For many parents, when they have a child, they know that they will inevitably need to spend money on diapers. Instead of buying disposable diapers, some choose to use cloth diapers with their child. But unlike disposable diapers, cloth diapers need to be washed and unless you use a cleaning service, that cleaning will be up to you. If you’ve never washed a diaper before, it can get overwhelming.
We thought the same thing and wanted to provide you with a handy guide to help you once you have to wash your little one’s diapers.
Let’s get started.
Prepping Their Diapers
When it comes to washing cloth diapers, basically you can put your little one’s dirty diapers from their diaper pail or wet bag straight into your washing machine. However, there can be some things that you may want to take care of prior to that step so the clean thoroughly.
Soaking stained diapers for a couple of hours can help remove stains before you wash them. There are some diaper covers and diapers that come with waterproof outer layers that shouldn’t be soaked. If your baby’s cloth diapers have this, be sure to check the manufacturer’s washing recommendation of how to wash them properly.
If your child is still being breastfed, their poop is water soluble meaning that you don’t have to do anything except deposit in whichever pail or bag you’re using before washing. However, if they are eating more solid foods or formula, their poop can be a bit more solid so prior to washing, you can deposit it into a toilet and flush it. Surprisingly, you’re supposed to do the same with disposable diapers although most people don’t do that at all.
To help clear the diaper of your little one’s little gift before you put it in the pail or bag, there are some products on the market that can make clean up a bit less gross if you’re a little squeamish:
A diaper sprayer is precisely what it sounds like. It attaches to your toilet and looks like a small shower head. These can be used to spray the waste off the diaper and into the toilet.
A cloth diaper liner looks akin to a dryer sheet that sits on top of the diaper in order to catch your baby’s mess. Disposable liners allow you to trash, or flush their business and then just place a new liner on the same cover.
If you choose to use a wet pail to hold your child’s dirty diapers, that pail is filled with water, with some baking soda to help fight odors as well sometimes. Typically, this method isn’t recommended for a couple of reasons:
- The liquid in the pail no matter how small can present a drowning risk to a small child. Whether it be through traditional drowning circumstances or through dry drowning.
- Soaking their dirty diapers for more than a few hours can actually have a reverse effect and cause stains to begin setting in.
If you do decide to use a wet pail option, be sure to dump the liquid in the toilet before you start the washing routine
Which types of cleaners to use – and which to avoid
Washing your child’s diapers in not like washing the rest of the dirty laundry at the end of the week. These diapers are still coming into contact with your child’s skin which can be very sensitive to anything that comes in contact with it.
Make sure to use detergent, not soaps that are fragrance, additive, and enzyme free. This includes whitening and brightening components in the detergent’s formulation. Fabric softeners and antistatic products should also be avoided as they can cause an irritation to your child’s skin and make a cloth diaper less absorbent.
If your child is fighting an infection, such as diaper rash, you may want to use some bleach in the washing of their diapers. But use it sparingly though. Bleach can cause cloth diapers to deteriorate by breaking down the fibers in the diaper and can also damage some covers.
To help combat odors in your little one’s diapers, many parents will choose to use about a half a cup of baking soda to the wash or a cup of white vinegar to the rinse water. As always, you will want to check the manufacturer’s directions prior to doing this. Vinegar can also help to soften the diaper while removing odors.
When you do their laundry and if the diapers aren’t coming out clean or there is detergent buildup, you may want to try different detergents to make sure they are compatible with your water. You also want to make sure that you’re not using too much detergent. A common suggestion is to use about half of what you would normally use when you wash your clothes.
How to Wash
Washing cloth diapers aren’t much different than washing other pieces of clothing that you would normally wash. You will want to wash their dirty diapers and covers in a load separate from your regular laundry. Washing the diapers and covers together shouldn’t be an issue unless they have different instructions for washing on the label. Keep the loads relatively sized, don’t overload the washer. This will keep the diapers from getting clean and the friction will cause pilling.
As with any garment, diapers or shirts regardless, you should always consult the manufacturer’s label before deciding on what temperature water to wash their diapers in. Typically, cotton diapers should be washed in hot water but diaper covers or diapers with a waterproof cover may not be the best choice to be washed in very hot water as it could cause them to deteriorate.
Most manufacturers will recommend a cold cycle first when you start washing your little one’s dirty diapers, this will help to loosen up some of the stuff left behind on the diaper. Once the cycle is complete, add some baby skin safe detergent, and go through a regular wash cycle using hot water. Follow this cycle with a rinse.
When the rinse has finished, check the diapers and make sure that they have received a good rinsing. The water should be completely soap-free by the time your rinse cycle is done. If not, run a rinse cycle again until it is.
Now, when you take them out of the washer, they shouldn’t smell soiled, they should smell like they are fresh and clean, like good laundry does. If they smell, even the smallest bit like your child’s last deposit, rewash them. Even a faint odor can contain a lingering bit of bacteria, which can irritate your little one’s skin or cause diaper rash.
How to Dry
Depending on the type of cloth diaper that your little one wears, the way you would dry their diapers can be a bit different. For example, hybrid or pocket-style shells can dry quickly even if they are hung up inside to dry and can just as easily go into the dryer.
Before you out any cloth diapers into the dryer, make sure to close any of the velcro fasteners on the diapers first. This way you can avoid issues of them linking together or even damaging the diapers in the dryer.
If the weather is nice outside, cloth diapers will dry on the line extremely well and if it’s sunny out, the sun can actually help whiten cloth diapers while they dry. Now, hanging them in a strong sunlight might cause them to dry quickly and stiffen up a bit. This could be a problem if it is a windy day or you line dry the diapers in the early morning or late afternoon. If they do happen to get a bit stiff, you can toss them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up.
When you use a dryer to dry your babies’ diapers, it’s not recommended to use either fabric softener as they could cause build up on the diaper. Also, the specific brand you choose will likely have recommended washing instructions, so be sure to pay attention to the label so you can wash them correctly.
Before your child comes home, you may want to try and figure out a schedule regarding how often you’ll be washing their diapers. Many new parents settle on a schedule of every other day. This works because you won’t need to wash them daily, but still, wash them on a regular basis so you may not need an abundance of diapers.
This also helps keep any odors to a minimum. Dirty diapers can become especially stinky after a few days of sitting in a pail or bag. Now the number of loads that you may have to do will depend on how many diapers your little one goes through on a daily basis.
Your little one can go through a lot of diapers during the day, so having enough on hand at all times can keep you out of a smelly situation. Based on your washing machine being able to handle 24 diapers per load, here are some estimations on how many your little one may use depending on their age:
- Newborns – 12 to 18 diapers per day
- Babies from 6 to 18 months – 12 diapers per day
- Toddlers 18 months and up – nine diapers per day
- Toddlers who are potty training – three to six diapers per day
My Babies Planet Overview
While this is just an overview of how to wash your baby’s cloth diapers, the actual method you use and schedule you follow is up to you. Just be sure that before you wash their diapers for the first time, you check the manufacturer’s directions so that you wash them correctly and they last a lot longer.