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Caring For Cloth Diapers

If you've researched cloth diapers at all, you've probably run across dozens if not hundreds of suggested washing "routines."  Some are simple, and some are so complex it seems like you'll be spending an entire day washing!

In our house we have two adults, a 6 year old and an infant. On any given day there is plenty of laundry waiting it's turn to be done, and neither I nor my husband is inclined to adopt a complicated washing routine that requires multiple cycles.  We keep it simple, mostly because we are lazy.  Here are the bare minimum steps I'd recommend that have worked well for us.  We have a front loading HE machine. 

1.  Remove Solids-  Whether you choose to swish, shake, or spray, remove as much solid matter as possible and dispose of this in the toilet. 

2.  Cold Prewash-  Cold water will remove any remaining solid material without setting in stains. With my front loading HE machine, I find that I simply have to run a standard cold/cold wash, with an extra rinse. If your machine will let you program to do a cold soak, I suggest doing that.  

3.  Hot Wash-  Hot water is required to sterilize the diapers and remove germs.  We do a hot wash with a cold rinse.  I add detergent to the hot wash.

4.  Dry- Line drying will prolong the life of your cotton, hemp, or bamboo diapers.  We however dry everything in the dryer on high.  High heat is actually recommended for PUL fabric.  Should you choose to line dry, the sun is an excellent bleaching agent and should help remove any stains.

5.  Put Away- Or leave in a pile, in the laundry basket, or shove in a drawer.  Whatever "method" works best at your house. On a good day, I will line up my diapers by type in the diaper drawer, making sure to stuff the pockets ahead of time. That doesn't happen often :)

Now for a quick look at some of the info you may have read elsewhere.  I've broken it down into a Do's and Don'ts list for simplicity.


  • Cold prerinse
  • Use UNSCENTED liquid detergent
  • Hang in the sun to remove stains
  • Always include hot water and soap in your wash routine
  • Treat tough stains with lemon juice and set in the sun for a few hours.  Then wash before use!


  • Use any fabric softener
  • Use bleach of anything made with PUL fabric
  • Use Sportswash, Charlie's Soap or Bac-Out.  These products can cause allergic reactions when used improperly.
  • Iron you diapers (really, how much time do you have!?)
  • Overfill your washing machine.  Your diapers needs good water circulation to get clean.
  • Soak in a wet pail without a LOCKING lid (this is a drowning risk!)
  • Let your diapers sit unwashed for more than 3-4 days. 
  • Use scented detergents.  It may smell lovely coming out of the wash, but mountain breeze combined with urine is not pretty.

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