I am going to start by telling you while this wash routine works great for me, there is no guarantee that it will work for you. There are so many variables to consider with cloth diaper laundry (i.e. Water type, washer type, detergents, which cloth diapers are used). I actually really wish it weren’t so hard for some. There are many people who cloth diaper and have never had a single issue with their wash routine. Unfortunately, that is not the case with everyone.
The biggest thing I can say is keep things as simple as possible. The more complicated something becomes, the less likely it is that it will work long term (mostly because you might give up!)
I have an old school top loader washing machine. My water is hard. Not the worst ever, but enough to cause problems with my laundry. I wash every three days and it is a FULL load of diapers. My daughter Sophia is 20 months old now. (wow!! How did she get so big?)
Washing newborn diapers was so much easier. I used Thirsties Super Wash and loved it (sadly this is no longer made). But when the wash only needs to clean exclusively breastfed or formula poo it’s a totally different ballgame than cleaning toddler cloth diapers.
After MANY MANY MANY trials and errors…here is my current wash routine:
1. Warm Prewash
There is no reason for an extended cycle for a prewash. All that does is swirl poo particles around your cloth diapers for a longer period of time. Some people have success with cold prewashes…I didn’t though. I have heard that whatever you are trying to remove is easier to rinse at the temperature that it was put in at. In this case body temperature. Hence the warm instead of cold prewash.
2. HOT Wash
My water is set to 120 degrees for the hot water. Check with the manufacturer of each diaper you use just to make sure you are using the appropriate water temp for your cloth diapers. I use the Original Ultra Tide. I fill the included scoop to the 2 line. I also use Oxiclean. Included scoop to the 1 line. Finally, I recently started adding Calgon. Calgon is like a miracle for hard water. I use a full capful of Calgon in this cycle. I know that sounds like a lot. But as I said after MUCH trial and error, I discovered that without the Calgon, I was having to do far too many rinses to get everything clean.
3. Cold Rinse
My wash cycle is set up to run a cold rinse anyway. I just let it run automatically after the hot wash cycle is done.
4. Extra Hot Rinse
In order for me to get a hot rinse I have to use the regular short wash cycle. I let the hot water fill up but I don’t add anything. Once the water fills I turn the dial to the final rinse cycle. If I don’t do this I usually forget about the diapers and the whole wash cycle runs again (with another rinse). I don’t want that to happen because this one extra hot rinse is enough. I hate to use more water than I need to because I already use a lot of water as it is. Every once in a while, when my inserts are starting to get a little crunchy, I throw a little Mrs. Meyer’s Lavender Fabric Softener in. It’s cloth diaper safe. I only use a small amount, maybe a quarter or a half of a capful. Check out my review of Mrs. Meyers Fabric Softener to see if it’s something that will work for you!
I dry my shells and wetbags on my ‘line’ (off of the shelf above my washer!) and everything else goes in the dryer on medium. Martha Stewart once said NOTHING needs to be dried on HIGH. And I would listen to Martha on matters like this. :)
That’s it. Warm Prewash, Hot Wash, Cold Rinse, Hot Rinse…done. Remember: Keep it simple!
Wondering how Autumn washes her diapers? Check this out!
Have you got you cloth diaper laundry figured out? What is YOUR wash routine?
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.