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How to Sanitize Cloth Diapers in the Wash

December 20, 2023

Cloth diapers are exactly what they sound like – they’re diapers made from cloth material. Generally speaking, they are two “parts”: an outer shell and a removable insert that you place inside.

Depending on the type, you will either have to wash the whole thing or just the insert when it gets dirty.

Benefits of Using Cloth Diapers

how to wash cloth diapersThe notion of using cloth diapers might seem repelling at first, but it does come with several benefits.

1. They Are Much Cheaper

Disposable diapers are not cheap; you’re looking at spending at least $2000 before your child is potty trained.

Cloth diapers, on the other hand, will only set you back a few hundred dollars. There will be a large investment upfront since you have to get all of them at once, but in the long run, it’ll save you money.

2. They’re Better For the Environment

Cloth diapering is much better for the environment. Compared to disposable diapers, which quickly end up in the trash, they can be used over and over again; you just have to wash them with a bit of detergent.

Yes, it requires power and energy but at the end of the day, your environmental footprint will still be less significant.

3. They Don’t Contain Chemicals

Most disposable diapers contain chemicals. For example, many are bleached with Dioxin – a substance that’s been shown to cause birth defects and nerve damage in animal studies.

Not only that but they often contain sodium polyacrylate, a chemical that increases the material’s absorbency, meaning that your baby will be able to go for longer periods without needing a diaper change.

There are downfalls, though. For one thing, it’s been linked to asthma, allergic reactions, as well as toxic shock syndrome.

disposable diapers vs cloth diapers

4. They Come in Various Colors and Designs

Cloth diapers are cute in that they come in various colors, patterns, and designs. On top of that, you can also choose between different materials.

Washing Your Cloth Diaper Properly

There are several ways to clean cloth diapers, some of which are more convenient than others. Here’s what you need to know.

Machine Washing Dirty Cloth Diapers

Step 1: Prepping Cloth Diapers For Washing

The first thing that you want to do after removing the cloth diaper is to get rid of the solid waste. The easiest way to do this is to dump it into the toilet. You can also invest in a diaper sprayer for your toilet.

Once you’ve done that, put the diaper into the washing machine with the rest of your dirty diapers. Similar to clothes, you want to wash a load of them at a time to save water and energy.

Having said that, you don’t want to overstuff your washer.

Step 2: Run the Washer

Before adding detergent, run a cold water cycle – that will help to get rid of the “gunk” that’s on the diapers. After that, you can add your detergent. We recommend using ACTIVE Detergent as its enzymatic formula is capable of eliminating dirt, residue, and odors.

When you wash cloth diapers, it’s best to use warm or hot water; the heat will help to remove grime that might be present on the fabric.

If you can, run an extra rinse cycle. Never use fabric softener or similar products as they can leave behind residue that can irritate the skin.

Step 3: Drying Cloth Diapers

how to dry cloth diapersDrying instructions depend on the type of cloth diaper that you have. For example, some may be able to go into the dryer.

Others, you’ll have to air dry on a clothesline. When in doubt, opt for the latter. Never place a diaper into the dryer without first confirming the drying instructions.

Once you have clean and dry cloth diapers, you can store them away.

Tips for Cleaning Cloth Diapers

  • Always wash the cloth diapers with hot water – that will ensure that they’re clean and sanitary. It’s fine to do the pre and final rinse with cold water, though
  • A dirty diaper should always be rinsed first before being put in the diaper pail.
  • Use the longest hot wash cycle – longer agitation times will allow the detergent to work better

Removing Stains From Cloth Diapers

Chances are, your cloth diapers will develop stains over time. Fortunately, there are ways to remove them.

how to remove cloth diaper stains

For example, you can use lemon juice; its acidic properties will “bleach” the stain out of the cloth. All you have to do is lay it out in the sun afterward.

For the best results, cut a lemon and squeeze your own juice. Just remember to wash the cloth diapers again after applying lemon juice.

Another way that you can deal with stains is by using chlorine bleach. Just add 1/4 cup to the washer when you’re washing the load.

Not only will it remove the stain, but it’ll help sanitize the cloth diapers too! Keep in mind, however, that this should only be done in moderation. Bleaching too frequently can cause the cloths to break down prematurely.

Getting the Smell and Odors Out of Cloth Diapers

It’s not uncommon for cloth diapers to start to smell after a while, even if you’re washing them properly.

Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the best deodorizers that you can use. Simply mix one part baking soda with ten parts water (use hot water for the best results).

Once combined, place your cloth diapers in the mixture and let it soak for at least one hour (the longer the better).

Wash the wet diapers as normal in the washing machine afterward.

Using White Vinegar

Vinegar is fantastic at getting rid of smells; it will directly combat the ammonia that’s within the clothing fibers.

There are two ways that you can use it: you can either soak the cloth diapers in a vinegar-water solution or add some to your washing machine cycle.

The diapers might smell a bit like vinegar afterward but it’ll go away once they’re dry. Or if you want, you can always run an extra rinse cycle.

Using Deodorizing Detergents

There are detergents out there that are formulated specifically for removing odors.

Keep in mind, however, that they tend to contain extra chemicals, which you may not want to expose your baby to. For this reason, they should be used as a last resort.

Pre-Washing Cloth Diapers Before the First Wear

should you pre wash cloth diapersCloth diapers made from natural fibers such as cotton or bamboo should be washed a few times prior to being used.

Why? They have oils that can hinder the cloth’s absorbency; the goal is to wash them off before using the diaper and of course, the easiest way to do that is by putting them in the washing machine.

In contrast, cloth diapers made from synthetic fabrics such as microfiber only need to be washed with detergent once prior to being used. While they aren’t as absorbent as cotton or bamboo per se, they tend to soak in urine quicker.

How to Wash Cloth Diaper – FAQs

Can I add dryer sheets or fabric softeners to the machine when washing cloth diapers?

No, it’s best to avoid these products as they may leave behind residue that can irritate the skin.

How many cloth diapers can you machine wash at a time?

You can wash multiple cloth diapers at once – just make sure you’re not overstuffing the machine as they need to be able to move around inside the washer.

What type of detergent should I use when washing reusable cloth diapers?

ACTIVE Detergent is the best choice for cloth diapers, especially those made of synthetic fabrics. Not only is it made from plant-based ingredients but it’s also free of chemicals and preservatives.

It also contains enzymes that will penetrate deep into the fibers to remove odor-causing residue.

What’s the best way to wash a diaper bag?

Most diaper bags can be placed in the washing machine on a delicate cycle. Alternatively, you can wash them by hand with some warm water and a mild detergent like the one by ACTIVE.

Just make sure the wet bag is completely dry before reusing it.

Do cloth diapers wash easily?

Yes, cloth diapers are relatively easy to wash as long as you’re using an appropriate detergent.

Cleaning cloth diapers isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If anything, you just need to follow the proper steps.

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Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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