How I Wash My Cloth Diapers

March 18, 2013

Washing Cloth Diapers

When it comes to washing cloth diapers you have either figured out a wash routine or are currently struggling to find one.

By far the #1 topic I am asked to help with is how to wash cloth diapers.  I’m going to lay out a simple Q&A for my wash routine.  I pray this helps some of you with the struggles you are having.

Q: How do I store dirty cloth diapers?

A: Since 2009, I have been consistently using a wet bag system for storing cloth diapers.  I have built up a stash of XL wet bags to store 15+ diapers each.

Q: What is my favorite wet bag?

A: I have used several different brands of wet bags.  When it comes down to the brand that performs best all around Monkey Foot Designs wins out.  I do have a couple of other brands that perform well but are either not as cute or not as big: Ragababe and Rumparooz.

Q: Do I dump/rinse dirty cloth diapers?

A: No.  I will dump if it is truly a solid.

Q: How often do I wash cloth diapers?

A: This varies widely.  Sometimes every other day, sometimes every 4 days. It really depends on how bad I want to use my preferred diapers.  When Finley was just born and Camden wasn’t using the potty, I was washing every day because there were so many diapers!

Q: How do I use Bac Out?

A: I use Bac Out in every prewash (almost since I began cloth diapering in 2005). I use 1/3 cup or 3 big squirts if you have a squirt bottle.  Bac Out will void many manufacturer warranties so be aware of this if you choose to use Bac Out.

Q: What temperature water do I wash with?

A: Prewash: cold  Wash: hot  2nd rinse: cold (only option)

Q: How do I disinfect cloth diapers?

A: To disinfect cloth diapers I use grapefruit seed extract.  I add ~1 teaspoon for a full load.  I purchased Nutribiotic GFSE off Amazon years ago and I am still using the same bottle.

Q: What type of washing machine do I have?

A: In Texas I have a front loader Samsung Steam and California I have a basic GE top loader.  The only complaint I have about my top loader is the very weak agitator.  However, my diapers and clothes come out clean as long as I don’t overload it.

Q: Do I have hard water?

A: Yes. In both my residences- south Texas and southern California.

Q: Do I soften the water?

A: In Texas we have a home water softener.  In California, no.  I have not had any problems not having a water softener.  I simply add more detergent and my diapers smell clean right out of the dryer and when peed in.  If you would like an inexpensive option for boosting your detergent efficacy check out What is RLR and How to Make a Cheap Substitute

Q: What type of detergent do I use?

A: I like to use Purex Natural Elements but my local grocery store doesn’t have it so I have (happily) been using Bright Green Laundry Detergent.  Ingredient list for Bright Green is:

Enzymes will void many manufacturer warranties.  Make sure you do a 2nd rinse any time you use enzymes in your wash.

Q: What type of fabric softener do I use to soften fitteds and prefolds?

A: Mrs. Meyers and Ecover are two great options.

Q: Do I use vinegar in the wash?

A: Not at this time because we have hard water. If you have soft water you can add 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle to help mini-strip the diapers and soften.

Q: How do I strip cloth diapers?

A: With a TL: fill the basin with hot water, stop machine, add RLR, add diapers, agitate or swish with broom stick, soak several hours.  With an HE: I use the bathtub.  Fill with hot water, add RLR, add diapers, swish and soak.  There is more work involved with a bathtub soak because I have to wring each item out when finished and take to the washer.  Remember I have hard water.  In 2006, the city we lived in had super soft water so I would do a vinegar soak to strip.  Fill basin, add 4 cups white vinegar, add diapers, swish/agitate, soak.  With vinegar you would not want to soak diapers often as it can/will break down elastic and PUL.

Q: How many cycles do I use to wash cloth diapers?

A: 2 1/2.  Prewash is a full cycle. Wash.  Reset to rinse only.

Q: Do I dry the cloth diapers on high?

A: Yes.  Up until recently I have always dried everything in the dryer.  However, I now lay shells on the couch to air dry and toss wet bags on the deep freeze in the garage/laundry room.

Q: Do I dry wet bags?

A: Not MFD because of the separate woven fabric but I will dry Rumparooz and Ragababe.

Washing cloth diapers doesn’t have to be hard.  Often times many families are scared away from using cloth diapers just by the thoughts of washing them!  Yes, there can be trials to work through but I’d guess that 99% of the time a solution can be found.  I’ve had struggles and frustrations to the point of wanting to go with convenience.  But, I kept at it and found a routine that worked.

