Dirty Jobs: Four Ways to Deal with Cloth Diaper Poop

October 5, 2011

How-to, Washing


Guest post by Jessica Bruds

I’ve gotten pretty good at convincing my friends/family members about the benefits of using cloth versus disposable diapers. Cloth diapers are safer than disposables made from plastics and other hard to pronounce chemicals, better for the environment, and when you combine the cost savings this would appear to be a “no brainer” type of decision for parents.

Logically speaking, cloth diapers make sense.  But there’s that one little “hang up” that discourages most parents from making the switch to cloth: the clean up process.

Coming from a mother who managed to put two kids through cloth diapers this remains a tough sell even for me. I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing glamorous about cleaning up your bundle of joy’s excrement even if it does save you some money.

While I can’t argue that cleaning up your child’s feces isn’t gross (It most certainly is!), I can try to persuade you that the clean up isn’t as bad as you might think. In this post, I hope to clear up some of the misconceptions about the work involved with cloth diapering and outline a few realistic clean-up options if you’re still on the fence.

1.) Toss Them In The Wash: When your child is still being solely breast fed, their waste is actually water soluble. That means cloth diapers can be thrown directly in the washing machine and the excrement will wash away. Of course you’ll still need to separate cloth diapers from regular loads of laundry.

This can help you ease into the first few months of using cloth diapers. However, after your child makes the transition to solid food this is no longer a viable option. But for the first few months of your child’s life cloth is barely more work than the alternative.

2.) Biodegradable Diaper Liner: Biodegradable cloth diaper liners can cut down on much of the work associated with cloth diapers.

Here’s what I mean. Unlike cloth inserts that need to be washed, biodegradable inserts fit inside a cloth diaper and absorb the majority of wetness. These inserts can be thrown away or flushed down the toilet while the outer portion of the diaper is washed.

Biodegrable inserts can be compared to really thick paper towels that are extremely soft to the skin. While there’s still a certain amount of waste associated with these throw-away inserts it can make for an easier transition when getting started with cloth diapering. Plus, there’s still less waste than traditional diapers and the material is able to decompose quickly.

3.) Shake it out!: The third clean up option is simple: shake the cloth diaper into a toilet and flush the remains. Next, toss the cloth diaper into the washing machine. This option takes less than a minute to complete and is ideal when you’re at home.

4.) Diaper Sprayer: The final diaper cleaning option is to purchase a diaper sprayer. If you know a handy man (or woman) this could be a good option. A diaper sprayer hooks up to your toilet and is used to spray diaper droppings into the toilet similar to how you might wash dishes.

I’ve never installed a diaper sprayer in my own house, but I have a friend that swears this clean up method.

While making the switch from cloth diapers is a little more work than disposables, I hope you’ve learned that the benefits far outweigh the hassle. Cloth is less expensive, eco-friendly, and not as much of an inconvenience as parents often think.


Jessica Bruds is a proponent of cloth diapers and friend of the owner of Adult Cloth Diapers HQ a website that specializes in the distribution of adult sized diapers.

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About Autumn Beck

Autumn is a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, friend and most important a follower of Christ. She began cloth diapering in 2005 and has experienced many joys and trials throughout the years. You can read more from Autumn over at https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyblessedlashes.

View all posts by Autumn Beck


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47 Responses to “Dirty Jobs: Four Ways to Deal with Cloth Diaper Poop”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I have been using All free and clear for a while now and I thought it worked fine. I tried the washing soda mix that Rachael recommended and I was surprised. Much better results.


  2. Jeannie T Says:

    Wondering if anyone has considered rags (old soft tshirts, etc) as a “disposable liner” in cloth diapers. If the baby only wets, just throw it in with the laundry and if baby poops, you can throw it out (if it is a messy poop). Most of my husbands old tshirts are 100% cotton and very soft to the touch….anyone try this and find it worked?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      If you were going to toss them anyways this is a great way to give them one more use! Make sure and rinse the poop off in the toilet first before throwing it out.


  3. Jenni Says:

    ok it is better for the environment if cloth diapers are used but how to minimize the water and energy usage of getting the diapers cleaned in the washing machine? turning on the washing machine every day is not good either. I m trying to find the optimum solution.

    are there any ideas?


  4. Julie Says:

    Hi Autumn,
    I know this is under he wrong opic.
    I was wondering if you had any suggestions for me. My son is 2 and he soaks through his diaper into his pajajmas every night. He is using pocket diapers double stuffed wih 2 large inserts, one microfibre and one bamboo.

    Also, any suggestions for extra absorbancy without bulk. My 2 week old soaks through a few diapers a night because I try not to bulk her up too much. I try to avoid middle of the night diaper changes if possible.

    Thank you


    • kayla Says:

      Hey Autumn,

      my son whos 2 now use to soak through diapers like no tomorrow at night too…what I started doing was cutting down his liquid intake towards his bedtime and ive notice a huge difference and him not soaking through a diaper. Hope this helps and good luck!


  5. Lauren Says:

    I want to preface this, with I don’t do this and I’m not completely sure I love this idea but it’s definitely and easy way to deal with the poop. I ran across it today so I figured I’d share.
    copied from http://itsadiaperthing.webs.com/
    “I also bought some shop towels at Sam’s Club for $10 for a box of 350. These I use over the soaker to make poopy diapers a breeze to clean up, simply take one towel and lay it lengthwise over your soaker it should cover the whole bumside of the diaper since it tends to go upwards. If baby’s pooped simply take off the towel and toss it in the trash or flush it down the toilet (I usually toss the poo in the toilet then toss the towel in the trash, I have a small step trashcan in the bathroom) if baby has only had a pee you can simply wash it with your soakers and reuse it over and over till baby poops on it. In case you haven’t done the math, I only need one box per year.”
    seems like that wouldn’t be very soft on babies bottom, def not the “greenest” option but I do like the idea of not having to sweat about tossing it away since they are cheap


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I know there is a disposable liner that can be washed. Imse Vimse maybe?? Can’t recall. I would go with a product made to sit next to my baby’s bottom.


  6. Erin B. Says:

    I think a diaper sprayer is essential early on if you don’t breastfeed. Not all cloth diapering mamas also breastfeed, but no one ever talks about what to do with the poop if you don’t. So I would definitely recommend a diaper sprayer.


  7. Rachel Says:

    I’m surprised that the easiest and cheapest method for poop removal wasn’t mentioned: a stiff rubber spatula. That is the only method I use when I can’t just shake the solids off. It quickly and cleanly scrapes poop off. I just keep an old bucket behind the toilet to store it, and clean it off in the sink with hot, soapy water. I keep a bottle of bleach solution that I quickly spray the sink with and then rinse with hot water. For my diaper bag, I keep another spatula in a gallon sized zip lock bag in the side panel with the changing pad. If I can’t clean the spatula when I’m out and about, I just put it in that bag, zip it closed, then clean it when I get home. The key is it must be stiff, not bendy, otherwise it’s worthless for effective poop removal. If you’re lucky and live close to an IKEA, they have stiff spatulas for $1, and an extra bonus is that they come in bright colors so you know this is your poop spatula. :)


    • Heather Says:

      Thanks for the advice! I’m going to try that!


    • Samantha Says:

      I LOVE that idea!! my son often has “sticky” bowel movements.. makes quite a mess during cleanup.. I have a stiff spatula I purchased for cooking but found it to be too small.. Ended up in the bottom of a storage box in the garage.. New use :) YAY!


  8. emily Says:

    I can’t live without my diaper sprayer. I have even taken it with us when we travel. I have 2 in cloth and it is the easiest way to handle the poo. For daycare I line their diapers with Viva paper towels (1 sheet folded in half fits perfectly) and then daycare just throws those away because they were really concerned about what to do with the poop. I told them I didn’t mind if they sent home poop diapers as long as they agreed to continue with the cloth. Was doing fine until the twins got to the new classroom and their teacher refuses to use cloth! They are close to potty training so I have agreed to go back to disposables. Was fun/cheap while it lasted! I must admit that I welcome the break from laundry. We still cloth in the am/pm and 3 days out of the week when they are home with me.


    • Shauna Says:

      How sad that your daycare teacher refuses to use cloth! That should be a parents choice, and since they choose to work in the field of childcare and get paid for this service that shouldnt be a choice on their part. Thats just my opinion. I worked in childcare and we had a few kids come through that were cloth diapered. We did whatever we could to make it work at the center as to respect the parents wishes.


    • Maggie Roberts Says:

      My son was never CD’d full-time because our daycare refused to do cloth. They said it was for OSHA/health requirement reasons, which actually makes sense. I am so happy this time around we do not have to have our littlest one in daycare (and she has been in cloth full-time since week 2).

