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26 January, 2015

ABCs of Cloth Diapering: An Introductory Wash Routine + A Stripping Method

We have gone over the reasons for cloth diapering, prefolds, pockets, all-in-ones, and hybrid/all-in-two.  Today we're discussing a basic wash routine as well as a stripping method. (Please note: This is for all types of diapers and covers EXCEPT wool. Wool has it's own wash routine not covered in this series)

Ask anyone who cloth diapers and they'll tell you their method is the best.  Over time you'll taylor your wash routine to your schedule, style, water type, and detergent preferences.  Here is a great place to start!

Prepping New Diapers for Use:

New diapers need to be prepped.  Well, the covers don't but anything that is absorbent does, so all the inserts, prefolds, and all-in-one diapers.  PUL covers and pocket shells just need a few washes prior to use.  Why?  Because like anything manufactured you just want to get the junk off.  The diapers also get more absorbent over time.  Diapers need 6-10 washes before use.

You'll need to spend a few days before using the diapers to wash them several times. I usually wash twice and then dry (see instructions below). The next day repeat.  You're probably asking if you REALLY need to do this.  The answer is you really only need to wash them 1-2 times before you use them (just like any new clothes or towels).  Just keep in mind the diapers won't reach their maximum absorbency until you hit the 8-10 mark.

Washing Cloth Diapers:

  1. Dispose of any solids in toilet. Use sprayer if necessary.
  2. Store dirty diapers in a diaper pail or wet bag until ready to wash, ideally every 2-3 days.
  3. Do a cold or tap water rinse. (I do a second rinse if they've been sitting for 2+ days)
  4. Do a HOT water wash with manufacturers recommended amount of detergent for your washer
  5. Do an extra rinse.
  6. Line dry or machine dry on medium until dry.


  • Machine drying is much faster but can shorten the life if your diapers. I line dry in good weather and machine dry on humid and rainy days.
  • While using a detergent specifically made for cloth diapers is ideal, you can use any detergent without dye, bleach, or fabric softeners. These breakdown the fabrics and can cause repelling. 
  • Water that is very hard or very soft may require extra attention and specific detergents. 
  • Check your machine at the end of the second rinse. If you still see suds, do another rinse and reduce the amount of detergent next time.
  • If you have an HE machine you may need to trick your washer into adding more water by setting it to "comforter/pillows" or by adding a wet towel (this makes your washer think there are more clothes in it and therefore adds more water)


I only have experience with a few:

  • For us, Tiny Bubbles by GroVia is the BEST regular detergent.  
  • I also use straight up plain Tide Powder in a pinch or if the diapers have sat for 4+ days (like on vacation).
  • I've tried Nellie's Soap, bumGenius and RubyMoon and I do not care for any of them. And in my opinion Ruby Moon has terrible scents. 
  • We've found SoapNuts do not get a good enough wash and do not recommend them.
  • Seriously, there are so many options play around with what works with your baby's chemistry, your washer, and your water.

Stripping Cloth Diapers:

Cloth diapers build up a little stink and residue over time. You'll know it's time to strip your diapers when you notice they stink when they're dry, or if you find you're getting lots of leaks.  You'll want to strip diapers about every 3 months.  Covers don't really need to be stripped. I do throw my pocket shells in, and of course all the inserts and all-in-ones.

  1. Start with clean diapers (follow above).  They do not need to be dry, just clean.
  2. Set your washer to the hottest water setting (you may want to turn up your water heater, just remember to turn it back down) and do a full HOT water wash without detergent.
  3. Run several hot wash loads until your water no longer has soap bubbles in the washer (this will likely be 2-3 washes, maybe more for HE machines).  Don't confuse agitation bubbles with soap bubbles. Agitation bubbles dissipate quickly.
  4. Throw everything in the dryer or line dry!
  5. Everything should smell fresh.  If not, you may need another round or to try some other methods with vinegar, OxyClean, blue Dawn, or bleach. This is all case-by-case.

Have questions?  Need help trouble shooting?  Send me an email (elizabeth {at} thebuerglers {dot} com) or message me through The Natural Baby- North Atlanta on Facebook

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