Cloth Diapers: My Washing Routine in 7 Steps
Are you thinking about starting your cloth diapering journey, but not sure if the washing process will be worth it in the end? Wondering how much time of your day will be spent having to do this? How gross is it to wash pooped diapers!? Well, I asked myself all those question over and over again before making the decision.
Cloth diapers are modern. They’re not the large piece of cloth, (or flat) that had to be wrapped around your baby’s legs and waist, and then secured with sharp safety pins. That was decades ago.
Today’s cloth diapers are a water proof layer (or cover/shell) on the outside, designed with a pocket inside to be lined with one (or two) very absorbent insert(s).
The pocket cover comes with snaps,that make them much easier to put on and off. All these without the skin pinching inconvenience from “safety” pins.
Here are some examples of the ones that I use. Click Here
Cloth diapers are environmentally friendlier than disposables. They also don’t have all the chemicals that come with disposable diapers, which are often blamed for rashes or allergies on babies.
Important: Let’s not forget also that cloth diapers are a long term investment (not as cheap in the beginning, but they are for sure in the long run). Here are some examples and links to prices so that you get an idea.
Now, as good as cloth diapers are, I must confess that I always have disposable backups. It just makes life easier and I use them only if I miscalculate the amount of clean cloth diapers I still have available, or for out of town traveling. So really I don’t use that many.
Here are my real pros and cons of utilizing cloth diapers after over a year of utilizing them.
I think that using cloth diapers most of the time for my baby contributes positively to the environment, her healthy skin, and my savings account.
However, cloth diapers are not for everyone. They might require all, or some of the processes that I will detail below. I hope you find this helpful to start your journey, or make a decision on starting it.
Step 1 – Spray it (for soiled diapers only)
There are so many tools out there to make your life easier! One of them is a sprayer, believe me when I say: it will be your best friend! When my baby poops, first thing I do after I change her is get the poop off the diaper. To do this, I take the diaper to the toilet, unload it, (flush), take the insert out, and then clip the cover and insert separately in the SprayMate, where I rinse off the spots left on them. You could let them dry there for a few hours, or if possible, hang them outside under the sun for the same amount of time. This helps to kill bacteria and get rid of stains mainly. It also (uselessly) dries them (they’re going to be washed anyway)
Step 2 – Remove Inserts
So at this point, pooped diapers were already taken apart (inserts and pockets) and rinsed. Yei! (clap clap). However, most are only peed, and have to be taken apart. Immediately after I change my baby, her diapers with pee go into a bin, lined with a washable, cloth/polyester bag especially designed for that purpose called wet bags. Find the one I use here. I take that bin to the laundry room, I put on gloves and start pulling the inserts out of the covers.
At this point, you have some choices to make:
- If your baby is 10 months or younger, skip to step #5 – Wash. Baby’s pee at this age is very light, so most washing machines should be capable of handling it.
- If your baby is between 10 and 12 months or older, (and most likely peeing more), continue to step #3 Soak, or:
- If you believe you have a washing machine capable of handling heavily pee loaded diapers, skip to Wash.
NOTE: If you don’t think your washing machine can do the job on one cycle, you can always do two or three wash cycles with the hottest possible water. Always check (smell) after every wash until you believe they’re clean. If you decide to do multiple cycles, know that this will take more time and energy consumption, but you’ll skip some of the hardest work from steps 3 and 4.
It may also shorten the life of the diapers, so I recommend washing the pocket covers just once separately, then the inserts as many cycles as needed. Covers seem to be more fragile because of the snaps and material.
Step 3 – Soak
If you choose to do this step, it has to be because your washing machine just can’t do the job, or you don’t want to wait for it doing all the needed cycles.
- I plug the laundry sink’s drain, open both, hot and cold water, then I start loading it with the peed inserts. As I go, I throw the covers (pockets) into a five gallon bucket I keep by the sink. If you don’t have a sink, you can very well use a clean bucket. 🙂
- I let the water fill up to a point that totally covers all the inserts. I squeeze and swish them around inside the water with my gloved hands, (you could use a broom like stick of some sort if preferred) your choice!
