I love cloth diapers. I know that’s a silly thing to love. Most people love wine and dessert and napping in a hammock. I love those things too – but there is something special about cloth diapers. I rank them right up there with coffee and breakfast food and my children. Y’all, not including my husband, those are my top favorite things.
Making the decision to use cloth diapers with our kids was an easy choice. Now that we’ve been using cloth diapers consistently for the last year and a half, I feel like I’ve been through enough trial and error and research to share my input on how to provide lasting care for cloth diapers. That word “lasting” is important. With the right care, cloth diapers can last you through a decade of child-rearing.
When you commit to cloth diapers, you are also committing to extra loads of laundry throughout the week. But if you’ve had any experience with little kids before, you know that kids are messy. And if you’re a parent, you know that all of the time spent in between feeding and playing with your littles is spent washing up after your dirty kids (diapers included).
And so, here we go …
Supplies- what do I need for cloth diapering?
Cloth diapers and inserts
Cloth wipes (squares of soft cotton fabric)
and a Wet Bag (a zippered laundry bag made out of PUL fabric – the same fabric the shell of a cloth diaper is made out of).
Y’all, that’s it.
My baby used a cloth diaper – now what?
If your baby is exclusively breastfed – no formula or solids – throw that messy diaper straight into your wet bag. Anything that comes out of a baby who is fed solely on mother’s milk is complete water soluble and doesn’t need any special prep prior to washing. If your baby is on formula or solids and has a messy diaper, dump any baby poo into the toilet and flush it away. Same procedure applies to your cloth wipes. Then, drop your dirty diaper into the wet bag.
Since we’re talking about baby poo, let’s just be real about it.
It stinks. so. bad.
But it stinks way less when you dump and flush it down the toilet – as opposed to baby poo that’s wrapped up in a disposable diaper that’s hanging out in your bathroom waste bin until trash day.
Also, when your baby is in that weird six month to a year phase and they are kind of eating real food but still getting the majority of their nutrients through breastmilk or formula, there are going to be some weird diapers. Just embrace it. Dump out as much of the weirdness as you can and give the diaper a quick swish in the toilet if needed. It’s gross. But you’re a parent. I’m sure your baby has gotten some sort of bodily fluid on you before. You’re tough and you can handle it.
Laundering Cloth Diapers
Yes. You wash cloth diapers in the washing machine. No. Your regular clothes don’t get stinky or covered in baby poo because you used the same washing machine. Deep breaths, people.
When your wet bag is full of dirty diapers – or you’re running low on clean ones – it’s time to wash. Dump all of your diapers, wipes, and the wet bag into the washing machine. Start with a cold water rinse cycle. Most washers have one. Mine takes about 13 minutes.
After the diapers have gone through a rinse cycle, add detergent to the machine and wash your diapers in warm water with an extra rinse cycle at the end.
When choosing a detergent, I have had the most luck with our homemade laundry soap. We used store bought detergents on our diapers for a while, but the store bought stuff doesn’t rinse out of the cloth inserts very well. So then, we were stuck with inserts that didn’t smell fresh and potentially having extra chemicals wrapped around our baby’s bum. Not cool.
If you aren’t interested in making your own laundry soap (even though it’s super easy and you should try it at least once), pick out a detergent that is free of dyes and fragrances. There are a handful of recommended detergents that those fancy cloth diaper retailers suggest, which I’m sure you could find with a quick google search. As a head’s up, they are going to be more expensive than your typical Tide, but they will do the trick to care for your diapers in a way that will increase how long they last.
If you wash your diapers in regular detergent and have found that either your diapers still smell after they’ve been washed, or aren’t as absorbent as they should be, you may need to do something the diapering world calls “stripping” your cloth diapers. Basically, you are attempting to strip away any built-up residue in the fabric. Throw your clean diapers and inserts into the washer and pre-rinse like normal. Then, pour 1-2 cups of white vinegar over the top and wash your diapers in hot water – no detergent. Most of the professionals say not to wash your diapers in hot water or strip your diapers frequently because it causes the diapers to wear out much faster. In the past year and a half, I have had to strip our diapers three, maybe four times. This was when we were using store bought detergent – before we made our homemade laundry soap for the first time. Since we’ve used the homemade laundry soap, I have not had to strip my diapers or wash them in hot water. Once every few months, I will top them off with a splash of white vinegar, but that’s more to give the detergent an extra kick (I do the same thing when washing our towels or bed sheets).
Once your diapers have finished washing, you have two options for drying. My favorite way to dry cloth diapers is to line dry them outside in the sun. We have a simple clothesline set up between our deck and one of the trees out back. I’ll clothespin the diapers, covers, wipes, everything out on the line and let the sun work its magic. An added bonus is that sunshine naturally bleaches out any left behind stains. Insert the hallelujah hands emoji.
If you can’t have a clothesline or it’s wintertime and the ground is covered in snow, you can opt to dry your diapers in your clothes dryer. Tumble dry on low heat, avoiding any kind of dryer sheet. Using a dryer sheet with the diapers will result in a light film left behind on the outside of the diaper inserts. This causes the diapers to be less absorbent and, again, you don’t want any extra residue or chemicals left behind.
Oh, and hopefully this goes without saying, but never, ever, ever, ever use bleach on cloth diapers. I’m pretty sure the entire universe will explode if you do. Do us all a favor and keep us alive. And keep your bleach away from your baby’s sweet bottom.
Those may seem like extensive directions, but really, that’s just because I’m long winded and want to give you all of the knowledge I have.
And both of my babies are napping at the same time right now, which means I can enjoy a third cup of iced coffee and take my time while writing today.
Rinse. Wash. Rinse. Dry.
You can do it. I have total faith in you. You keep a little human (or multiple humans) alive on a daily basis. You can handle a washing machine.
As always, may your heart be full.
Unofficial disclaimer: You do what is best for you, your baby, and your budget. If you want my input on what types/brands we use and like best, check out our “shop” page for recommendations, hit me up via email or the contact page of my blog.