Cloth Diapering 101: Part 2 Washing

In Cloth Diapering 101: Part 1 we discussed what you would need to start your cloth diapering journey, the different types of cloth diapers and accessories, and where to purchase them. In part 2, we will discuss tips and tricks for washing your cloth diapers.

Storing Diapers Before Washing

The majority of people I have talked to keep “dry pails,” which is essentially just a wet bag or pail liner that they keep the diapers in before washing. There are also “wet pails” which are buckets of water, or a solution (such as water and borax), which the diapers soak in before going in the washing machine. Be sure to check the manufacturers recommendations, as most pocket diapers should be kept in dry pails.

Taking care of the poop

When my son was eating only breast milk and his poops were the mustard yellow, seedy, liquid kind, I would simply put them in the wet bag and then run an extra rinse cycle before washing. Now that he is on some solid food and his poop is more solid, I rinse his diapers in the toilet before putting in the wet bag.

If I had a diaper sprayer, this would be a much easier task. I would simply turn the diaper inside out and spray the poop off into the toilet, then wring the extra water out of the diaper and put in the bag. However, since I do not (yet) have a diaper sprayer, I currently use the “dunk and swirl” method.

Turning the diaper inside out, I swish, dunk and swirl it in the toilet until most of the solid pieces comes off into the toilet. I then wring out the excess water and place it in the bag. Gross? Yes. But it works.


Flats, prefolds, AIO/AI2s, covers, and soaker pads aren’t very picky when it comes to washing. Flats can even be washed by hand in the bathtub or sink and hung out to dry. Almost any type of detergent will work for these diapers, though personally I recommend a free & clear type, or even homemade.

Pocket diapers must be washed in an “approved” detergent, and should not be used with any fabric softener. It is also recommended to dry on low or line-dry anything with a plastic snap, as the snaps can melt in the dyer. Plus, the sun has wonderful bleaching effects on the inside liner, and air-drying cuts down on your energy bill!

My washing routine goes as follows: cold rinse, hot wash with cloth diaper approved detergent (I use Rockin’ Green or 7th Generation), and a cold rinse. Line dry pockets and covers, machine dry any flats, prefolds, and soaker pads. If for some reason I am hand washing flats, I will let them collect in the tub (or the sink if I’m only washing one or two), rinse with cold water using my hands and/or feet, drain, then run hot water with a dash of detergent.

Swish, squash, swirl, etc to get the hot water all through the flat, then do another warm rinse and rinse until the water runs clear with any soap bubbles. Hang to dry. If flats are hung outside to dry on a warm, sunny day, they could be dry in as little as half an hour. As you get started you will gradually develop you own routine as you figure out what works for you and your family.

Homemade Soap Recipe

To make homemade laundry detergent, simply mix 1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda), 1 cup borax, and 1 grated bar of soap, such as Dr. Bonners (or other castile soap), Ivory, ZOTE, or Fels-Naptha. Mix thoroughly and store in an air-tight container. Use 1-2 tbsp per load.

So there you have it, the basics of cloth diapering! You can go as basic or fancy as you like, depending on your budget and needs. Either way you are keeping the toxic chemicals in disposable diapers away from your precious baby, reducing waste, and almost certainly saving money.

There are many CD groups on Facebook and the Internet should you need more support, and you might also be able to find a CD exchange, or a buy/sell/trade group where you can buy used diapers that are still in good condition. A word of warning though: once you start cloth diapering, you won’t want to go back! (Written by Breanna Jewell)

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