How to Wash Cloth Diapers in 5 Simple Steps

washing cloth diapers

When it comes to deciding whether you should use cloth diapers or disposable, the former has a lot going for it. Cloth diapering is cost effective and good for the environment too. But if you're considering going with cloth, you might be worried about all that laundry.

It's true the disposable diapers are easier in this regard -- take it off baby and throw it in the trash. But washing your cloth diapers is not nearly as complicated -- or time consuming -- as it was in the olden days. Forget those visions of women slaving over vats of boiling water. Today's diapers are much simpler to launder. Here's how to wash your cloth diapers:


Washing Cloth Diapers1. Pre-treat diapers as soon as possible. "Pre-treating is necessary mainly for removal of more deeply embedded stains," explains Roy Couvillion, a product designer for FuzziBunz cloth diaper company.

To pre-treat, knock any solids into your toilet (yes, you can use some toilet paper so you don't have to touch the poop!), then rinse the diaper well with water. If there are any diaper creams on the diaper or absorbent insert, Couvillion suggests using a grease-cutting pre-treatment.

"Oils or creams can linger on microfibers and degrade their functionality," he warns. "A good grease cutting pre-treater will loosen and remove that residue in the wash."

2. Choose detergents wisely. Just because a detergent says it's "non-toxic" doesn't mean it's safe for baby. When researchers at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) looked at more than 2,000 detergents and other cleaning products, they found more than half contained chemicals that can harm the lungs and a quarter contained ingredients known to cause asthma. Not something you want to use on baby's diapers. Fortunately the EWG has a handy laundry guide for parents.

If you have hard water, it can degrade the diaper, so Couvillion suggests adding a laundry water softener, phosphate or washing soda, or borax to soften the water.

3. Wash dirty diapers within 24 hours of soiling. It may sound like a lot of work, but remember, you invested in quality diapers. Don't let them be ruined because you don't have time for laundry. Not to mention, daily washings can help prevent diaper rash.

More From The Stir: Cloth vs. Disposable Diapers: The Pros & Cons of Each

"Nothing good comes from leaving dirty diapers in a warm moist environment for over a day," Couvillion warns. "It’s a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and for urea to convert to ammonia. Also, the longer you let strong odors sit on polyester, the harder it will be to remove them without a long detergent soak."

3. Let them dry completely. Because many cloth diapers with multi-layer inserts are made to be absorbent, they can appear dry on the outside, but be wet in the middle. To gauge if your diaper is really dry, place a piece of colored construction paper on a table, lay the all-in-one or insert over the construction paper, and press down hard with your knuckles. If wet spots appear on that paper, there's still water inside the pad. Drying in sunlight can help speed the process -- and make sure bacteria is truly dead.

4. Smell the diaper. Urea, ammonia, and active bacteria can all build up in cloth diapers, Couvillion says, and if it's there, you're going to smell it. If you smell it, it's not ready to go back on baby's bottom!

"An odor is a sign the diaper is not clean," he explains. "Masking the odor will not clean the diaper. If a diaper is washed in a perfume-free (and odor-blocker-free) detergent and it smells like urine after a vigorous wash, wash it again!"

You can use a clean rinsing laundry agent to do that second wash (Couivillion suggests doing it twice). Separate inserts can also be disinfected with a tablespoon of chlorine bleach or two tablespoons of concentrated oxygen bleach.

5. Check for degradation. High quality diapers can last up to 15 years, Couvillion says, but degraded elastic can cause leakage, so check to see that the elastic is still snug. When everything is dry, and it's time to re-stuff your diaper, remove your rings. Turns out stuffing pocket diapers while wearing a diamond ring is one of the biggest causes of diaper damage!

Are you using cloth diapers? What's your washing process like?


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