Dirty Diapers: Storing & Washing Cloth Diapers

This post is part of the Focus on Fluff cloth diaper series.

cloth diapering

This is the part of cloth diapering that most people dread.  I hope the information here will help you have a more pleasant experience with storing and washing cloth diapers.  You may find out that it’s not quite as bad as you expected it to be!

How to Store Dirty Cloth Diapers

There are two popular methods of storing soiled cloth diapers at home before washing them. Both methods use a basic diaper pail, or even a trash can.

  • Dry Pail Method - This is the most widely used method. You simply place the wet and dirty diapers in a dry container without soaking them. To combat odor, I often sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the pail and sometimes on the diapers themselves. When you are ready to wash the diapers, dump the diapers into the washer and scrub out the pail with baking soda and vinegar. Many people use a pail liner because you can pull it out and wash it with the diapers. This is convenient and it is helpful when you have two liners so you can line your pail with one while the other is being cleaned. This is the best method if you use AIOs or a lot of diaper covers since the PUL fabric really shouldn’t be soaked.
  • Wet Pail Method - With this method, you fill the diaper pail (about half full) with water and baking soda and place the soiled diapers in it to soak until laundry day. When you are ready to wash the diapers, you pour out most of the water into the tub or toilet before dumping the diapers in the washing machine. If you use this method, be sure that the container is tightly sealed and keep it away from children as it can be a safety concern.

Traveling with Cloth Diapers

Most cloth diapering moms carry wetbags in their diaper bags for easy and safe storage of dirty diapers when out and about. You can easily re-use a grocery sack or plastic ziploc bag instead if you prefer.

How to Prep New Cloth Diapers

Before you use your newly purchased cloth diapers, you will need to wash them several times in order for them to have maximum absorbency. It usually takes about five-six complete wash cycles. I use a Hot Wash/Cold Rinse with soap the first time and then a Warm/Cold or Cold/Cold cycle for the remainder. Be sure to check with the manufacturer or store for their suggested prep method.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

It is advised that you don’t wash more than two dozen diapers at a time. I try to avoid many more than eighteen. Also, you will want to use 1/4-1/2 than the suggested amount of your detergent. You can use this chart to determine the best laundry detergents to use and which ones to avoid. (If you have a HE washer, check out this chart!) I use All Free & Clear right now, but am hoping to try one of these homemade laundry detergent recipes in the near future.

The most popular and basic cloth diaper washing method is:

  • Cold Rinse
  • Hot Wash / Cold Rinse
  • Cold Rinse

If you have hard water, you may need to rinse more or use even less detergent.  Basically you need to rinse until there are no more soap bubbles left.  It may take awhile to figure out a routine that works best for your situation.

I use about a tablespoon of detergent and add a Warm rinse to my washing routine. I usually strip my diapers every four-six weeks to keep them from having too much detergent build-up. (Don’t know what “strip” means? Don’t worry! The next post in this series is all about stripping diapers. :) )

Washing Wool

Wool diaper covers require special treatment. In order to make them water-resistant, you will need to lanolize them. To do this, simply pour a small amount of pure lanolin in a sink full of warm water. Soak the cover for about fifteen minutes and then hang to dry after squeezing out excess water. You will probably need to do this about once a month.

To wash, most people hand wash them in warm water, gently squeeze out the water, roll them in a towel, and then allow them to air dry.

Helpful Hints

Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets with cloth diapers. You can use a small amount of vinegar in a rinse cycle if you feel like your diapers need to be softer. Also, if you are having static issues, many people have successfully used wool dryer balls.

What about poo? If your baby is solely breastfed, you do not need to rinse the dirty diapers. However, once babies start solids, you will need to rinse them off before placing them in the diaper pail. You can use a diaper sprayer or dunk them in the toilet. I use the dunking method and have lived through it. Honestly, once your baby is one solids for awhile, you will simply have to hold the diaper over the toilet and let the poo drop in. It’s really not a big deal!


What did I miss? Add your comments or questions below!


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