cloth diapering series: wash routine

The cloth series continues! Today, we’re talking wash routines. This is an ongoing journey for most fluffy families, us included. Things change as diets grow and diapers age. Feel free to share your tips!

“You wash your diapers and use them again? Gross! Doesn’t poop get in the washer?” 

In short, the answer is no. Poop doesn’t get in the washer. Poop-stained items go in the washer, just like mud-stained items, or throw-up stained items, or any other kind of stained clothes from any other kid or adult. Isn’t that kinda the point of having a washing machine? I’ve never gotten dressed in the morning and thought about all of the other things the washer and dryer have touched before cleaning my shirt or pants.

For the first six months, diapers are pretty much odorless. Breastmilk poops tend to smell like buttered popcorn. Soiled diapers require no extra attention and can go straight in the wash from a wetbag. We use these pail liners by Wahmies. They’re made to go in a trash can or “pail.” The girls’ wetbag literally hangs in their nursery, right on the closet door, with a big opening at the top. No stink! Ames, however, has some seriously stinky diapers. His wetbag hangs in the laundry room. After a couple of days, the bag smells like ammonia (a chemical change urine undergoes after it’s exited the body…delightful, I know).  We spray his poop diapers out into the toilet using this diaper sprayer. But I mean, it’s human waste. It’s GOING to stink at some point. Anyway, as soon as our wetbag goes into the washer, the laundry room doesn’t stink anymore. Diaper genies and other disposable diaper containers can reek, too. In fact, most boxes of disposable diapers instruct you to dump poop before throwing away the diaper.

So we’ve collected all of our yucky diapers, and now we’re ready to wash. Right now, we do a load every other day. When the sisters slow down, though, we should be able to stretch it out to every three or four days, like we did when it was just Ames.

Let’s talk equipment. We have an HE set by Whirlpool, called a Cabrio. We chose a top-loader washing machine without an agitator, which allows the clothes to soak in more water than a front-loader. We’ve also had mildew issues with a front-loader and its door before, but that’s another story. I wash all of the diapers together, because a heavier load makes for more water – the HE feature senses the amount of water needed.

I dump both wetbags into the washer and set it to a quick-wash setting on Cold. I use about a tablespoon of Tide original powder with this one. There are plenty of websites that carefully instruct families to use cloth diaper-specific detergents. I understand their points and used those soaps exclusively in the past. But a lot of them are “free & clear” of so much stuff, I don’t think our diapers were actually getting clean! I use a cloth diaper detergent for my second wash, anyway. After the quick wash, I set it to heavy duty (a Hot wash) with an Extra Rinse. This cycle gets three tablespoons of Rockin’ Green soap. Usually, I do another short Rinse cycle after that. No soap this time. We only have a Warm option, but I’d do Hot if I could. This brings us to a total of three wash cycles. The point of laundering is to get stuff clean with a lot of water and a little soap. If you can smell detergent on your clothes/diapers after they dry, you’ve probably used too much.

When it’s time to move the diapers to the dryer, I hang the PUL covers on wooden clothespins. Thanks for this idea, Lorean! Keeping them out of the dryer isn’t mandatory, but it extends the cover’s life… the synthetic material is prone to melting under heat. It also allows me to dry the diapers on a hotter setting.

It’s recommended that you separate different materials when drying, especially pockets and synthetic fibers from natural fibers. My beloved Goodmamas are supposed to be hang-dried, too, to preserve the prints. Those babies are collectibles. But we buy used, workhorse diapers. I’m not too concerned with getting a hundred bucks for a diaper when it comes time to sell. Yes, they do go for that much. Sometimes more. Usually, I run the diapers for the longest Timed option (ninety-nine minutes for us) on Low or Extra Low. One cycle usually does the job. If I do larger load, the diapers might need an extra thirty minutes or so.

My wool wash routine is a bit different and MUCH easier. But that’s next week’s topic!
There are those who believe that the laundry expense makes the savings null & void. But I can tell you that our monthly utility bills have seen no significant increase, outside of seasonal fluctuations. And you can’t convince me that going through that many disposables over that many years is cheaper than our set-up. There are cloth diapering systems out there that cover a child from birth to potty learning, everything included, for $100. And remember, I’m diapering three kids from one big stash. All of the kids wear all of the diapers. No sizing needed!

11 thoughts on “cloth diapering series: wash routine”

  1. Our launder our diapers almost the same. However, for some reason my daughters’ diapers get a strong ammonia smell quickly, so we wash everyday. Our routine is to do the first wash at night. The first thing I do in the morning is restart the washer.

    Then I hang the diapers to dry. We use Bum Genius one size pocket diapers and the outside shells can’t go in the dryer. We always hang those. In warm weather (by warm, I mean no snow on the groung), we hang both the shells and the liners outside. In the winter, we hang the shells on our lines in the basement. However, it takes longer to dry in the basement, so we often put the liners in the dryer when it’s snowy outside.

    Drying the diapers out in the sun helps bleach out stains and really prevents any odor. We don’t really have an odor problem, but when the diapers come off the outside clotheslines, they actually smell really good!

  2. You and Melissa (Dear Baby) have inspired me to cloth diaper our next one and when we found out just a few days ago we were pregnant (yaaay!!) i bought 2 cloth diapers from baby steals the very next night!

  3. We put our diapers in a wet pail with cold water and Bio-Clean’s Back Out. What is the advantage to storing dirty diapers in a dry pail?

  4. We cloth diaper and have to strip the diapers every few months. We know it is time for a good stripping when they smell like ammonia almost immediatly and they stop soaking up as much. (turn up the hot water and wash them about 5-6 times without any soap). Just curious if you also have to do this?

  5. We cd and I use Charlies Soap, actually I use it for ALL my laundry now as it is very inexpensive, allergen free (and my kids have VERY sensitive skin), plus it gets the diapers clean, and I haven’t had to strip yet. We have a pretty small stash, so I have to wash every other day, but this really seems to work for us!

  6. Thanks for the feedback! It’s nice to see different things working for different people.

    To answer a few questions: I don’t use a wet pail because of the susceptibility to bacterial/fungal growth, but it sounds like it works great for you! Might have to check it out. I occasionally strip my diapers (maybe twice a year or so), and I use the instructions on Cotton Babies’ website… Dawn blue liquid detergent and a lot of hot water! I had a failed experience with Charlie’s Soap… the bag got wet and the whole thing turned to a cement block! But the few times we used it, I had no problems. I like that it’s local to NC, too!

  7. Quick thing I learned about Charlie’s… (after talking with someone from their customer service after I had MAJOR buildup on my dipes) if you’re going to use it for your diapers, you should really use it for ALL your clothes.

    The back and forth between regular detergent and Charlie’s causes serious confusion I guess! ;)

  8. You should definitely try a wet pail with Backout. We have zero oder and after a year have yet to encounter any fungus or mold issues. The live enzymes in the Backout take care of all that. To wash I just do a cold rinse cycle and then a hot super wash cycle with two rinses.

    Our love bug has outgrown the older bumgenius model and we are looking at buying a new set. I noticed that the econobum day pack comes with 3 covers and 12 prefolds. Is the idea that you reuse the covers unless they are soiled? Is that what you do? How does it work?


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