A Cloth Diaper Washing Routine

A good cloth diaper washing routine can be elusive. Just how do you get the laundry done – and smelling fresh? What do you add? What do you avoid? I’ve been experimenting with our diapers and have settled on a great system – here’s a full outline!

a picture of a cloth diaper in a washing machine


I’m all for simplicity. I have a lot to get done, and so do you! I’ll be honest, at this point I still enjoy washing diapers (mostly because I like seeing them all neatly prepared after the laundry is done!). But I know the day is coming when diapers are just another chore on the list and I’ll have my hands full with other things. Diaper laundry needs to be streamlined!

The system I’ve arrived at is a little more than just “set it and forget it,” but it’s not complicated and it’s easy to keep up with.

The Pail

Here’s an overview of my pail system, first:

  • I have a hanging wet bag for covers and pockets
  • Wool covers just hang if soiled (they’re washed seperately from everything else)
  • I have a locking pail for prefolds, pocket inserts, doublers, etc.
  • I use a dry pail unless we have a poopy diaper or a really soaked overnight diaper
  • I rinse poopy/overnight diapers
  • Then I fill the pail and add a couple of squirts of Bac-Out overnight before wash day
  • Most of our pails are dry pails because of elimination communication 🙂
  • We do have a diaper sprayer (thank you Scott!!)

basket of clean cloth diapersI sprinkle a little Rockin Green pail freshener into my pail and my wet bag (and travel wet bags) because I like the way it smells 🙂

While I do laundry I set my pail outside to air out in the sun. I wash my hanging wet bag and any travel wet bags with the diapers.

The Routine

Here’s our wash routine:

  • Fold over tabs on Velcro/Aplix diapers and covers
  • Put diapers, covers, and wet bags into washer.
  • Set diaper pail out in the sun to air.
  • Run diapers through one COLD rinse
  • When finished, add 3 Tablespoons of Rockin Green Hard Rock detergent
  • Run the diapers through one Hot cycle with extra rinse turned on
  • Add Ecover (a cloth diaper safe fabric softener) when extra rinse begins
  • Transfer diapers to dryer
  • When dryer is done, check to see if they need another round (small loads sometimes need two cycles for me)
  • Fold/Stack/Stuff pretty diapers!

We are using Rockin’ Green Hard Rock because our well water rated as hard with testing. I’m using 3 tablespoons right now, but may experiment with smaller amounts. I use Rockin Green because it’s a good cloth diaper detergent and I don’t want to use our regular detergent on diapers.

I’m using the Ecover because I like our diaper soft! 1/2 capful is enough if I’m doing a small load, but a full capful is needed for a normal-sized load (2-3 days of diapers). I do not like the scent of my Ecover (pink cap). I’m going to try the yellow cap scent to see if that’s better — but I’ll keep using it regardless because the softness is more important than being annoyed by a light scent! I love the bamboo fabric we’re using in our diapers, but do not like the way it gets stiff, or “crunchy” without fabric softener.

Right now I dry in the dryer, but when Scott gets our clothes line up I may see how long it takes our diapers to line dry. I like the idea of the sun’s bleaching power, too 🙂 I know many mamas use a drying rack successfully, so I might try ours with at least our covers/pockets soon 😀

This routine takes me a minimal amount of time. The only time-crucial part of it is adding the Ecover. My washer buzzes me when the extra rinse starts, so I usually get this. But if I miss, that’s okay — the diapers can without for a cycle. Otherwise it’s okay for diapers to sit for a minute between steps, and going from one step to the next takes only seconds, or a couple of minutes at most. Then I get to fold cute diapers, something I currently enjoy 😀

I created a pictorial instruction guide on washing cloth diapers – this is in case I need my older kids to wash diapers for me for some reason. It’s customized to our washer and dryer, but it may be helpful to you as you plan your own routine!

Cloth Diaper Washing Instruction Chart

Update Late 2013: We’re now line drying the diapers year-round; on the line outside in the summer and on a portable clothesline in the winter.  I like how much money this saves, but the diapers don’t get quite as soft and fluffy.  I’ve also switched to doing all cycles on cold and the diapers are nice and clean.  If we have a sickness in the family I still wash diapers on hot but otherwise cold works well and saves money 🙂

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