How To Clean Cloth Diapers | Simple Guide

What To Do With The Poop?

The big scary question. Fortunately, there are some modern solutions to combat this issue. The best method for removing difficult to deal with solids is by using a diaper sprayer. Here is a link to a great sprayer that will solve your poop problems.

Other options include the dedicated poop spatula, which is used to scrape solids into the toilet. Or go old-school with the dunk and swish in the toilet method.

If you are exclusively breastfeeding then the baby’s poop will completely dissolve and wash away in the washing machine.

Soiled Diaper Storage

No matter which route you take to remove the solids, make sure you fully saturate the soiled diaper with water before tossing it into a well-ventilated dry storage cloth diaper pail (see mine below).

Storing the diapers wet will make it easier to get them clean in the wash cycle, and help to prevent staining.

It is not recommended that you store soiled diapers for more than 3 days in the diaper pail.

Wash Routine

Use a good washing machine! Most people are not going to purchase a washing machine specifically for cleaning their cloth diapers, but if you do happen to be upgrading your machine or are in the market for a new washer, check out my post on the BEST washing machines for cloth diapers here.

Make sure your load size is large enough to ensure proper agitation. Also, check that you have the right amount of water, you need enough water to dilute the waste, but not so much that you don’t get proper agitation. The highest water level setting will likely be best if you have a large load.


Pre-wash with or without detergent on cold, or warm. The idea is to get as much of the waste out as possible so that the main wash cycle is not full of soiled water.


Wash with hot water (not above 120°) with the correct amount of detergent. Don’t skimp on the detergent.

Extra Rinse:

Run an extra rinse cycle to remove any excess detergent and to lower the PH of the diapers.

Detergent & Additives

There are a lot of opinions and options when it comes to detergent choices. The consensus from many cloth diaper retailers and manufacturers is that most mainstream detergents work just fine. Watch out for detergents that have fabric softener in them. If you like Tide, then go for unscented or original.

If you are looking for some more natural options here are a few solid detergents that will work great for cloth diaper laundry:

It is not recommended that you use homemade laundry detergent for cloth diapers

Disinfecting additives such as Bleach, Borax, and OxiClean can be used occasionally, but always check the manufacturer’s recommendations. When using bleach to disinfect, make sure to dilute with water before adding in the cloth diapers.


Use low temperatures or line-dry to prolong the life of the diapers.

Do not stretch warm elastics. If you hang your diaper covers to dry, make sure the elastics are not stretched.

When drying in a dryer avoid over-drying. Be sure to remove the diapers when they are dry or almost dry.

Wool dryer balls can reduce dry time.

FAQ about cleaning cloth diapers:

How do I wash cloth diapers for the first time? AKA prepping:

You only need to prep brand-new natural fiber diapers. This is simply washing and drying the diapers several times in order to remove the natural oils within the fibers that inhibit absorption. This can take anywhere from 4 to 8 washes. The more you wash, the more absorbent the diapers will become.

You can always check the diapers to see if they are ready to use on your baby by pouring some water onto the diaper. If the water is instantly absorbed, then they are ready for use, if the water pools or runs off then they need more cycles.

How do I wash with a HE washing machine?

HE washing machines determine how much water to add based upon the weight of each load. They conserve water and this can cause problems with cloth diapers, especially because the diapers are already so absorbent. You need enough water for dilution and agitation in order to get things clean. Add a wet towel to the load before you start it. The machine will think the load is heavier and add more water.

Can you wash cloth diapers with other clothes?

You could wash your cloth diapers with other clothes as long as you stick to the cloth diaper laundering routine. I have not tried this myself, so just take care not to throw in delicate clothing that could be damaged by hook & loop closures. I would also be careful not to add in anything that could damage the diapers, such as velcro or bra hooks.

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