How to Care for your Cloth Diapers

Wondering how to care for your cloth? Start here!

These are the ideas I most commonly recommend. Of course the same thing doesn't always work for everyone, but I consider this a good starting point. Please feel free to ask questions!

Storing wet and soiled diapers:
Store your diapers in an open, dry pail. A cloth pail liner (made of PUL) stretched over a kitchen-style trash can is perfect! Avoid a lid of any kind, as the air circulation will actually *help* keep stinkies away. 

Wet bags are great for a day trip, or even an overnight at grandma's, but not recommended for routine dirty-diaper storage. There isn't enough air circulation, which will cause your diapers to "stew" a bit before you're able to wash them.

Additional Tips:
Shake solids into the toilet before storing soiled diapers.
If you're using a wet bag to store diapers at home, consider leaving the bag unzipped for better circulation.
Wash wet bags and pail liners with your diapers. No need to wash them separately. 

Washing your diapers:
This is, by far, my most effective wash routine. It is what I recommend to all cloth diapering families that I visit with and sell diapers to.

Top Loader:
Wash diapers in warm water with 1/2 sccop Country Save detergent.
Wash diapers again in hot water with 1/2 scoop Country Save detergent.
Wash diapers again in warm water without detergent.

Front Loader:
Wash diapers in warm water with 1/4 scoop Country Save detergent.
Wash diapers again in hot water with 1/4 scoop Country Save detergent.
Wash diapers again in warm water without detergent.

Additional Tips:
Wash every two days.
Aim for about 20 items in your washer. Too many, or too few, can result in poorly washed diapers. (A pocket diaper qualifies as two items. The pocket, and the insert. Feel free to splurge a bit where cloth wipes and fleece liners are concerned :))
Always select the highest water level possible.
If you have a front-loader, contact your manufacturer to learn which setting provides the most water.
Consider adding up to 1/2 Cup Calgon or White King water softener each time you add detergent.
Country Save, Tiny Bubbles and Bum Genius detergents may be used interchangeably. 
Refer to the following images if you're unsure of the detergent measurements or the size of your scoop.

Stripping your diapers:
Occasionally, you may find that your diapers need to be stripped. This could be due to detergent build-up, a yeast infection, forgotten diapers stashed into a wet bag... or a whole other slew of reasons! Whatever your reason, one of these methods should help reset your diapers to their original condition.

Hot Water Strip:
Wash your diapers repeatedly in hot water. This is the most basic form of stripping, and can actually be quite effective! Continue washing until you no longer see any sort of scum or bubbling in the water. This method works in both front and top-load machines.

Blue Dawn Strip:
To poo- and pee-free diapers, add 1 tsp. Original Blue Dawn dish soap. Wash the diapers on hot, and then continue rinsing until you no longer see any sort of scum or bubbling in the water. This method works in both front an top-load machines.

RLR Strip:
Soak your diapers in hot water and RLR Laundry Treatment overnight. If you have a top-load machine, you may choose to do this in your machine. If you have a front-load machine, soak in the bath tub or in a large basin of some sort. Once the diapers have soaked, repeatedly run warm-water wash cycles until you no longer see any sort of scum or bubbling in the water.

Additional Tips:
You may soak your diapers in Rockin' Green detergent by following the package directions.
If you simply wish to strip a couple of inserts, consider boiling them on the stove top. DO NOT boil PUL, snaps, elastic, or any other questionable material.
PUL (covers, pocket shells, etc.) should be left out of the stripping process most of the time. Inserts and other absorbent items are what likely need to be stripped.
Some manufacturers recommend the occasional use of bleach. Follow package/diaper label directions, and be sure to rinse well after using bleach with your diapers.

As always, please post your questions here and I'll do my best to answer them. I love to help trouble-shoot diaper laundry troubles.


  1. Thank you for all the great info! Perfect timing as we are about to start cloth diapering again. I need to beef up my cloth diaper stash. I used the BumGenius one-size with my last baby, but am thinking about using the Flips this time around, too. I need something that is very daddy-friendly... Any tips?

  2. Hooray for cloth, Timmian! Flip! diapers are a nice system, though not my personal favorite. Some swear by the awesome fit a Flip! cover provides, but I have found that I can get a better fit with some other varieties. As for a daddy-friendly system, you want simplicity. Aplix/Velcro tabs are simpler than snaps and give a more custom fit, and with proper care, can be just as long-lived as a snap diaper. While some daddies are perfectly happy to fold and Snappi a prefold, others are a bit more hisitant... so I try to look for things that don't require many steps.

    For a hybrid-type system, like Flip!, you might consider looking at GroVia shells and soakers. The soakers are made of organic cotton, and snap into the cover, making them pretty darned fool-proof. Shells can be re-used between changes when they're not soiled, much like a prefold and cover set-up. And, GroVia come in cute prints and pretty, vibrant solids too :)

  3. Christina, I nominated you for an award, here is my post if you'd like to accept!

  4. You have to wash them 3 times every couple days? Oh washer takes like an hour per load without the extra rinse. That may well be difficult to accomplish in the evenings while I'm working. Guess that just means daddy would have to get things started since he's home earlier than I am!
    Possible request for another follow-up type post for those of us mommies to be that aren't totally versed in what's available...what's available?? Your comment mentions all sorts of varieties, but I don't know/understand the difference between the different "systems".

  5. Tessa, thanks! I'll make a note to 'stop by' soon :)

    Shara, you betcha! It's on my to-do list.

  6. three washes seems excessive! I have been cloth diapering for eight years and the most I have done is a cold rinse/hot wash w/detergent and extra rinse. I line dry in the sun and my diapers are never stinky.

  7. You're right--it does seem excessive, doesn't it? I should add to my post here that we're working with VERY hard water in our area. It really slows down the effectiveness of detergent, etc.. and so some extra washing has become a necessity.

    I explained to Shara (a couple of comments up) recently that in her area, where the water is closer to a mid-point between hardness and softness, that she should alter this routine a bit by eliminating the third cycle, and simply selecting the 'extra rinse' option during her second wash.

    I've definitely found, however, that giving the diapers two runs through the machine with detergent is a GREAT way to keep them clean and stink-free.

    Might I ask what kind of diapers you're using, and what variety of detergent? Do you have hard, or soft water? :

  8. I have a top loader HE machine. What setting should I wash them? Can it be a short (35min) setting 3x's? or does it have to be "normal" setting 3x's?

    1. Hi Rachelle! Can you elaborate for me, please? I think you're asking about the "quick wash" type of option, vs. the standard cycle length? If so, I would perhaps consider doing a short/warm wash first, then a long/hot wash, then the final cycle could also be short. If you live in an area with extremely hard water, however, the longer cycles are better when coupled with Country Save and Calgon or White King water softener. That allows ample time for the detergent to break down and clean.


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