How To Wash Cloth Diapers

March 6, 2009

Washing Cloth Diapers

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How many ways can you rehash this arguement??  Oh, a million and one!

But no matter how many posts I write, washing cloth diapers remains the most asked about and commented on topic.

Here is a list of posts I have done in regards to washing/stripping cloth diapers:

Washing Cloth Diapers

Fabric Softener on Cloth Diapers *gasp*

I Found The Best Natural Laundry Detergent

How To Remove Stains

How To Remove Buildup From Your Cloth Diapers

How The Laundry Ball Changed The Way I Wash Cloth Diapers

Do Your Pocket Cloth Diapers Have The Stinkies?

Rotavirus and Cloth Diapers: What To Do

Performance Update: Laundry Ball and Zorb

To Wet or Dry Pail It… That Is The Question

How I Use Bac-Out

Cloth Diapers And Water Usage

How Should You Dry Your Cloth Diapers?

My Favorite Detergent For Cloth Diapers

Overwhelmed? Cloth Diapers 101

If you have been reading my blog for very long you’ve noticed that, like you, my needs and preferences change often.  What works great at one time soon begins to show its bad side and I am forced to move on to something better.  Sometimes it’s when I simplify that things work out best.

I have had the same routine for months now and it works beautifully.  Within that routine though I have changed detergents about every other month.

Right now I am using Costco brand Kirkland’s Environmentally Friendly laundry detergent.  It has performed very well and for the price and ease of buying, I really like it.  Even with harder water than I had before we moved, I’ve managed to avoid any new problems.  (I just use more detergent now)

It’s always worth repeating, the keys to clean cloth diapers are 1) use enough detergent and 2) rinse thoroughly!

My wash routine:

Prewash with Bac-out

Wash cold/cold

2nd Rinse

Dry in dryer for 70 minutes on high

If you are having ammonia-smell problems, perform a vinegar soak.  4 cups vinegar on the soak cycle.

This is safe for all diapers on an occassional basis but repetitive use of vinegar on diapers with elastic may cause the elastic to break down.  Inserts and prefolds can be soaked as often as needed.

….no baby yet but things look promising :)


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

20 Responses to “How To Wash Cloth Diapers”

  1. Brenda H Says:

    Hi Autumn.
    I’m new to cloth diapers, and have a couple of questions about washing them. I have really hard water, (with a water softerner) and am using AIOs, prefolds w/covers, and KLOs. I am using Rocking Green Hard for soap in my HE washer. I have noticed stains, especially the prefolds. I was wondering if there is something I can do/use in the wash to help those come out.
    I use the KLO at night and this morning I noticed an ammonia smell. I have only noticed this with the KLO, not in the prefolds or the AIOs. I have washed them all the same (together). Do you have any thoughts as to why these diapers only have been affected, and what I can do about the smell? All my KLO have been pre used.
    Thank you for your help and your blog – the information is wonderful, and your committment to helping others is geat! Thanks again!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I’ve seen suggestions of adding a 1/2 cup of lemon juice to the wash cycle to help with hard water stains. Do you use Bac-Out in a prewash? This helps too. Also, don’t forget the sun! It is awesome at stain removing.


  2. Dominique Says:

    Hi again Autumn,
    I tried the Tide last week just like you suggested and although some of the diapers seemed fine (I REALLY thought it had worked – they smelt wonderful) and never smelt during the day, there were still a few of them that gave off a strong ammonia smell – leading my husband and I too scared to put him back in cloth at night. I hate using disposables but I really don’t want another horrible rash like he had before.

    We then washed a load this past weekend just using a single scoop of Nelly’s (cold rinse, cold wash with detergent + one full wash without detergent) and added a big towel to the load and still, the ammonia is there.

    I’m contemplating trying the vinegar on the liners now … do you think I should try vinegar instead of bleach? Someone suggested vinegar might compound the problem …

    My mother in law had been talking to a cloth diaper store in Ottawa as well and picked up a sample of Crunchy Clean … I’m so confused as to where I should go now.

    Thanks again for the help!


  3. Dominique Says:

    Hmmm – I actually wondered about that … and I’m not opposed to anything ;) So should I just use some regular tide and follow the 1) cold pre-rinse 2) hot/cold wash with tide 3) extra wash? or should I try the vinnegar soak before hand? I’ve got some tide handy so maybe I’ll do a load tomorrow after we have some dirty ones built up.

    Funny you should say that though because I noticed last night that, once washed, they don’t smell per se … but they don’t smell awesome either … it’s like they still kinda smell dirty. I really hope this works. I’ll try it and let you know.

    Thanks for the quick response and the advice !


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I’d do 1) cold pre-rinse 2) cold wash with tide 3) extra rinse. It wouldn’t matter if you did the vinegar soak before hand. I’d be curious though to see if it was due to them not being thoroughly cleaned.


