaper community. 

Things I like to Wash with Cloth

I totally add things to my cloth diaper laundry, and you can too.

What is a Wash Routine?

A wash routine is the steps that you use to wash your cloth diapers. They are usually the same everytime and become a part of your day-to-day practice in cloth diapering.

Wash routines can be a heated topic of conversation, but cloth diaper laundry is just laundry, and trust me, you know what you’re doing, and you can figure this out.

When in doubt, question everyones credentials, and stick to simple straight-forward answers to cloth diapering.

cloth is what you make it

my way of cloth diapering is not the right way, or the only way. I want to encourage & empower your to consider that cloth diapering can be simple if you start simple. 

Too often we get caught up in these cycles of complexity – of added testing, products, and complex styles – but it’s just another load of laundry.

Start simple, problem solve as you go.


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    Simple Cloth Diaper Care Guide

    three steps to launder your diapers

    If you need more 1:1 support, please reach out to your cloth diaper brand or retailer.

    They should have plenty customized routines and recommendations. Every brand does it a little different, but the most important thing is that we recognize what might work, what does work, and we avoiding shame those who do it different. Just because ABC product didn’t work for you, or your friend, doesn’t mean it’s a terrible product that needs to be blacklisted until the ends of the earth.

    Remove poop & rinse heavy pee’s.

    most poop needs to be rinsed & disposed of. 

    the exception is breastfed poop & meconium poop which can be washed out. If you have a night time diaper, or a heavy pee, it might be advantageous to wash on the spot. 

    wash the diapers

    toss your diapers in the wash, and hit wash.  Many recommended washing every 2-3 days, but you can wash daily or once a week.

    This step is highly variable and one that is best discovered on your own as you use your water, your machine, your diapers, and your detergent. There’s very little wrong answers. 

    Optional Pre Wash Cycle: short 15-20 minute wash cycle with a small amount of detergent to rinse out the first yuck.

    Main Wash: strong wash cycle with heavy agitation that provides you with adequate washing for heavily soiled laundry, add a scoop of detergent as recommended for the load size.


    dry your diapers

    hang to dry, or toss in the dryer. 

    dryer use will break down textiles, elastics and diapers, but is advantageous for many families because it quickens the overall dry experience to make cloth diapering a realistic option for families. 


    but you didn’t talk about water testing, softeners, or measuring your machine?

    Because the only evidence we need to do that is based in user experience, and I think that we need to skip the complicated math routines, and start simple. It’s jut another load of laundry, and we don’t test water water, or add additives to our regular laundry – cloth diaper laundry is not very different. If you find yourself struggling a problem you can’t kick, maybe it’s time to go there.

    But after a few years of supporting parents, so many people go back to basics. Why can’t we start there? 

    Cloth Diapers & Deforestation

    Hold Up, Palm Oil in my detergent? We talk about a lot of different things in laundry detergents that impact the overall functioning of cloth diapering and even the environmental impact of cloth diapers, but I haven’t heard of anyone ever bring up the issue of palm...

    Cloth Diapers & Optical Brighteners

    Optical Brightners Whats the deal with cloth?Cloth Diapers & Enzymes. Do you need them?This is a great podcast episode with Dinobi Detergent, a plant-based detergent brand.What is an optical brightner? Optical brighteners are whitening agents used in laundry...

    I found my ‘unicorn’ wash routine…with Unicorn Clean!

    my wash routine Using unicorn clean I found my 'unicorn' wash routine... with Unicorn Clean By Karen Burkey, Contributor to the Cloth Diaper Podcast **I received a gratuity of a free product as a thank you for featuring Unicorn Clean in this article.**   They say...

    5 Myths About Cloth Diaper Absorbency

    you don't have to cloth diaper every dayList of absorbency numbers for different cloth diapers. Comparison of absorbencyWhy I don't use microfiber inserts. Hemp inserts or fitted diapers are the most absorbent diapers.  False: just because a product is a hemp blend...

    Why Two Wash Cycles? 

    Why wash twice? Cloth Diaper Pre Rinse & Wash CycleI don’t do wash routine advice, I don’t like to give it because I’m not confident it will solve your problems. However, I do believe in providing you with as much information to help you understand why some wash...

    Do Cloth Diaper Inserts NEED Compression to absorb?

    The short answer is No. They shouldn’t need compression to absorb.  The complicated answer is that some cloth diapers use additional materials that kind of need some sort of pressure on them to force the liquid through the membrane.  The good answer is most kids have...

    Cloth Diaper Rashes Are Not Normal

    Rashes Are Not Normal Cloth Diaper Parent ProblemsNoleo Care 3 in 1 product is a perfect baby bottom product to clean, treat and health the skin. Try it today, or listen to the show.Cloth wipes can be a great addition to your stash to reduce skin irritation.My...

    Wool Cloth Diapering 101

    Start Here A quick start guide to wool for cloth diaperingCurious about wool? Thinking that maybe a wool cover will help you with nighttime diapers? Looking for a more natural cloth diaper? Wool is an incredible asset for cloth diaper families giving many families an...

