Washing cloth diapers, when done right, is incredibly simple, rewarding, cost-effective, and is not time intensive. It is all about understanding the why and establishing a routine.
Most parents initially feel apprehensive about the idea of washing soiled diapers. But it need not be this way. Trust us; it's a task well within your capabilities. In reality, cleaning cloth diapers is simpler and less troublesome than it seems. All it takes is a handful of helpful hints.
There's a plethora of resources available online about this subject, but at Bayrli, our mission is straightforward: we aim to guide you through the process of washing your cloth diapers, step by step, clarifying the hows and whys along the way.
Let's start with the process
In a nutshell, here is our preferred technique for cleaning cloth diapers:
Start by discarding any solid waste and giving the diaper a preliminary rinse before placing it in a diaper pail with other used diapers. We suggest not keeping soiled cloth diapers for more than 2-3 days before laundering.
For washing, use a warm setting (up to 104°F/40°C) and a full measure of detergent that's safe for cloth diapers (avoid fabric softener). Opt for the longest cycle your machine offers. Don't fill the machine all the way - leave some room.
If you've already rinsed your diapers, there's no need for a pre-wash cycle. An extra rinse is generally not advised, particularly in areas with hard water, as it might reintroduce minerals that reduce the diapers’ absorbency.
For drying, either air-dry them outdoors or use a tumble dryer on a low setting.
And that's it.
Are you prepared to embark on the journey of cloth diapering? Follow the guidelines and tips we've outlined for you.
Prior to laundering cloth diapers
Each brand of reusable cloth diapers comes with its own set of care instructions. It's important to consult these guidelines, often found on the manufacturer's website, to ensure proper care and to avoid any issues with warranty claims. We will provide specific instructions for washing your Bayrli diapers at the end of this guide and we do encourage you to familiarise yourself with them so you can always avail of our unrivalled warranty.
Before you dive into organizing your laundry routine, it’s crucial to think about storage for your accumulating wet cloth diapers. Consider using purpose-built containers or wet bags to keep soiled diapers until laundry day.
Establishing a routine for cloth diaper washing
Incorporating cloth diaper washing into your routine means adding just a few extra laundry loads each week. As you settle into a routine with cloth diapers, you'll discover the approach that suits you best. To begin, here are the typical steps involved in cleaning cloth diapers. It's always important to start by reviewing the specific care instructions for the diapers you're using.
Step 1: Removing solids from the cloth diaper
For exclusively breastfed babies, there's no need to remove waste from the diaper. Poop from breast milk is soluble in water, making the washing of newborn cloth diapers remarkably straightforward. At this stage, you won't require any special pre-treatment. However, as your baby grows and begins to consume solid foods, the process becomes slightly more complex.
So, how do you deal with poop in the diaper?
Begin by discarding any solid waste into the toilet. This task is made simpler by using disposable diaper liners – just lift the liner, shake the solids into the toilet, and dispose of the liner in the trash (remember, don't flush these liners). Next, employ a spray bottle filled with water or a diaper sprayer (akin to a miniature showerhead that attaches to your toilet) to rinse off as much residue as possible. This rinsing step is crucial for removing stains during washing.
Note: Diapers that are merely damp from urine don't necessarily need pre-rinsing, but doing so can be beneficial. You will trust your instinct very quickly.
Step 2: Storing soiled cloth diapers
Efficiently managing your laundry by accumulating a small load of dirty cloth diapers before washing can save time, water, and energy. Proper storage of soiled diapers is a crucial aspect of cloth diaper maintenance.
Your primary options for storing dirty cloth diapers include a wet bag or a diaper pail. After any necessary rinsing, place the soiled diapers into a diaper pail or a waterproof bag until laundry time. It's advisable to leave the pail or wet bag slightly open to allow airflow. This practice helps in slowing down bacterial growth and preventing mildew formation.
Interestingly, many waterproof tote bags such as ours at Bayrli and diaper pails are designed with a unique sewn-in patch that aids in odor control. You can find this patch inside the bag and add a few drops of your preferred essential oil to it for added freshness.
Another viable method is soaking the cloth diapers in a bucket of water - but only for a short period. This pre-wash soaking aids in loosening and removing stubborn stains and messes during the washing process.
Step 3: Laundering cloth diapers
Many parents opt to wash their cloth diapers every two days. When it's time to wash, fill your washing machine to about 70% capacity (which equates to 12-18 diapers). This ensures that the diapers have enough room to move around in the drum for thorough cleaning. Overloading can hinder cleaning effectiveness, while underloading may not provide sufficient agitation for a deep clean and is less energy-efficient.
Begin by separating the diaper covers from the inserts. If you're using Bayrli pocket diapers, the inserts can be easily removed by pulling them out either end. Proceed to wash your diapers, inserts, reusable wipes, and wet bags at a warm temperature (up to 104°F/40°C) using a full dose of a cloth diaper-safe detergent (avoiding fabric softener).
Select the longest wash cycle available on your machine. If your diapers have been pre-rinsed or pre-soaked, there's no need for an additional pre-wash cycle. Also, avoid extra rinsing, especially in areas with hard water, as this can reintroduce minerals that lead to buildup and reduced absorbency in the diapers.
Regarding detergent choice, it's essential to use one that's safe for cloth diapers. Steer clear of fabric softeners and detergents containing them, as they can accumulate on the fabric fibers and lessen the diapers' absorbency.
Chlorine bleach should also be avoided. Its use can void warranties for some cloth diapers and potentially damage the fabrics and colors. However, for Bayrli cloth diapers, non-chlorine bleach can be used as necessary.
Step 4: Drying cloth diapers
When it comes to drying cloth diapers, the optimal method is air drying them on an outdoor clothesline. This approach not only conserves energy and prolongs the lifespan of the diapers but also utilizes the sun's natural properties. The sun acts as a natural disinfectant and imparts a fresh, airy scent to the diapers.
Additionally, UV rays from the sun are effective in lightening stains, whether on a sunny day or under cloud cover. Just fifteen to twenty minutes in the sun can significantly reduce or even eliminate stains.
If outdoor drying isn't an option, don't worry – you can still air dry the diapers indoors on a rack or line. Some cloth diapers, including those from Bayrli, are also suitable for tumble drying on a low heat setting. However, be cautious with high temperatures, as they can damage the waterproof layer of the diaper, potentially leading to leaks.
As with all steps of cloth diaper care, it's important to consult the specific care instructions for your diapers to ensure the best care. For Bayrli, simply take a look at the care label and reach out to us if you have any questions.
With the basics of cloth diaper care covered, let's explore some additional queries you might have, including tips for troubleshooting common cleaning issues:
How should I prepare my cloth diapers for first use?
It's advisable to wash cloth diapers before their initial use, just as you would with any new baby garments. This initial wash helps to prime the absorbent fabrics, enhancing their absorbency.
To wash cloth diapers for the first time, simply place them in your washing machine. You can even mix them with your regular laundry. Wash them at a warm temperature (104°F/40°C), using a cloth diaper-friendly detergent that doesn't contain fabric softeners. After washing, dry the diapers on a low setting in your tumble dryer or air-dry them on a line.
How often should I wash cloth diapers?
Most cloth diaper users tend to wash their diapers every two to three days, in line with the recommendations of many manufacturers. Extending the washing interval beyond 2-3 days is not advisable, as it can lead to mildew and set-in stains, necessitating a more intensive cleaning process known as 'stripping' the diapers. Staying on top of your laundry schedule is key to maintaining the diapers' condition for as long as possible.
Should I pre-wash or pre-rinse cloth diapers?