- After doing this for a minute or so, unplug the drain and let the water go. Yes, the water will turn yellow. Yes, the aroma isn’t nice. And yes, it shows the importance of a capable washing machine, and/or of soaking and rinsing before the “wash” step.
Meantime, the covers in the bucket are obviously also peed, but they aren’t as absorbent, so I consider it optional to soak them before they are washed.
If you decide to soak the covers, I would do it separately from the inserts, or soak the inserts a second time, and put the covers in then.
The idea is to use the least amount of water and energy from your washing machine utilizing this process.
Step 4 – Rinse & Drain
If you’d rather do a third soak for the inserts (and/or covers), you could skip the rinse. If not, here is what follows. After the last soak, I release the sink’s plug, let all the dirty water go, and one by one, I rinse through running water each of the inserts, and if also soaked, the pocket covers. If I choose not to soak the covers, I take their bucket and empty it in the washing machine at this point. As I rinse, I immediately also squeeze each insert, and throw them into the bucket next to the sink (where the covers were).When done, I take the bucket and empty it in the washing machine. You could choose not to squeeze them, but they drip a lot, and when you throw them into the bucket, they usually make a mess on your floor. My personal choice is to squeeze them and avoid a big mess.
Step 5 – Wash
I’ll start this step by saying that if I didn’t have a washing machine, I would most likely just use disposable diapers only. But, I do, so here I am lol. I mainly use an environmentally friendly detergent such as the Costco brand Kirkland and it has worked very well. It’s also very gentle on the cloth diapers’ materials. If you skipped to this step because your baby is about 10 months or younger, just do a hot water or sanitize wash cycle in your washing machine and continue to dry step. Usually their pee is lighter and if they are breast feeding, what they poop is just organic matter. If you skipped to this step because you believe your washing machine is capable of washing heavily pee-loaded diapers, you could just throw the covers and inserts all in it, including the sprayed/pooped ones, and start a sanitize cycle, to which you should also add a pre-wash at the beginning, and an extra rinse+spin at the end if available. BTW – I also throw in the wet bag lining the cloth diaper bin. TIP: Check (or rather “smell check”) if washer machine does the job. If so, continue to dry.If not, give them another short wash cycle, smell check again, and if satisfied with the results, continue to dry.
Step 6 – Dry
Yes, you could use your dryer, however, it might potentially shorten the useful life of both, covers and inserts.If the savings part of using cloth diapers is important to you, consider going the old fashion way. Pocket covers dry much quicker than inserts, so as I take them out of the washing machine, I hang them on the retractable hanger inside my laundry room. It’s pretty efficient. It fits 40 covers without a problem. Here’s is how it looks like, and you can also check it out by clicking here. Since inserts take longer to dry, I take those outside and hang them on my extendable rack, and under the sun. I’ll tell you, summer in Vegas is way more efficient than the dryer lol. Sustainable and cheaper! Occasionally, if I must use the dryer because of rain or other weather phenomena, I only do the inserts. Shells still go on my indoor retractable laundry hanger.
Step 7 – Clean Diaper stuffing and storage
Once diapers are dry, I get myself some home made iced Kombucha, turn on my TV. I sit on my living room couch, organize pocket covers and inserts into piles on my living room table, and start stuffing covers with inserts.
I fold the front side edges inward, then fold that front part inward towards the back of the diaper. Then, fold the side front edges with the snaps on it inward and over the back part that I’d previously folded in. This way it semi wraps it. Once folded, they all go either in my mobile cart (which I used to use more when my baby was younger as I needed a more mobile option). Now I place them into this rectangle shaped cloth baskets I keep under the diaper changing station. Well, this is it! Cloth diapers are now ready for action once again. Though it sounds like a lot of work, it also saves money, takes care of your baby’s skin, and goes along with a sense of fulfillment about doing the right thing for the environment. Your baby will also benefit from this hard work by enjoying a cleaner planet while growing older. Ultimately, we do it all for our little ones.