Cloth Diaper Care
One of the biggest complaints or sources of anxiety for new parents -- especially those who choose to use cloth -- is how to properly care for their diapers. Most are pleasantly surprised to find out washing diapers is as easy as doing the rest of your household laundry!
Having used cloth for three years, and having multiple children in cloth diapers, I've used the following steps with success:
Change - Store - Rinse - Wash - Dry
Changing a cloth diaper is nearly as easy as changing a disposable diaper.
First, either un-Velcro or unsnap the diaper - don't forget to fasten Velcro fasteners to the inner laundry tabs immediately - then separate the diaper and drop into your pail.
- If using an all-in-one or fitted diaper, just throw it into the pail.
- If using a prefold, throw the prefold diaper into the pail. Check to see if there's any poop or pee leaked onto the cover or leg binding; if there is, it goes into the pail, too. If the cover is still clean, lay it aside to dry out and be ready for the next diaper change.
- If using a pocket diaper, pull the inserts from the pocket and drop all the pieces into your pail. Separating the pieces now instead of on laundry day saves some of the ick factor and makes cleanup easier.
These steps all assume you're dealing with a wet diaper. If you're dealing with a diaper containing solids, it's a good idea to 'plop' or scrape that into the toilet first. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, that means their poop is completely water-soluble and doesn't need any rinsing at all! Hallelujah!
Modern cloth diapers do not require soaking or swishing in the toilet. In fact, most major cloth diaper brands strongly advise against soaking your diapers because it breaks down the fabrics faster.
Storage is easy and can include either a pail or open container of some sort, or a zippered or drawstring wetbag.
An open pail will let air circulate around your diapers and cut down on smells. A hanging closed wetbag keeps little hands and pets away and can contain smells. If you're out and about, a travel-sized wetbag is a wonderful tool to have.
Rinse - Wash - Dry
It's recommended by many cloth diaper manufacturers that you wash your diapers every other day. This, of course, depends on how many diapers you have available, how many children you have in diapers, the size of your washer, and other factors. For instance, if you have a baby and a toddler both in diapers, you may find washing daily works out better for you.
On laundry day, empty your pail or wetbag into the washer and run a cold or warm rinse with no detergent. The purpose of this step is to rinse away any pee and solid residue so you're not washing your diapers in dirty water.
Run a hot wash with detergent and a double rinse.
There are several detergents out there formulated just for cloth diapers. Be sure to read the package label and understand how much detergent you'll need per load. Don't be surprised if it's only a tablespoon or two!
All components of modern cloth diapers are dryer safe. You can prolong the life of your waterproof covers and pockets by hanging them to dry. I dry diapers on medium heat with at least four wool dryer balls. The addition of dryer balls lets me only run a single dryer cycle and virtually eliminates static electricity. If you choose not to use dryer balls, you may find a second dry cycle is necessary. Never, never use fabric softener or dryer sheets on diapers!
© Sweet Violets Diapers / Andrea Zippay
A printable reference on caring for cloth diapers
A list of detergents - what to look for and what to avoid