Don’t beat yourself up if you have to buy a pack of disposable inserts or “healthy” disposables while you get rid of a nasty problem.  It’s more important that you are not stressed out and calmly working through it.

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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

View all posts by Autumn Beck

48 Responses to “How I Wash My Cloth Diapers”

  1. Elly Says:

    Did Country Save stop working for you with your soft water?


  2. Judith Martinez Says:

    I’m still struggling to find a good wash routine. I think I need to test my water and see if it’s actually hard like I thought it was. My biggest challenge is figuring out how to get the outside of my pockets clean! Now that my girl is a toddler she’s getting into dirt and such and the gorgeous colors are getting stained and dingy. :(


  3. Katie Says:

    Do you use the recommended amount of detergent on the detergent bottle? My flips say to use 1/4 of the recommended amount but I feel like they don’t get clean.


  4. Adrienne Alldaffer Says:

    Autumn, while I appreciate all the readily available information in our technological age, & all the mamas willing to give their experiences & preferences, I’ve felt so overwhelmed (mostly with my LOs medical issues)…to the point where your opinion is the only one i listen to pressure, I just have to Krupp it simple or I’ll go crazy! I’ve never had problems with our diapers, he’s also never had a legit rash…but i recently wanted my routine to be more like yours (yet in the midst of heightened medical issues i can’t fully separate what is related more to internal happenings or diaper changes)…if i do a really LARGE load of diapers(3 days between wash) do i put a”regular”load measurement of Purex? We just developed a problem for the 1st x in 10mths (he might have a bacterial infection or staph & horrible ammonia) i am still a little confused on the difference between stripping & disinfecting….i think i understand that i need to do a RLR soak (i thought i read in another post of yours that bamboo, natural fibers would be only an hour soak) & wash hot with no detergent..then wash a second time, I need to do bacout in the pre wash (i incorrectly thought that if using bacout you would never need GFSE) then in wash do GFSE & purex (1/2 the suggested amount?)…then we should be good! Sound correct?


    • Adrienne Alldaffer Says:

      I’ve read all your original work & current blog work explaining stripping & disinfecting, no need to explain again, my brain just thinks that one should do both lol.. Just like thinking bacout being enzymes in my prewash should eliminate the need for more enzymes in my wash cycle. SO, i decided I’m going to do a strip first, dry….then prewash bacout, wash with GSE & Purex, extra rinse, dry….then use diapers! &i might do the following wash (3 days later, dirty diapers) with GSE again just to make sure they’re disinfected really well. Thanks!


  5. Becky Says:

    You graciously helped me before w my laundering issues and now I have more and questions…. First, I use a capful of bleach in every load, that’s the only way to get the poopy discoloration out. Does that mean my detergent is no good or I don’t use enough? Or could I spray bac out or add to washer instead? We have super soft water from a home water softener. Also little guy is now breaking out in cloth at thighs and on his lower belly. Idk if it is a bleach thing, detergent sensitivity (Purex naturals) or what? Also it’s worse w the micro fleece ones then cotton. Which makes no sense, seems they would keep him more wet as it doesn’t wick moisture away. Anyway just wondering if I should keep using bleach, switch to bac out for stain removal and just do gsoe for sanitizing (also does that kill yeast) as maybe that’s what the rash is? But again it’s better w disposables or cotton. Thanks!


  6. Janna Says:

    I am new to cloth diapering, and my infant is only 3 months and is breast fed only. After washing the diapers after first use (cold rinse then hot wash with rockin green detergent), I can’t seem to get the poo stains out of the diapers. I have even washed several times since and have even. Tried using oxiclean spray to try and get the stains out. Nothing is working. Any suggestions??


  7. Janna Says:

    I am new to cloth diapering and started using them this past Tuesday. My daughter is breastfed and so has very yellow bright poos that stain everything. I didn’t think that it would also stain her diapers though since I am prewahsing cold and then washing hot with the rockin green detergent, but it has, and I can’t seem to get the stains out even after several washes. Any advice??


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Lay them in the sun.


      • Janna Says:

        I live in Fargo…in an apartment. Not much sun here…snow everywhere.


        • Jessica Says:

          Seriously the sun will do the trick. If you have a sunny afternoon that sun comes through your porch or living room window, just lay them there until it moves! I’ve had great luck with even 15 minutes of sun. You might not be able to do all the diapers at once, but it’s worth it! And will cure your newborn poo stains!


  8. Katie Says:

    I have modeled my washing after your suggestions and it’s been working well. This is the first that I’ve seen about the grapefruit seed extract. How often do you use that and what part of the cycle?


  9. Whitney Says:

    Lisa: If you are not able to figure out what is going on after talking with your city, you may want to try switching detergents. I have read in several places now that the sodium percarbonate in Rockin Green breaks down natural fibers quickly. You may need to find a detergent that doesn’t have that ingredient.


  10. Beth Says:

    Thank you for sharing. It is always nice to hear other peoples routines. When I first started CDing I felt like there was a right and wrong way and if I did it wrong, I would ruin everything! Now I know that its not really a big deal. Most problems can be fixed.

    I am currently tweaking my routine. I also live in SoCal and have somewhat hard water. I have been using Country Save with Oxiclean for the past 10 months, but I feel like it can be better. Country Save is OK, but not great. I started using a mixture of Oxiclean, Borax, and Washing Soda(equal parts) as an additive and it is working great. I even use it on my regular laundry and everything is cleaner and softer.

    Since Country Save is not much more than Washing Soda, I am looking around for a new detergent. Bright Green sounds good, I might give it a try. Although, not sure about the enzymes. I used Tide and it gave my boy a little rash. May have been the enzymes.

    I sometimes add Calgon, especially if I’m Stripping. I add it to every rinse as well when stripping. I just had a case of very bad night time stinkies. I tried a lot of things including RLR. What finally worked was Bleach and Dawn together. They did not work separately. I am in love cloth again!

    Just wanted to share my experience in case it could help others.

    BTW, I use cotton prefolds, Bamboo fitteds with wool at night, and pockets with microfiber and hemp.


  11. Loucrecia Hollingsworth Says:

    Oh, thank you for sharing! I have been battling a strong odor build up in our inserts. I have tried everything I thought sounded reasonable. I recently soaked the inserts overnight in vinegar water (1 1/2 C for an Extra Lg load setting). Then washed & rinsed (2 or 3 rinses). I think it had the effect of boiling them because today we’ve had leaks. Time to rewash & pray things get better.

    I do want to ask though…a friend said that doing a cold rinse followed by a hot wash & cold rinse (as well as drying on high) could cause the diapers to de-laminate. Yet this is your routine…have you had any problems with this?


  12. Michelle Barber Says:

    Very helpful blog post!!! Thank you!


  13. Erin Says:

    I am using Alva diapers with Rockin’ Green Hard Rock soap. I have very hard water. I rinse my diapers at each change. I wash every day. I rinse several times during each wash and wash them in warm, but not hot water, since I don’t want to damage my PUL. For some reason, my diapers still stink! When they are dirty, the smell is almost unbearable and makes your eyes burn! I have been using cloth for about 8 months now. I’m feeling very frustrated and not sure what else I can do. Since my water is hard, I read that I shouldn’t use vinegar. I think I clean my diapers more than anyone else and they still smell. Any suggestions?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Try a mainstream detergent :)


    • Katie Says:

      Have you tried stripping them? And are you using bac-out? I had to strip and start using bac-out and it helped a lot.


      • Erin Says:

        I have never used bac out. I am dealing with so many issues right now, I am about to switch back to disposable. I am constantly stripping my diapers. They still smell. Maddie breaks out constantly. The diaper rashes are a nightmare. I have used almost every detergent they make! The Rockin’ Green seemed to be working, but not anymore. I washed them in straight hot last time hoping it would help. Should I try some bleach? Would that help with the smell and rashes? I’m so frustrated! And when she needs to be changed the smell makes your eyes water. :(


        • Katie Says:

          I just saw this, so not sure if you’ll get this reply. When I stripped mine, I stripped the crap out of them! (no pun intended) – I washed 5 or 6 times and turned up the water heater to get it super hot (like 140). I used calgon (same as rlr) in the first 4 or 5 loads even though I saw to use it in the first load (I have hard water though too). I also used a few drops of dawn dish soap in a few loads. I soaked everything in a bucket of hot water and about a tbs of dish soap overnight and then scrubbed everything with a scrub brush. Then I washed 1 or 2 more times in the hot water.

          After this I washed with bac out and a new detergent (I used this recipe And I’ve had no more stink or diaper rash. I hope that helps!


  14. April Bowen Says:

    I just got my Cloth-eez Workhorse fitted diapers in the mail. Is it fine to use my Rockin Green on them?


    • Marguerite Says:

      I use Rockin’ Green on mine all the time without any issues. You have to wash them a few times before your first use to make them absorbent.


      • April Bowen Says:

        Thanks! The paper that came with it said that it didn’t recommend it on cotton diapers, but I only use Rockin Green on my gDiapers, Flips, and Gerber prefolds. :)


  15. Jennah Says:

    Stephanie what kind of soak are you doing with vinegar and baking soda?


  16. Stefanie Says:

    It is ok to wash the pocket diapers in hot water? I had thought they needed low heat not to damage the PUL?


  17. Stacey Says:

    For a HE front loader, where do you put the grapefruit seed extract in? Do you do this every wash?



  18. Stephanie Says:

    I know you have hard water so you may not have information on this, maybe someone else will, but we have soft water and I’m trying to figure out a good washing routine since I’ve already had to “strip” my diapers after only using them (24 of them on a two year old)for 2 weeks. They were fine after I soaked in baking soda and added 1/4 C. Vinegar to the final rinse…and then I did all the inserts on a sanitary hot wash. I was wondering if that might be part of the problem, since I can’t wash my pockets with Hot Water (they’re Kawaii’s) since the manufacturer says it will ruin the TPU (no it’s not PUL, it’s a different material). Simply put, we have soft water and I’m using Country Save. Right now I use a full scoop with a TL, full water (Large setting) and Warm water setting.

    Ok…I hope that was annoying and confusing, any help would be great. Thanks!


  19. Mary Says:

    I thought vinegar was a water softener? We used to live in southern CA (Ventura area) and we would put vinegar in the dishwasher to help the glasses not get so cloudy.


    • Stephanie Says:

      Yes, vinegar is a water softener but it also neutralizes odors. Here is what it says from “” which is the Kawaii Diapers’ website:

      “Method 3: Vinegar”

      “Vinegar helps neutralize the urine in diapers, equalizes PH balace. Vinegar helps break down soap residue or film build up. It is also a natural fabric softener, we recommend to use not more than 1/4 cup of White Vineger in the rinse cycle.”

      This was under, “How to disinfect your diapers”

      I’ve also read (even on their website) to reduce the amount of detergent to half of what you would normally use on a load of laundry. I tried that the second or third time I washed them (which I’ve also read is the case for having soft water, that you need to use a little less) but it still smelled stinky even after the second rinse. I’ve also been reading that you should be using the full amount…it just seems to depend what website I’m on. I’m obviously trying to follow the Kawaii website first. I’ve heard different things in regards to vinegar as well, like not to use it in every cycle because it will eventually break down the PUL (which I assume would happen to TPU as well) and cause the elastic to wear out quicker. I wish I could just run them on hot and then I wouldn’t have to worry about it so much. :)


  20. Mary Says:

    What does RLR stand for? I don’t know if I have hard or soft water, what should use to strip my diapers?


    • Mary Says:

      If you live in a city your city has to issue a water quality report every year. You can look up the mineral particles on the report. Rockin Green has a table on their website telling which numbers correspond to hard/soft water.


      • Stephanie Says:

        Thank you. Yes, I have looked at this report. The report says the area has hard water, very hard actually but there are softeners added to ours. Since we are on a military base we don’t really have control over having them add it or not. Also, as I mentioned, we’re using Country Save. We just bought the washer and dryer and I’ve only used the Country Save (after a very short period of a regular detergent before CS arrived in the mail) so I know it’s not old gunk sticking to the diapers either. The only fabric softener I use are wool dryer balls, so not having an issue there…plus the diapers aren’t repelling anyways. Just smelly.

        I store all the diapers in a dry pail, wash every 2 days right now (could go 3 but I’m worried about the smell), Rinse Cold, Wash Warm, I was rinsing Warm as well, but now I’m rinsing cold, and then I hang dry and throw into the dryer for 2-3 minutes on low to fluff. I’ve even done a Cold Wash, Warm Wash, Extra Rinse and that did nothing until the baking soda soak and vinegar in extra rinse.


      • Lisa Says:

        Mary, I spoke to Rockin Green, and I’m in LA, and she suggested actually using a test strip to see how hard my water was. And although it registered as “hard water,” she directed me to use their regular Rockin’ Green formula. Our water wasn’t hard enough for the Hard Rock version.

        Now, for anyone else out there, HELP!!!
        I am having a HUGE problem, which is really getting me down. For some unknown reason, my natural-fibered diapers and cloth wipes (made of cotton – which I didn’t soak) are literally disintegrating during washing. It started after they had been striped with RLR, then a month later, soaked in BacOut (about 3 hours). Unfortunately, I had read other diapering mom’s comments that they too soak their diapers for that length of time in BacOut. Now I’m finding out that’s not a good thing. So that could’ve caused the demise of my original batch of naturals. (My synthetic are just fine and dandy.)

