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 cloth diaper washing 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).
*TIP* if you have an old school top loader, chances are the cycles are all pretty short anyway (under 18 minutes or so). Go ahead and use the same cycles for both pre and main washes. So you’ll use the longest, heavy duty cycle the machine has for the prewash. Then do the same for the main wash. The extra agitation will not hurt anything and can only help.
2) Use warm or even hot water in the prewash.
Yes, many people use cold with no issues. It is my understanding that stains come out better in the temperature they were created. For pee and poo, that is warm water. However, if you are struggling to get clean cloth diapers, using hot water in the prewash will not harm anything. The hotter water can help open up the pores in the fabric and hopefully get the crap out. ;)
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 1-2 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). All measurements are for a full load.
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.
Anyone have any other suggestions to get the most out of your prewash cycle?
Jenn is a long-time cloth diaper educator and a passionate small business advocate. She has worked in the reusable diaper industry for over a decade, helping millions of families via her websites All About Cloth Diapers, Thinking About Cloth Diapers and Cloth Diaper Geek as well as hundreds of small businesses during that time. Her goal always to provide simple, reliable information.