How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Wash Settings

There are so many different ways to wash your cloth diapers, it’s all about what works best for you. Here are some methods that I’ve tried throughout our cloth journey. We have a basic whirlpool washing machine and I have included an image above so you can see what our settings are. We have very soft water and keep our water heater set to 150 so I always wash on warm but you can sub hot if you set your water heater to 130 or below.

Method 1: Allen’s Naturally Powder

Method 2, Tide liquid, worked fine for about a year. Recently though, we started having stink in everything (especially microfiber) even after a thorough wash. It was recommended that I do a hot water strip and line 2 of the tide, which worked but I had to do an extra wash sometimes because it wasn’t enough detergent to get my diapers clean. I was sent a sample of Allen’s Naturally powder detergent in a diaper order I placed and decided to give it a try. I ran 6 hot water strips (the first 3 looked like I had dumped tons of tide in the wash- that was all trapped in the inserts!). After the first wash in Allen’s, I realized I had finally found a good wash solution.

Wash Method:

We used the same basic routine as we used for Tide but simply changed our detergent.

  • Wash One: No detergent. Normal wash, light soil, tap cold water, and 1 rinse.
  • Wash Two: 2 Teaspoons Allen’s Powder. Normal wash, heavy soil, warm water, and 2 rinses.

With this method, the diapers come out of the wash smelling like nothing at all. If they still have a stinky smell, you might need to adjust something (more soap, hot vs cold water).

Method 2: Plain Tide Original Liquid

After the newborn stage, I had to change our laundry routine. We were using homemade “detergent” and that just wasn’t cutting it; a lot of his inserts started to smell funky even when they were clean. It got so bad that I spent hours one day scouring the internet and trying everything I could to get rid of the smell. After nothing working, I realized it was probably time to switch washing methods and beat the stink for good. Introducing, plain tide.

Wash Method:

This is a good starting point for most laundry routines. You might have to tweak things a bit but this should be an ok basic routine.

  • Wash One: No detergent. Normal wash, light soil, tap cold water, and 1 rinse.
  • Wash Two: Line 3 tide liquid. Normal wash, heavy soil, warm water, and 2 rinses.

We’ve never had a problem with Tide not getting our diapers clean. They always smell fresh and clean right out of the wash and we don’t have to set our washer to such a heavy soil level, which saves energy. Note: now that Pumpkin is older I don’t remove the wet bag or diaper covers after the first wash, I want to make sure they are clean because his poops tend to stick to everything.

Method 3: Homemade Laundry Detergent

UPDATE: I’ve learned a lot since I started cloth diapering and no longer recommend this method. Homemade laundry detergent is just soap and not detergent and can cause tons of issues for your diapers, not to mention your washing machine. You also don’t want to add oils to something that needs to be absorbent… The washing method that I started with was using homemade laundry detergent. This worked great on Pumpkin’s newborn (exclusively breastfed) diapers and still works on his older (formula/solid) diapers although you will need more detergent to get the funk out.

The recipe we use for homemade laundry detergent is as follows:

  • 1/4 cup liquid Castille soap
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup super washing soda
  • 2-3 drops of essential oil of your choice

Pour everything into a 1-gallon jug (I use an old white vinegar container), fill to top with water, mix well. Add 1/3 cup to every load of laundry.

Wash Method:

The washing method we used for homemade laundry detergent involved two-three wash cycles and multiple rinses. It wasn’t a big deal when I was home with the baby all day but became a bit of a hassle when I went back to work. This amount of washing does leave your diapers sparkling clean.

  • Wash One: 1/3 cup detergent. Normal wash, medium soil, tap cold water, and 1 rinse.
  • Remove any wet bags or diaper covers (as long as they’re clean) and hang to dry.
  • Wash Two: 1/3 cup detergent. Normal wash, medium/heavy soil (depending on how many poopy diapers in that particular load), warm water, and 2 rinses.
  • Wash Three: If diapers still have a slight odor or don’t seem perfectly clean, repeat wash two. Note that diapers might have some staining that you can sun out or just ignore.

Homemade laundry detergent is probably the most labor-intensive way to wash your cloth diapers because along with doing laundry you have to make detergent. I preferred this method when Pumpkin was a newborn but it isn’t for everyone.