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Home>Washing Instructions

Washing Instructions

Washing Your Dirty Diapers

 (It's really not too bad, I swear.)

Storage options for dirty diapers:

  • A diaper pail - I use a $10 trash can from Target with a pop up lid--lined with a Planet Wise pail liner. I suggest owning two pail liners, so you always have a clean one to use while the other is in the wash. I keep mine in the bathroom, so I can toss diapers in right after I use the diaper sprayer.
  • A large Planet Wise wetbag is a good choice for hanging on your changing table. If you go this route, get two also.
  • Planet Wise wet/dry bag is essential for carrying in your diaper bag since there is space for clean, dry diapers and a separate pocket for wet, yucky ones. I highly suggest having two of these also, so you'll have a clean one available on laundry day. They are perfect for childcare, Grandma's house, and when your baby requires multiple outfit changes. (You know, the yucky kind.) 
I don't endorse keeping a "wet pail" (a storage bucket filled water, with or without chemicals or soaps) around your home. They are drowning hazards for small children and totally unnecessary with modern fabrics and washers. 

Got a wet diaper?

If you used a flushable liner with your diaper, simply throw the liner away. Follow the directions for your diaper type:
  • if it's a prefold, fitted, or a hybrid diaper then toss the interior piece in your diaper pail or wet bag. Reuse the waterproof cover with a fresh prefold, fitted or hybrid insert.
  • if it's a pocket diaper, then pull or shake out the insert. Put both the shell and the insert in the diaper pail or wet bag. Both parts should be washed after they've been wet.
  • if it's an all-in-one (AIO), then toss the whole diaper in your pail. It's all one piece! There's nothing to take apart!

Got a poopy diaper?

Regardless of diaper type: if your baby is exclusively breastfed--no solids, no formula--then this is very easy. Just follow the "wet diaper" directions above! Breastfed poop is entirely water soluble, no big deal. 

If you used a flushable liner, simply drop the poopy liner in your toilet. Wait a minute, and then flush. Then:

  • if it's a prefold/fitted/hybrid diaper, remove the inner part. If you didn't use a flushable liner, use your diaper sprayer to rinse the poop off. Or if it's solid, plop it into the toilet. Toss the inner part in your pail or wet bag. If the cover is still clean, reuse it! If not, toss it in the pail as well. 
  • if it's a pocket diaper, remove the insert from the shell and toss the insert in your pail. If you didn't use a flushable liner, use your diaper sprayer on the empty shell. Toss the shell in your pail or wet bag. 
  • if it's an all-in-one and you didn't use a flushable liner, give it a spray with your diaper sprayer. Nothing to take apart! Toss it in your pail or wet bag.

Now, we wash!

First, check with the manufactuer's specific instructions for your diapers. Below are general instructions for most diapers. 

1. Dump the contents of your full diaper pail -- including the pail liner -- into your washing machine. For all washes and rinses, use plenty of water, and high agitation. With an HE machine, you may have to "trick" it into adding more water by either using a "bulky" setting, or by adding a wet (= heavy) towel to the wash so it adds more water to the cycle.

2. Run a cold water rinse or wash cycle -- no detergent necessary.

3. Run a hot water wash with a cloth diaper approved soap with plenty of water. We recommend Charlie's Soap powder or liquid, Rockin' Green, BumGenius or Eco Nuts nuts or liquid.* Make sure whatever soap you use does not have any added softeners, brighteners, enzymes, fragrance or dyes. These build up in diaper fabric over time and cause repelling, rashes or smells. Here's a great chart (although prices per load are outdated) to check what additives are in your soap. 

4. Do one extra cold rinse at the end. (That should be at least 2 rinses total at the end.) If you begin having issues with your diapers, consider adding another extra rinse to your routine, especially if you have an HE machine, as they do not agitate as strongly as non-HE machines. 

*Note: We know are other sites out there that are recommending detergents that are not necessarily made for cloth diapers and have lots of additives. We have recommended the above detergents and wash routine to our customers since 2007, and I can count on my fingers the number of customers who have had issues with their diapers when following our recommendations (and usually an HE washer is the culprit). We've also had many people switch from brand name detergents after having lots of problems with rashes or leaking. But above all, we still recommend what the diaper companies recommend, and believe they know their products best. Please check with your brand of diapers to see what their specific recommendations are for detergents and start there! 