    Cloth Diapering & Teething Poops

    teething cloth diapers & teething supportTeething is a miserable time for both baby and parent. It can be an emotionally challenging time, and full of distraught for everyone. My babies were not good teethers; they teethed early, and they teethed hard with screams...

    The Science Behind Some Types of Diaper Rash

    Are you serious Bailey? Yes, Yes I am because I jumped down a rabbit hole on Google Scholar to discover some fascinating things about diapering, skin health and more. Remember when Nico from Noleo Care was on the Podcast. He talked about the important role that a...

    Next: learn to troubleshoot

    I believe that you are strong, wise and capable of solving your cloth diaper wash routine without the 1-2-3 step of an admin. Admin are just parents, you are a parent – you can do this. 

    Other Great Resources

    These are spaces and accounts which I trust to provide cloth diaper wash routine support. If you ever feel like you can’t share your routine with someone… or in a group. Leave. Don’t let spaces that are toxic continue to exist. We don’t need that energy. 


    All About Cloth Diapers Chat

    This Facebook group is open to having conversations around cloth diapering and challenging norms. 


    Thirsties Baby

    Thirsties Baby provides a ton of amazing resources on how to wash cloth diapers from blogs to videos and an incredibly supportive online community. 

    Contact the Brand


    If you’re struggling with a detergent or a diaper, contact the brand or retailer for support. They’ve seen a lot of problems and can help you. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What about stained cloth diapers?

    Cosmetic. Stains are a normal part of cloth diapering and most prominent on natural fiber diapers and/or when using plant-based detergents. 

    Stains are cosmetic. You can choose to treat them with a stain remover, or you let them fade with time

    The best way to treat stains with the sun. UV rays are a zapper of stains. Try it. 

    Do I have to use tide?


    You do not have to wash your cloth diapers in Tide. Tide is one of the most recommended detergents in the cloth diaper community because this synthetic formula tends to work for a large amount of people.

    But you can use whatever detergent you want to use as long as it doesn’t have fabric softeners.

    There are different situations where detergents will or will not work for you. For example, plant based detergents are really not the best choice for synthetic fibers like microfiber inserts. But, plant based detergents with a flat, now you’re laughing.

    Chatting with cloth diaper parents and directly with cloth diaper detergent brands, I know that detergents and diapering is trial and error. I know that detergent companies spend thousands of dollars into research and development to make products work and that Facebook admins can’t assume that the list of ingreidents will fail to clean diapers. There’s more to conversation and you can use the products you want to use. Don’t let anyone bully you out of it. 

    Do you rinse cloth diapers before washing?

    Poop needs to be removed, and the first pre-wash cycle is kinda like a rinse cycle. So yes?

    What Laundry detergent is best for cloth diapers?

    The one that is best for your family – environmentally, financially, and functionally.

    It should not have any fabric softeners in it.

    If you want to use a plant-based detergent, consider a natural fiber cloth diaper stash.

    Do I have to test my water?


    It’s a good idea to have a general idea about your water quality. You might already know you have soft water because you use a small amount of soap when washing your hair. 

    Having a general idea of soft or hard water shapes the conversation about how much detergent to use.

    Families with softer water use less, and families with harder water use more.


    Do I need to use a water softener with cloth diapers?

    Probably not. 

    Contact your detergent company for more specific advice, but if you are not using a water softener with your regular laundry, you dont’ need to use it with cloth diapers.

    Most detergent brands do not recommend additional softeners with their products unless your water is in excess of 400 ppm. 

    How many times should you wash your cloth diapers before using?

    To prep synthetic cloth diapers, wash once.

    To prep natural fiber cloth diapers, wash 1-3 times until it begins to absorb.

    Some cloth diapers may need additional laundering if high in natural oils. 

    Can you wash cloth diapers with clothes?


    The more I chat with parents in Europe and around the world, the more that American cloth diaper wash routines seem excessive and time constraining.

    Many families will shake out the poop, rinse the diaper by hand in the sink, and then wash with the rest of their clothes at night.

    This works great for simple cloth diapers, prefolds, flats, and many other styles. 

    Cloth Diaper Membership

    Coming Soon, membership programs to support you with cloth diapering.

    Cloth Diaper Book

    Learn to cloth diaper with the ultimate guide to diapering, available on Amazon or your fav online book shop.

    I wish I had found you two and half years ago! I felt like I had to have all the things…

    I was sooo insistent on a particular way to wash and even fold cloth diapers that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself. Now we have a smaller stash, bounce between cloth & disposables and find a way that works. Thank you so much for calming and reassuring me.

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    About the Cloth Diaper Podcast

    The Cloth Diaper Podcast is a 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. 

    Contact Us

    Email: bailey@clothdiaperpodcast.com
    Cloth Diaper Podcast is located in Northern BC, Canada on the traditional territories of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nations. Black Lives Matter. Every Child Matters. & We are strong advocates for radical change as requested by those who experience social injustice. Listen first. 


    The Cloth Diaper Podcast participates in affiliate programs with different brands and businesses. Links clicked may result in earned comission to Bailey Bouwman as a result of purchases made. If you have questions about affiliate links and sales please contact Bailey.

    Cloth Diaper Podcast (SimplyMomBailey) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.