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Washing Cloth Diapers – Recommended Detergent and Stripping Procedure

Washing cloth diapers, or reusable diapers as some refer to them as, is very easy and takes less time then one might imagine. Your routine will depend on how many diapers you have, the type of diapers you use, and and what type of washer you have. Here is a step by step guide to how to prep your diapers, wash/ dry them, and strip them. There is also a list of the best detergent for cloth diapers.

Prepping Cloth Diapers:

  • Synthetic fibers, such as Microfiber just need to be washed once in hot water, dried, and then they are ready to go.
  • Natural fibers, such as hemp and bamboo, need 6-8 washes before they are ready to be used. The more you wash these fibers the more absorbent they become. There is an alternative way to prep a diaper if you don’t have or want to spend the time washing 3-5 times. Alternatively, you can boil them on the stove for 30 minutes. Then remove them and wash them on hot once and dry in the dryer. It is a bit faster and still gets the job done!

WARNING! DO NOT BOIL ANYTHING WITH SNAPS, VELCRO, PUL, or TPU.  Do not prep new diapers with diapers you already have in use. The oils on the new diapers, that you are trying to get rid of, can leak onto the new diapers if you do this.

Washing cloth diapers:

Generally you want to wash all cloth diapers on hot and only with other diapers. With that being said I know some people who throw their child’s clothing in with the diapers (I have also done this several times) with no issues.

  • If you are using pocket diapers, make sure you take out the inserts for better washing and faster drying time.
  • If you have an older top loader then washing cloth diapers will probably be easier because you set how much water to fill the washer. Most front loaders and HE washers adjust the amount of water to how big your load is. For most clothing this is fine, but with cloth diapers you want extra water in there to allow more movement between the diapers.
  • If you have a HE washer, you may want to put in a wet towel or two to try and “trick” the washer. The average size washer load of diapers on a Large setting, is 24 diapers and inserts. I have a large washer but have found that right around 17-18 to be the max amount of diapers I would load into it at one time.
    • There are several ways that you set your wash cycle up: Many people will say do a cold rinse, hot wash, and then two more cold rinses. Some washers (especially older washers) may not have those options. Our wash routine goes like this: hot wash, cold rinse, done. If I have some really soiled diapers I will do two hot washes and then a cold rinse. If They still seem soapy during the rinse I will do one extra cold rinse.
  • If you feel there is a lot of build up, especially around the legs, you can try doing 2 hot washes without detergent. 
  • If this doesn’t work you may want to try stripping your diapers (instructions below).
How much detergent to use: Start with ¼ of the manufacturer’s recommended amount. If your getting a lot of foam/ suds during washing, then reduce the amount a little. If you don’t think your diapers are getting clean enough, then up the amount a little until you find the perfect amount for your diapers and your washer.

Detergent for cloth diapers:

There are a lot of different detergents out there, but you have to be careful when picking ones for your cloth diapers. Not all detergents are safe for cloth diapers because of the additives in them. Some companies also have warranties on their diapers but require you to use certain detergents or they will void the warranty.
We use All Free and Clear for our diapers, as well as, all of our other laundry. It is one of the top rated for cloth diapers, easily found in any store, and very good for those children who have eczema or sensitive skin.
Here is a list of some of the Top Rated Detergents for Cloth Diapers:

  1. All  Free and Clear
  2. Mountain Green  Free and Clear  (good for HE washers)
  3. Allens Natural
  4. Arm and Hammer  Essentials Free
  5. Bio-O-Kleen
  6. Charlie’s Soap  (good for HE washers)
  7. Dropps  (good for HE washers)
  8. Ecos Free and Clear   (good for HE washers)
  9. Rocking Green   (good for HE washers)

Drying Cloth Diapers:  

There are two ways you can dry your cloth diapers. One way is is to put them into the dryer on low heat. If you are drying hemp or bamboo inserts you will want to dry them on high heat.  Some people will say using the dryer a lot will reduce the life of your diaper a little over time. With that being said I dry my Kawaiis in the dryer all the time and never had an issue.
The second way of drying is by air. Either hanging them on a line outside or on a drying rack inside. The disadvantage to this method is that it takes more time, especially if you have a small stash. Air drying my Kawaiis takes about 6 hours. Some other brands can take up to 10-12 hours. One advantage to this method is that it is supposed to extend the life of your diaper. Another advantage is, that you will acquire stains over time in your diapers. Sunlight is the only thing that will take these away. So even if you do not line dry outside all the time, doing it from time to time would be a good idea to get rid of any stains.

Washing by Hand:

There may be a time where you have to wash your diapers by hand, for whatever reason. If you find yourself in this position, don’t worry. It’s not hard but does take a little more time. First boil a large pot of water on the stove (half full). When it starts boiling take it off and add cold water and your detergent. At this point you can either leave the mix in your pot and wash your diapers there or plug your kitchen sink and wash them there.
Put several diapers and inserts into the pot (or sink). While still in the water, grab one diaper, rub it together vigorously and occasionally squeeze it it your hands. Do this several times for all the diapers in there. When your finished, ring them out as much as you can. In the sink (plugged) run cold water. Put the diapers in and do the same motions you did when they were in the pot. Drain the sink, run cold water and thoroughly rinse each diaper/ insert under it, ringing it out, until there are no more suds. Ring out as much as you can and then either hang dry or put in the dryer.

Stripping Diapers:  

If your diapers are starting to repel moisture, wicking around the legs, or starting to smell even after being washed you might try stripping them. These are all usually caused by detergent build up.
First, if your diapers are dirty do a regular wash routine but don’t dry. Once it is finished restart a hot/cold wash. This time use between 1 tsp to 1 tbs of original Blue Dawn dish soap. This will strip your diapers of any oils or build ups. Once the wash is finished you will need to do several more rinses to get rid of all the soap. (Rinse until there are no more bubbles) This is usually 2-4 rinses total. Then dry normally.

Diaper Cream Build up:

Normally you want to use only diapers creams designed for cloth diapers. I highly recommend CJ’s Butter. It is cloth diaper safe, really good for sensitive skin, and excellent for eczema. Accidents will happen though and you might find yourself in a position where something like Desitin has been used and gotten on your diaper. Don’t panic, your diaper is not ruined. You will need to do a little work though.
Get an old tooth brush and some Blue Dawn. Put a little Dawn on the spot and scrub hard with the tooth brush. Rinse and repeat until it has come out. Then wash normally.

Sometimes, beginning to use cloth diapers, or reusable diapers, can be very overwhelming. I assure you though, once you start getting into your routine, it is very easy and takes no time at all. Washing cloth diapers is easy.