How to Clean Cloth Diapers in 5 Easy Steps

By Christina Simpson | Baby

Aug 13
How to Clean Cloth Diapers in 5 Easy Steps

Are you a new cloth diapering mama? Diapering can be one of the most expensive things you need to prepare for when you’re expecting a new baby. Luckily, the cost of diapering can be lowered if you choose to go with cloth diapers instead of disposables. However, choosing cloth diapers come with a different kind of price and that is the cost of hard work. Using a cloth diaper is easy, but it’s the cleaning part that often discourages most people.

Cloth diapering intimidates a lot of people. Aside from the upfront cost of cloth diapers, the seemingly laborious work that this method entails is another thing that turns people away. If you’re not very fond of doing the laundry, you may think this diapering method is not for you. If you think about it, though, all you need to have a smooth cloth diapering journey is an organized system that works for you. Check out our tips and tricks below on how to clean cloth diapers in 5 easy steps.


What You Need To Know

There are a few cleaning-related things that you should know before you start with cloth diapering. If you’re new to the whole world of using eco-friendly nappies for your baby’s bum, you might want to check these out first before you throw those soiled diapers in the wash.

Cloth Diapers Cannot Be Treated As Regular Laundry

Cloth diapers cannot be treated as regular laundry

First of all, you can’t wait for your next laundry day schedule before you wash soiled cloth diapers. They need to be dealt with immediately if you want to keep stains and odors from setting in. If you can’t handle washing dirty diapers after every use, you can do them in batches at the end of the day or, at the most, every other day.

Not All Cloth Diapers Are Created Equal

Not all cloth diapers are created equal

If your cloth diaper stash consists of various brands, you’ll notice that there are some differences here and there in your cloth diapers. Some brands use natural fiber cloth while other brands prefer to use synthetic fiber cloth.

Care Labels Are Important

Care labels are important

Don’t ignore care labels on cloth diapers. Following the wash instructions on these is crucial if you want your cloth diaper to last longer and become more absorbent and friendly on baby’s skin. As mentioned above, not all cloth diapers are created equal. Some brands may call for handwashing only while others may allow you to wash your cloth diapers in the washing machine on a certain setting. Read and follow care labels for best results.

Some cloth diaper brands, especially the popular ones, will have the care instructions for their products on the diaper packaging and also on their website. Here’s an example of the care instructions that you’ll find on a Charlie Banana cloth diaper, a Kanga cloth diaper, and a Bum Genius one, what they mean and a few couple of handy tips to keep your diapers in good condition.

What You Need To Have

Now that you’ve read about the things you need to know, you’ll want to make sure you have all the necessary items you need to properly clean your cloth diapers. Aside from the basic cloth diapering essentials, here are the other things you’ll need to clean your soiled stash:

Cloth Diaper Friendly Laundry Detergent

Cloth diaper friendly laundry detergent

Check out the care label on your cloth diapers and see if there is a recommended type of laundry detergent you should be using with them. Otherwise, just stick to milder baby laundry detergent solutions. 


Look for detergents that do not leave residues to prevent buildup and eliminate the need for stripping diapers. They say liquid detergents are better for keeping residues at bay but there are some powder detergents out there like Charlie’s Soap that do not leave residue on clothes, too.

If you want to try out other brands, it’s important to know what to look for when choosing a detergent to use on your baby’s clothes, cloth diaper included. As a general rule, it’s best to use detergents that are as natural as possible. Read the labels and choose the ones with the least number of chemicals listed. You can also look for labels that say “pediatrician and dermatologist tested/approved”, “plant-based ingredients”, “no harsh chemicals” and the like.

Diaper Pail

Whether you use a wet pail or a dry pail totally depends on you, but you might want to consider the drowning hazard that a wet pail poses on young children. If you’re looking for a good but affordable dry diaper pail, you can check out the Diaper Dekor Plus which is the perfect size for a day or two’s worth of cloth diapers and has a very practical and minimalist design.

Looking to invest in a high-quality diaper pail that you can use for child #2 and beyond? Check out Ubbi Diaper Pails. These are made from stainless steel which means that they’re more durable compared to regular diaper pails made of plastic. They also come in cool colors to match your nursery’s decor.

