Washing Cloth Diapers :: What It Really Looks Like (hint: it’s easy!)

So, perhaps you’re new to cloth diapering or even just starting to consider it, or perhaps you’ve been using cloth for years but want some new ideas for your washing routine. Either way, washing isn’t what it used to be – it’s fast, it’s easy, and in most situations you never even have to touch the dirties. (Unlike the grandmother in our picture, who undoubtedly spent hours with her hands in the wash bin to get her diapers clean and white…)

There are just three steps to getting clean, ready-to-use diapers:

First, get yourself a big pail with a lid – you don’t need any specially-designed “diaper pail,” just anything with a lid will do. In many of the New & Green mamas’ homes, all you’ll find is a standard garbage bin with handles that flip up to keep the lid in place. You see, nothing special. Inside that pail, place a waterproof pail liner – this is what makes the process especially easy. Now your diaper pail is set up and waiting.

The second step is the diaper change itself. If there’s only pee on a diaper, there’s no need to do anything special – just toss that diaper in your pail. If there are any solids, simply knock them off into the toilet and then toss the soiled diaper into the pail.  Note:  Poop from a breastmilk fed baby is not considered “solids” and does not need any special treatment. Just throw it in the pail with the peed on diapers!

After two or three days, it’s laundry day!

Take the liner with all the dirty diapers in it to the washing machine. Dump everything into the machine, followed by the bag, then do a rinse on cold, a wash on hot (with detergent), then toss everything in the dryer or hang them up to dry – and you’re done! There need not be anything more to a regular washing routine than that. And you didn’t have to touch the dirty diapers since the time they were taken off the bum of your wee one!

Beyond routine, the only other considerations when it comes to diaper laundry are detergents and the added cost on your utility bill due to the increased energy usage.

Regarding detergents, there are a few detergents recommended by diaper manufacturers, which you can read more about on our “Diaper Care” page. And while there are a few no-no’s when it comes to which detergents to use, don’t let the decision stress you out. You won’t ruin your diapers by using the “wrong” detergent – the worst that can happen is that residue from some detergents will stay behind on your diapers and cause them to leak. In that case, throw some vinegar in a Downy ball, add it to your next few loads to strip off the residue (the diapers won’t smell like vinegar – we promise), then switch detergents and your diapers should be good as new.

As for the added energy costs, we find that the average for Vancouver and the Lower Mainland is an additional $15 on your utility bill each month if you use both the washer and the dryer for each load, assuming you wash every two days. If you don’t use the dryer, the you’ll drop your cost per month closer to $5-6.

Do you have a routine that works for you?

6 thoughts on “Washing Cloth Diapers :: What It Really Looks Like (hint: it’s easy!)

  1. thea

    You mean I have been doing a final rinse for 18 months an don’t need to? You just saved me a step!

    I just have to add that washing your own diapers is super easy and so much more convenient then running out to the store when you are out of disposable diapers.

    And if you would prefer to do laundry less often, just buy more cloth diapers.

    happy washing!

    1. Karen

      Hi Thea,

      1 rinse versus 2 is always a subjective approach. You need to look at the efficacy of your washer and the sensitivity of your baby’s skin. But if you can get away with one rinse, go for it!


  2. Michelle

    I love my cloth diapers and have to agree that it is easier to do a load of laundry then run out to the store to buy disposables.

    I would like to add that I have the poop sprayer and feel it is a necessity with older babies / toddlers…I don’t know what I would do without mine.

    1. Karen

      Have you tried large bio-soft liners? They really stay put for older babies and make poop management easy.
      Let me know if you haven’t and we’ll mail you some to try.


  3. Kerith

    $30 a month?!!? Wow, our hydro bill isn’t even $30 in total and we have an old clunky washer. We do line dry part-time but that still seems extremely high.

    1. Karen

      Hi Kerith – thanks for pointing this out. This was a typo. We found that on average washer + detergent + dryer was just under $15 per month and if you took the dryer out of the equation you could get down to $5-6 per month for washing your diapers at home.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *