Are you making this big cloth diaper washing mistake? Part 1

June 10, 2015

Washing Cloth Diapers

One of the biggest issues cloth diapering families can struggle with is how to wash cloth diapers. I’ve even wondered myself once or twice about my own wash routine. As babies get older their output changes and sometimes your wash routine needs to change with it. Don’t worry, most issues are totally fixable. And I want to help you fix them!

So what is this big mistake?

Not doing a prewash! Or not using the right cycle for a prewash.

I guess this came as a surprise to me, but there are people not doing prewashes with their cloth diaper laundry. While there are a million different ways to get cloth diapers clean, the prewash is an integral part of any good wash routine.

Without it, you’re just trying to get diapers clean in filthy, poo filled water. I know that’s gross, but it’s true.

A good prewash gets the big stuff off and gives your main wash a nice head start. To get the most out of your prewash, here is what I recommend:

1) You want a prewash to agitate, spin and drain. The agitate part is the important part. It’s what will get the poo off.

Some machines have prerinse cycles that just spray water, spin and drain. That’s not what you want. If the machine can’t do a prewash that agitates, find a cycle to substitute for it. You may have a quick wash (many HE models have this option) that will work great as a prewash. Keep in mind the prewash needn’t be long. Try to use the shortest cycle available (that agitates) to save time and energy. If you are wondering what cycle to use, check your owners manual. If you don’t have it around anymore, just google your washing machine model number + manual (the number is usually inside the lid or door but can be on the back of the machine). When I help people with their wash routines in the All About Cloth Diapers Chat this is partly how I know what to tell them. :)

2) Use warm water in the prewash.

Yes, many people use cold with no issues. But it is my understanding that stains come out better in the temperature they were created. For pee and poo, that is warm water.

3) If your wash routine needs a little boost, you can add OxiClean, Bac Out or even a little bit of your detergent to the prewash.

This isn’t necessary for everyone. But if you find that you have an especially gross load of cloth diapers, a little boost might not hurt. For OxiClean add to the 1 line; Bac Out is 1/4 cup or three squirts around the tub; and detergent you could add the amount for a light load (usually the 1 line).


Make sure you do a prewash.

Use a cycle that agitates, spins and drains.

Use warm water if possible.

For added cleaning power add a little OxiClean, Bac out or some of your detergent.

If you have more questions please check this out or join our AACD Chat. We are more than happy to help!

Anyone have any other suggestions to get the most out of your prewash cycle?

, ,

About Jennifer Reinhardt

Jenn is a WAHM to two beautiful little girls. Sophia (4.5 years old) and Norah (4 months). She closed her business, Curves, when she found out she was pregnant so she could stay home with her first daughter. Now Jenn spends her time spreading the love of fluff and sharing common sense answers that help to make cloth diapers easy for everyone.

View all posts by Jennifer Reinhardt

15 Responses to “Are you making this big cloth diaper washing mistake? Part 1”

  1. Lilli Hamilton Says:

    I have a FL he washer. I have been using the quick wash, on cold, set at heavy soil. This gives me a31 minute wash, with no detergent. I then use the heavy duty setting (hot wash) hiwith an extra rinse. I use a scoop of oxiclean, and a scoop of regular gain, to line 2. This has worked very well so far, though little has begun solids, so I may have to tweak it. Maybe not!!


  2. Michelle D Says:

    With my new HE machine that we purchased in the summer it took me months to get a routine that worked. My old HE washer used way more water than this new one. I was doing a quick wash for my prewash and I ended up with terrible ammonia stink. So now I do a light wash on cold with the water plus and it solved my problem. The cycles on the new washer are extremely long to make up for the lack of water. My diapers a clean now but my total wash time is over 4 hours. It works though so I just wash them overnight. Anyone else have these issues with the new HE washers?


    • Mayra Says:

      Omg yes! Me too! I swear I yelled at my husband the other day for getting the new machines haha! Definitely takes forever and sometimes I’ve even had to run 2 main washes to get the smell of Poop and pee out of my diapers. I’m still tweaking my cycles but I did notice I need to use a longer cycle for my prewash.


  3. Jessica Says:

    I’ve been doing my pre-wash (regular cycle, shortest length) with hot water, not warm. Is warm better for anything other than the cost savings from using less hot water? Should I be doing my entire cycle on warm instead of hot?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      If the water is too hot it sets stains. I was told by my dry cleaner with 40 years experience to use the temp that the stain was created in for best removal. For pee and poo that is warm. So that is what I go by.


  4. Tabitha Dencklau Says:

    Ugh, I’m guilty of this. I read a lot of conflicting information early into cloth diapering and I didn’t prewash. Not surprisingly, I had issues. I did an overhaul of my wash routine, which included adding a prewash, and everything it’s going great now!


  5. Annie Says:

    Curiosity question: I know you use Ragababe diapers. Do you use Tide and oxyclean on them? If so do you find they wear faster?
    Thanks for these great tips!


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      I do. After two years of this all my Rags are in great condition. I know some people have said it gave them issues. But it hasn’t for me. I only use about to the 1 or 2 line in a full load. I tried Country Save and in my moderately hard water it just wasn’t strong enough, not even on my clothes. Nothing works for everyone. That is why it is great to have choices :)


  6. Anel Says:

    I always ran the diapers in the pre rinse thinking that it was a prewash, but I guess not! Great to know the difference now!!


  7. Monica Says:

    Great points! I just published my cloth diaper routine on my blog, but I didn’t explain why it’s so important to do the prewash. My son is EBF, and that stuff doesn’t rinse well under a tap or even with a diaper sprayer. The prewash is a big help!


  8. Lyndsi Says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for putting that the prewash is so important and explaining why! I see so many people that just try to get the most water and then I see them having issues with their diapers not getting clean. Great advice!


  9. Carolyn Allen Russell Says:

    Huh, I’d never thought about how my prerinse works, before! I’ve read my washers manual and don’t recall it mentioning anything about whether or not the rinse and spin agitates at all. In your experience does that mean that it doesn’t, or do some just not specify?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Most manuals have a section that explains what each cycle does. So it should say sprays water and drains or something like that if it’s not agitating. It’s hard to say without knowing what washing machine you have. I am more than happy to check if you can get me the model number :) But if you aren’t having any issues, I wouldn’t worry too much. This post is really for the people who constantly struggle with their wash routines.


  10. Amy Says:

    “Keep in mind the prewash needed be long. Try to use the shortest cycle available (that agitates) to save time and energy.” Needed = needn’t, correct?


Leave a Reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Sharing is caring!