How To Wash Cloth Diapers

Whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned pro, you’re probably familiar with the cloth diaper craze. But if reusable cloth diapers have scared you away in the past, we’re here to ease your cloth diaper concerns! Let us guide you through the cloth diapering transitioning process, including the benefits, everything you need to get started, and (most importantly) how to clean reusable diapers. It’s not as messy as you think).

Click the steps below to learn how to wash cloth diapers, or read our comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know!

    Why Use Cloth Diapers

    There are many reasons parents choose to use cloth diapers instead of disposable options. Here are a few reasons you might want to consider doing the same:

    • Environmental Consciousness: In 2015, the EPA reported that 3.4 million tons of disposable diapers were landfilled out of the 4.2 million tons that were generated. The amount of landfilled diapers is equivalent to the weight of 485, 714 African elephants.

    • Less Harmful Chemicals: Many parents opt for cloth diapers due to the chemical content in disposable diapers, including dioxins, sodium polyacrylate, and VOCs. While these chemicals are used to create absorbency and sterilize products, they can also pose harmful effects to babies and to the environment. Prolonged exposure to dioxins may cause skin irritation and could negatively impact the immune system. Another chemical called Tributyl-tin (TBT) has potentially harmful effects on aquatic life when the two come into contact, which prompted the EPA to create a criteria document for communities to monitor and mitigate the TBT levels in fresh and saltwater areas.
    • Potty Training: Some parents have found that babies who have been cloth diapered have an easier time adjusting to potty training. This could be because cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable diapers, which allow babies to feel dry even if they have a wet diaper. When babies wet a cloth diaper, on the other hand, they’re more likely to let you know they need a change. Wet diaper equals fussy baby. This can help baby learn how to tell mom or dad that they need to use the bathroom when it comes time to use the toilet!
    • Saving Money: One of the first things you learn as a new parent is that caring for your little one requires a lot of supplies. From food to toys, baby furniture, and other accessories, there are a lot of expenses associated with parenthood. And diapers are one of the largest costs for parents of infants. The average child uses more than 2,700 diapers in their first year alone, which can add up to more than $550 in diaper costs. Cloth diapers are one simple way to cut back on your baby budget.
    • Comfort: Cloth diapers tend to be constructed from materials that are more lightweight and breathable than disposable ones. Plus, the natural fibers are softer on baby’s skin.

    How do cloth diapers work?

    Cloth diapers haven’t ever had a great reputation for convenience. For many parents, the continuous changing and cleaning routine seems daunting. But what parents should know is that there are many different types of cloth diapers. The traditional hand-stitched variety your grandmother might have used is not the only one available anymore!

    Cloth diapers have undergone significant improvements to become more accessible and convenient for busy parents. Let’s discuss some of the cloth diaper options available today.

    Prefold cloth diapers

    Prefolds are most like what you associate with a traditional cloth diaper. They’re folded and stitched with thick layers in the center to help absorb potty waste. Prefolds should still be combined with a cloth diaper cover to provide a waterproof layer and ensure there’s no leakage.

    Hybrid cloth diapers

    If you’re unsure about making the transition to cloth diapering, you might want to start with hybrid cloth diapers. Hybrid diapers combine the convenience of a disposable diaper, while still providing many benefits of choosing cloth diapers for your child. Hybrid cloth diapers generally have a waterproof layer on the outside and an absorbent layer on the inside. For the inside layer, parents can opt for a disposable insert or a cloth insert. While disposable inserts can only be used once, they generate significantly less waste than a fully disposable diaper. Cloth inserts, on the other hand, are typically made of cotton, microfiber, or hemp and can be reused after a wash.

    All-in-Ones (AIOs)

    All-in-One cloth diapers are another easy transition into cloth diapering. This style doesn’t require any added layers. All you’ve got to do is wash the whole diaper after use and you’re good to go! Don’t worry, we’ll get to how to wash cloth diapers step-by-step soon!

    Cloth Diaper Care Tips

    How do I prepare to wash cloth diapers?

    So, you’re convinced. You like the idea of possibly saving a little on your baby budget, you want to do your part for the environment, and, of course, you’ve weighed the pros and cons of cloth diapers. You’re ready to take on cloth diapering with confidence. But before you start planning your laundry schedule and picking out adorable cloth diaper patterns, there are a few other things you’ll want to have in stock.

