The internet is full of confusing and conflicting information on how to wash cloth diapers. You will read about pre-washes, real washes, double and even triple rinses, and warnings that your diapers will spontaneously combust if you don’t use the right soap. (Okay… that’s an exaggeration but still…)
Then comes the topic of “stripping diapers.” This is when you do a special wash of the diapers to remove any residual soap build-up that may be causing your diapers to smell, leak, or cause diaper rash over time. Usually blue Dawn dish soap is used for this, but I have seen people recommend bleach or special packets from various companies to do the job. Following the strip you must run several rinse cycles to get rid of any bleach or Dawn left in the diapers.
I want to share our laundering routine, as that is what intimidated me the most when we started this journey, and what has actually turned out to be very easy in the end.
The best part is that we are 27 months into cloth diapering and we have not found stripping our diapers necessary one single time!
(I did strip them once about a year and a half ago thinking they were the cause of my daughter’s diaper rash. That turned out to be caused by teething, and completely unrelated to the diapers. The strip was never actually necessary.)
So here is the disclaimer… Everyone has different diapers, water, and laundry machines. I am just sharing the routine that has worked perfectly for us whether we have been using our top-loader machine and our water type, or front-load machines with different water types at both of our parents’ homes.
Here is our routine (more specific instructions follow):
1. Cold rinse and spin
2. Hot wash
3. Air dry outer shell, dry inserts in machine
We keep a trash can in our bathroom with a wet bag liner in it. After a diaper change, the wet diaper gets tossed in there, no fuss, just like a disposable.
If the diaper needs spraying, we use this super handy cloth diaper sprayer. A quick spray cleans all of the waste off into the toilet where it belongs, and it can then be tossed into the can.
On diaper day (for us, currently once every three days), I throw all of the diapers and the wet bag into the washing machine and set it for a cold rinse with a tiny drizzle of the laundry soap. (We use Trader Joes liquid or 7th Generation Free and Clear liquid).
This quick rinse and spin gets most of the pee and waste off of the diapers so they can actually be cleaned, and using cold water won’t set in any stains.
A hot, deep water wash and a full cap of detergent will get those diapers good and clean. Using the hottest water and the highest water level for your machine is important for the wash.
The outer shells with elastic and the wet bag are hung out to air dry, and the inserts go into the dryer.
If you have a complicated routine that is driving you crazy, or if you are considering cloth diapering for the first time, try a simple routine like this and you may find it way easier to have clean diapers than you thought.