Hang drying on a flat rack is best, and saves electricity! (Hanging with clothes pins from one end may stretch out the elastic over time, depending of the weight of the wet diaper, like a cotton AIO.) I prefer to wash in the evening and let my diapers air dry overnight, since I need fewer diapers overnight. 

If you have cotton AIOs that dry slowly, you may want to lay to dry overnight, then throw them in the dryer on low in the morning to soften them up and finish the drying process. I also found having a small fan in my laundry room, or placing my drying rack near the air vent sped the air drying process tremendously. 

Anything with elastic or PUL (the waterproof layer) can be dried in a dryer on low heat or air. Parts without elastic or PUL, such as most microfiber inserts, fleece liners, prefolds or boosters can be dried on high if you're in a pinch. Wool dryer balls also speed up drying, reduce static and save energy. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the balls for scent, instead of dryer sheets!

What about the stains?

Staining in cloth diapers is normal, but can usually be fixed! Stains don't necessarily mean the diaper is dirty. Fabrics do stain over time, but synthetic fabrics stain less than natural fibers. To naturally remove stains, take your clean but wet diapers straight from your washer and lay them stain-side-up in direct sunlight. The stains will "sun bleach" out and your diapers will look cleaner in just an hour! 

It's snowing, you say? Some moms will sun their diapers during the winter by laying them inside, near large windows. But really, you can simply wait until nicer weather. The stains will still come out in one or two sessions of sunning this spring, even if they are months old! 

What about fabric softener and dryer sheets?

Softeners, by nature, don't completely rinse out of fabric. The softener coats your clothing's fibers to give it a soft feel. This is a bad thing with diapers! Within just a few washes, they will coat the interior fabric of your diapers and render them waterproof on the inside--resulting in leaky, nonabsorbent diapers. Kind of defeats the purpose, right? Dryer sheets do the same thing by coating fabric with anti-static chemicals. Wool dryer balls are a great replacement to dryer sheets for all of your laundry as they speed up drying, reduce static and save energy. You can add a few drops of essential oils to the balls for scent, if you wish!

Simply avoiding softeners doesn't do the trick. The secret is that most detergents include some amount of softeners in the long list of ingredients. That small amount will build up over time and all the same problems you'd encounter with adding softeners directly.

What kind of diaper rash cream can I use with cloth?

Similarly, most conventional diaper rash creams are off-limits! Most cloth users realize that their babies don't get as many rashes with cloth, so they don't have to use as much!  If you do need to use a diaper rash cream, use a small amount of cloth diaper safe cream, herbal salve or plain coconut oil!

Anything that is petroleum-based (most commercially-available and prescription creams) or has high amounts of zinc (that thick white stuff!) will quickly build up on diapers. It's best to line your diaper with a flushable liner, fleece liner or baby washcloth to keep the cream from coming into direct contact with the fabric, especially if you have to use a heavier cream or prescription.

What if they stink or start leaking? 

If you have a good wash routine, you shouldn't have to do much else to keep your diapers clean. BumGenius recommends 1/4 cup of bleach once per month to keep diapers clean, and other laundry treatments can be used once per month to maintain freshness.

"Barnyard" smell may need more or less detergent. Too much detergent can leave residue that collects smells over time. Too little can mean diapers aren't getting clean. Try a few extra hot washes with high agitation. Ammonia smell usually doesn't occur until the stinky-toddler-pee stage, but no worries! It can be treated with Funk Rock (just remember, toddler funk = funk rock!). 

If your diapers fall victim to your well-intentioned mother-in-law, er... I mean... detergent build up, fabric softeners or unsafe rash cream and begin leaking, it may be time to treat them with a series of very hot washes and a laundry additive like GroVia Mighty Bubbles or RLR, designed for cleaning removing buildup or mineral build up from hard water. 

"Stripping diapers" usually refers to using Dawn dish soap to cut oil build up (from months or years of not getting diapers clean), and can be used with a good scrubbing with a dish brush for seriously damaged diapers, but this is rarely needed. If you have a good wash routine you should never have to resort to this method!

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