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  • Mama of wildlings

How to wash cloth diapers

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Welcome to our cloth diapering guide for beginners!

This post will be addressing:

-Hard water

-Wash routine

-cloth diaper washing no no’s

Yay! You’re likely here because you’re interested in cloth diapering your sweet little one, but all the information out there is overwhelming you. Cloth diapering can be a lot to take in at first, but with the right information and guidance, it can be easy, and even therapeutic. I hope this information will help you on your journey to choosing cloth.

The very first step is to TEST YOUR WATER HARDNESS. This is a very vital step that can really make or break your cloth diapering experience. It’s very rare that someone can skip this step and have a successful wash routine. Washing cloth diapers in hard water without properly adjusting the PH can cause a variety of issues. I.e., mineral build up which can lead to chemical burns, ammonia build up, which causes an awful barnyard stink. Trust me, skip the headache, and test your water!

TO TEST YOUR WATER: You can find water hardness test strips on Amazon, at your local pet store, or you can take in a cup of water to most pet stores and ask them to test it for you, most of the time they will do it free of charge.

· Test the water directly from your washer on both hot and cold settings. This is important due to different filters used leading to your washer, and your faucet, causing the water hardness to differ.

· 0-180ppm does not require any additional water softener as long as you are using tide original or tide free & gentle powder detergent.

· 180ppm and up, will require additional water softener such as Calgon or Borax.


There's a couple options on how to deal with the poop. Did you know that even when you utilize disposable diapers you're supposed to "plop" the poo?

you can either spray or dunk/swish your diapers. EBF (exclusively breast-fed) babies poo actually isn’t required to spray or dunk/swish breastmilk is water soluble. However, it does not hurt. Formula fed or beginning solids, do require you to spray or dunk/swish your diapers to remove waste. Washers cannot clean solid fecal matter.

Option 1: Spraying

The goal is to remove all of the solid matter off of the diaper, I spray until the diaper looks free of particulates. but it is fine if there is still visable left overs, those should wash out in the wash. With a sprayer, you'd need something to clip the diaper on such as a Spray Pal or DIY version with clips. Clip the diaper on, spray down and onto the diaper until all the solids are gone. Once done spraying, wring the diaper or leave it on the clips to dry overnight and then place it in your dirty wet bag or hamper.

Option 2: Dunk and swish

The dunk and swish method sounds unappealing but its budget friendly, easy, and effective in removing poop from your diapers. first purchase some dish gloves (long style). ensure that your toilet is clean and has been flushed. next dip your diaper and swish it in the toilet bowl of water. Swish around, flush, swish around, and flush until all loose waste matter is gone. Keep a firm grip on your diaper at all times to avoid accidental flushing. When finished wring out, and place in dirty storage.


Here is a general wash routine for HE machines:

1. Short Cold Pre – Wash (with little detergent and borax,if needed)

2. Bulk up the load, if needed. Remember HE machines work well when they are 2/3 to 3/4 full.

3. Peel the diapers that are stuck to the drum

4. Add detergent and borax (for hard water)

5. Long Hot Main wash

6. Turn off any extra rinse options (you just need one rinse after the wash)

7. Tumble dry the inserts and hang dry the covers.

Here is a general wash routine for Top loading machines:

1. Short Cold Pre – Wash (with little detergent and borax,if needed)

2. Bulk up the load, if needed. Remember to see if the diapers are being pulled in and are rubbing against each other.

3. Add detergent and borax (for hard water)

4. Long Hot Main wash

5. Turn off any extra rinse options (you just need one rinse after the wash)

6. Tumble dry the inserts and hang dry the covers.


There are several options available for detergents to use, the following list are the strongest rated as far as effectively cleaning your diapers.

-Tide Original or Tide Free & Gentle Powder:

These two options are the highest rated for having the strongest enzymes to eliminate human waste.

-All Free & Clear Liquid or Powder

-Dreft Liquid or Powder

-Persil ProClean

-Arm & Hammer Plus Oxiclean Liquid or Powder

-Gain Liquid or Powder

PLANT BASED CLOTH SAFE DETERGENTS. These options are not as effective in eliminating human waste, but are a more environmentally friendly option, these are cloth diaper approved.

· Biocleen Liquid or Powder

· Seventh Generation Free & Clear or Seventh Generation

· Kirkland Environmentally Friendly

NEVER use homemade detergents. Homemade detergents do not mix well in water and do not effectively eliminate human waste.

NEVER use vinegar. Vinegar can cause your diaper elastics to break down and completely relax.

NEVER use fabric softener with your cloth diapers it will cause build-up and repelling, which could then lead an array of issues including chemical burns, and ammonia build up etc.

What scent enhancers ARE safe then?

· Scent booster beads are safe for cloth diapers as long as there are no fabric softeners in them. Here are some a few examples of scent beads that are safe for cloth:

CLOTH DIAPER SAFE STAIN REMOVERS. Here are just a few common stain removers that are cloth diaper safe.

· Oxiclean powder or spray

· Shout spray

· A natural remedy for stains, is sunning. Set damp, stained diapers outside under the direct sun. Check every 20 to 30 minutes. Insure they do not fully dry under the sun, causing the PUL to melt.

HOW TO DRY DIAPERS. We always always recommend hanging your diapers to dry. This will preserve the integrity of your diapers PUL and elastics, helping them to last longer.

Thank you so much for reading! please leave a comment if you found this entry helpful! feel free to checkout our other blog posts for more cloth diapering content and questions.

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