On Cloth Diapering: The Laundry

I think laundry is usually at the top of the list of reasons to quit [or not try] cloth diapers. Maybe it’s too much to do the extra loads each week. Maybe they didn’t really factor in the waste disposal part [ever heard of the toilet swirl method?]. Or maybe they don’t even realize it’s a laundry problem and they just think they have a leaking problem. Whatever the issue, laundry is pretty critical to the process and a successful laundry experience is likely to lead to a successful cloth diapering experience.

cloth diaper laundry | hey, beth baker!

My laundry process hasn’t actually changed too much in the past three years. In fact, the times when I have changed it have been the times that I had issues. In my early cloth research, I heard a lot of people touting the importance of using a good cloth diaper safe detergent [one without any optical brighteners, additives, etc.]. My first experience was with Nellie’s detergent which worked “fine” but didn’t leave those diapers smelling super fresh. I searched around and tried a few more readily available detergents [like all free & clear] until I finally landed on Rockin’ Green. Woah. This is now the detergent I recommend to everyone I know who’s trying cloth. Not only does it get the diapers clean [priority numero uno] but they smell fresh and there’s no feeling of a residue left on them. Also [and okay really this is top priority], the kids do not have any skin reactions to it. It sort of looks pricey when you set out to buy it [~$15 a bag] but a bag lasts me 9 months so I don’t mind. Last time I needed some I bought a 2-pack through soap.com and they gave me free shipping and 15% off for being a new customer.

cloth diaper laundry 101 | hey, beth baker!

My other two laundry power players are bleach and plain blue Dawn. Bleach is probably pretty self explanatory. I add a splash in a couple times a month: nothing too crazy. The Dawn, however, usually gets a quizzical look or eyebrow raise thrown my way. But it makes sense, I swear, so stay with me.

cloth diaper laundry 101 | hey, beth baker!

Have you ever seen that commercial where there’s some kind of oil spill and all these cute little duckings are being cleaned with Dawn?

I mean it makes sense, dish soaps are formulated to cut through grease. And it’s safe for your diapers. It’s even recommended on the bumGenius help page [which brings up a good point: you’ll want to check with your diaper’s manufacturer to see what they recommend. I think there’s even a bumGenius hotline to solve your diaper woes]. So anyway. I usually add 1/2 a teaspoon every other wash in my washer’s “softener” tray.

Speaking of softener, cloth diapers hate it. After we started cd’ing we switched from using conventional softener to using distilled vinegar. I mean first because have I mentioned my kids have sensitive skin… But second have you checked out the ingredient list on those things? Not so natural. And no. None of our clothes smell like vinegar when they come out of the wash.

So there’s the all-star line-up for what to clean with. Here’s the how:


We keep a Planet Wise wet bag in a simplehuman trash can in Landon’s room and that’s our diaper pail. The way they fit together = M.F.E.O. I love this set up because his room doesn’t smell like diapers. Solids are emptied into the toilet and the diaper is given a spray from one of these. [If baby’s on a mama milk diet you can skip the rinse step altogether!] Then, if it’s a pocket diaper I shake the inserts into the pail, followed by the cover. When the hamper is full I take the wet bag out and head to the washer. I shake the contents of the wet bag into the washer drum and do a cold rinse. After the rinse is done I do a regular wash with hot water, an extra rinse, and the “more soiled” option that my washer offers [We have a 13-year-old HE front loader… still going (knocks on lots of wood). Well, sometimes it eats clothes but we don’t need to talk about that.]. So that puts me at 1:06 time wise for the second wash. I tried once to use the “whitest whites” setting on my washer and the diapers did not approve and started leaking. There’s no detergent for the first rinse but when I start the actual wash cycle I use 1/2 tablespoon of Rockin’ Green and if needed the 1/2 teaspoon of Dawn and 1/4 cup of bleach. So maybe this seems a little complicated but don’t let your husband use that as an excuse to get out of diaper laundry! Guilt them into it but showing them this cute little reminder sheet my hubs made and stuck by the washer [I’m kidding. I don’t condone the guilting of husbands. I do however love a helping hand and some good old-fashioned ‘I want to do it right’ initiative. High five husband, up high.]

cloth diaper laundry 101 | hey, beth baker!

So when my diapers are done, everything except the covers goes for a spin in the dryer. I’ve tried a few different methods for this. At first I wasn’t drying anything but it was taking two days for my Flip inserts to dry [two days!] and when they were finally dry they were also stinky because, you know, they’d been chilling out at varying degrees of wet for two days. If it’s a sunny summer day I’m way more likely to stick them outside though. They smell great after and the sun is the best stain remover I’ve ever met. When I evolved past not drying anything I would pick and choose what I put in there [i.e. drying the Flip inserts but not the bumGenius inserts] but then it occured to me that the dryer would probably dry faster if it had more in there to bang around and fluff things up [I won’t nerd out and tell you about my time trials]. For my dryer, it shaves off 4-6 minutes to do everything together. So that’s a win. And it softens everything up more than the drying rack. That’s a double win. I don’t, however, throw any of my covers in the dryer. I’m hoping they’ll stick around for a couple more future Baker babes [not that there are any in the works right now, don’t get too excited Mimi].

cloth diaper laundry 101 | hey, beth baker!

So that’s a rather detailed and explicit summary of how we do our cloth diaper laundry. Wake up, class. Kidding. I don’t know if you can tell, but I love doing laundry [weird]. And I love folding it [weirder]. I don’t even totally hate putting it away [weirdest of the weirds].

One of my friends asked ‘What do you do when that precious baby’s bum gets a rash?’ and this is totally the place to answer it. Honestly, we don’t get very many rashes since we switched to cloth. The only time I’ve ever heard a cloth mama complain about rashes was after a detergent switch. In fact, I’ve been using the same tube of Butt Paste since Lucy was a babe [I hope those don’t expire…]. If we do get a rash we can often stay in our cloth and use cornstarch to clear it up. If that doesn’t work I made some reusable liners out of a fleece pullover and I use those as a shield between the butt paste and the diaper [you really don’t want to get diaper cream on your cloth diapers]. If I’m not up for the liner adventure we stick him in a disposable and goo him up.

We also use disposables as our nighttime diaper now but we didn’t have to make that switch until Landon was about a year old. He was waking up from a wet diaper around 5 a.m. and mama needed a break. So we usually go through a box of diapers every couple months. Sometimes longer.

Any cloth mamas got any advice to add or cloth newbies some advice to seek?

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6 thoughts on “On Cloth Diapering: The Laundry

  1. Ruthann Scarborough says:

    You make me want to wash diapers. I”m sure my Granddaughters would love for me to take on that responsibility for my Greatgrands! I’m a long time Baker family friend, and yes, I identified that darling baby boy picture immediately. I’m sure I saw him a decade ago!

  2. Husband’s endorsement: “It really isn’t as bad as you expect. And who doesn’t like savin’ money? (Especially when you make your own inserts like B detailed a couple posts ago.)”

  3. cpersimmon says:

    So true about that detergent lasting forever! I’m still on my first bag! (Over a year!) we don’t cloth diaper full time, but probably do a load once a week or so! I’m still confused on how to make more time for more laundry. :(

    • heybethbaker says:

      Oh, I’m with you! I only do two loads a week (because I’ve built up my diaper stash a bit) and that keeps Landon in cloth full-time. If I could only get him to stop being such a messy eater and requiring two outfits a day…

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