Pre-rinsing cloth diapers is an essential step for ensuring they emerge from the washing machine completely clean. For dealing with heavy wetting or significant soiling, soaking the diapers in a water pail can be helpful. Diaper liners, which are thin, disposable sheets often made of bamboo rayon, can simplify cleanup and protect the diaper fabric from poop stains.
Is there anything extra I need to consider if my baby is breastfed?
For babies exclusively breastfed, their poop is less solid and more water-soluble. This means you might not need to rinse the diapers as thoroughly—or at all—before washing. Simply place the soiled diapers in your diaper pail until laundry time.
What's the safest detergent to use when washing my reusable diapers?
When selecting a detergent, avoid those with fabric softeners. Many parents prefer powder detergents, such as Tide Original powder or Tide Ultra Oxi if you're based in the US or Canada. However, liquid detergents like Tide Free & Gentle are also suitable, as they are hypoallergenic and don't leave residue.
Remember, residue build-up on diapers is often due to a combination of fatty acids from the diapers and minerals in hard water, rather than the detergent type. Using a detergent rich in surfactants and ensuring sufficient agitation during the wash cycle is important.
Should I use fabric softener when washing my cloth diapers?
Fabric softeners can reduce the absorbency of reusable diapers, so it's best to avoid them. Bayrli cloth diapers, made from ultra-soft materials, remain gentle on your baby's skin even after multiple washes, eliminating the need for fabric softeners.
What should I do if my cloth diapers have been left wet for an extended period?
If cloth diapers are left wet for an extended period, they can start to develop mildew. To combat this, add a scoop of baking soda to your detergent during the wash, and a few tablespoons of vinegar in the rinse cycle to help remove odors. If odors persist, you may need to strip the diapers. Stripping is a process that removes mineral buildup and residue from the fabric, refreshing the diapers' smell and absorbency.
Should I sanitize my washing machine and my diapers?
It's important to understand that no matter how well you wash cloth diapers, they will not be sterile. However, sterilization is not necessary for safe diaper use. By adhering to recommended washing guidelines, using a quality detergent without fabric softeners, and ensuring sufficient agitation during washing, your diapers will be clean and safe for your baby.
For stains, non-chlorine bleach can be used if your diaper manufacturer approves. Persistent odors or diapers acquired second-hand might require a process called 'stripping' to get them extra-clean. Stripping instructions can typically be found on manufacturer websites or diapering resources. More information on stains can be found in our dedicated guide here.
Sanitizing your washing machine is a beneficial practice, even if you don’t use cloth diapers. Regular sanitization, recommended monthly, helps eliminate odor-causing residues from dirty laundry, detergent, and hard water minerals. To sanitize, use a commercial washing machine cleaner or a home remedy of 2 cups of white vinegar run on a hot cycle, followed by another hot cycle with 1 1/2 cups of baking soda.
Is it safe to hand-wash reusable diapers?
Hand-washing cloth diapers is perfectly acceptable if needed. The process requires a bathtub or bucket, warm water, and a cloth diaper-safe detergent. It's a viable option when a washing machine isn’t available. Our full guide for hand-washing your cloth diapers is here.
Special washing instructions for Bayrli cloth diapers
The general washing tips apply to Bayrli cloth diapers as well. Wash them in warm water with a maximum temperature of 104°F/40°C and opt for line-drying or tumble-drying on a low setting. Avoid fabric softeners, use non-chlorine bleach when necessary, and don’t skimp on detergent.
For easier cleanup, especially when traveling or on the go, disposable liners can be a convenient choice. For more specific laundry care tips and resources for reusable diapers, check our Resources and Discover sections.
Like we said at the very beginning - washing your reusable diapers, when done right, is incredibly simple, rewarding, and cost-effective. It is not time intensive. It is all about understanding the why and establishing a routine. The goal is to ensure your cloth diapering experience is as straightforward and hassle-free as possible for you and your baby - always.
*Please note, when we recommend dryer usage, this refers to select absorbencies only.