A Small Tub or Two (If You’re Handwashing)

a small tub

Using a small container dedicated to washing dirty cloth diapers also promotes a more hygienic environment since you won’t be getting your baby’s excretions all over the tub and/or the sink. There are tons of options out there but it’s best to opt for inexpensive but easy to clean ones like the Laundress Wash Tub Basin.

Rubber Gloves

Rubber gloves

This, too, is plainly for hygiene purposes. We know there’s nothing a mom can’t handle but literally holding poop with your bare hands isn’t the most sanitary thing to do. Put these on before you start your laundry load to keep your arms from harboring germs and bacteria.

You’ll want rubber gloves that will last you a long time since you’ll be doing cloth diaper laundry regularly so go for the non-disposable kind. A pair with long cuffs like the Playtex Living gloves is ideal to catch drips and keep dirty laundry water from coming in contact with your skin.

How To Get Your Dirty Diapers Clean

Now, let’s get to the “fun” part which is the washing. Below you’ll see a detailed step-by-step guide on what you need to do to clean your stash of used, dirty cloth diapers.

Step 1 - Prepare The Diapers

Prepare The Diapers

Every time you take off a soiled diaper from your baby, toss out as much of the solid waste on the diaper that can be thrown into the toilet and throw the poop-free diaper in your diaper pail or bag. If there’s only pee on the diaper, you can go right ahead and throw it in without shaking it or rinsing it off first.

Step 2 - Pre-wash

Washing machine

Pre-washing is important if you’re not washing your dirty diapers at the end of every day. To pre-wash, just load your dirty diapers in the washing machine and do a complete cycle with only warm water. You can also add a very mild detergent like below video if you want to take the pre-wash cycle to the next level.

Step 3 - Wash With Detergent

Wash With Detergent

Now, many people say that when washing anything that your baby is going to wear, you should use a minimal amount of detergent to keep it from building up and irritating your child’s skin. However, not using enough laundry detergent may affect its effectivity and may leave your diapers dirty even after a full wash.

To determine how much detergent to use, you will have to base it on your load size. If you’re doing laundry everyday, you’ll be washing about 10 to 12 diapers at the end of the day which means you’ll need to fill your detergent slot about a third of the way. For medium sized load of 12 to 15 diapers, fill the slot to about a half to two-thirds of the way, and for heavy loads with about 15 to 18 diapers, you can fill the slot to about three-fourths of the way. Here’s a chart that shows you how much detergent scoops you need for your next laundry load.

Step 4 - Rinse Twice With Warm Water

Rinse Twice With Warm Water

After washing with detergent, do two full rinse cycles with warm water to remove as much detergent residue as possible. This step is important because this is when most of, if not all, the detergent residues will come out.

Step 5 - Dry

drying out cloth diapers

How you dry your diapers will affect their quality and absorbency in the long run. Air drying or drying out your diaper in the sun is the most recommended way to get this step done, but if you don’t have a space to do it, you can toss your diapers in the dryer, too. Just be careful and use the lowest to medium temperature setting since too much heat can affect your diapers’ elastics.

PRO TIP: Skip the “Sanitize Cycle.”

As moms, we all get this urge to go the extra mile and make sure that everything is clean and sanitized for our babies, and that is why many cloth diapering mamas out there often opf for the sanitize cycle in their cloth diaper laundry routine. However, experts agree that this is unnecessary since typical washing machines do not usually reach 160F which is the proper temperature to really sanitize your diapers.


Now that you have the basic knowledge of how it’s done, do you think you’re ready to tackle those dirty cloth diapers? Or are there still some things you want to know about washing and cleaning your eco-friendly nappies? Remember that washing and cleaning cloth diapers the proper way is important to avoid irritating baby’s skin. Let us know in the comments what you think of this easy but effective method of cleaning cloth diapers. Share with us any tips, tricks, or hacks to make cleaning cloth diapers a whole lot easier.


About the Author

I’m Christina Simpson and I am a mother of 2 little princesses and a dear little boy. I like to write stuff on PassionMommy, a blog about parenting and motherhood that aims to help other moms in distress (that is, when I’m not at a tea party with my girls or looting treasures with my little pirate boy).