      Back on-topic – We bought a diaper sprayer from Sweetbottoms that was really easy to install and works like a dream. I loved that we could dry pail our diapers and wash breastfed poo without needing to rinse, but little bit is on solids now, so we have to spray. It’s so easy even my big kids can do it. :)


  9. Chrissy Says:

    I think your description of biodegradable liners is off. They don’t absorb wetness. The wetness passes through to the diaper. Their intent is to capture the solid poo so you can toss it into the toilet without having to scrape or spray the diaper….


    • Laura Says:

      I agree, I use the bio-liner and it holds no moisture…just doo doo. Here is my dilema. I am still getting used to CD. My daughter is almost 8months. I am still trying to figure out the “poops in cloth”. I have started to change her diaper on the bathroom floor to dispose of the liner in toilet…that isn’t the problem. so not to give TMI, but you know that initial wipe you do with a disposable when your baby is poopy? Well that doesn’t seem to go well with the liner/cloth combo for me. there is always “stuff” left on her bum and then feel like I am using more wipes to quickly get it off her. She is also squirmy so with a dirty bet and a child on the move it doesn’t go as smooth as I would like. I still haven’t trained my husband on all of this because I need it to be easy and straight forward or else he will sneak in disposables if he thinks she is going to poop. And not to mention, once I am done changing her I have to take the soiled wipes and the dirty CD to the nursery to dispose of properly. My bathroom is way to small to set up a second changing area..nor do I want multiples. Any tips?


      • Rachel Says:

        For the initial wipe with the doo-doo, I use facial tissue to wipe that off into the poop of the cloth diaper. When I get the excess off, I use a cloth wipe to completely clean my baby’s bottom. Then I scraped the poo and facial tissue altogether into the toilet using a stiff rubber spatula. You can use toilet paper as well, but I find the facial tissue much more convenient because I don’t need both hands to tear off small pieces. One hand is free to hold my baby’s legs up while the other can pull out facial tissue as needed. Hope this helps!


        • Laura Says:

          This totally helps, but one question…what is a “facial tissue”? I think I will have to give in to the spatula idea that so many seem to be fond of, but it just sounds yucky to keep in the bathroom. Just curious…which diapers are your favorite? I need to make the move to purchase more. I like the shell style. I need to try out prefolds with my Grovia’s (they are bulky and their insert takes forever to dry). I have two “Happy Heinyz” pockets but they are not working for me.


          • Rachel Says:

            Facial tissue = Kleenix. I was just trying not to use a name brand in my post. :) If you look at my above comment where it starts with “I’m surprised that the easiest and cheapest…” I explain how I use the stiff rubber spatula and how I make sure it stays clean and does not get mixed up with the rest of my spatulas.

            When I first started cloth diapering, I did the one size pocket diaper, namely Bum Genius. While I think they are a great idea in theory, I had a ton of problems with leaking because the stay dry liner did not absorb fast enough, and the stuffing of diapers every other day almost made me quit cloth altogether. To make a long story short, I am now using quality prefolds (Chinese, Indian, Econobum, NOT Gerber) and quality one size diaper covers. My favorite are the Flip because the butterfly closure on them keeps the tabs from pulling up, causing weird bunches that just aesthetically look weird, and then the Econobum cover because it does the job well for the best price out there. I first started with Bummis with the hook and loop closures (aka Velcro). I had two problems with them: 1) The rise could not be adjusted so I couldn’t really get a custom fit on my baby, and 2) the Velcro wore out well before it was time for my baby to get out of diapers. I’m not a sewer, so I pretty much had to just stop using them. The snaps on the Flip and Econobum have been fabulous. They are far more adjustable than the snaps on diaper covers that came before them.

            I love prefolds for a number of reasons. 1) So much easier to thoroughly clean. If I have a bacteria build up in them (you can tell if you do because you smell ammonia as soon as the diaper gets wet), I can wash them like normal, then sanitize them by letting them soak in really hot water (too hot to put your hand in) and a little bit of bleach. Then I rinse them out and the bacteria is all gone. I could not do that with the pocket diapers because the liners and microfiber cannot handle that kind of treatment. 2) So much cheaper than the fancier diapers out there. 3) No stuffing, folding, or pinning. I throw all the diapers in a basket and just pull them out as needed. I fold the ends under so it will fit in the cover, lay it in the diaper cover, then snap it on my baby much like a disposable. 4) Almost no leaks. Only the most explosive poo comes out, and that would come out of any diaper.