  4. Dominique Says:

    Hi Autumn,
    I’m at my wits end with my BG 3.0’s – the ammonia smell is killer in the morning and I feel like I’ve tried everything. It’s been about a month that I’ve been trying to strip them and I’ve managed to tame it during the day but no matter what I use, my son is still waking up with chemical-type burns on his diaper area when I try to go back to the BG’s at night. I’ve almost resolved to just use disposibles at night because I feel so terrible about the redness and rashes but maybe there’s something else I can do? Any help would be appreciated!!
    Here’s what I’ve been doing:
    – cold prewash (no detergent)
    – hot/cold ‘heavy duty’ wash with a 2nd rinse
    – extra hot/cold ‘heavy duty’ wash with no detergent +second rinse
    – dry in dryer

    I normally use Nature Clean or Nelly’s but I’ve got a front-loader (HE) machine and I’m worried that might be my problem. Normally I wash the diapers every 3ish days (mostly because this past month I’ve been trying to wash them all together to try and tackle the problem at once) but could I be overloading my machine? I have about 22 diapers … and I recently got 2 gro-baby diapers (as a gift from my mother-in-law) and now even these new ones (and new liners) have a SUPER bad ammonia smell in the morning if I use them. I used to use Dawn every once and a while but haven’t lately, and I used to try bleach every once and a while but haven’t done that lately either … I’m just scared of ruining them – we wanted to use them on more babies but I’m starting to worry I’ll have to replace my whole ‘stash or use disposibles at night forever

    What am I doing wrong!?

    Oh and I can’t seem to find Bac Out in Canada so I bought some RLR and tried using that in my wash this last time. This morning the smell was still there though :(

    thanks in advance,


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Dominique, I am so sorry you are having these problems. This may sound strange to you but I don’t think your diapers are getting clean. If you are not completely opposed to it I’d pick up some regular Tide and wash them. See how they respond. You may also try a vinegar soak. I look forward to hearing how it goes.


  5. Jeffsam9 Says:

    The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use by using it on yourself also. I'm not sure how many people know this but that is what they were originally created for. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: “if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain. One review:


  6. kira Says:

    Hi autumn…I recently got top loading HE machines. Since then I have had staining issues and it looks like there are tiny poo particles stuck to the fleece of my pockets. Its very odd. I use charlie’s liquid…one pump…and I use the bulky load cycle for extra water usuage What is going on? I am VERY protective of my diapers and its driving me nuts!


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Kira, that is terrible! So sorry you are experiencing this. I do not have an HE machine so my best guess is it has to do with the water. Have you thought of rinsing diapers after each use then using a wet pail with bacout in it? This may help.


  7. Patricia Says:

    Are you still using Costco’s Kirkland Environmentally Friendly laundry detergent? Do you like it? How much do you use with your diapers? I’m a little unsure about that.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Yep still using it and really really liking it. Clothes and diapers are always clean, no buildup issues, no stink issues, and no fragrant scents. I use up to the middle line of the cap. It does recommend using more for HE than regular. This detergent has been the best by far for us. We’ve been using it atleast 3-4 months.


  8. Brenda Says:

    Hi Autumn,
    I am relatively new to cloth diapering, so your site is very helpful. Three questions, do you not wash your diapers with hot water? Do you use Bac-out every time you wash the diapers? What about using tea-tree oil?


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      Brenda, I use Bac-out every wash in the prewash. I don’t use hot water unless I am stripping the diapers. Hot water fades the prints :D I don’t use TTO in the washer but it can be helpful at killing germies and yeasties. I personally have a skin sensitivity to it so I tend to shy away from using it in case my children share that reaction.


  9. Myndee Says:

    Hi! I was just wondering why you no longer use crunchy clean. I read it listed as your favorite, but then in another post I saw that you don’t use it anymore. I wanted to try it, but is it worth it? Maybe I shouldn’t- or maybe you just prefer another kind now? Thanks.


    • Autumn Beck Says:

      I have found that Crunchy Clean works great for a couple of weeks and then my clothes and diapers start to seem not as clean. I am not sure the reason for that. I also prefer to use a liquid detergent over powder.


  10. Rose Says:

    Just this morning I started compiling all the information I can find on diapers and diapering so I can soon put it in my home management binder and have all this information at my finger tips. So it’s really nice and timely that you should post this now :)
    Thanks for your hard work and research!


  11. Trish Says:

    Autumn, I have a high efficiency washer and dryer. 4 cups of vinegar seems like a LOT! Is that amount accurate for HE washers, or would you suggest maybe about half that amount? I’m going to try this with my Thirsties Hemp inserts ~ I still haven’t been able to get the ammonia smell out of them. They only smell of ammonia after they’ve been peed on though; is that normal for hemp?


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