Washing Cloth Diapers
Updated: Apr 8
When you use cloth diapers, it is very important to properly clean them. Besides the fact that they can start to smell, residues can be left behind in the cloth diapers that can cause little wounds on your baby’s bum. An example of this is ammonia. This is present in urine (you can smell this when the diapers have been in the wet bag for a while) and can cause burns in your baby’s skin.
The first important step is to not put too much but also not too few diapers in the machine at once. The specific amount of diapers will differ depending on the size of your washing machine. A good guideline is to fill the machine for about 2/3 to 3/4. When there are too few diapers it results in not enough friction between diapers causing them to not clean properly. Too many cloths diapers in your machine will cause the same problem.
When there are sufficient diapers in the machine, I first let the machine rinse the diapers. Which program that is on your washing machine differs. I use the option quick wash which takes about 30 minutes. This is a good guideline for the amount of time it should take. The temperature set to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) or cold. 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit) is too warm as this causes protein in the diapers (aka poop) to solidify. You want to prevent this from happening.
Choose a short laundry program that uses detergent and centrifuges sufficiently at the end. This washing should rinse out most of the urine and stool from the diapers before the actual washing starts. I use a little of a good detergent with blue biotex. The latter is a washing power amplifier with enzymes that help the breakdown of proteins in the diapers.
After the rinsing, the diapers are washed again set to a 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) washing program. In this case a temperature higher then body temperature is needed to kill off any bacteria. I mentioned before that this temperature could cause the protein to solidify but if the rinsing was done properly, all the protein should have been removed by now.
Washing on 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit) is also possible (when your little one is ill for example) but this temperature is not recommended. It will cause the diapers to wear out faster and it is not very environmentally friendly. Usually, washing on 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) is sufficient.
Use a normal washing program for the diapers, not an eco program. The latter will use less water and can cause the diapers to not clean properly. When the diapers are not cleaned thoroughly you will not notice this right away. Residues left behind in the diapers will accumulate over weeks/months and only then might cause wounds on your baby’s bum. Soiled cloth diapers are the dirtiest type of laundry you can imagine so these need to be cleaned thoroughly.
Use a good washing detergent (no eco detergent or nuts) without bleach. Bleach affects the natural fiber of the diapers causing them to wear out faster. Use a sufficient amount of detergent. This depends on the size of your machine and the hardness of the water in your area. When you have a large machine and the water in your area is relatively hard, this can be a lot of detergent. I use about 100ml/3,4oz (yes, I measure this every time) when I wash diapers.
Extra rinsing at the end is not necessary. This can even be disadvantageous as calcium present in water can be accumulated in the diapers reducing the absorbency.
Some machines have a prewash (rinse) and main wash combined. You can only use this when the prewash sufficiently centrifuges and drains the water at the end. Otherwise, your main wash will be done in very dirty (with urine and stool) water.
This is the washing routine I have been using for over a year now and I hope it can help you as well.
Note that this is a guideline is what is most often used in the Netherlands for cloth diapers, this might differ from other parts of the world as the available laundry detergent differs and the type of washing machines differ.