How to wash cloth diapers

Cloth Diaper Starter Kit: How do you wash cloth diapers?

Krystal Keller

The most confusing part of getting started with cloth diapering, is determining a wash routine that works for you. You'll find a plethora of information out there on what to do and what not to do with your diapers—and it can be hard to determine what's good advice, and what's just not. 

At Kinder Cloth, we believe that your wash routine works best, when it works for you. The number of days you go between washes and what setting you set your machine to is not more important than your mental health. Cloth diapering should not feel like a burden. If you and your baby are happy and healthy, we can figure out the rest together. 

That being said, this is by no means the holy grail of "how to wash your cloth diapers"—it's merely the beginning. If your wash routine isn't working, look at these common problems first:  

1. The quality and quantity of your detergent… how much are you using? 

Quality: The ultimate goal of your detergent is to clean your diapers and leave them smelling fresh. A good detergent will also help increase the absorbency of your diapers. We recommend using a powder detergent, like Tide. Check the compatibility of your machine before switching to a new detergent. A quick google search will offer up additional detergent options. 

Quantity: You may feel compelled to toss a full scoop of detergent in with your diapers. They are really dirty, right? Yes… but too much detergent can actually prohibit your machine from properly cleaning your diapers and cause detergent build up. Begin by looking at the directions on your detergent for a heavily soiled load of laundry. We recommend line 2 on the Tide blue scoop as a starting point. But you may need to adjust this depending on the size of your load of laundry. You can refer to the detergent packaging to help you choose the right amount for your load size. 

2. How often are you washing? Do you need to wash more frequently. 

Most families wash their cloth diapers every 2-4 days. We do not recommend waiting longer than seven days between wash loads. If less than seven days between washes just doesn't work with your busy schedule, we recommend throughly rinsing all pees and poos before tossing into your wet bag or pail to minimize the soil.

Families living in more humid climates will not be able to go as long between washes as families that live in more moderate climates. 

3. Check your water hardness. 

Hard water describes the mineral content in your water supply. The harder your water is—the higher the PH or alkalinity. Hard water can affect the performance of your detergent and cause minerals to be left behind and trapped in the fibers on your fabrics when washing. This can make your cloth diapers less absorbent and cause ammonia build up. 

Here is a great resource for washing diapers in hard or soft water. 


Below is a guide for getting started with finding your ideal wash routine. 

1. Prewash.

A prewash is essential. This first wash removes any debris and soil so that your main wash can clean your diapers properly. Our recommendation is to start with a smaller amount of detergent and run your normal cycle with cold or warm water. 

2. Main Wash

Every machine is different, but you'll want to choose a setting that can handle heavy soil and warm/hot water. (less than 115 degrees). This is the cycle where you may feel compelled to toss in a bunch of detergent, but a normal amount for heavy soil will do the job! (Again this is a great place to refer to the recommended detergent amount on your detergent packaging.)

3. Optional Extra Rinse

Some cloth families like to run and extra rinse for peace of mind. This can help if you've experienced detergent build up in the past. 

4. Line Dry or Tumble Dry on Low

If you have the time and space to air dry, this is always preferred. But a tumble on low with wool dryer balls works too! Do not use dryer sheets.


If you're struggling with your wash routine and need help, reach out to us via email OR on instagram @kinderclothdiapers.

And, remember that it's okay to supplement your cloth diapering journey with disposables. Even part time cloth families are doing wonders for the health of our environment. 

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