Cleaning Cloth Diapers

This post contains affiliate links.

If you’ve made it here, I would imagine that you’ve figured out that you might want to cloth diaper (especially after reading why we chose cloth diapers here) and have started to explore the different types of cloth diapers.  But this post is about the reason that most people have zero desire to cloth diaper. People don’t want to change a dirty diaper, much less save it for later and clean it. This was the single most stressful part of cloth diapering to learn about for me. There was a lot of information to absorb and I felt like it all came at me like a semi truck going full speed. I needed pictures, explanations and opinions to go along with these FACTS of cleaning cloth diapers. So—here’s what I can share with you…

But, before we go any further, I need to introduce you to Fluff Love University.  If you’ve got ANY questions about cleaning your diapers, this is where you need to go. Holy Smokes—They are incredible! They’ve got the science and collective experience about why things need to be a certain way. They’ll help you troubleshoot on the Facebook Group, they’ve got indexes to help you choose your detergent, how you need to use your specific washer, and lists of creams that are safe to use on a cloth diaper. If I have questions about cleaning cloth diapers, this is the first place I go!


Before you establish your wash routine


laundry supplies
The 3 things that we use when washing our diapers. I’ll explain the spoon below 🙂


There are 3 things that are important to know in order to establish a wash routine for your diapers, and there are indexes for each of them to answer specifics on your particular circumstance on the website. You’ll need to determine:

·         The type of washer you have— having a standard vs HE washer makes a difference in your wash routine. Also, figuring out what settings to use when washing your diapers will depend on your washer type/model.

·         The hardness of your water— unless your water is soft, you’re going to need to use a water softener. There’s minerals that can cause build up on your diapers in hard water, and making it softer helps keep that build up from happening! You’ll go get a water test strips in the pet care aisle at the store. It tests more than just water hardness, but this is how you’ll determine how hard your water is. Mine is hard so we use Calgon water softener in our wash routine.

·         The type of detergent you’re using— we use Tide Original. There’s an entire detergent index on Fluff Love to learn how much detergent you’ll need to use based off your chosen detergent.


Okay, but the poop…


large wetbag of dirty clothes
Our pail liner full of dirty diapers ready to go into the washing machine!


Right. I know, we’re all totally wigged out about cleaning poop. The most interesting thing that I learned about poop was that if your baby is Exclusively Breast Feed (EBF) their poop is water soluble. AKA treat those diapers like a disposable. My husband and I would unsnap the inserts from the shell when we changed a wet or dirty diaper and threw it straight into the wetbag/pail liner, which was eventually dumped straight into the washing machine. My first thoughts as a pre cloth diapering parent was that it sounded gross to do that, and that it wouldn’t work. But it does. It’s really pretty fascinating. So for the first 6 months while I exclusively breast fed, I really didn’t feel like I was doing that much extra work to cloth diaper vs having disposables.  However, once solids any of kind or formula is introduced to your baby’s diet, you will need to get the poop off before you put it in the washing machine. It is no longer water soluble at that point.


How do you get poop off of cloth diapers?


bathroom set up
This is our bathroom cleaning set up!


Just like there is a variety of cloth diaper types, there is also a few ways for you to get the poop off of the diapers. But no matter what way you get the poop off, it needs to be going into the toilet. You can plop it straight into the toilet or your can put the diaper down in the toilet water using a method they call “dunk and swish.” Basically, you’re scrubbing the diaper together in the water to get the poop off. You could fill up a bucket of water and do the same technique and then pour it into the toilet once you’ve cleaned it off. If I’m being 100 right now, none of those work for us because we’ve never had a “plopable” diaper yet, and I honestly don’t want to spend my time with a diaper making poo water that I’m sticking my hand in. So I’m going to share how you can get the poop off without so much ick and mess.  


Introducing the Sprayer and Shield

diaper sprayer

This my friends is a diaper sprayer. There are lots of different versions and comes with instructions for you to easily install on your toilet. It is a total life saver. I use the  spray pal and clip the diaper on and go to town spraying. I just spray and spray and spray. If the toilet bowl starts to fill up with water before I’m done spraying, then I just flush and let the tank fill back up and spray some more. When I’m done spraying the diaper, I take it to the wet bag with the rest of the dirty diapers until it’s time to wash them. I will usually keep a bottle of some sort of spray cleaner that I spritz onto the spray pal and then just spray it with water to rinse it off. Everyone has different strategies for how they spray and when they spray. Unless she has a dirty diaper while we’re away from the house, I like to spray immediately to avoid having to smell it. Once we’re home, I will spray her dirty diaper from while we were out at the next diaper change. We registered for both the sprayer and spray pal, and it’s made things so much cleaner and simpler for us and didn’t even cost us a penny! I recommend adding these to your registry if you’ve decided to cloth diaper before your baby is born. *And if not, that’s okay! These are sold used all the time still in excellent condition!!!

