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The easiest ways to clean cloth diapers effectively.

Last Updated: December 4, 2021

Intimidated by the thought of not tossing a diaper once it’s full of poo? This one’s for you. We’ve got all the info you need to easily clean cloth diapers.

The biggest thing that scares people when it comes to cloth diapers is the fear of washing them. If you’re intimidated by the thought of not tossing a diaper once it’s full of baby poo, this article is for you.

We’ve got all the info, tips, and tricks you need to make the switch to cloth diapers easy and way less gross than you’d think.

First, why use cloth diapers?

Cloth diapers have lots of great benefits. Besides no more late-night diaper runs, here are the three best reasons to make the switch.

1. They’re better for Baby’s skin

Cloth diapers are free from the harsh chemicals — like chlorine and artificial fragrances — found in disposable diapers that can irritate and dry out your baby’s tender skin. Cloth varieties promote airflow around your baby's booty, resulting in less diaper rash.

2. They’re better for the environment

Cloth diapers create far less waste than disposable diapers — every year, around 3.3 million tons of disposable diapers are sent to the landfill, and it’s estimated that each diaper takes 500 years to decompose.

3. They’re better for your budget

Switching to cloth saves you money! After the first year of using cloth diapers, you can expect to save over a thousand dollarsway over, if you’ve got multiple buns in the oven or plans to bake more down the line.

Total beginner to cloth? This video is an incredible resource for troubleshooting everything from leaks to poop stains to overnight cloth diapering.

How many cloth diapers do you need?

It’s a good idea to have two days’ worth of a cloth diaper stash on hand. How many diapers that adds up to for you depends on your baby’s age, how much and how often they pee and poop, and your laundry habits.

Here are some rough estimates of the number of cloth diapers you’ll need to get you started:

  • Newborn (0–3 months): 28 diapers
  • Infant (3–9 months): 24 diapers
  • Baby (9–18 months): 20 diapers
  • Toddler (18 months and up): 16 diapers

How often should you wash cloth diapers?

You’ll find a rhythm once you start cloth diapering, but most parents wash their baby’s diapers every two days — wait any longer, and mildew and stains may set in, and you’ll need to strip the diapers.

Laundry stripping is a gentle process that removes bacteria and mineral buildup from clothes, and it’s easy to do. So if you let those stinky diapers sit around past their prime, or you feel the collection is due for a heavy-duty deep-clean, check out Grove writer Kristen Bailey’s instructions for stripping your dirtiest laundry with stuff you probably already have on hand.

Grove’s Clean Team has all the info you need to wash your baby’s favorite toys and stuffed animals, too — without harsh chemicals.

Grove Tip

To sanitize or not sanitize — that is the question

Sanitizing cloth diapers with bleach isn’t necessary — and chlorine bleach can damage them. If you feel so inclined, add 4 tablespoons of vinegar to the rinse cycle to get your baby’s nappies extra-clean.

You can also use oxygen bleach in your wash to boost your detergent’s ability to remove germs — or put your cloth diapers out to dry in the sun, since UV rays are a natural disinfectant and super effective at fading poop stains.

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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How to clean cloth diapers in 4 easy steps

Before you wash your cloth diapers the first time, note the care instructions, or check out the company’s website — not following their directions could void your warranty.

In general, cloth diapers are easy to manage and only add a few extra loads of laundry each week. These four easy steps will get your diapers fresh, clean, and ready to go back to work.

Illustration of 3 water droplets

Step 1: Rinse

For formula-fed babies and older babies with solid stools, scrape the poop into the toilet, and use a spray bottle full of water or a diaper sprayer (a little showerhead that attaches to your toilet) to rinse away as much residue as possible.

Pre-rinsing is key to get your diapers super clean in the wash.

Step 2: Store

Store the dirty diapers in a cloth diaper bag, wet bag, or diaper pail until wash day. If your baby is breastfed or the diaper is only soiled with pee, you can toss the diapers straight into the diaper pail or wash.

Breastfed poop is water soluble and doesn’t need to be scraped before washing.

Illustration of blue bubbles

Step 3: Wash

To get all the gunk out, prewash your diapers in a cold-water rinse cycle without detergent. After you prewash, add a natural detergent, and run a regular cycle using warm or hot water.

If your machine has the option for an extra rinse cycle, give ‘er a whirl. The more water you’re able to run through the diapers, the cleaner they’ll be.

Step 4: Dry

Now it’s time to dry. Every brand has different instructions for drying cloth diapers — most of them need to be air dried but some can go in the dryer.

If it’s too cold outside or you don’t have outdoor space, don’t worry! You can just hang the diapers to dry inside.

Want to see it in action? Watch this step-by-step guide on how to wash cloth diapers.

There’s no need to disinfect your washing machine after each load of diapers — we solemnly swear that your towels, shirts, and blankets won’t smell like poo — but you should give your washer a thorough cleaning each month, in general, to keep it in tiptop shape.

Grove Tip

Ditch the fabric softener

Fabric softeners and other laundry additives can cause build up on cloth diapers. If you’re using a dryer, try wool dryer balls instead of softeners and dryer sheets.

Dryer balls gently bounce against fabrics to prevent wrinkles and static cling and make your baby’s diapers soft to the touch.

Thinking maybe cloth diapers aren’t right for you, after all? That’s okay — you can still green up your diaper game with our range of chemical-free and sustainable disposable diapers and wipes.

Check out more of the top-rated baby products from Grove