            • Laura Says:

              THANK YOU! That was so helpful. After hours of research you have helped me make my final decisions on which shells to purchase next. I went with a Flip, Econobum and a few different types of inserts/prefolds/doublers to try out. And I will have to give in to the spatula idea eventually. Thanks so much for taking the time to get back to me. Have a wonderful day.


  10. Lindsay Says:

    When our 8-month old daughter started eating solids (about 2 months ago), I asked my husband to install a diaper sprayer, anticipating more clean-up issues. The funny thing is, we’ve used it less than 10 times! After watching a friend of mine toilet train her 2 boys, I decided to try with Lydia when she started solids. She transitioned seamlessly to pooing on the toilet! All it took was a little observation to notice rhythms of when she poos (typically just after a feeding or first thing in the morning) and her body language (grunts, red face, sudden quiet and focus), and we rush to the toilet where I sit her in front of me for her to poo. It has seriously eliminated most pooey diaper messes, and if I don’t quite catch it in time, the solid poo usually just falls into the toilet. The trade-off is a little more work for bathroom trips, but she’s happier and I am too!


  11. Rachael Says:

    Ah, yes. The poo. I think I want a sprayer for when Peanut starts on solids (currently exclusively breastfed). But the spatula method looks like a good idea, and cheaper. I’m a science teacher, and I’ve taught dissections and digestive system. Poo just doesn’t gross me out too much. Vomit more so, but I can hold my own when needed.


  12. Emily D Says:

    My husband attached a kitchen sink sprayer to our toilet, and I don’t think I could live without it! Like some others who have posted, shaking it off is rarely an option for me, it’s usually too sloppy. And I have tried the liners, but I found that poop would sit on top of them and slide off to the edges so the diapers were getting dirty anyways, and often would leak out the legs.


  13. Jennifer P Says:

    Diaper sprayers are helpful and I was able to install it myself! That said, I’ve had a few poops that a pressure washer would have been more helpful with….

    The shake it out method only works when you catch them post-poop and it’s well formed. Sadly, this is 1% of my changes.

    Great post and thanks for taking on this stinky subject.


  14. Jennifer Says:

    Could you make a paste with the cornstarch and use that for a diaper rash? Also, I seem to read that talcum powder is the substance doctors are worried about inhaling, but I read nothing about cornstarch being a problem. Could someone please clear this up for me?


  15. Brooke Says:

    My method is to put the diaper in the toilet, let is soak for a couple of hours, hold one corner tightly, and flush. Diaper then goes into the pail to be washed.


  16. Shelby Bennett Says:

    LOVE my sprayer!!!!!! And also use the biodegradeable inserts on occasion, but love the sprayer.


  17. Laura Says:

    Okay, my bad. Zinc Oxide is in what I use as well. I don’t know what the alternative to cornstarch is, but I do know that the cornstarch is safer.


  18. Laura Says:

    Yeah, I’m wishing I had a diaper sprayer. It sounds so nice! I’m not fond of my current method, which is using toilet paper and my fingers to scrape poo into the toilet, then I rinse them clean in the bathtub or sink, and then I have to disinfect the tub or sink. As for the comment on the oil soap being similar to the diaper safe rash creams, I wouldn’t go near it. I have diapers that I basically had to scrub for 15 minutes or so with Dawn to get them out! I have since switched to the horrifying baby powder that is so frowned upon, however, I get the
    CVS version of Gold Bond baby powder, which is made with cornstarch. I’m just careful not to go crazy with it so that it’s all over and we’re all breathing it in. Haven’t had a problem since, and my diapers seem fine with it…they are not breaking down or leaking more or anything. In fact, they work better, as there is not gunk all stuck in them! Also, the powder seems to do a better job at preventing and taking care of diaper rash than any of the creams I tried. I still might be hesitant to use it on a newborn, but I’ve used it with my son since he was about 8 months old and have had no problems. One time, early on, he even grabbed it from me and dumped it on his face while he was laying on the changing table! I called poison control because of all the negative hype I’ve heard about powders killing babies, and the person at the poison control center told me that as long as he was breathing okay, no worries. Also, much better that I have the powder with cornstarch than the other kind (which I think uses zinc oxide?). So, anyway, that’s my two cents worth. Do with it what you will.