        Here’s the real sad problem. I bought a whole new set of wipes and diapers, and only about 3 months after washing them, they started disintegrating too. First, they get crispy, “burnt” areas on them, and that’s where the fibers start thinning out and they quickly rip or just disintegrate so you can see through the material holding it there. It’s crazy. I have not used either BacOut or RLR since that first time. And I can’t imagine the diapers I had soaked, some of which I am still using, still have traces that would do that to my new stock even 6 months after I did those soaks.

        I have an HE top loader machine (Paykel/Fisher). I use about 1/2-3/4 of a scoop of Rockin Green detergent. I rinse 2x after a full wash/rinse cycle. I wash about 12-15 diapers at a time with full water. I actually do rinse, by hand, all my diapers before putting them in the wet bag, and launder them every 2-3 days. These are the brands I have/had:

        All pockets except Grovia:
        SwaddleBees (Org. Cotton – pocket diapers totally disintegrated; inserts ok, less fluffy, thinned out; synth.covers fine)
        Oh Katy’s (Synth – fine)
        Grovia (Cotton parts NEVER SOAKED – totally shredded with holes, exposed elastic still intact)
        BabyKicks (Hemp inserts NEVER SOAKED – totally shredded and full of holes)
        Bum Genius (Synth – fine)

        2 months NEW and NEVER SOAKED
        Kawaii (Synth – fine)
        Kawaii (Bamboo – starting to show areas where fiber is thinning severely and getting crusty, hard, darker areas) Note: not stained from poop Although, now I have soaked the bamboo in water and a teeny amount of RGreen detergent, and they seemed to have softened up a bit. But they still seem to be thinning out.

        Does ANYONE have thoughts about this??


        • Lisa Says:

          I am also using Quilter’s Nappies wipies, which are awesome! But the cotton side of the wipes shred, and the velour side are fine.


        • Autumn Beck Says:

          I am so sorry!! I can’t imagine the frustration you are feeling, not to mention the anger that a lot of money is being eaten by something! The only thing I can think of is your water. Perhaps there is something being added to your water that is causing this. Can you contact your city and ask for a list of the chemicals added to the water? You may have a ridiculously high amount of chlorine or other corrosive agent. Maybe some others have suggestions.


          • Lisa Says:

            Autumn, that’s an interesting thought. I will. Although, my friend does not have this problem, and she lives about 1 1/2 miles away. Nevertheless I will check that out. What baffles me too is that Nothing else I wash – the rest of our clothes – is affected in any way like this. I would imagine that something in the water would be degrading all my clothes – although it is true that they are not getting peed on regularly. Hmmm. I do rinse all the diapers out quite thoroughly each time before I put them in the wetbag.


            • Miriam Says:


              Did u ever find out what caused your diapers to disenigrate? I’ve almost lost my whole stash! Blueberry simplex. I thought it was mildew related because I had to move out of my house suddenly due to construction. But daipers that weren’t touched by that load are doing it too! And diapers of other brands too! I had to break out some that I wasn’t using. And some prefolds that I have hardly used are also beginning to break down. I used Country Save with workhorses for the first child. Same wash routine different waher and different house. Use a front loader HE now but have for over a year. Prewash and extra rinse. All warm. Dry hot. Stripped a few times with rlr and clean the washer with it. Never had any problems. Then all of a sudden! I’m desperate to figure out the cause and i can’t find much on the internt! Help!


              • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

                Hi Miriam, What do you mean exactly when you say disintegrate? Elastics? PUL? Inserts? Do you know how hot the dryer is? Maybe it is hotter than you think. I personally dry on medium and find it is plenty hot enough.


        • Jami Chace Says:

          I might have a solution to try…. It is known that most if not all detergents breakdown fabric, I have found that using Shaklee Detergent and the Softner sheets to be amazing, and allow all your cloth to last much much longer! I love my shaklee products! Check it out when you can by the web.


        • Melody Says:

          I found this website because my organic diapers are breaking down the same way. I have found a few people who have used Rockin Green and had this problem. Rockin Green has not returned my calls yet. The diaper company and the store where I bought them all say they haven’t heard of this before.


  21. Jennah Says:

    I have a few questions.. I currently use rumparooz and bum genius cloth diaper and it seems like even after I prewash then wash with an extra rinse they still have an odor to them. After the diapers have been used I store them in a rumparooz bag. I do not rinse them until right before I was them. I currently wash them probably every 2-3 days. I also use Eco sprout detergent and use about 3-4 tablespoons each wash. Any suggestions would be appreciated because I know someone else that does the exact same thing and her diapers don’t have any odor. Thanks so much!


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