In my post about the different diaper types I said that I didn’t like AiO diapers because of when it came time to spray them. I am fully accepting and owning the fact that I am trying to avoid touching poop. I’ll do it when I need to or have to, but I don’t want to. I want this process to avoid poop touching as much as humanly possible. Hence, another reason I love Lil Helper diapers.


lil helper sprayer
Lil Helper inserts in Spray Pal


This is the Lil Helper diaper in a spray pal. One great thing is that the inserts can be snapped out and sprayed separate from the cover. If your baby didn’t get any poop on the cover of the diaper, you don’t even have to spray it. But I love that I can put the diaper (cover or just inserts) in the spray pal and it doesn’t touch the water.


all in one spray
AiO diaper in Spray Pal, with the flap falling in the water.. 🙁


With the AiO diaper, those flaps are so stinkin’ long! As soon as you start trying to spray, those flaps are falling into the water and making a huge dirty water mess! Some people may be super awesome AiO diaper sprayers, but I am not. Adalind also manages to get poop on every surface on the diaper, so it’s really just not a fun experience for us when we have to spray an AiO poopy diaper.


Brief Intro to Washing Cloth Diapers

I know I sound like a broken record this post bouncing between Lil Helper and Fluff Love, but seriously… they’re going to have way more specific information for you when you’re ready to start cleaning your diapers. I just wanted to give you an idea of what cleaning cloth diapers looked like. THE HARDEST PART OF CLEANING THE DIAPERS IS OVER, after you spray! WOOOOO! Now it’s time to put your diapers in the washing machine. Remember when I talked about only adding 2 extra loads of laundry a week and having to wash twice a week? Here is why it’s only 2 extra loads….

You have to wash your cloth diapers twice.

The first time is called the pre wash. It’s where all the funk on the diapers gets washed off. It’s a shorter wash, but not a short wash if that makes sense. You want the diapers to be in the long enough to get everything off. Even if you have a “pre wash” option on your machine, double check the index to be sure that it does enough to be considered enough of a wash to qualify. You will put detergent in this load. This is the extra wash that I do 2 times a week, hence my two extra loads.


laundry basket
Adalind’s laundry basket, does it look familiar? It should! It’s the blue version of the tub from Baby Bath Time Essentials (Newborn to 1 Year)


The second time is called the main wash. You’re really going to be cleaning your diapers thoroughly in this wash. You can bulk your load up with more things in this wash. We wash all of her clothes, our hand towels, wash cloths and receiving blankets in with this load. I don’t consider this to be anything extra, because we would already be washing those things anyways. We’re just throwing diapers into the mix! I keep a spoon next to the washer to help push the load down and check to see if I have a good ratio of items to water. They call this “stew.” Fluff love has great videos explaining this! This is the load that I add water softener in addition to detergent.


Drying your Diapers

Once your diapers are cleaned in the washing machine, you could throw them straight into the dryer. But it could potentially cause wear and tear to your diapers, however the bigger reasons that I don’t put them in the dryer go back to saving money and being environmentally friendly which were two reasons that I chose to cloth diaper in the first place. We air dry all of our diapers. I’m going to show you two strategies for drying diapers, that aren’t hanging your diapers on a line outside with clothespins. (This makes for really cute pictures and we will likely hang them out to dry once the weather gets nicer!)


drying rack
We have a fan going in our bedroom all the time, but it can also be used to point at your diapers for a faster drying time.


You can purchase a drying rack like this and put all of your diapers to dry on it. This is the way that we do it. We can hang our wet bags, diapers, and inserts on there all at the same time. Usually we have half of our stash on the drying rack while we dirty up the other half. Once our wetbag is full, we start our wash routine and then organize the diapers onto our changing table area. I know that not everyone has the space to keep a drying rack, but we keep it in our bedroom opposite the changing table.

hanger hanging dry

Another option is to hang your diapers above the washer and dryer or on another rod in your house, ex shower curtain rod! You can put the diaper on hangers like in the picture or they even sell hanging drying racks that you could use. There are lots of possibilities based on what your house is like!


I hope that this has been an opportunity for you to get a peak into what cleaning cloth diapers entails. It’s not bad, and trust me, I really thought it would be. I hope that by sharing what our routine looks like and how we clean our diapers, it gives you the confidence that you need to take that step towards cloth diapers.

Share in the comments anything that you do different or that you tried from this post! I’d love to hear about it!


Check out the next post in the series here to learn about the language/lingo that comes with cloth diapering and a few different “accessories you’ll need!


6 thoughts on “Cleaning Cloth Diapers”

  1. I am on cloth diapered baby #2. Once you get the hang of it, you realize how easy it is and that in a pinch even your kitchen towel can become a cloth diaper. I am a big fan of the old school flats versus the AIO. There is something about the process of cloth diapering that I find very ‘zen’.

    1. I do love that you have so many options in the event you’ve run out of your “regular” stash!!

Leave a Reply