  19. Katie Santiago Says:

    I absolutely love my diaper sprayer!! It was super easy to install and really makes diaper clean-up easy. And the best part is that you end up with not only a diaper sprayer but also a handheld bidet.


  20. Melanie Says:

    We use a plastic kitchen spatula to scrape poo into the toilet when it doesn’t just fall off the diaper… and most of the time for us it doesn’t. We put the diaper on the edge of the tub, hold one end and scrape away. Use toilet paper to push the poo into the toilet and wipe the spatula clean(ish). We store the spatula in a yogurt tub beside the toilet. We use homemade fleece liners to prevent diaper rash and this method works really well for us.


  21. Erin Says:

    Two things I thought I could live without were the diaper sprayer and liners, I got by without them with the first child and tried them with the second and now I am kicking myself for not using them with the first. They really do make life so much easier!


  22. Aisha Says:

    This is a little off topic, but since you’re talking about cleaning diapers, I have a laundry question. I read in the GMD diaper manual that a hypoallergic alternate to detergents is to wash cloth diapers with olive oil bar soap grated into water to dilute it. I started looking up olive oil soaps to buy, and then thought, wont the oil coat the diapers and cause them to repel? Any thoughts/suggestions? Ive got stinky diapers and am currently using All free and clear and don’t want to haw to experiment with 10 different kinds of detergents, the olive oil idea seemed the simplest and most fool proof.


    • maggie Says:

      I found a good alternative to regular detergents to be Borax. I found it at the 2 major grocers in my area and it has no oil in it, which is the problem with most liquid based detergents. It’s a powder…all natural no residue. Also I have a front load washer, which uses less water than a top load and so feel an extra rinse cycle is necessary every time I wash.
      A third thing that I found helpful for stink is putting baking soda in the diaper pail..it helps keep the diapers fresher.
      last but not leaste, dry them out in the sun from time to time; sun takes out stink and stains!


    • sharon Says:

      I would agree with you about the oil. I would think it would coat some. I would suggest changing detergents. All free and clear really isn’t free and clear. look at the ingredients. If you chose not to use a cloth diaper detergent, I don’t, then the best ones are actually the store brands. The reason being for that, is that they have less chemicals over all. I use Sam’s wind fresh. there are only 2 ingredients listed. If you look at the all free and clear and compare to other brands, they have a lot of the same things in them. You want to use something with as FEW items as possible.


    • UmImran Says:

      Olive oil soap is castille soap one of the original types to use. http://www.sea9soap.com/Baby_Body_Wash_p/ls102.htm It does not leave anything on the diaper.


    • anna Says:

      I don’t know about small amounts would hurt your diapers because if you look at the cloth diaper safe rash creams the ingredients are anywhere from olive oil, coconut oils and essential oils. So I honestly it might not be an issue. I guess the only way to know for sure is to try it and then strip if diapers start to leak


      • cecelia Says:

        I’ve heard that olive oil designates in hot water. I use it on my wipes and they get washed with my diapers. I haven’t had any stay on either one or cause leaking. I do use flip disposable inserts since my dd pees past everything else I’ve tried, but the hemp inserts I used for a while didn’t have any resistancy for washing with olive oil they were always soaked after 1 pee. I’ve had trouble with detergents since I started cd my dd the best I’ve found is actually the publix brand free and clear with a little liquid oxyclean.


    • Jen H Says:

      We use Planet Ultra detergent on our dipes. It is CD safe and corn & coconut oil based. i buy it at Kroger.


      • Janet Says:

        You can always make your own detergent. It is safe for cloth diapers and a whole lot less expensive than anything else. I found all three ingredients at Walmart in the detergent aisle. Borax, Sun Oxygen cleaner & Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. Just put 2 cups of each in a container and mix well. Then when washing put 2 tablespoons of detergent into the machine before the diapers add some water, I make sure it desolves before putting in the diapers, then add diapers and let them wash. I do an additional rinse after washing too. It gets rid of my “stink” issue and everything, plus I can make 3 batches of detergent for $8. Good luck!


    • Rachael Says:

      I was using All free and clear, but wanted something better. So, I’m currently using a 1:1:1 washing soda, borax and oxygen cleaner, and I love how the diapers look and smell.


      • Aisha Says:

        I went to heb and stood in the detergent isle staring and reading ingredients for 10 minutes. Ended up with the store brand powder detergent and store brand oxygen wash. If that doesn’t work I’ll probably go with the olive oil idea.

        Thanks for everyones help!


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