How To Clean Your Cloth Diapers

I’m happy to share this guest post by Tessa Smith of as this is also one of the most common questions I hear about cloth diapering.

Some of the main questions we always get are: How do I clean my diapers? Where does the poop go? Do I need a certain detergent? Below is a breakdown of the most commonly asked questions and our answers.

Top Loader vs. Front Loader

Front loaders are considered high efficiency since they use less water and energy than older top loader models. When washing cloth diapers more water is generally better. Therefore, with a front loader you need to set your water level as high as possible. Some front loaders adjust the amount of water used in their wash by the weight of the laundry; in this case, you can trick the machine into adding more water by adding a wet towel to the wash to add weight.


All cloth diapers need to be prepped prior to their use to achieve full absorbency.

  • Unbleached cotton, hemp, and bamboo diapers have natural oils and waxes present that need to be removed prior to use. In order to prep these materials, wash with a small amount of appropriate detergent and then dry on hot. Repeat this for a total of three to five wash and dry cycles.
  • Microfibers and micro-fleece need only be washed once using an appropriate detergent and dried on hot.
  • Covers containing PUL need only be washed and dried once using an appropriate detergent; do not dry on hot as this can cause the PUL to melt or de-laminate.
  • Test absorbency of natural fibers by pouring a small amount of warm water on them: they should absorb the water immediately.
  • Test absorbency of microfibers by pouring a small amount of warm water on them: you will need to apply light pressure on them to absorb.
  • If your cloth does not absorb properly, re-wash and re-test. You may need to increase the amount of water used in the washing machine.
  • Your diapers should be ready to use at this point, however, the more washes that the cloth goes through, the more absorbent they will become.


  1. Dump your wet bag or pail into the machine.  If you would like to wash your wet bag or pail liner, toss it in along with your diapers, but turn it inside out to prevent pulling out a bag of water since it is waterproof.
  2. For darker colored covers, it may be appropriate to separate from lights for the first few washes to prevent bleeding.
  3. Rinse the entire load once with no detergent on cold; this removes any leftover solid fecal particles.
  4. Hot wash the load with appropriate detergent.
  5. Never use a sanitizing cycle if diapers contain hook and loop or elastic.
  6. Perform a second rinse with no detergent to remove any leftover detergent, bacteria, or urine.
  7. Dry load in dryer on medium or lower heat if PUL covers are present. If no PUL is present, load can be dried on hot.
  8. Line drying is a great alternative since the sun naturally bleaches materials and makes them whiter.


· If after washing your cloth smells like detergent, re-wash with lots of hot water and less detergent.

· If your cloth smells like ammonia, wash with lots of hot water and more detergent.

· If you have any buildup of residue, this indicates not enough water used in the washing machine.

Appropriate Detergents

· Cloth diaper friendly detergents are comparably priced to store bought detergents and are properly formulated for cloth diapers.

· Only use a zero residue detergent. If not a zero residue detergent, only use ½ of recommended amount for top loaders and ¼ of recommended amount for front loaders.

· Detergents should never contain fabric softeners, oils, perfumes, dyes, brighteners, anti-allergens, stain guards, or enzymes. These will all cause residue issues and irritants to your baby. Residues make cloth waterproof causing leakages and stinky diapers.

· Use only appropriate detergents and water; do not use additives such as vinegar or baking soda.

· Some manufacturers recommend an occasional wash with bleach or bleach alternative.  Read each manufacturer’s instructions carefully to prevent voiding any warranties.

The following detergents are recommended:

  • bumGenius
  • Rockin’ Green (not recommended by Rumparooz)
  • Charlie’s Soap
  • LuLu’s in the Fluff
  • Tiny Bubbles
  • Eco Nuts
  • Seventh Generation Delicate Care
  • Country Save (Powder only)

The following detergents are not recommended:

  • All Free and Clear – Contains anti-allergens and brighteners
  • Seventh Generation Free and Clear – Contains enzymes
  • Cheer Free – Contains enzymes and brighteners
  • Dreft – Contains enzymes and brighteners
  • Oxy-Clean – Do not provide full ingredient list
  • Purex, Purex Free and Clear, Purex Baby – Contains brighteners
  • Target Baby Powder – Contains enzymes
  • Tide, Tide Free – Contains enzymes

The following ingredients commonly used in homemade detergents are not recommended:

  • Pure soap (bar, castile, fels naptha, etc.) – Can create pinhole leaks and de-laminate PUL, can also coat absorbent materials making them waterproof
  • Borax – Do not use on PUL or diapers with elastic or hook and loop closures
  • Vinegar – Do not use on PUL or any elastic parts, vinegar is an acid and will eat away laminates and elastics
  • Washing Soda – Already in most detergents so adding extra will cause residue buildup

If this is still all confusing to you, and I know it can be, Bippy Diapers has a Cloth Diapering 101 class the first Saturday of every month at 2pm. You can also call for a free one-on-one consultation: 978-973-7949. Or just stop by the Bippy store in the historic Rosemary District (434 Central Ave, Sarasota); we’re open Saturdays from 10am – 6pm and Sundays from 10am – 5pm. Please feel free to contact Bippy Diapers via email at or Facebook at any time with your care and laundering questions.


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