Wash Routine

How to wash cloth diapers

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.

Three Steps Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Three steps to get you started – it really can be this simple if you want it to be this simple. 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. Cloth Diaper Wash Routines can be simple. 


Remove Poop & Rinse Night Diapers

If baby is formula fed, or on solids, then any solids in the diaper need to be removed. They can be sprayed, dunked, or liners disposed off, in the nearest  toilet.

Night diapers, or heavily urine soaked diapers, may benefit from an extra rinse using hot or warm water in the sink.  

Wash The Diapers

This is a two step process. 

First, pre rinse your diapers in a short wash cycle with a small amount of detergent. This is usually a 15-30 minute cycle depending on your machine. You can do this by hand.

Second, wash your dipaers on a long wash cycle using a full amount of detergent. Detergent should be the amount recommended for a heavily soiled load. Though, if your water is soft, you may need to use less. This cycle is usually warm or hot water, and lasts at least 45 minutes with a long agitation cycle and a rinse. 

Your diapers should not smell or be slimey after this. There are many little tweaks to customize the wash cycle to your diapers, your water quality, your machine, your child, and your choice of detergent. 

Dry The Diapers

Diapers can now be dried using a dryer, or hang to dry.

Many brands recommend using air dry setting, but a lof us secertly use the medium dry and just deal with the break down. Sometimes you have to balance functional for your family and longevity of the product. 

But What About?

You probably have many more questions because you have been bombarded with a ton of information about water softeners, cycles, detergents, and more. 

You can really start with just three steps, and incorporate as you learn. Here’s a few other blog posts that I’ve written to help you understand different parts of the cloth diaper wash routine journey. 

Cloth Diapers & Laundry Enzymes

Enzymes do you need enzymes to launder cloth diapers?This is a great podcast episode with Dinobi Detergent, a plant-based detergent brand.This conversation with Esembly Baby is coming in 2021 about their washing powder and diapers. What is a Detergent Enzyme? An...

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...

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...

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 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...

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...

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...

Why I don’t Repurpose Microfibre Inserts? Cloth Diapers & Micro plastic Pollution

Microfiber inserts why I don't repurpose microfiber insertsPersonal Blog Post about why I dont recommend microfiber insertsLooking for a microfiber all in one diaper?What is a Microfiber Insert? A Microfiber insert is a cloth diaper absorbency made of a synthetic...

Cloth Diaper Absorbency List

Absorbency Cloth Diaper test resultsWhat is Absorbency Testing? Absorbency testing is a some-what controlled method of understanding how a cloth diaper absorbs liquid. It's an unofficial measure of how a product performs using kitchen science and helps us create a...

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...

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. 

Learn More From Others

Podcast Recommendations, Guest Posts & Other Laundry Related Stories

Show 44 with Rebecca Off Grid

Show 44 Rebecca's StoryThis episode is a little of everything and the first in a two part series. Rebecca is a mom of two living in Oregon and she shares about her stash and how her wash routine has evolved. Now that she lives off grid with solar power, she also talks...

Cloth Diaper Wash Routine Struggles Happen

you don't have to cloth diaper every dayThree step start to your cloth diaper wash routine. This video that Jays Nest did is another fantastic resource on how to get cloth diapers to fit better. I have a few of htese blog posts showing cloth diaper fit at 30lbs and...

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...

Show 25 – Tiny Living & Cloth Diapering (RV Lifestyle)

Show 25 Can you cloth diaper and live in an RV? The Cloth Diaper Podcast is just that a podcast dedicated to sharing stories of cloth diapering with parents around the world. This is not just your everyday mom podcast or parenting podcast. We're about connecting you...

Lindsay – What if I don’t have laundry facilities?

I love cloth diapering. I spread the gospel to anyone who will listen. The olds think it’s all trifolds and pins while the youths have never heard of it. Such a shame, so I appreciate you taking the time to hear what my converted-crunchy self thinks about amazing...

Show 26 – Landfills, Laundry Detergent & Cloth Diapering

Cristina, @EcoGirlMama, joins me to share her cloth diaper journey. She is a Smart Bottoms Ambassador, mom of 2, and from Kansas. Her passion to cloth diaper started with a life long journey of health and natural living.

Show 41 with Stacey in Germany

Stacey Reason joins us from Germany to talk about her experience cloth diapering in Germany. She shares an American perspective abroad as we talk about the challenges of European washing machines, hard water (citric acid/vinegar) and sourcing a stash. 

Show 56 – Cloth Diapering in Argentina with Romi

Show 56 Cloth Diapering in Argentina with RomiThis is a slower-paced conversation, as Romi and I chat about diapering in Argentina, motherhood, and her journey in cloth diapering. Romi is a cloth diaper parent, and influencer, with a wealth of information and support...

Handwashing Cloth Diapers – A Long Term Story

Guest Post: Long TermHThis story is from Barbara Ann. Barbara has been a member of the Flats & Handwashing community for many years now. I reached out to her, asking her to share her story because I knew cloth diapering and handwashing had become a part of o her...

Show 42 with Elisha

Show 42 Elisha - Haters, Buying Used, Amonia & MoreElisha is a mom of 1 in Ontario. She’s loved hearing from other brands and parents on the cloth diaper podcast and is excited to share her story on the show. This is a long show. But its an incredible conversation...

Professional Cloth Diaper Educator

Bailey brings 5+ years of cloth diapering experience and conversation to the cloth diaper space. She's not just your every day mom blogger sharing her experience - Bailey is immersed in the cloth diaper community learning from other parents and growing as an individual. She wants to find the cloth diaper solution that truly works for you.

Bailey believes we need to stop and listen to cloth diapering parents. We need to recognize our own bias and preferences and focus on solutions that work for you, not us. The Cloth Diaper community needs to recognize the privilege of being able to cloth diaper, and provide spaces for more conversations and stories.

Cloth diapering is not about rules but about our own strength as parents to do the best we can for our children with the resources available.

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