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How to Wash Cloth Diapers

If you’re wondering how to wash cloth diapers and get the stink out, look no further! Our twin boys have been sharing the same 25 cloth diapers for the last 21 months so I KNOW how to wash them to get the stink out.

stack of colorful baby cloth diapers

Note: This post is written by Cori George and originally appeared on Hey, Let’s Make Stuff. It has been moved and updated with permission.

The idea of washing cloth diapers is probably the main reason parents steer away from cloth diapering in the first place. But it really isn’t so bad! As a new parent you’ll get used to handling plenty of bodily functions and cloth diapers will just be another part of it all. Here’s a method I found for washing cloth diapers and getting rid of the yucky smell, time and time again.

HOW TO Wash Cloth DIapers And Get THE STINK OUT

From day one, we knew we wanted to use baby cloth diapers for our boys. It’s been the BEST choice we could have made. We’ve saved a lot of money, had less diaper rash to contend with, and cloth diapers are freaking adorable. We’ve come to love cloth diapering and so have our boys.

Except for the smell.

Oh, the smell of ammonia that starts emanating out cloth diapers after a while is enough to stun a skunk. We’ve tried a lot of things to wash cloth diapers to get the stink out, and these three things have worked the best for us.

Rinse Immediately

Rinsing our cloth diapers right after a diaper change goes a long way to keeping the smell at bay. We try our best to rinse both poop and pee diapers right after a diaper change, instead of letting them sit. We rinse them in the toilet using the diaper sprayer and put them in the diaper pail. The water seems to help dilute the waste that’s left on the diapers and that means we can go longer between stripping the diapers (see #3 below). Every morning, we empty the diaper pail and cloth liner out and into the wash with some All Free & Clear. We run a “Temp Boost” cycle and an extra rinse. 

Sun, Sun, and More Sun

I can’t emphasize this enough. Hang your diapers in the sun after every wash, every chance you get. There’s no better bleach than the sun, and in addition to helping with stains, the sun does a great job of cutting through the smelly funk. Even on chilly days, we’ll hang them up outside if they sun’s going to be out. The rainy winter is a little harder — we hang them on a rack near our bedroom window to dry. But as soon as the sun comes back out, they are back on the line. I’ve come to enjoy hanging diapers on the line. It gives me a few minutes outside in the fresh air and I feel very Laura Ingalls Wilder.

cloth diapers drying in the sun after being washed

Strip ‘Em

There are a lot of methods out there for stripping diapers, but we swear by the Rockin’ Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer Detergent. We’ve tried a few different products and this one seems to work the best for us. We throw all our diapers in the wash, set it as hot as possible (for us that’s XXTRA SANITARY), add an extra rinse cycle, and a few tablespoons of the Funk Rock. The load takes forever and then when it’s done I do a second rinse cycle on it. Then out in the sun they go!

Additional Notes on Washing Cloth Diapers

  • Avoid using fabric softeners on cloth diapers. These decrease the absorbency.
  • Minimize the use of bleach.
  • Use unscented detergents so you know your diapers are clean. Don’t just cover up bad scent with okay scents.

While these three things aren’t going to keep your diapers from ever getting stinky again, if you keep up with it you’ll only have to strip them every few months. Despite the stink that sometimes makes its way into our diapers, I would recommend cloth diapering to pretty much every parent. It may seem like a lot of work, but the cost savings and environmental benefits can’t be beat!

See my tips for washing cloth diapers including my cleaning hacks, how often to strip the diapers, detergents I use, and how often I do laundry. Here's my complete cloth diaper wash and drying routine for cloth diapering our twin baby boys!
Amy Motroni
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