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. 

What is a Wash Routine?

“Wash Routine” is the terminology we use in the cloth diaper industry to describe the process of washing cloth diapers from the poop removal process, rinse, wasn’t and dry. The process of washing cloth diapers is generally the same everytime and becomes 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.

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. Using a product like a Diaper Dawg Sprayer, or making the most out of disposable liners or reusable fleecer liners can be a great way to tackle poopy cloth diapers. 

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.  You might want a Loomey.


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

Because it’s just laundry. We can cross those bridges, if we need to. More and more, people are having success washing their cloth diapers uisng simple routines outlined above, or the advice of their cloth diaper brand or manufacturer.

If something happens, then lets troubleshoot, and maybe then we need to test our water for the offical details. But for many of us, all those little steps keep a parent from starting in the first place. 

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.


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. 

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