How-To: Cloth Diapers (Part 2)

Caribou Baby puts an end to cloth diaper-phobia with this 3-part series. Today’s focus: Laundry!

In our first post of this 3-part series, we wrote about one of our favorite diapers – the prefold! But no matter how loud we preach our love for cloth diapers from the rooftops, we know what’s really going through everyone’s minds, “But POOP?! In my WASHER!??” So before we talk more about diapers, let’s talk about the dirty stuff: laundry.

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Let’s start with the bad news first. There is already poop in your washer. (Gasp!) Tiny specks of poop already lived inside your precious washing machine from adult clothing and whatnot, but when baby arrives into the world, those tiny specks become giant globs and huge puddles. Truth: Poop doesn’t stay so well in disposable diapers, meaning it often ends up on baby clothes. Diaper blowouts are chiefly a disposable diapering problem. And then one day, not so far away, when you have a potty training toddler? More poop. We wish we could tell you when the poop will stop, but even bigger kids occasionally are not so good at the finer points of wiping.

So let’s learn how (and when) to deal with the poop, shall we? Cloth diapers perform best when washed no less than 2 to 3 times per week. You can try pushing it longer, but it might end up causing more complicated laundry issues. To keep the it simple and straightforward, just suck it up and don’t go longer than 4 days without washing. It is obviously a little easier to run a quick load of wash if you have a machine in your house, but it is possible to wash in a laundromat. The advantage to using a laundromat is that you have access to many machines, so you can spread out several loads of laundry to get it all done at once.

Another Truth: Having a baby means you will ALWAYS have laundry to do. If you think washing diapers a couple times a week is bad, just try letting breastmilk-soaked jammies sit and spoil for more than 2 days. Yikes!

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So now that you’ve accepted your laundry situation, what to do with the poop? (Wait for it…) NOTHING! If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you don’t need to do anything. Just throw the diaper in a wet bag (waterproof laundry bag), or the washer, and the water, soap and agitation will wash the poop right out. Exclusively breastfed babies’ poops are relatively unstinky and water soluble. If your baby is drinking any formula or has started solids, you will simply hose the poop off the diaper before storing the diaper in your wet bag until wash day. While some people prefer the expediency of dunking dirty dipes in the toilet to rinse them off, or rinsing them out in the sink, a diaper sprayer hooked up to your toilet might simplify things for you and skeeve you out a bit less. Watch and learn how to clean prefolds with a diaper sprayer!
The diaper pail you use can be as simple as a garbage can lined with a wet bag. This bag gets washed along with your diapers. On laundry day, take your diapers and wet bags and toss them into the washing machine. A simple washing routine looks like this:

Run one cold wash cycle with detergent, which removes stains and cleans diapers.
Run a second hot (or extra hot) wash cycle, which sanitizes the diapers and rinses out the detergent.

There are many alternatives to this washing routine that pertain to each person’s particular machine and water quality, but the above is a good place to start. If you have your own machine at home with a rinse cycle option, some people like to do a cold rinse cycle sans detergent, a hot wash cycle with detergent, and a hot rinse cycle sans detergent to make sure the diapers are totally detergent-free at the end.

Not all detergents are created equal when it comes to cloth diapering. Diapers are particularly absorbent, and need to be really clean to continue absorbing well and smelling normal. Any detergent with additives or chemicals that are designed to coat the surface of the fabric get stuck in the diaper fibers and make them repellant and/or stinky. Leftover detergent in your diapers can also cause rashes for your babe. (Rate your current detergent here or, if you have your own machine, consider switching all your laundry over to a clean rinsing detergent like Charlie’s Soap. If you’re using shared laundry facilities, a super clean-rinsing detergent can end up just cleaning out the machine instead of your diapers, so best to stick with a less-specialized natural detergent, like BioKleen Premium Plus Powder.

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Image Source.

While cloth laundering does use more water than a standard load of laundry, it’s also about the same amount of water that you use in a week of flushing the toilet. By contrast, it takes 9 gallons of water to produce a single disposable diaper. Do the math for your own washer [] and cloth diapering. From an ecological perspective, cloth diapering always makes more sense.

When the wash is done, dry anything cotton in the dryer, and consider hanging to dry anything with waterproofing in it (Polyurthane Laminate), like your covers and wet bags. They’ll stay in better condition this way. Also, hanging laundry to dry in the sun is a GREAT way to further sanitize and remove stains.

If you are laundry inept and having a panic attack while reading this, don’t fret! One of our beloved local diaper services, Diaperkind (link:, will drop off a huge sack of clean prefolds in the night and whisk away your dirty ones–like mystical diaper fairies! All you need to supply are the covers.

If this seems overwhelming, that’s normal. Changing your routine is always the hardest part, and there is a lot of change that comes with a baby. We guarantee that once this routine becomes, well, routine, it will seem natural and much easier than you anticipated. If you have a problem we are always happy to help you troubleshoot!

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