    Must-haves for cloth diapering

    • Cloth Diapers
    • Baby Wipes: The CDC’s guide to Safe and Healthy Diapering says parents should use baby wipes to clean babies’ diaper area, wiping front to back.
    • Diaper Inserts: This depends on the type of cloth diaper you choose to use. For example, All-in-One’s don’t need an insert!
    • Diaper Pail: As you probably already know, babies go through a lot of diapers. A lot. And with cloth diapers, you’re not just blindly forgetting about them as you toss them into the trash. In order to streamline your cloth diaper washing process, you’ll want to invest in a diaper pail to store soiled diapers before their next wash. Line your diaper pail with a plastic liner to keep it sanitary and fresh!
    • Hand Soap or Sanitizer: Whether or not you’re using cloth diapers, it’s important to keep the changing area, your hands, and baby clean when you’re changing diapers. Make sure to wash your own and your child’s hands before and after changing.
    • Washing Machine and Scent-Free Detergent: In order to clean and reuse cloth diapers, you’ll need a way to wash their diapers thoroughly. Use a scent-free laundry detergent to reduce the possibility of skin allergy and irritation.

    Nice to Have

    • Travel Size Diaper Pail or Wet Bag: Parenting is a busy lifestyle! From running errands to attending playdates and events, you’re pretty much always on-the-go. Packing a travel size diaper pail or wet bag can keep you on track with your cloth diaper routine, while still making sure your dirty laundry is kept separate from the rest of your baby essentials.
    • Diaper Pins: If you’re using a prefold diaper, you may need some diaper pins to secure the cloth diapers.
    • Swim Diapers: Planning on taking baby to the pool or beach? Invest in some reusable swim diapers!
    • Diaper Liners: Unlike cloth diaper inserts, diaper liners are an optional accessory. These non-absorbent fabric pieces come in a variety of materials, including flushable and reusable fleece wipes. Flushable wipes can simply be tossed in the toilet after use. Fleece liners are reusable and can’t be flushed, but they can add more comfort for a baby with a wet diaper.

    How To Wash Cloth Diapers

    1. Prep Cloth Diapers Before Use

    So you’ve got your cloth diapers and related supplies. But before you introduce your baby’s skin to any fabric product (including cloth diapers), it’s a good idea wash the diaper beforehand. “Prep” your cloth diapers by washing them with a scent-free detergent and dry them on a low tumble cycle or on a drying line. You’re ready to start cloth diapering!

    2. Dispose of Waste and Cold Rinse

    Before throwing a dirty diaper into the wash, make sure to pre-clean it by flushing solid waste and then rinsing the cloth diaper with cold water. For a more convenient option, you may want to invest in a diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer can be installed on the side of your toilet to make rinsing dirty diapers easier and less messy!

    3. Run a Hot Wash Cycle with Detergent

    After you rinse off the residue, run a hot wash cycle with laundry detergent.

    4. Rinse with Warm or Cold Water

    Following the wash cycle, rinse the cloth diaper again to removing any remaining laundry detergent.

    5. Dry Cloth Diaper on Low Tumble or on a Drying Line

    Dry cloth diapers on the low tumble cycle with medium heat or use a drying line to air dry cloth diapers. Letting Mother Nature do her work!

    How often should I wash cloth diapers?

    Cloth diapers should be changed more frequently than disposable diapers because they’re less absorbent. Plus, they’re more likely to get stinky and hold onto unpleasant odor, which is not ideal when you’re reusing them! So, first thing’s first. Change baby’s cloth diaper about every 2 hours throughout the day (or once you’ve noticed that their diaper is wet or soiled).

    So, how often do you need to wash cloth diapers? Leaving soiled diapers in a diaper pail too long is the quickest way to ruin your set of cloth diapers. Make sure you’re on top of your laundry schedule to keep them in good condition for as long as possible! Wash soiled diapers every 2 to 3 days, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    Are cloth diapers right for me?

    Maybe you’re sold on the cost savings of cloth diapers, or perhaps you’re a steward of the environment and want to reduce your waste footprint. But you still might be wondering, “Are cloth diapers really for me?” We say, why not give it a go? Parenting is a healthy balance of trial and error, plus a sprinkle of advice and experience, after all!

    The most important thing to remember is that every parent and child is different, so while cloth diapering may work wonders for you, it might not be the right solution for your friend or neighbor. So use that parental intuition and crafty “know-how” to see if cloth diapering makes sense for you and your child!

    Cloth diaper resources

    To ease the cloth diapering transition, we’ve included some additional resources and cloth diapering communities to help you learn more!