Washing Cloth Diapers

The idea of washing cloth diapers was one of the things that kept us from doing them right from the start. Now that I was cloth diapers, I realize that it really is not that big of a deal – seriously – and I wish I did it right from the start.

Here’s how we do it. We wash our cloth diapers in our apartment’s laundry mat.

We keep two small diaper bins (actually storage bins with lockable sides) under the bathroom sink. When they were empty on laundry day, I used to put baking soda in the bottom, I skip this step now. Bin #1 is for the first half of the wash week, Bin #2 is for the second half.  I used to add vinegar to each at some point to cut down on the ammonia in the pails, but I never notice any smell escaping from them so I skip this step now. If you open the pails, the ammonia will knock you over, but the smell doesn’t linger and it doesn’t escape the closed pails.

cloth diaper bin

A typical Wet Change:

  1. The Goose has a wet diaper, we change it as usual – putting on a new prefold and a new cover.
  2. The wet prefold goes straight into the diaper bin or may get a rinse if I have time. The cover gets a quick rinse in the sink and hung over the side of the tub to dry.
  3. To cut down on the chances of a yeast rash, I rinse the cover in hot and then in cold. I don’t know if it helps, but it makes me feel better.

A typical Poopy Change

  1. If The Goose has a poopy diaper, we change it as usual – putting on a new prefold and a new cover.
  2. If the poo is formed, it simply drops off the diaper into the toilet. If it’s wet, I use toilet paper to push it off into the toilet.
  3. I rinse the prefold in the sink, in hot water and put it in the pail.
  4. The cover gets rinsed as in step 2 about. Unless it got poopy, then it goes into the pail too.

** My mother-in-law used cloth with her babies and would soak them in the toilet, using gloved hands to clean them. As long as I’m careful I don’t ever actually touch the poo (The Goose is old enough that her stools are formed) so I just rinse in the sink and then give the sink a quick clean.

Laundry Day:

When we first started at 17 months we washed diapers every 4 days, now we’re down to once a week. Now I simply, take the entire pail to the laundry room, fill the diaper pail with hot water and dump the diapers and hot water into the machine. I add the extra water to ensure that the diapers are fully soaked – our machines are low-use, so dry diapers will just soak up all the washing water and never get clean.

I used to have a bit more detailed of a system, but I don’t find that cutting the extra steps makes a difference:

  1. The evening before laundry day I would put both diaper bins in the bath tub.  I add some vinegar, baking soda. and warm water to the bins and put the lids back on.
  2. The next morning, I empty the bins down the drain and take the diaper pails, detergent, vinegar, baking soda, and any other dirty laundry downstairs to the laundry mat.
  3. Everything from both pails goes into one machine, along with a bunch of baking soda. I put vinegar in the “rinse cycle” compartment and our normal detergent in the detergent compartment. It all goes through a normal cycle on “Whites” – with a hot wash and a cold rinse. I also put on any other clothes that have to be washed, in another machine.
  4. I wash the diaper bins in the wash tubs, just with hot water, baking soda, and vinegar.

Here’s why I do what I do:

I use a storage bin, not a traditional diaper pail. First it was cheaper. Second, I could get two that would both fit under my bathroom sink together. Third, they have lockable sides and handles, so they don’t let any smell escape and they are easy to carry downstairs.

I don’t use a diaper bag. I just throw the diapers right into the pails.  This means that I have to wash the diaper pails every time I do laundry, but I would do this anyway because that’s just me.

I used to wash the diapers twice, now I saturate them first. After going through one load on hot, I still find that the diapers have a faint ammonia smell – especially when wet. The second run got rid of this completely. After doing some research I found out that because our machines are low water use, the diapers would just suck up all of the wash water and not really get clean – that was why we needed the second wash. Now I simply fill the diaper pail with hot water and dump the diapers, and the water into the machine.

I used vinegar for the rinse cycle. We have very hard water, so vinegar in the rinse cycle is a good idea anyway. Plus it cuts the ammonia smell from the diapers. I skip this step now.

I used to wash diapers every 4 days, now it’s once a week. Everyone says do it every 3. After 3 days we don’t have a full load of diapers (it’s a front load machine that takes a lot!) Plus, with the 2 pail system, I don’t have any problem with odor – so I chose to wash every 4 days and save that extra bit of money. We purchased 2 dozen prefolds and I found that about 8 never got used, even going every 4 days. Now we wash just once a week. Still no problem and lots of diapers left over – as their bladder control increases, they simply pee less frequently.


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